Oysters, cheese and pinguins. Bruny Island in Tasmania
Spectacular, typical Tasmanian scenery, deserted beaches, fairy penguins, and gourmet food by passionate local producers, all is found on Bruny Island. With its freshly shucked plump oysters, decadent artisan cheese platters, cool-climate wines, whisky, delicious raspberries and giant black cherries, Bruny Island has put Tasmania on the list of food destinations.
Bruny Island in Tasmania
Bruny Island has endless white sandy beaches, turquoise sea, rolling green pastures and rich wildlife. But it’s high-quality, gourmet food that has put Bruny Island on tourists’ map. In recent years, the island south-east of Tasmania has become widely known for its quality of locally grown and locally produced food, from fresh oysters to artisan cheese and quality wine and juicy lamb.
Bruny Island Smoke House
For an island of about 600 residents, Bruny’s gourmet local produce offerings are impressive, and we start our gourmet exploration with our first stop at the Bruny Island Smoke House. We still feel full from breakfast but we cannot resist tasting smoked meat and fish, pate and chutneys. It’s too early for drinking but we have a good excuse – where else we can find such a great choice of Tasmanian single malt whisky, distilled spirits, liqueurs and an extensive selection of Tasmanian and Moo Brew on tap? The place is hard to leave but this is our only first stop. We must keep going.
“Get Shucked” Oyster Bar
All oyster lovers cannot miss this place! All of us swallow a dozen freshly shucked plump, juicy and creamy oysters at this popular oyster bar and washed them down with white wine and local cider. The oysters are served natural or with dressings or cooked – Oysters Wontons and Kilpatrick. But seriously, who wants cooked oysters? To savour the salty flavour of oysters straight from the sea, they need nothing more than a squeeze of lemon. To commemorate your encounter with Bruny Island oysters, you can even get a Get Shucked T-shirt.
Bruny Island Cheese Co
I think I woke up at heaven – I am surrounded by the arrays of pungent cheeses. This Bruny Island “cheesery” is a “must stop”. With its staff wearing B&W T-shirts with the company’s easily recognisable gumboots logo, is expectedly busy. Its founder, Nick Haddow, is not only the example of the incongruous success story (creating a dairy company on an island without a dairy). He is the man, who brought tourists to the island.
We squeezed into the shop to order some cheese, bread and relishes for our picnic. Compared to France with its countless rows of cheese, here, the selection is not huge but each cheese has a very distinctive flavour. The cheeses range from “ODO” standing for One Day Old, a fresh cheese marinated in olive oil, fresh garlic, and herbs to “1792” (date the French first set foot on Tasmania), a cheese matured on Huon pine aromatic boards and “OEN” (from “oenology”) washed in pinot noir before being wrapped in vine leaves for maturation.
There is also a cheese made from unpasteurised, raw milk, a pungent “Raw Milk C2” typical to France but very atypical to Australia, which does not allow the sale of raw milk and until 2015, prohibited the production of raw milk cheese. But the world’s best cheeses are made from raw milk. The reason is simple: flavour. Nick Haddow from Bruny Island was the first Australian cheesemaker approved to produce raw cheese.
If there is one thing I miss during my travels is cheese. Not those mass-production imitations but REAL cheese. The cheese made by small local producers using the milk of their own animals. Some stinky, some with mold, some soft, some hard but always rich in flavour. Trying Bruny Island cheeses, which are made in small quantities using traditional artisanal techniques and the highest quality Tasmanian milk, I have just mentally added Tasmania on this list of best cheese producers… and ordered some more prosciutto wrapped baked cheese with sourdough bread and pear relish.
There is also a selection of craft beers from Bruny Island Beer Co, a brewery that uses Tasmanian hops and local grains, and cheese by-products.
You can also get Bruny Island cheese in Hobart, at Salamanca Saturday Market and in “A Common Ground” in the Salamanca Arts Centre.
South Bruny is where most of the island’s 600 residents live, divided between two small towns of Lunawanna and Alonnah. The rest of South Bruny is a National Park.
No, we are not feeling guilty about eating too much. There are many hikes on the island, and we are going to make some starting with The Neck. The Neck is a narrow isthmus connecting two islands, North and South, which form Bruny Island.
Armed with a map and GPS, we explored both islands.
From The Neck, we access Truganini Lookout by climbing a wooden stepped boardwalk and offering some of the most spectacular panoramic views. The Lookout is named after Truganini, the most famous aboriginal Tasmanian woman and a native Bruny Islander, whose story can be read nearby. There is something quite magical standing on a cliff top. I picture Bruni d’Entrecasteaux and his ship precariously anchoring at the channel to collect fresh water. And Aboriginal people curious to see European men putting foot on their land.
We make our way down to the beach using another timber walkway. With plenty of seabirds and the waves crashing into the sand, we take along the deserted beach stroll leaving our footprints in the sand. The beach is impossibly white and the waters are wonderfully blue but icy cold. We content ourselves with letting the icy water hit our ankles before unwrapping our picnic and having some glorious cheese on a glorious beach.
Fairy Penguins and muttonbirds at The Neck
But The Neck is the most famous at down because of its penguin rockery, one of the most popular attractions on Bruny Island. That same evening, we return to The Neck to watch little penguins, known as Fairy Penguins, coming out of the water to return to their burrows in the sand dunes beneath the viewing platform. No flashlight photography is allowed to the great disappointment of tourists thirsty for catchy selfies. But the rockery guardians use high-powered red-masked flashlights to point out the penguins, who are quite numerous today. We are lucky, it’s the nesting season (September-February), the best time to see the famous residents of Bruny Island.
All suddenly, the air is filled with eerie bird cries – thousands of fast-flying shearwaters are circling around looking for their burrows. They are also known as muttonbirds because of their meat, which apparently tastes like mutton. Making annual migrations from Alaska to Tasmania, they know how to fly fast! But muttonbirds are not the only birds on Bruny Island. The island is home to abundant birdlife, including 12 bird species, which are found nowhere else.
Cape Queen Elizabeth Walking Track
Next day, we set off for a 3-4 hours’ walk to walk to Cape Queen Elizabeth, which starts directly opposite the car park at The Neck, where we set out camp. After following a 4WD track, not the most scenic part of the walk, we cross Big Lagoon and continue down to the beach. Here, you have a choice – beach or bluff. We are lucky to come during low tide. We are able to walk on the beautiful, secluded beach below Mars Bluff and climb through interesting rock formations, including crevices, caves and the photogenic arch.
You can also get to the top of Cape Queen Elizabeth. The reward? Stunning views of Adventure Bay, Fluted Cape and towering cliffs with a serene blue expanse.
Cape Bruny Island Lighthouse
Later on, we drive on dirt roads, with some steep hills and occasional wildlife crossings to our next destination – Cape Bruny Lighthouse located at the most southern tip of South Bruny Island. From here, we have panoramic views across the island and grazing Bennetts wallabies. But still no sign of rare Albino wallabies.
The Bruny Island Lighthouse, whose construction was mainly carried out by convicts, is the second oldest lighthouse in Australia. It was staffed for 150 years using the lanterns lit with sperm whale oil until it was closed in 1996 and replaced by a solar light.
All of a sudden, rainstorm arriving only adding the wild and dramatic feeling to the area. Caught in strong wind and drizzle, we find refuge in our car.
Bruny Island Premium Wines
It’s time to have some more cheese. Again. But what’s cheese without wine? We drive to Bruny Island Premium Wines, Australia’s southernmost winery, a small family owned vineyard with its unique cool-climate wines.
On the terrace overlooking the vineyards and peaceful views, we are feeling at home. While tasting excellent wines, some really outstanding, and apples ciders, the tantalising aromas coming from the kitchen. Now, we will definitely go for lunch! On a menu, Bruny wallaby served with Pinot cherry chutney. Delicious! If feeling guilty, and we are, you can go for a less adventurous choice – juicy roasted lamb or simply healthy salads made from locally grown fresh vegetables.
Bruny Island Berry Farm
What is lunch without a dessert? We make a stop at Berry Farm and get immediately feel overwhelmed with the choice of tempting treats – berry tarts and berry muffins, pancakes and waffles, of course, with berries, cheesecakes with berry coulis, ice creams made from pure Tasmanian cream and sorbets or simply ready-to-eat raspberries and strawberries.
This time, visiting all the gourmet places was humanly impossible, and we missed many such as the family-owned Bruny Island Chocolate company renowned for their fudge, The House of Whisky with its extensive collection of purely Tasmanian single malts and Bruny Island gins, outlets selling Bruny Island Game, The Jetty Cafe using local, organic ingredients. Or Ross O’Meara’s to try their famous pork sausages and rillettes.
Tonight, we camp at Cloudy Bay Beach at the lower end of South Bruny Island. The place is all about sand dunes, endless sand beaches with one of the best surfing areas in Australia and a few walking trails.
Labillardiere Peninsula Circuit
From here, we go for Labillardiere Peninsula Circuit, which does a circuit around the peninsula. Starting at the Jetty Beach camping area on the way to the Cape Bruny Lighthouse, the trail goes through the bush and along the coast. The 14 km circuit is easy to follow, and it takes about 5 hours to complete. The views are better if you walk clockwise.
You can also do East Cloudy Head Walk, which goes along the beach with a number of steep ascents and descents. Alas, we didn’t have time for both walks. Taking our shoes off, we preferred to take a leisurely stroll on the beach smelling the salty air and listening to the roar of the ocean.
The night under the stars is calm but wallabies are most active at night, and tonight, we hear their tails thumping around our tents. Or maybe it’s a bandicoot or a possum?
In the morning, we set off for Adventure Bay, one of the most popular beaches on Bruny Island, some accessible by road, some by foot. The bay has several kilometres of pristine white sandy beaches protected from the gales and winds making them swimming-safe.
From the Adventure Bay, you can go for Mavista Walk, a fairly short walk through rainforest or Grass Point Walk going along the beach. If lucky, you can see the whales during their migration. And the remains of structures reminding of Bruny Island’s bloody whaling past, with the whale’s oil shipped as far as to London. Or you can opt for Fluted Cape Circuit, a rather challenging loop walk with some steep climbs to the cliffs with the views of Fluted Cape and the Tasman Peninsula.
Bruny Island Cruise by Pennicott Wilderness Journeys
This time, no hiking for us. We came to Adventure Bay for the highly-recommended Bruny Island Eco-Cruise going around the rugged coastline of Bruny Island. Started by a local legend, Rob Pennicott, as a small family business, his cruises received numerous awards and international reputation.
By the time we arrived to the Pennicott Wilderness Journeys office, the weather has changed. Instead of blue sky, we have menacing clouds but no rain. No surprise, this is Tasmania and its moody weather. Coffee! The smell of freshly-made coffee directed me to the right place but made me miss the safety instructions. Although most of them are common sense – go easy on booze, wear a safety jacket etc., Errol made a summary omitting just one comment, not the safety instructions. “The weather is a bit rough, we are going to get wet today”. Sometimes ignorance is the best thing.
Having put long waterproof jackets protecting against sea spray and received ginger tablets for seasickness, we embarked on high-speed large zodiac type boats headed off to the sea. Our yellow boat was cruising beneath towering crags and dramatic cliffs, some of Australia’s highest cliffs, taking us into deep sea caves scattered along the coastline. Bird life is plentiful. The crew, proud of Tasmania’s natural beauty, thoughtfully turn the boat around so all the people have their turn at getting a good shot.
Our custom-built open-air boat is designed to be highly manoeuvrable and it allows the experienced skippers to get very close to the rocks. On one hair-raising manoeuvre, we speed through a very narrow gap between two huge rock formations, called The Monument, without hitting them … just. “One more time?”, asks the captain? “Yes!” I hear the yelling. I wish we don’t. But secretly, I am glad we do. Next, we are getting up close to the Breathing Rock, a blowhole with water spitting onto our faces.
Now, the ride is getting even more bumpy. Sitting it in the front of the boat I have fantastic views and ginger tablets seem to work. But with the front end going up and down a lot more than the rear, my back seems not to like bouncing and sudden landings after leaping over a big wave.
At the point where the Tasman Sea meets the Southern Ocean, we feel the power of nature. It’s a rolling ocean, with the swells as high as 3-4 metres looking more like 10 metres to me. Big swells transformed a scenic boat trip into a rollercoaster ride.
It gets rough to a point it’s impossible use the camera with our boat ride over the massive waves. I can just hardly hang on to the railing. We all get wet and cold. Our passenger fellows are screaming, some with excitement, some with fear. I am even questioning my idea to take the cruise going at high speed in the open sea. But the crew members are highly skilled and experienced. They love what they do and they inspire the well-needed confidence in this choppy Southern Ocean. I was feeling safe.
We are on our way to The Friars, a collection of islands and rocky outcrops located near the southern tip of Bruny Island. The place is known for a large colony of fur seals. “I don’t think we make it to The Friars today,” shouts our skipper. “But we will try,” he adds. I am really not sure which one I prefer. But amazingly, we managed to get closer, maybe not as closer as we could have on the calm day but enough to see the colony of sunbathing seals lounging on the rocks in various states of alertness.Some are oblivious to our presence, some are in various states of alertness.
We didn’t see the migrating whales but a pod of dolphins accompanied us for a few minutes on our way back. Three hours later, we arrive back on land, with salt on our lips, wind-swept, uncontrollably shivering but with fantastic memories.
Black Devil Tasmanian Cherries
It’s time to return to Hobart. Driving to the wharf, we stumble upon the “Black Devil Cherry Shack” right next to the ferry terminal. The cherries are very juicy. And they are huge! Tasmania cherries are widely known in Australia, and they are now exported to as far away as Japan. A few moments later, munching on black Tasmanian cherries, we are leaving on board of the ferry to Hobart only hoping to return soon.
Location: Bruny Island is located off the south-eastern coast of Tasmania, an island off Australia’s south coast.
How to get to Bruny Island: The only way to get to Bruny Island is by ferry (15-20 min), which connects the seaside town of Kettering (40 min drive south of Hobart) on the mainland with Bruny Island. It’s a vehicle ferry, so you can drive your car right onto Bruny Island. For details on ferry, visit the Bruny Island Ferry website. The ferry arrives to the North Bruny Island, and from there you can go to South Bruny by crossing a narrow isthmus called The Neck. For public transportation to Kettering, visit www.rome2rio.com.
There is no public transport on Bruny Island, you will need to hire a car to get around the island or come on a tour. When renting a car, make sure the rental company permits its vehicles to be taken to Bruny Island. Bruny Island has many dirt roads, you have to be careful when driving your rental car.
Best time to visit Bruny Island: Any time but summer months (December – February) are the best.
Accommodation: There is a variety of accommodation available on Bruny Island, from camping sites and caravan park to cottages and luxury lodges. Accommodation can be found on Bruny Island website, and also on Pennicott Journeys website. Wotif is a popular site to find accommodation deals in Australia as well as AirBnB.
Sign up using this AirBnB link to get a discount on your first booking.
Camping available at South Bruny National Park include Cloudy Bay (with two camping grounds – The Pines, a very small camping and Cloudy Bay Corner Beach campground), Jetty Beach and The Neck. Camping places cannot be pre-booked. Campground sites are secured on a first come, first served basis.
Fees and permits: You will need to pay a National park entry fees for South Bruny National Park (except for the Neck Reserve National park) available online on Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife website Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife.
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Written by ANYWAYINAWAY
Olga and Errol are the Swiss-Russian couple behind ANYWAYINAWAY. Passionate about unique culture and traditions, they decided to take career breaks and explore the world with the intention to expand awareness and provide new perspectives to the understanding of ethnic minority people, customs, traditions and culture. They also show the beauty of our planet and try to find something interesting in the ordinary.