Warning: May contain an excess of seals.
Yesterday I made an all-to-infrequent visit to Bruny Island. I’ve always had a soft spot for Adventure Bay going back to when I was a small child, when my grandparents had a shack there at which we would spend most school holidays. My grandfather used to take his little boat out and catch all sorts of fish and crays, on which the family would be fed. I recall being fed crayfish sandwiches regularly for lunch, and to this day my mother can’t bear to eat them, having had a surfeit as a girl.
Back then Adventure Bay and Bruny in general was all very low key, with self-built shacks and dirt roads all the way. There were no cafes – when we needed milk, we took the billy down to the kiosk at the nearby camping ground where the proprietor would pop out the back and see the cow. Now Bruny is a hot destination it’s much busier and the houses are big and modern, but in the midst of all that there’s still plenty of the old seaside charm that made, and still makes it, a special place for me.
Yesterday’s trip was an Instameet, with around three dozen mostly local instagrammers being hosted by Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, Tourism Tasmania and regional tourism organisation Destination Southern Tasmania.
After coaching from Hobart and crossing to Bruny on the short ferry trip, we made a stop at The Neck, where so many vehicles had stopped, there was almost a traffic jam in the parking area at the side of the narrow main road. Most visitors climb straight to the top and take selfies and panoramic views back down the steep staircase and on to South Bruny – one of the most frequently instagrammed views of Tasmania.
The challenge then, for any self-respecting instagrammer, is to try and find views that are less well-known and shared. For this reason, many of us eschewed the climb to the lookout and went straight to the beach, which most tourists ignore, so it’s generally pretty deserted. I’ll let the reader decide whether I managed to achieve my objective, but there’s no denying the majesty of the views.
After lunch at their base at Adventure Bay, it was time to board one of Rob Pennicott’s yellow boats for the Bruny Island Cruise. It’s almost a decade since I last went on what has become Tasmania’s (and one of Australia’s) most acclaimed and awarded tourism experiences, and it’s a credit to Rob and his team that it’s every bit as fresh, enjoyable and thrilling today as it was back then. We were skippered by Mick and looked after by guide Suzy, who did a wonderful job of looking after everyone on board.
In all the time I spent at Adventure Bay as a child, I don’t recall ever going around the corner of Grass Point and Penguin Island to see the eastern coastline, so the Bruny Island cruise is something of a revelation. Huge sea cliffs of columnular dolerite soar up from the sea bed, pierced by caves and blowholes and capped by forest. It’s all national park, so inaccessible to all but the most intrepid of bushwalkers, but it would be difficult to appreciate the power of the ocean and the scale of the scenery from land.
Dolphins, albatoss, shearwaters, cormorants (known locally as shags) and other wildlife are in abundance.
A few miles down the coast, of the corner of South Bruny, the Tasman Sea meets the Great Southern Ocean and the sea begins to boil, even on a calm day. Seals congregate on the edges of a set of rocky off-shore islands known as The Friars, basking in the afternoon sun.
I’m not sure of the origin of the phrase ‘the bee’s knees’ to describe something that is very fine; I’m going to start using the phrase ‘the seal’s whiskers’ in its place!
It was a brilliant day out, but it has whetted my appetite to return and spend some time exploring Bruny’s many other attractions and picturesque corners.