Bruny On the Edge
By Graham Howe
One of the highlights of my road trip through Tasmania (read: a walk on the wild side in Tasmania) was Bruny Island, two 60km long islands linked by a causeway an hour south-east of Hobart. You take a short ferry ride from Kettering on the coast. We did a daytrip from Hobart but I’d recommend staying over as it is such a charming island sanctuary and there are loads of sites of interest.
Bruny Island has a fascinating history because every early explorer from Abel Tasman (1842) to Captain Cook and Captain Bligh of the Bounty came ashore here – events marked by monuments and a village museum. Bruny is also renowned for its oysters, cheeses, wines from the most southerly vineyard in Australia, incredible beaches and wildlife – including the rare white wallaby, an albino marsupial with a recessive gene.
We were very fortunate to be guests of Rob Pennicott, owner of Pennicott Wilderness Journeys who operates Bruny Island Cruises. The winner of Australia’s best tourism attraction in the Australian Tourism Awards 2012, Rob was also named one of National Geographic’s Explorers of the Year in 2012 after he circumnavigated Australia in a 5.4 metre inflatable dinghy in 2011 to raise money to eradicate polio.
Rob is a quintessential Bruny islander, a hardy, friendly fisherman who loves showing off his island home to visitors. You can follow the yellow boat road to Bruny from their offices on the pier at the Hobart waterfront. He’s really famous down under. Rob says, “We’re an island (Bruny) off an island (Tasmania) off an island (Australia)”. His motto is “Explore the Edge”, emblazoned on every one of his sleek boats.
On one of his customised tourist speedboats, we cruised around some of the highest cliffs in the southern hemisphere – to see the blowholes of Bruny, towering 300m high dolorite stacks and blowholes, spotting albatrosses, sea eagles, cormorants and fur seals along the way. South of here lie the fabled albatross latitudes of sailor legend.
We also visited the fairy penguin nesting sites in the Bruny Island Neck Game reserve – and climbed 100 steps to see the monument of Truganini, one of the last surviving full-blooded aboriginals of Tasmania who died in 1876 – it took 130 years for her four-foot high skeleton to be repatriated to Bruny in 2002. We also climbed to the top of the historic lighthouse (1836), the second-oldest in Australia which gives amazing views of the rugged coastline. The D’Entrecasteaux Channel was the first landfall for the old tall ships sailing from Europe via the Cape after months at sea.
We enjoyed a wonderful tasting platter at Bruny Island Wines – where Bernice Woolley makes her award-winning, cool-climate chardonnay and pinot noir. Captain William Blight (of Mutiny on the Bounty) planted the first vines on Bruny in 1778 – along with plums, peaches and corn – so Bernice, a descendent of one of Bruny’s first settlers in 1878, is carrying on a good winemaking tradition.
I enjoyed delicious Bruny oysters from Get Shucked, oak-smoked salmon, nibbled on the possum and wallaby sausage, and dived into the pinot noir jam with the awesome cheeses from the Bruny Island Cheese Co. We’d missed the annual Bruny grape harvest by a week when 60 island volunteers (out of total population of 600) help harvest and press eight tons of grapes in two hours! And we spotted several of the rare white wallabies in Adventure Bay. Bruny Island is one of those real best-kept secret destinations you discover on your travels that you want to go back to one day.
Over this summer season Pennicott Wilderness Journeys are introducing a new tour called “Tasmanian seafood seduction” – believed to be the first gastronomic tourist activity of its kind in the world. Rob will take tourists out in one of his custom-built fishing boats into the waters around Bruny Island to catch abalone (Tasmania produces 25% of the world’s perlemoen catch), crayfish, oysters, scallops, mussels, sea urchins and local fish – and cook and serve it all with fine Tasmanian wines, beers and cheeses. Now I’d go all the way back to Bruny Island to experience that!
I stayed at Villa Howden, a luxury boutique villa located fifteen minutes south of Hobart on the bay. It’s an ideal spot for families or couples wanting a hideaway from which to explore Hobart and the Huon Valley. Huon Valley is the heart of the apple isle – renowned for its farm gate cherries, apricots, mushrooms, cheeses, timber towns and day trails in ancient Huon pine forests. Villa Howden, a Tuscan styled guesthouse is set in amazing landscaped gardens with dreamy, wild coastal views. Tasmanian chef Adrian Mathews is renowned for his menu and wine list which showcases local island produce, seafood, meats and cheeses in contemporary cuisine.
One thing you learn pretty quickly about travelling in Tasmania – a country the size of Ireland – is that on those mountainous windy-windy roads it takes longer to get to places than you’d think. And the light goes early – and every marsupial in all those forests seems to come out and try to cross the road as you pass. Hardly anyone seems to drive anywhere from dusk to dawn – when the recommended speed limit is 40km. After dark drivers play dodgems with the wildlife – and wonder why the roos, quolls, wallabies, potoroos and possums play dare on the road like suicidal lemmings.
Villa Howden is rated #30 and Bruny Island is rated #48 in the 100 Incredible Travel Secrets of Australia, a prestigious ranking by Australian Traveller in Apr 2013.
* Graham Howe attended the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE 2013) as a guest of Qantas and Tourism Australia. To find out more about tourist attractions in Australia – see www.australia.com, www.pennicottjourneys.com.au and www.discovertasmania.com
Source: Getaway Blog