Bruny Island, Tasmania
Across the D'Entrecasteaux Channel a short drive south of Hobart, Bruny Island is effectively two quite different islands connected by a narrow neck of sand. With its wild seascapes and sweeping surf beaches, rich maritime history, abundant birdlife and wildlife, tall forests and historic lighthouse, Bruny is an island paradise in Australia's deep south.
The sparsely populated island (around 600 people) has an abundance of indigenous birdlife, marsupials and marine life. Whales, seals, dolphins, penguins, sea lions, sea eagles, albatrosses, cormorants, gannets can be seen in their natural environments. A unique feature is its thousand-year old 'blackboy' rainforests and the spring months of September and October reveal spectacular native flowers. Alonnah is the administrative capital of Bruny Island. It is one of six small settlements on the island.
In terms of breathtaking majesty, few features on South Bruny Island compare to a series of sea caves found along its rocky coastline. 'Breathtaking' is an over-used word used to describe Australia's scenery, but when it comes to these amazing coastal caverns, it is totally appropriate. The only way to see these caves is by boat; Bruny Island Cruises take tourists close to the huge caves carved by the wind and surf out of the cliff face but if you prefer to see them at close range, then sea kayak is the only way to go.
Where Is it?: South of Hobart, by ferry from Kettering on the Channel Highway.
Bruny Island is around 100 kilometres long, and is made up of two almost separate islands, connected by a slender isthmus of sand dunes known as ‘The Neck’. South Bruny Island is hilly and forested, containing the National Estate listed Labillardiere State Reserve, and has settlements at Alonnah and Lunawanna while North Bruny Island is only lightly timbered and contains open pastureland and the townships of Barnes Bay and Dennes Point.
Allocate the full day if you are planning a day trip. You'll need to take a car on the ferry to Bruny Island as it is over 60km from the ferry terminal to the Bruny Island Lighthouse in South Bruny. Many of Bruny's roads are unsealed. There is no public transport or taxi service on the Island. Allow extra time during summer months and busy holidays for the ferry queues both on and off the island. The ferry runs daily 365 days a year. No bookings are taken and all tickets are open return tickets.
North Bruny is drier than the south and is mostly comprised of open pastures and light bushland. It is home to the townships of Dennes Point and Great Bay. The Bruny Island car ferry departs from Roberts Point which is on North Bruny. In contrast to the north, South Bruny is hilly, heavily timbered and includes large rainforest areas. It is home to South Bruny National Park and large areas of State Forest Reserve. The townships of Adventure Bay, Alonnah and Lunawanna are also located on South Bruny. Here, too, the iconic Cape Bruny Lighthouse (1838) that stands on cliffs over 260 metres above the ocean below.
Outside its settlements the island is covered in mountains, grazing fields and large tracts of dry eucalyptus forest. Inland forests continue to be logged, but other large sections - mostly along the southeastern coast - are preserved as the South Bruny National Park. While the seaward side of the island features two long beaches - Adventure Bay and Cloudy Bay - the south is for the most part extremely rugged, with cliffs of dolerite that tower over 200 metres above sea level, and which are amongst the highest sea cliffs in Australia. Bruny's channel side is far more sheltered and a favourite fishing and recreational boating area for local and interstate visitors.
The island is home to Australia's southernmost licensed pub, Bruny Island Hotel, and Bruny Island Premium Wines located at Lunawanna is Australia's most southern vineyard. The narrow isthmus joining the two parts of the island is called The Neck. This is home to the Truganini Lookout - a timber stepped boardwalk that takes you to some of the most spectacular 360° panoramic views of the Bruny Island coastline.
Bruny Island figured prominently in the early exploration of the southern seas, and was partially charted byTasman in 1642. Adventure Bay, the large bay on the eastern side of the isthmus that joins North and South Bruny Island, could be called the birth place of Van Diemen's Land - Tasmania. Its list of 17th and 18th century European visitors reads like a who's who of leading Pacific explorers from the golden age of world exploration. British navigators James Cook, Tobias Furneaux, Wiliam Bligh and Matthew Flinders all visited Adventure Bay during their exploatory voyages.
The first recorded sighting was by Abel Tasman in 1642 but because of gale force winds, he was unable to make a landing, though it appears he did enter the bay. James Cook, Matthew Flinders, William Bligh and French explorer Nicolas Baudin all made landfalls at Bruny Island's Adventure Bay. There is no record of French explorer Brni D'Entrecasteaux, after whom Bruny Island is named, ever going there, though he did try. Due to a navigational error, sailing 19 west instead of 19 East, his two ships found themselves outside the entrance to a large harbour. Concerned over unfavourable winds and nearby threatening reefs d’Entrecasteaux sent long boats ahead into the bay to do soundings while the two ships tacked for two hours across the entrance. At 4:50 the Admiral signaled ‘anchors down’ and the weary crew complied. The next day the two ships were towed by their long boats into the northern arm of the bay just beyond the present Bennett’s Point, named by the Hydrographer, Beautemps-Beaupre, as Port du Nord or ‘little bay’, modern day Recherche Bay.
British explorer James Cook (HMS Resolution) and Captain Tobias Furneaux (HMS Adventure) left England in 1772 to explore the South Seas. Becoming separated, Furneaux followed Tasman's chart and in 1773 entered the bay, naming it Adventure Bay, after his ship. After replenishing his water and wood supplies, Furneaux sailed on to New Zealand.
Furneaux’s log made clear the bay was an excellent anchorage for resupplying vessels: “To the SW of the first watering place there is a large lagoon which I believe has plenty of fish in it for one of our Gentlemen caught upwards of 2 dozen trout, and shot a possum which was the only animal we saw. There are a great many gum trees and of a vast thickness and height, one of which measured in circumference 26 feet and the height under the branches was 20 feet”.
Cook (HMS Resolution) landed at Adventure Bay in 1777 with Captain William Bligh as sailing master. This was Cook’s last port of call in Australian waters before his death in Hawaii in 1779.
Bligh revisited Adventure Bay again in 1788 after Cook's death in Hawaii, with expedition botanist David Nelson who planted a number of fruit trees on the east side of the bay which Bligh brought from the Cape of Good Hope. Also on board Matthew Flinders, who was at that time a midshipman on Captain Bligh’s Bounty. When Bligh returned in 1792 he found that one apple tree was still growing, the others having been consumed by fire. It is said this was the Tasmania's first apple tree. Tasmania was later to become known throughout the world as the Apple Isle of Australia.
Lieut. James Cook and Captain William Bligh both replenished their supplies of fresh water from Resolution Creek at Two Tree Point. Although it is not known whether the two trees on the point were standing at the time of these early European visits, it is known that in 1792 William Bligh spent two weeks on the ship the Providence at Adventure Bay.
During this visit a member of the ship's crew, Lieutenant George Tobin, produced a series of watercolours of the place. One of these pictures, ‘In Adventure Bay, Van Diemen’s Land’, shows a point with two trees on it. These trees look very like younger versions of the two trees that currently stand there. It has not been established conclusively that the two trees are those painted by Tobin. However, the two existing trees and their setting on the point correspond closely with the historical imagery of this early landing site, as depicted by Tobin. This area has changed little since 1792, and is evocative of the landscape that would have been experienced by 18th century European visitors to Tasmania.
George Bass and Matthew Flinders visited and explored Bruny Island and the D'Entrecasteaux Channel in December 1798 when they circumnavigated Tasmania in the sloop Norfolk. They first sailed to Preservation Island then across to the north west corner of Tasmania and down the west coast until they reached Fluted Cape on Bruny Island. Norfolk moored in Storm Bay and was then taken up the Derwent River and into the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, with Flinders doing his usual meticulous mapping as they went. Bass and Flinders spent four days in Oyster Cove sheltering from rough weather before heading back to Sydney in January 1799.
In 1801 an expedition to Bruny Island and the D'Entrecasteaux Channel was led by the Frenchman Captain Nicholas Baudin. This expedition, with two well equipped ships and a group of scientists, was the first purely scientific expedition to Tasmania and it focused primarily on the Bruny Island and D'Entrecasteaux Channel region. The French met Tasmania's Aboriginal peoples and treated them with high respect. Bruny was inhabited by the Nuenonne band of the South East tribe; Mangana, father of Truganini, was the chief when Furneaux visited in 1773 and Cook in 1777.
Adventure Bay became a centre of the whaling industry with whalers using the Bay as early as 1804. By 1829 the Bay supported some 80 to 90 men, two sloops and up to twenty whale boats.
The narrow isthmus joining North and South Bruny is called The Neck. On the east side is Adventure Bay, on the west side is Simpsons Bay, which is part of the larger isthmus Bay. At the top of the hummock on the sandbar is the Truganini Lookout - reached via a timber stepped boardwalk that affords 360 degree panoramic views of the Bruny Island coastline.
The Narrow Neck lookout honours Truganini, who is probably the best known Tasmanian Aboriginal women of the colonial era. She was a daughter of Mangana, Chief of the Bruny Island people. Her name was, in the Bruny Island language (Nuennonne), the name of the grey saltbush Atriplex cinerea.
Truganini was of the Nuenonne group, born on Bruny Island in about 1812, just nine years after British settlement was established further north on the mainland, close to what is now Hobart. By the time she had learned to collect food and make shell necklaces, the colonial presence became not only intrusive but dangerous. She had experienced and witnessed violence, rape and brutalities inflicted on her people. By the time she was 17 she had lost her mother, sister, uncle and would-be partner to violent incidents involving sailors, sealers, soldiers and wood cutters. At this time, in 1829, the Black War was under way and Truganini was detained at the Missionary Bay station on Bruny Island.
At Bruny Island mission in 1829 she ‘married’ Woorraddy, from Bruny. Placed in the custody of Augustus Robinson, a government-backed conciliator who set out to capture all independently living Tasmanian Aborigines, she remained for the rest of her life under the supervision of colonial officers. Except for a short interlude, accompanying Robinson in his travels to Port Phillip (now part of Melbourne), she spent 20 years imprisoned, with other Aboriginal Tasmanians, on Flinders Island, and another 17 years in the Oyster Cove camp, across D'Entrecasteaux Channel near modern day Kettering.
Details of her biography are sketchy, predominantly drawn from the journals and papers of Robinson, with whom she was associated for ten turbulent years until her long detention on Flinders Island. She was bright, intelligent and energetic, known as one of the few Aboriginal Tasmanians rooted in pre-contact language and culture, who survived beyond the middle of the 19th century.
Alonnah is one of the main townships of Bruny Island. It is approximately 35 minutes drive from Roberts Point, and faces D'Entrecasteaux Channel. Alonnah is home to Hotel Bruny - Australia's southern-most pub. The Bruny Island District School, Online Access Centre, Police Station and Health Service are also located at Alonnah.
Alonnah is the main location in Bruny Island for government facilities, including post office, police station, primary school, internet centre, community library, pharmacy, and health centre with nurses, a visiting doctor, physiotherapist, and other health practitioners. There is also a museum located in the court house, Bruny Hotel, and a small general store.
The Alonnah Dray track is an easy walking track of historical value, beginning at Alonnah jetty.
Originally named Mill's Reef, it was renamed in the early 1900s after part of the Tasmanian aboriginal name for Bruny Island, Lunawanna-alonnah (a nearby township a little to its south being named Lunawanna. Mill's Reef Post Office opened on 1 February 1905 and was renamed Alonnah in 1909.
In the early 1900s, Alonnah jetty was used by many vessels traversing the d'Entrecasteaux Channel with cargo and passengers. On Thursdays a weekly trip to Hobart took passengers shopping for the day. The pontoon that takes the place of the jetty today is the last surviving section of the Hobart Floating Arch Bridge that was in use to cross the Derwent River from October 1943 to August 1964. This section was towed to Alonnah on 27th June 1972.
As its name suggests, Sunset Bay is one of the best places to enjoy a Bruny Island sunset. As well as taking dreamy sunset walks with your beloved, Sunset Bay is great for kayaking, fishing and swimming. The bay is quite sheltered, so it’s also a good spot for families to enjoy together (although that might put a dampener on the romance).
Lunawanna is a small township on the western side of South Bruny Island, facing the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.It is named after part of the Tasmanian aboriginal name for Bruny Island, Lunawanna-alonnah, the nearby township about 5 kilometres to its north being named Alonnah. Bruny Island Premium Wines is located at Lunawanna. The closest food store, post office, and police station are located in Alonnah.
Daniels Bay and Little Taylors Bay at Lunawanna offer calm waters for swimming, boating and kayaking. Scenic Cemetery Beach is bordered by a low rocky shoreline and backed by a narrow tree-filled reserve.
A 25 minute drive from Roberts Point where the ferry arrives, Dennes Point is the island’s northern tip. Over the years Dennes Point has seen mixed agricultural activity, mostly orcharding and light grazing. It is a great boating and fishing spot, a safe swimming-beach and picnic-area, it boasts spectacular views of the channel and Derwent estuary. Fishing is available from the jetty. Close by is Bull Bay, so named as it was a major whaling station in the 1820s.
Dennes Point is both a geographical feature and a small township at the northern tip of Bruny Island. It is named after the Denne family who first settled the area as farmers around the 1830s, although it was known as Kelly's Point up to the 1840s, being named after pioneer shipmaster and harbour pilot James Kelly (Australian explorer). Kelly gained fame for circumnavigating Tasmania in a whaling-boat, he was also known as being the father and founder of whaling in Tasmania.
Kelly's Point was the gateway to North Bruny from before the turn of the century, until the advent of the vehicular ferry in 1954. Anthony Smith Denne commenced a regular ferry service in 1847 across the D'Entrecasteaux Channel between Tinderbox and Kelly's Point. The island is now serviced by a vehicular ferry between Kettering and Roberts Point.
There is a signposted walkway between a couple of shacks to Nebraska Beach. The beach is quiet and peaceful, and faces across The Channel towards North West Bay. If you decide to stop at Nebraska Beach, it might turn out to be a profitable one, for it is said that a treasury of gold coins was buried somewhere in these sands after an 1827 shipwreck. Many have looked for it, but none have found it.
Killora is a quiet and secluded part of North Bruny, although it's only 15 minutes or so from the Roberts Point ferry terminal, and five minutes from the Dennes Point village precinct, with its bistro, provedore and gallery. Killora Beach is a sheltered gem at the northern tip of Bruny Island. This magnificent beach is the perfect spot to settle in for a day of relaxing and playful frolicking in the water. You could even sail into Killora Bay and swim off the boat. There are a few other beaches to explore nearby; Langfords Beach, Queens Beach, Delaneys Beach, and Barretts Beach are all within 3km of Killora. A word of caution - the access roads to North Bruny are gravel - good quality but narrow.
Barnes Bay is both a geographical feature and a small township near the northern end of Bruny Island, Tasmania. Barnes Bay is one of the safest anchorages in the state and a good spot to picnic. Fishing is available from the jetty and McCracken’s Creek is a great spot for birdwatchers. The Barnes Bay Regatta is usually held at the end of February or the beginning of March each year.
Barnes Bay runs from the Channel near Roberts Point, (incorporating Simmonds Bay, Quarantine or Half Moon Bay and Shelter Cove) and back around to ghe Channel near Woodcutters Point. During the early 19th century it was a centre for the firewood trade to Hobart and later the fruit industry, mostly apples and pears. It is now mostly a centre for light grazing and tourism.
The first vehicular ferry-service to Bruny Island began on December 13th 1954, with the Melba running from Kettering to Barnes Bay. R.A. Roberts established a soap making business in 1823 here in Barnes Bay, the first in the colony. Salt production was another industry in the settlement.
During the 1919 influenza epidemic, Barnes Bay was used as a quarantine location for putting infected passengers off ships. The Bruny Island Quarantine Station on the Lennonville property on Quarantine Bay is a must visit site for anyone interested in Tasmanian history. Human and plant quarantine was undertaken on Bruny - animal quarantine was an interstate function. Although rarely used for the purpose it was intended, it was used for returning World War I soldiers and this association with the then current Australia-wide fear of influenza is demonstrated by the marked graves present. Despite some building losses which have eroded the site’s importance, the place still has a high cultural significance at the state level.
The self guided tour is well laid out, and the volunteers have done a tremendous job in presenting the history of the quarantine station to visitors. It is interesting and surprising to learn about the different uses of the station over the years. The Lennonville site is significant as a rare Tasmania example of a late nineteenth century quarantine station for people demonstrating the current institutional attitudes for class and health.
The Variety Bay area on the east coast of North Bruny Island contains a number of important archaeological sites dating back to Tasmania’s early settlement period. It includes the remains of an 1830s pilot station, an early brickworks, and the ruin of one of the earliest Anglican churches in southern Tasmania. The pilot station, one of Tasmania’s oldest, is an important site in the course of Tasmania’s settlement history, because of its role in regulating the shipping traffic into Hobart from 1831-1854.
The pilot station was established at Variety Bay on North Bruny Island from 1831. This was set up with the extensive aid of convict labour. Remains can still be seen at the site today and include the foundations of three recognizable buildings, bakers oven, rock and brick lined cellar and a rock walled watch tower. The brickworks was a key site in the development of local industries and communities on Bruny Island.
The Variety Bay Historic Sites also contain Aboriginal heritage places that are possibly of National Estate significance. Permanent European settlement of the island began in 1818 when Captain James Kelly was granted land on North Bruny. Shore based whaling stations were established in the 1820s.
South Bruny National Park
South Bruny National Park lies at the southern tip of Bruny Island off the southeast coast of Tasmania. The park encompasses all of the coastline and some of the hinterland between Fluted Cape and the southern part of Great Taylors Bay. South Bruny National Park is renowned for its varied wildlife, including fairy penguins and many species of reptile. Cape Bruny Lighthouse at the southern end of the Park offers panoramic views of the Southern Ocean and the island's spectacular coastline from this 'bottom of Australia' lookout. Fairy penguins come ashore at dusk at The Neck Reserve; mutton birds also nest in the sand dunes of the narrow isthmus.
Much of the coast is comprised of towering cliffs, muttonbird rookeries, gardens of kelp seaweed and long sandy beaches. In some areas the park extends several kilometres back from the coastline, where lush rainforest may be found containing several endemic plant species (plants unique to Tasmania). The popularity of South Bruny National Park as a tourist destination is enhanced by its abundant birdlife, coastal heathland and its prominent place in the history of Tasmania.
Most animals in the park are nocturnal, however short-beaked echidnas are active in daytime, making them easier to see. One of earliest echidna specimens was collected in 1792 at Adventure Bay. Captain Bligh both drew and described this pecular animal. In the evening brushtail possums, Tasmanian pademelons and Bennetts wallabies are often seen. Around the Fluted Cape entrance to the park a small and unusual population of white Bennetts wallabies may be seen feeding in the open paddocks at dusk.
The surrounding marine environment is home to seals and whales. The Australian fur seal, the most common seal in Tasmanian waters, can be seen around The Friars. If you are lucky enough you may encounter a rare visitor to the park, a leopard seal that has come ashore to rest. Leopard seals are the only seal to regularly prey on warm-blooded animals such as penguins, birds and other seals. Two whale species, the humpback and the threatened southern right whale, also frequent the Adventure Bay area. They are attracted to this area because it is shallow and protected.
Bruny Island’s famous white wallabies like to hang out around the Adventure Bay entrance to the South Bruny National Park. They are pretty special, with a fairly strong population on Bruny due to their isolation. Admire their unique beauty, but remember that they are wild animals, so don’t feed them human food and respect their space.
Camping areas are located at Cloudy Bay (the Pines and Cloudy Corner), and Jetty Beach. All have pit toilets, limited water and fireplaces.
Adventure Bay and Jetty Beach provide safe, sheltered areas for swimming, while Cloudy Bay is a popular spot for experienced surfers.
As there are no ramps in the park, boats can be launched from the beaches when necessary. The jetty on Partridge Island should only be used for landing and disembarking - no mooring is permitted. Please avoid birds on the beach, especially between September and March when they are breeding.
Jetty Beach offers safe, sheltered swimming within the South Bruny National Park. There’s a great camping area, so you can stay for a few days or longer and really live it up with the island lifestyle.
Cape Bruny and Cloudy Bay lie at the far south of Bruny Island. Each year, Cloudy Bay plays host to the Bruny Island Surf Classic - a Tasmanian surfing championship held on the island. Cape Bruny is home to Cape Bruny Lighthouse, which was built to mark the entrance to the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, the protected passage between Bruny Island and the Tasmanian mainland. An iconic Australian lighthouse, it was the oldest continuous lighthouse under operation by the Commonwealth. Now out of service, it was transferred to Tasmania Parks and Wildlife in 1998 and is part of the South Bruny National Park. It is Australia's second oldest and longest continually staffed lighthouse lies at the end of Lighthouse Road. The lighthouse grounds are open for inspection.
Following a series of mishaps and shipwrecks south of Bruny Island, including the catastrophic wreck of the convict transport, George III, in 1835, Governor George Arthur agreed to erect a lighthouse on Cape Bruny to guide vessels past Bruny Island. Designed John Lee Archer (1791-1852), who was the colonial architect in Tasmania from 1827 to 185. The lighthouse's round 13 metre round rubblestone tower with lantern and gallery is painted white. It has been inactive since 1996, when the keeper's houses were demolished. The active light (focal plane 93 metres); white flash every 10 seconds) is nearby on a 4 metre fiberglass tower.
When first lit in March 1838 Cape Bruny was Tasmania's third lighthouse, and Australia's fourth. It is now the country's second oldest and longest continually staffed extant lighthouse. Life for Cape Bruny's nineteenth century lightkeepers harsh and the nightly task of maintaining the light was unremitting. Despite their long hours on duty, Tasmanian lightkeepers were poorly paid and many toiled for years without leave. Technological advances in the 1980s and 1990s permanently altered the operation of Australia's lighthouses. When Cape Bruny light was lit for the last time on 6 August 1996 and replaced by a solar powered light nearby one of Australia's last remaining staffed light towers was decommissioned. Tours of the lighthouse are available - fees apply.
If you like long walks on the beach, you’ll love the 5 km of pristine white sand at Cloudy Bay. Home to a vast range of native Australian wild life, Cloudy Bay is a hidden and quiet paradise nestled inside the South Bruny National Park. Experienced surfers will have a ball here, but watch the rips. The beach makes up the first part of the East Cloudy Head Walk. Stroll dramatically along the 5km long beach and enjoy the wild remoteness. The ‘loo with a view‘ is a quirky surprise. Cloudy Bay is located at the southernmost end of Bruny Island. Shore-based whaling stations operated in the bay in the 1830s.
Mabel Bay, opposite Cloudy Bay, is another good surfing spot. Mabel Bay is an exposed beach break that has quite reliable surf, although it tends to be mostly flat during summer. Clean groundswells prevail and the best swell direction is from the south. The beach breaks offer lefts and rights. Best around high tide. Even when there are waves, it's not likley to be crowded. Beware of rips, sharks, and isolation. Being so remote, you might well have the beach all to yourself. Mabel Bay is close to the historic Cape Bruny Lighthouse.
Waterfall Creek State Reserve
The Waterfall Creek State Reserve lies about 5 kilometres inland of the Fluted Cape section of the South Bruny National Park. The Reserve includes a series of waterfalls in a steep sided gully known as Mavista Falls. Located nearby to the national park, Waterfall Creek State Reserve provides additional support for attracting visitors to the region. Waterfall Creek State Reserve provides a scenic forest walk. Waterfall Creek State Reserve is predominantly wet eucalypt forest, dominated by Eucalyptus obliqua with myrtle Nothofagus cunninghamii, manfern Dicksonia antarctica and other fern species in the gully.
Waterfall Creek State Reserve can be reached by walking track from Lockleys Road. Walking access in the Waterfall Creek State Reserve is limited to a short continuation walking track from a Forestry Tasmania track called the Mavista Nature Walk. An old, overgrown and poorly formed track once continued on to Mavista Falls, but the slippery and dangerous nature of the track made it unsuitable for the general visitor.
More: Mavista Falls
Green Island State Reserve
Green Island Nature Reserve lies in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel between Birchs Bay on the mainland and Great Bay on Bruny Island. Green Island is not promoted as a recreational destination, although visitors in boats do at times land on the island. A navigation light is maintained on the island. Green Island is an important bird breeding colony for the Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus, one of the few breeding sites known in Australia. Pacific Gulls Larus pacificus also breed on the island.
On Partridge Island, the remains of the European settlement overlays a long heritage of Aboriginal use. The coastline of the Park featured significantly in early European exploration of Tasmania and Australia and contains important evidence of early whaling activities.
Courts Island (Grass Island)
Courts Island is approximately 16 ha in area and is situated offshore from Bruny Island Lighthouse within the South Bruny National Park. It is linked to Bruny Island at low tide by a 100 metre long bedrock and boulder bar. A short walk down the ridge southwest from the South Bruny Lighthouse leads to the causeway across to Courts Island. At low tide you can walk or wade across (about 50 metres) but difficulty may be experienced at high tide or in rough sea. Check at the Keepers Cottage if in doubt.
The island is shaped by the dolerite rock sill that creates the character of the coastal geomorphology of South Bruny Island. The relatively flat top of the island reaches an elevation of 64 m and sits above tall cliffs and steep coastal slopes. Quaternary aeolian sand lies over much of the dolerite top forming habitat for seabird breeding. The shoreline is inhospitable on all but the northern shoreline and is frequently battered by the big swells and storms of the Southern Ocean.
The name of the island can be traced back to the 1793 expedition of Sir John Hayes and his ships, the Duke of Clarence and the Duchess of Bengal. On his charts he ascribed the name Courts Island for the Duke of Clarence’sfirst mate, Thomas Watkin Court. Much of Courts Island is covered by short-tailed shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris) rookeries, estimated to vary between >180,000 pairs. Sooty shearwaters (Ardenna griseus) are also known to nest on the island.
Partridge Island is a well-vegetated island about 103 ha in size, contained within South Bruny National Park. Bands of aboriginal people from Tasmania’s South East Tribe are known to have visited Partridge Island, and it is thought that the island was seasonally important as a source of food. Tasmanian Aboriginal clans within the South East Tribe who used the island included the Mouheneene (from around Hobart), the Melukerdee (of the Huon River), the Lylue- Quonne (of Recherche Bay), and the Nuenonne (of Bruny Island), whose land Partridge Island was considered to be.
In 1792, the French Rear Admiral Bruni D’Entrecasteaux sailed into the Derwent via the channel which now bears his name. He and his crew observed the island and some went ashore. They named it, Ile au Perdrix. It has been speculated that this is due to them mistaking the native quail for partridges, although the French would have been just as familiar with vary similar species of quail or caille. Over the coming years, Europeans came to use the Channel on a regular basis, and the island’s name was anglicised.
Early written accounts documented numerous signs of at least regular visitation to the island by local aboriginal peoples, if not habitation. During the expedition of 1792, Jacques Labillardiere joined the first group of Europeans to set foot on this island on the 20th of May 1792, and made note of several forsaken huts being present. Members of Nicholas Baudin’s famous French expedition visited the island on the 14th of January 1802. Baudin himself, along with botanist/ ornithologist Jean-Baptiste Leschenault de La Tour, nteractions with a local aboriginal group they encountered. Translations from their diaries which have been published (Baudin 1974; Plomely 1983) describe this visit in detail. Whilst at the southern end of the island, the French observed a large group of aboriginal people on the other side of what is now called, Partridge Narrows. On seeing the French, several of them waded across the shallow channel where they met the French and had a friendly exchange, including exchanging some gifts.
Following this, several aboriginals joined the French on their walk around the island, during which both Baudin and Leschenault recorded seeing bark dwellings as well as tree-hollow shelters. These latter shelters were created in enormous live trees that had been carefully burnt out at the base. The opening in the trunks were so designed to be protected from the weather, and the trees contained hollows big enough to hold a re and eight to ten people (Plomley 1983). These trees must have been on the northern half of the island, where there are still deep fertile soils, although no trees even approaching these dimensions survive today. Baudin’s expedition also noted that; "This little island did not seem to me to be inhabited as a rule but the natives could come there from time to time to collect sea ears (mussels) and Ormiers (abalone) which were to be found in great quantity adhering to the rocks on this shore."
In 1825, Partridge Island was included as part of a land grant to Captain John Laughton, who gave his name to its northern point. A reported altercation between two of his employees and a group of the local Aboriginal people the following year in December 1826, indicate the continued importance of the island to the local people up until this point. Following this land grant, Partridge Island changed hands several times up until 1973. In 1848, the island was offered for sale in the Hobart Town Courier. It was described as an island which; "abounds with the very best timber including she-oak for shipbuilding and is well adapted for a whaling station".
The fertile band in the north of the island was largely cleared and converted to "English grass" by 1895, when it was surveyed and sold again. At this time, the island also possessed a jetty and a boat house, as well as an eight-room stone and brick house, with associated ower gardens, oaks, poplars and dry-stone walls. Although the island was primarily used for sheep grazing during this time, the occupants also nurtured food gardens, which would have provided crucial additions to their almost self-suf cient lifestyles.
In 1973 Melbourne doctor, Richard Ham, purchased the island with the intent of opening up a sailing academy and nature retreat, and commenced construction of some cabins for accommodation. Only two years later in 1975, and after an acrimonious battle well reported in the local press, the island was purchased by the State Government using its compulsory acquisition powers under the Land Resumption Act 1958.
By 1987 vandalism had become such a problem that the Parks and Wildlife Service made the decision to remove much of the remaining island infrastructure, leaving only a jetty, a small hut and a concrete slab. A year later the island burnt and in 2010, the hut was subsequently removed. In 1997, Partridge Island, along with the Labillardiere Peninsula, was gazetted as part of the South Bruny National Park, which they remain a part of to this day. Today, the island is often visited by members of the recreational boating community, who are able to moor off the jetty in the island’s northeast. The island is also situated close to a number of salmon farms, which produce signi cant quantities of water-borne rubbish and the companies visit periodically to perform cleaning.
Partridge Island Text: Hamish Saunders Memorial Trust
Coastal Rock Formations
Fluted Cape is a massive dolerite cliff bounding the southern edge of Adventure Bay. The cliffs rise sheer from the sea to 274 metres on the southern side, with a more gently sloping northern face sweeping down to Adventure Bay. 274 metres almost sheer from the sea, the coastal scenery afforded by these cliffs has a high aesthetic value. Penguin Island is on the easterly tip of the place. It is a rocky knoll rising to 67 m, separated by 100m of water although accessible across rocks at low tide.
Mars Bluff Arch, Cape Queen Elizabeth
Coastal Caves and Arches
There are many sea caves (above and below the waterline) and rock arches along the east coast of Forestier and Tasman Peninsulas and Bruny and Tasman Islands. Those caved out of the cliff face by the forces of nature are not visible from land, and must be visited by boat. A number of cruises ply these waters, but for a more intimate look and exploration, nothing beats a kayak.
South Bruny Island has a number of bridges including the arched Bridge. A unique feature off the coast is Bridge Rock, a craggy island which has a sea channel carved by nature through its centre.
The Monument, looking like a natural cathedral, is a stark 300 metre rock formation, separated from the Jurassic dolerite cliffs by a narrow channel. If you take a cruise along this coastline, chances are your boat will speed through the small channel between the column and the cliffs. Other narrow channels are explored and sea caves are entered.
One of the popular natural wonders to be found on South Bruny is Breathing Rock, a cavern in the rock face near water level that fills with air as the waves wash out and then as the waves washed back up into it, the air is forced back out with a huge spray. Those who travelled the south and south eastern coast of Tasmania by kayak agree that Bruny Island's Breathing Rock is impressive but is small in comparison to the huge Breathing Rock on DeWitt Island in the Maatsuyker Group on the south coast of Tasmania.
Houndstooth Rock, at the northern end of Adventure Bay off Cape Queen Elizabeth, is a 75 metre conical shaped face of bare rock of conical shape. It's a popular diving spot, with a rock wall that falls away quickly to a depth of around 30 metres. At this depth are incredible sponge gardens and huge rock buttresses covered in stunning zooanthids. Keanes Crack, just west of Houndstooth, is a 25 metre deep underwater crevasse that was created by erosion over a few million years. The Crack and Houndstooth lead to a series of underwater tunnels and caverns. The view from the cliffs at the head of Cape Queen Elizabeth overlooking Houndstooth Rock is stunning.
The Friars are four steep dolerite rocks, with a combined area of about 17 ha (42 acres), at the southern entrance to the D'Entrecasteaux Channel between Bruny Island and the mainland. They are part of the Actaeon Island Group, and of South Bruny National Park. The islands were named The Fryars by Tobias Furneaux in Adventure in March 1773. At The Friars, highly fractured dolerite reef covers an area of 18 km2 in water depths of 10 – 75 m with local relief of up to 16 m. Photographs of the reef taken by an autonomous underwater vehicle show it is covered in soft coral and sponge communities and provides a habitat for lobsters.
Recorded breeding seabird species are the little penguin, short-tailed shearwater, fairy prion and common diving-petrel. The metallic skink is present. Australian fur seals, one of seven in the Arctocephalus genus which are found mostly in the southern hemisphere, use the rocks as a regular haul-out site. Apparently the Australian fur seals seen sleeping, and flopping about on the rocky ledges that face the sea are almost all males. The alpha male is said to swim to Flinders Island or Wilsons Promontory in Bass Strait, do some breeding, and then bring a young male back here to the colony.
For an intimate encounter with the coastline of Bruny Island,Bruny Island Cruises coastal tour is highly recommended. The tour commences in Hobart for a full day cruise (8am - 5.30pm) via Kettering and the Bruny Island ferry, and then to Adventure Bay, or it can be joined at Adventure Bay for the 3-hour 50km journey along the coast. Small cruise boats, especially designed for eco-cruising with an open design and excellence in manoeuvrability, take passengers close to sea and coastal wildlife (coastal wildlife such as seals, dolphins, whales, albatross and other seabirds), cliff faces, sea-caves, as well as passing between the narrow gap between the coast and The Monument, a tall and slender sea stack. Sitting at the bottom of Bruny Island's towering sea cliffs, it is not unusual to be surrounded by thousands of seals or watch dolphins surf on the bow wave of the boat.
Cruises and Guided Tours: Plan and Book
Take the short trip by bicycle from Hobart to Kettering, then catch the Bruny Island ferry and you are there, ready to explore one of Tasmania's most interesting islands. Cyclists pay a small surcharge to take their bicycle with them on the 15-minute trip and ferries go throughout the day. You need as little as 3 days in total to cycle south from Hobart to the island, do a bit of exploring and return, although a week would be better to see more and take things at a more relaxed pace.
Bruny Island By E-Bike
Bruny for Food Lovers
Food on Bruny Island is core to Island life and an important part of Bruny Island's identity. A visit to Bruny Island is simply not complete until your taste buds have experienced the fresh gourmet produce that our proud local artisans produce.
Food Lover's Guide to Bruny Island
The sleepy township of Great Bay in the north is home to Bruny Island Cheese Company. The dairy produce company uses cow’s milk to make its range of cheeses. The animals are farmed in an environmentally sustainable way with the focus of the farming practices on producing the best milk possible.
The Get Shucked Oyster Farm is also found at Great Bay, just outside the township. Get Shucked is a locally owned and operated oyster farm and bar. Their oysters are harvested, shucked and plated up daily. Get Shucked now has a fully licensed oyster bar connected to the farm.
A variety of walking tracks within South Bruny National Park provide breathtaking views of the spectacular coastline with its towering cliffs. Walks vary from pleasant strolls along Cloudy Bay beach to the longer and more demanding Labillardiere Peninsula circuit.
Walks and other activities in South Bruny National Park
Fluted Cape Walk
Penguin Island off Grass Point
Located within the South Bruny National Park to the south of Hobart, the Fluted Cape Walk departs from East Cove at the estern end og Adventure Bay and provides walkers with a circuit route offering truly impressive cliff and ocean views. The first half of the walk follows the picturesque coastline from the East Cove car park where Adventure Bay Road leaves the shoreline. The track follows the eastern side of Adventure Bay, until reaching Grass Point, an open grassland area where you can view the structural remains of the whaling industry.
The path climbs steeply towards the summit of Fluted Cape where you can enjoy truly spectacular views towards the distant Tasman Peninsula. The cliffs of Fluted Cape rise to 272 metres - they are the country's second-highest sea cliffs after those on the Tasman Peninsula, across Storm Bay from Bruny Island. Keep an eye out on the track for the famous Adventure Bay white wallabies. The walk is approximately 10.8km's return and walkers should allow at least 5 hours return for this trip.
Unfortunately there are no facilities on the track, however, public toilets are located in the Adventure Bay township area (passed prior to reaching the track start).
Track walking notes and map
Cape Queen Elizabeth Walk
Offering a plethora of different landscapes to discover and explore, the 12km return Cape Queen Elizabeth Trail is a great Bruny Island day walk. Walkers can expect brilliant views of The Neck and Adventure Bay as well as stunningly secluded beaches and unique rock formations. At low tide the trail leads round the coast below Mars Bluff, allowing for a shorter and more exciting route. Follow the Main Road (B66) from the Bruny Island Ferry for 20km. The walk commences from the car park directly adjacent to the Bruny Island airstrip.
Track walking notes and map
Labillardiere Peninsula Circuit Walk
Photo: Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service
Sporting fantastic views of the Bruny Island coast line and D’entrecasteaux channel, Labillardiere Peninsula circuit walk is a demanding 6 hour, 15km day walk. Starting from Jetty Beach in the South Bruny National Park the walk skirts around the peninsula coastline, including a climb up Mt Bleak and beach walks along Hopwood and Butlers Beaches.
Track walking notes and map
Mt Mangana Walk
View from Mt Mangana
This walk is outside the National Park and commences from Coolangatta Road, 5km inland from Adventure Bay. Mt. Mangana is the highest peak on Bruny Island (571m). This short walk starts on a dirt road and climbs gradually through damp dogwood and sassafrass forest, with a number of other mountainous plants such as cheeseberry, native pepper and a lot of candle heath.
After about 30 minutes you see the top of two radio towers that are located near the summit. Unfortunately the trees have blocked the view from the top but there is a path to a rocky lookout that can be found about 15m east from the summit radio tower. This spot provides a good view of South Bruny, as well as Adamson’s Peak and Pindar’s Peak. The gravel road up Mt Mangana can be driven if you prefer not to walk.
Mavista Nature Walk
The Mavista Nature Walk is a beautiful short walk for nature lovers. Follow the well-maintained track along a shaded gully filled with ancient and enchanting wet forest. Notice towering stringybarks, blackwoods, magnificent treeferns and a variety of understorey species. Stay a bit longer and make use of the picnic shelter at the beginning of the track. Please note, the bush track is quite narrow and walkers should not keep going past the end as Mavista Falls are inaccessible. Another word of warning—prepare for leeches (at least they’re friendly).
Track walking notes and map
Alonnah to Sheepwash Bay Walk
Enjoy an easy and pleasant walk along the foreshore between Sheepwash Bay and Alonnah. The track was the main link from Sheepwash Bay to Alonnah in the early years of settlement. The walk follows the old rock-walled carriageway between the two previous jetty sites, meandering through coastal bush. Keep an eye out for remnants of early settlers’ occupation, including a sawyers’ camp and several piles of stones near Sheepwash Creek. Logs from Bruny Island were prepared in the bush for barging to the windjammers for export to the UK and South Africa.
Time: 1 hour return
Distance: 3 km return
Track walking notes and map
East Cloudy Head Track
The East Cloudy Head Track begins with a 3 km walk along the windswept beach at Cloudy Bay in the South Bruny National Park. Nesting shorebirds lay their eggs amongst the beach debris during spring and summer, so please walk along the wet sand.
At the end of Cloudy Beach, the track follows a small creek inland before climbing 3 km through colourful bird-filled heathland to East Cloudy Head. Enjoy spectacular views along the south coast of Bruny Island to The Friars (home to a noisy fur seal colony). Gaze to the west and north-west for views towards the southern ranges and kunanyi/Mt Wellington.
Time: 4 hours return
Distance: 12 km return
Track walking notes and map