Recherche Bay, Tasmania
Recherche Bay is in every way the end of the road - a quiet, idyllic bay in the far south of Tasmania beyond the Huon Valley. There are three small settlements on Recherche Bay - Catamaran, Recherche Bay and Cockle Creek. These are the most southern communities in Australia. A signpost at Cockle Creek marks the most southerly point in Australia accessible by motor vehicle. The southern tip of Tasmania, Australia's southern extremity, which marks the beginning of the South West Walk, is just an hour's walk away.
Where is it?: 80 km south of Southport.
The bay was the first landing place of French explorer Bruny D'Entrecasteaux who came ashore here for water and stayed for a number of weeks in 1792 to rest his crew and complete maintenance on his ships. Coal found on North Point by D Entrecasteaux was mined by a team of 43 convicts from 1841 to 1848. Mining was abandoned because of seepage in its two shafts due to the mine being so close to sea level.
During the early colonial days, some thirty years after D'Entrecasteaux's visit, the bay became a centre for whaling.
It was also at Recherche Bay that the last iron barque to sail Australia's shores, the James Craig, now restored and on display in Sydney, NSW, was scuttled at her moorings in 1932. The ship was abandoned on a mooring on the western shore (where the main road is located) just into the top half of the kidney and was left abandoned until 1972.
Visit of Bruny D'Entrcasteaux
In the autumn of 1792 a pair of storm-battered French ships, their crews weather beaten and tired, gratefully dropped anchor in waters off Tasmania's south-east coast. The ships were Recherche, under command of expedition leader, Rear Admiral Bruni D'Entrecasteaux, and Esperance, under Commander Huon de Kermadec. The peaceful waterway was later named D'Entrecasteaux Channel and the kidney-shaped bay they chose for their rest and repair became known as Recherche Bay. D'Entrecasteaux's was a high profile dual-purpose expedition. His mission was to search for the lost maritime hero, La Perouse, but also to undertake top-level scientific research including astronomy and research into the Earth's geomagnetic field.
La Perouse was never found, and neither D'Entrecasteaux nor his ships ever returned to France. But return to Recherche Bay they did. On 22nd January 1793, the two great ships once again dropped anchor on the "very good bottom" of this calm bay. "It is difficult to express the sensations we felt," wrote the ship's botanist, Jacques Labillardiere, "at finding ourselves at length sheltered in this solitary harbour at the extremity of the globe, after having been so long driven to and fro in the ocean by the violence of the storms."
Cross over Catamaran River and Cockle Creek Road continues through the tiny settlement of Cataman to Cockle Creek. After passing Bruni D'Entrecasteaux's watering place historic site the road crosses Cockle Creek, then loops around a small bay and stops at Bottoms Green Campsite. A sign announces that you have reached "The End of The Road" - you are now standing in Australia's most southern street and there is no further point south of here in Australia that can be reached by road. Visitors to Cockle Creek must return by the way they came - along Cockle Creek Road and Huon Hwy to Hobart via Geeveston and Huonville.
During the early colonial days, Recherche Bay became a centre for whaling, and Cockle Creek a campsite for whalers during their annual stay in the area. Their visit is recalled in the Whale Sculpture on a walking path beyond Bottoms Green Campsite. From the big bronze whale sculpture, continue along the track and you will reach the Fishers Point Navigation Light and Pilot Station ruins. The pilot station was set up on Fisher's Point, the southern headland to Recherche Bay, in 1843, but was abandoned by 1851. The trail is best done at low tide, as it follows beaches and rocky coastline (4 km / 2 hours return).
You can extend the walk by continuing on from Fishers Point, heading south along the coast of Pancake Bay. Its a very picturesque by rocky shoreline, requiring some rock hopping and scrambling before reaching the beach on Pebbly Bight.
Bottoms Green Campsite is the starting point for walks to South East Cape and South West Cape walks, and the South Coast Track, a 7 day walk along some of the wildest, most isolated coastline in Australia. Beyond where the bridge crosses Cockle Creek, a track continues south. Though fairly rough it can be negotiated by 2 wheel drive vehicles. If driving between dusk and dawn, please be aware that you are sharing the road with wildlife.
South Coast Track
The remote South Coast Track is a challenging walk for experienced, well-prepared hikers only (85 km / 7 days). The track runs between Melaleuca and Cockle Creek, so walkers must either fly, sail or walk in and out. Along the way, spend some time enjoying the remote beaches. At Melaleuca, the Needwonnee Walk (1.2 km) weaves through the moorland, forest, and edge of the lagoon. This living, changing experience features sculptural installations interpreting some of the stories of the Needwonnee people.
South Cape Bay Track
The rugged South Cape Bay Track (15 km / 4 hours return) departs from Cockle Creek. The track is the eastern end of the bucket-list South Coast Track to Port Davey, and offers a captivating look at the unspoiled southern coastline. Majestic Lion Rock is a highlight, as well as the wild, windswept bay itself with its impressive cliffs and powerful ocean swells.
Walking Track Notes