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A Journey to Tasmania – Part 3: Bruny Island

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This week, I’ll talk about our trip to Bruny Island. This island lies to the north of the Channel Peninsula, and forms the barrier between the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and the bay into which the Derwent River flows. It is effectively two islands joined by an entirely natural thin strip of land, and is quite well known for its food, beaches and walking options.

Patterns in the rocks. The dark lines I believe are actually very thin seams of coal. Coal Point, Bruny Island, Tasmania.

Getting there

The island is accessible by car, through the use of the ferry that runs between Kettering and the island. Kettering is about 32 kilometres from Hobart by road, and a fairly easy drive. The ferry runs regularly throughout the day, at approximately 20 minute intervals. It is not necessary to book in advance, but it is advised that you allow extra time to get across in busy periods as boarding is strictly in arrival order and you just wait in the queue until you can get on a ferry. It wasn’t an issue in the morning of the day we went over, but there were a few cars behind us in the queue to return to the mainland who did not manage to fit on the ferry we were on and had to wait. This was the middle of winter! It was a beautiful day, weather-wise, however, and we were returning just after the local businesses started shutting up shop, so that was probably peak period at that time of year. I imagine it would be very busy during the summer months, though, so allow time.

The cost for the ferry is charged per vehicle, regardless of the number of passengers in the vehicle. It is possible to cross as a passenger without vehicle (they do charge for that), but I don’t recommend thinking about leaving the car behind. Public transport on the island appears to be very limited to non-existent. For details on ferry times and costs, google SeaLink Bruny Island, or check out the Bruny Island website, which has details and a link.

Food

Rock patterns. Over the millenia, the sea has washed away little alcoves in the rocks, exposing these patterns. Coal Point, Bruny Island, Tasmania.

Bruny Island advertises itself as a food destination, and it boasts a cheese factory, honey farm, and chocolate manufactory. There were probably other things as well, but they’re the ones we stopped at. There is also at least one brewery and a distillery on the island as well. There is a cafe and a general store (which does take-away type food, I understand) in the Adventure Bay settlement. We stopped at the chocolate shop, and while we were dismayed that they did not have a cafe on site (a missed opportunity, in my view!), their chocolates were great and didn’t last terribly long amongst the Sprites. We sampled the hot chocolates in the cafe and they passed the Sprites test as a good hot chocolate. The cafe does do more substantial food – although it appeared to be predominantly breakfast-style hot meals and burgers. They did not appear to have much in the way of coeliac friendly options, so we did not sample their meals.

Instead, we drove around to Alonnah on the other side of South Bruny to sample the food at Hotel Bruny, the Bruny Island pub. I think this is probably the only readily available sit-down type meal place on the island that is open during winter, because they were absolutely packed out on the day we were there. They did have several coeliac friendly options and understood the importance of no cross-contamination. The options for the younger Sprites met with their approval as well. Admittedly the eldest younger Sprite will eat a schnitzel meal every day of the week if he gets the opportunity – and that’s what he had here – but apparently it was a good one.

Seagulls startled by beach-goers, creek outlet at Cloudy Bay Beach, Bruny Island, Tasmania.

On the way back to the ferry on our way home, we stopped at the honey shop and sampled their range of different honeys. They do have quite a good (and tasty!) range of honeys and some was duly bought. The younger Sprites realised that they sold ice creams here as well, so they decided ice cream was in order (but… it was the middle of winter! – my objections were politely ignored).

Finally, we stopped at the cheese factory in the last few minutes before their 4pm close time – the ice creams took a bit longer to eat than had been allowed for – but the lady there was very happy to give us tasting of all their cheeses. They say that they were the first place in Australia licenced to produce a raw cheese – that is, cheese made from unpasteurised milk. Their raw cheese did have a subtly different taste to the pasteurised milk version, but to my tastes it was only subtle. Nevertheless, the unanimous favourite of the Sprite clan on this occasion was the “Raw George” cheese, and some was duly bought. It has quite a strong flavour, and I was surprised the younger Sprites were so keen on it, but there you go. We didn’t eat all of it before leaving Tasmania, and about half of it did travel back to Canberra with us.

Things to do

Shell on the beach, Cloudy Bay, Bruny Island, Tasmania

Bruny Island appears to be mostly geared to touring the food/drink places or doing outdoorsy-things. There are a number of beaches, ranging from quite exposed beaches suitable for surfing (there were surfers actually surfing at Cloudy Bay when we were there) through to very protected with barely a wave to be seen – particularly along the Channel side of the island. There are many walks, and many places to stay that advertise themselves as “Eco-” or “Nature-” stays so if you’re into walking, you’ll probably find plenty to do. A good portion of South Bruny is National Park, and you need a permit to go there – including Cloudy Bay.

Truganini Lookout
The long beach (ocean side), The Neck, Bruny Island, Tasmania

We went to The Neck Game Reserve and Truganini Lookout as our first real stop on the island. The Neck is a narrow (natural) spit of land that joins North and South Bruny. It is a nature reserve, with a lookout at the highest point on the neck. There is a penguin rookery here and apparently if you’re there at the right time of year you can see penguins coming ashore in the evening. A walkway also gives access to Adventure Bay and what I guess must be the longest beach on the island. Adventure Bay is big, however, and there are a number of points between here and Adventure Bay settlement so it is not possible to walk (along the beach) all the way to the settlement.

This is a major tourist destination with I guess all the bus tours stopping here. There were at least four buses there when we arrived, or arrived while we were there, although one of those may have been a self-drive group. In any case, even in the middle of winter it was very busy and you might need to pick your time if you want an opportunity to take a panorama from the top of the lookout without people in it.

The lookout is named after one of the last indigenous elders from the island, who was a strong advocate for her people and for Tasmanian indigenous peoples generally. It seems she was led to believe the relocation of indigenous people off their lands in mainland Tasmania was only intended to be short-term and that they were going to be allowed to return. The Bruny Islanders were one of the few groups to go peacefully, in no small part because Truganini had been led to believe they would be able to return. The history is clear that they were not, and while they were eventually allowed to return to live on the mainland of Tasmania, they were never given their lands back.

Two Tree Point
Two Tree Point. This exact spot is recorded as the place where Europeans first encountered the Bruny Island indigenous people. Bruny Island, Tasmania.

This was the exact spot where the world changed for the Bruny Island indigenous people. It is at this spot where the European explorers first made contact with the Bruny Island people. The two trees here are over 400 years old and are believed to be the exact two trees for which the point was named by the European explorers some 250-odd years ago. Two Tree Point is recorded on the charts and in the logs of no less than four European exploration missions as the place where the crews came ashore to load fresh water onto the ships. It is recorded that on at least the first occasion the interactions were entirely cordial. The on-site signage does not specify if the subsequent encounters were as cordial, but it does not indicate that they were hostile. Nevertheless, this was the beginning of the end, and about 50 years after the first landing, the local indigenous population were being removed from the island.

Cloudy Bay
Outhouse by the seaside. Cloudy Bay, Bruny Island, Tasmania

To wrap up our day before returning to the mainland, we drove down to Cloudy Bay. It is a dirt road, but easily navigable in a two-wheel-drive vehicle. This is an ocean beach and bay, and there was some surfing occurring on an adjacent beach to the main beach. It turns out that Cloudy Bay is a kilometre or two further south than Southport on the mainland, which we visited on our trip to Hastings Caves, making this the furtherest south I have ever travelled – not just in Tasmania, but in the world. There isn’t much here, but I imagine in summer this would be a fantastic beach to swim at – although I doubt that it is ever patrolled.

We failed to find any of the indicated walks from Cloudy Bay, but did spend an hour and a half or so walking around on the beach and on the path between the car park and the beach the surfers were at. I also managed to be a complete idiot and do the thing we all are taught NOT to do when using a camera – do NOT attempt to take steps with a camera held to your face! Naturally, I forgot that there was a step in the boardwalk at that point and promptly tripped and fell, breaking the hood on my lens in the process (but not the lens itself, fortunately!).

Bruny Island wrap-up

There is so much more to do on Bruny Island that we didn’t get to. The lighthouse is apparently well worth a visit, and there are also options for doing a coastal boat cruise or a scenic flight, if either of those things take your fancy. I think we could easily have spent another day here. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal touristy on North Bruny apart from food places, but we didn’t explore and there may have been more we missed.

As elsewhere, we attended the establishments and locations mentioned as full fee-paying guests and did not at any point before, during or after our visit advise our hosts of our visit. The views expressed in this post are mine and mine alone, and any errors in it are also all mine.

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