Things begin to get even more remote when you camp on Bruny Island, an island off the east coast of Tasmania (also an island and one of the seven states of Australia). Bruny Island runs along the south-eastern coast of Tasmania and is separated from mainland Tasmania by the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. Bruny (as the locals call it) is a dreamy place where you really can ‘get away from it all’ and live according to ‘Bruny time’.
We had crossed Bass Strait from Port Melbourne to Devonport, a nine-hour journey that we made overnight across rough seas. From Devonport we drove down the centre of the Apple Isle to Kettering a seaside town on the east coast where the car ferry departs every half hour for Bruny Island. This crossing was an easy fifteen-minute ride over the D’Entrecasteaux Channel on a much smaller ferry than the larger ones we had been on previously. It was a lovely sunny day to stand at the edge of the ferry and look across the water, Bruny Island was before us and the sailboats in the sheltered port of Kettering were fading from view behind us. The spirit of adventure was with us once more as we smelt the aroma of the sea and felt the moist salty spray on our cheeks. Excitement bubbled within for what lay ahead over the next few days in this faraway place.
Similarly to our experience on Kangaroo Island, we were surprised at how large Bruny Island was, 100km in length. It is essentially made up of a North and South Island, which are joined by a narrow isthmus called ‘The Neck’. At this point a timber stepped boardwalk takes you up to the Truganini Lookout, boasting some of the most spectacular 360° panoramic views of the Bruny coastline. The island is a mix of National Park bushland, a small farming community (including pork, lamb and beef), abundant seafood especially oysters, local cheese makers, cherries growers as well as a growing wilderness experience tourism industry. All this surrounded by glistening aqua blue waters and expansive white sandy beaches, make it a unique place.
We were camping on private property, a secluded, cleared space amongst the forest at the far end of the South Island. Apparently our allocated camping spot is known as the ‘honeymoon suite’ and we had these days on Bruny just the two of us, as the adventurer and designer were off doing other things that did not involve camping without power or a shower. It wasn’t hard to relax here, enticed by a waterfront position and a mesmerising view through the trees to the sapphire blue waters of Cloudy Bay. Although without electricity or hot water for the following few days, the beauty of this place, the remote location and access to seafood we gathered from the shoreline with our bare hands made it all quite bearable.
The pace slowed considerably on Bruny, it definitely was the ‘road less travelled’ kind of place, and the first place I had seen a road sign indicating a speed limit of 5km. Mr G spent hours fishing, reading and sponge bathing in a plastic tub. I enjoyed the seclusion, the cool evenings by the campfire and the sunny days with no place to be. An attempt to wash my hair with olive oil soap in the chilly waters of Cloudy Bay on day three resulted in the olive oil congealing, and I was left with a very greasy mop of hair and the necessity to wear a hat in public until we had access to hot water again!
The entrance to South Bruny Island National Park was just five minutes’ drive away from our campsite, a magnificent place to visit and well worth the entry fee at the gate (funds to ensure these precious places remain protected and maintained). We had a spectacular walk out to Cape Bruny Lighthouse, with far reaching views further south of more tiny islands dotting the horizon. A picnic and a bushwalk along the coast followed, concluding with a lazy stroll along Jetty Beach as the sunshine danced upon the still waters making them sparkle. We met a lovely family who were adventuring on their yacht for a few days and had just finished diving, quite successfully, for a basketful of prized abalone. We chatted with them as we watched them clean and prepare their catch and at the same time resolved in our minds that Mr G and I would too catch abalone together one day.
The days were warm, warm enough to swim we thought, until we took the plunge at Adventure Bay in the middle of the day and realised that these icy waters we were in fact closer to Antarctica than the Tropics. At low tide we discovered a rocky boat ramp not far from our campsite, where a colony of oysters had attached themselves to the rocks and timbers there. We returned to our car to retrieve a bucket, hammer, screwdriver, mesh lined glove and oyster knife. We had come prepared for moments of discovery like this and we happily gathered ourselves, over a dozen large oysters, salty and sweet to taste, a decadent feed from the pristine waters. We returned to refill our bucket more than once while we were on Bruny. If you are not into gathering your own oysters, you can buy them fresh from the local oyster bar Get Shucked.
In the cool of the evening as we sat around the campfire, we shared plump Bruny Island cherries (purchased from the farm gate shop near the Island ferry stop). I put together a simple plate of delicious raw milk cheese and wood fired bread from the local cheese maker, Bruny Island Cheese on the island, perfectly matched with some of my homemade pickled onions we had in our stores. We shucked and served the oysters straight from the wild, three ways; natural with with a squeeze of lemon, marinating in a ginger and shallot dipping sauce or grilled with bacon, Worcester sauce and garlic. It was a moment I’ll always remember about our time on Bruny together.
We found we had plenty of time to see much of what Bruny had to offer with five days there. We took a three-hour Adventure Cruise from Adventure Bay exploring the rugged coastline of Bruny Island from the sea perspective. It was a thrill to be cruising alongside some of Australia’s highest sea cliffs beneath towering crags, before entering deep sea caves and passage ways. The boat took us out to where the Tasman Sea meets the might of the Southern Ocean and here we saw fur seals sunning themselves, diving and playing in the ocean together. It was spectacular to see them interact in the wilderness, although they were quite smelly.
On our last day on Bruny we packed up camp and decided to visit the north end of the island on our way back to the ferry stop. Driving north upon winding roads to the picturesque Barnes Bay and then out to Dennes Point, we enjoyed views out over the Derwent River to where it meets Storm Bay. We left Bruny Island content that day, somewhat impacted by a place so pristine and unique. We had loved it for both it’s wilderness and it’s delicious produce.