Head south from Bruny Island and the next stop is Antarctica. This spectacular Tasmanian wilderness has an incredible food culture and link to Tasmania’s dark history.
Bruny Island is actually two islands – North and South Island which are separated by a narrow isthmus called “The Neck”.
Don’t be tempted to think you can come here on a day trip. The islands are nearly 100km long. You will need at least a few days to uncover the island’s secrets.
Both islands are a farmer’s paradise with rich soil producing berries, cheese, whisky and wine. The ocean also produces delicious oysters.
Bruny’s South Island is hilly, timbered, contains large pockets of rainforest. This is where you will find South Bruny Lighthouse, the second-oldest and longest continually staffed lighthouse in Australia, and the townships of Adventure Bay, Alonnah and Lunawanna.
The highlight of the South Island has to be South Bruny National Park, which has towering cliffs overlooking white sandy beaches, coastal heathland and underwater kelp gardens. It’s also home to several endangered plants and animals including the hooded plover, swift parrot, ground parrot, and forty-spotted pardalote. The coast is dotted with mutton bird (short-tail shearwater) and penguin rookeries. Other residents include echidnas, possums, pademelons, and wallabies.
Bruny island was once home to the Nuenonne people. Remnants of their settlements can still be seen on the South Island. The most famous resident was the Indigenous Australian Truganini, often incorrectly known as the last Indigenous Tasmanian. She was the daughter of the chief Mangana and is believed to have been born sometime around 1812.
After the arrival of the Europeans, Truganini’s life of searching for shellfish and hunting in the bush changed forever. By 1829, her mother had been killed by sailors, her uncle shot by a soldier, her sister abducted by sealers, and her fiancé murdered by timber-getters.
Truganini died in Hobart in 1874. Her body was on display in the Tasmanian museum until 1951. In 1976, more than a century after she died, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community requested that she be cremated and her ashes scattered in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel near her homeland. The request was granted.
Truganini Lookout at The Neck offers some of the best views on the island, a fitting tribute to the Indigenous elder whose life was turned upside down by European settlement.
The island also has a fascinating European history. It was partly charted by Abel Tasman in 1642. Tasman sailed the Zeehan and Heenskerck along the coast and briefly entered Adventure Bay but was prevented from landing due to gale force winds.
Captain Tobias Furneaux visited with Captain James Cook in 1773. Cook was sailing the HMS Resolution and Furneax the HMS Adventure – after which Adenvture bay was named. The sailors entered the bay replenish their water and wood supplies.
Four years later, in 1777, Cook returned to Bruny on the HMS Bounty with a botanist named Nelson. The pair were said to have planted some seeds which they had brought with them from the Cape of Good Hope. In 1792, Captain Bligh arrived in Bruny Island and found an apple tree had grown from one of the seeds. According to local legend, this is how the apple isle first got its nickname.
Evidence of whaling stations can still be seen on the islands particularly around Grass Point.
The name Bruny Island comes from French explorer Bruni D’Entrecasteaux. Originally Bruni, the spelling was changed to Bruny in 1918. The Indigenous name for the islands was Lunawanna-alonna – which is reflected in the names given to the two towns on the South Island.
Access to the island is by vehicular ferry departing from Kettering. The trip takes 15 minutes and arrives at Roberts Point on North Bruny. The island has a population of around 620 and is deceptively large – being about 100 kilometres in length.
What can you do there?
The island has several spectacular walks. The challenging three-hour Fluted Cape walk from East Cove carpark to Grass Point offers stunning coastal views and the opportunity to spot White Breasted Sea Eagles. For a shorter, easier option, try the Clennett’s Top Mill Site. This 30 minute walk passes through rainforest on the western side of Coolangatta Road to an old mill where you can see ancient machinery.
One of the best things to do is to eat. Bruny Island Tourism have a list of all the delicious options on the islands including Bruny Island House of Whisky, the Get Shucked Oyster Farm and the Bruny Island Cheese Company.
This year a new gallery has opened up at Dennes Point, the northernmost tip of the island. The Art at the Point gallery showcases the work of more than 40 artists who live on Bruny Island.