Today, Bruny Island is known as a haven for environmentally sensitive tourism and purveyors of the finest local, and boutique, produce; but it’s early settlement was focused on what the island could give up – trees and whales, primarily. The first European settlements began to appear in the 1840’s – however it was the establishment of the Cape Bruny Lighthouse in 1838 that set the island on a course of importance in the European development of Tasmania. Now, a network of National Parks and reserves intertwine around the island, ensuring protection into the future, and also enabling us to engage with the island, rather than simply take from it.
The Cape Bruny Lighthouse, on the most southern tip of the island, was commissioned in 1835 after a series of devastating shipwrecks around the coast. The light guided mariners until it was decommissioned in 1996 – making its 158 years of continuous shining the second longest run of a lighthouse in Australia. A beacon nearby now provides assurances to maritime traffic. The lighthouse, striking an imposing white figure as I approached it, looked impressive against a bright blue sky.
After a wander around the base admiring the stonework – all the stone for the lighthouse came from the island – I joined Matt from Bruny Island Lighthouse Tours (part of Bruny Island Safaris) for an informative talk on the lights’ history, and of the hardy people who have been in charge of keeping it shining. A grand metal staircase spirals up to the top, leading to the prisms and mechanisms; unlike most decommissioned lighthouses, Cape Bruny still has its glass and workings all intact, making for a fascinating opportunity to see the intricacies and details up close.
But of course, what the group really wants to see is the view, and that means stepping through a small door and out onto the walkway hanging off the top of the lighthouse. With a stiff breeze blowing – though nothing compared to what this rugged outcrop at the end of Tasmania has faced – it was still an exhilarating sensation to be up there. From the top the view was as incredible as expected. To the north, the hills and bays of Bruny glistened under the midday sun, while to the west there was fresh snow on the mountain ranges of the southern Tasmanian mainland. And to the south, Antarctica. Ok, so it’s not exactly visible, but the wind sure didn’t leave any mystery about where it was blowing from! Although, at 43° South, the Lighthouse is still closer to the equator than the South Pole – amazing!
From the lighthouse I could see some towering sea cliffs and hidden coves further around the southern coastline, so made my way around to the gloomy sounding Cloudy Bay. I don’t know if it is was fate or coincidence, but upon my arrival the sun decided to go into hiding and the bay was living up to its name. And it was beautiful. The beach here is perfect for taking a walk; be careful to stay clear of nesting shorebirds though. Or, if your vehicle is suitable, you can drive the full length of the beach to a campsite at the eastern end. As the weather wasn’t conducive to such a mission, I opted to explore the rocky headland, taking a path through coastal grasses and imagining which small, furry, marsupials had carved the many dirt highways branching off the main track.
Out here, there is not much sign of man-made interruptions to the landscape. But there is one you can’t miss – and likely will appreciate. There is a stalwart of Australian outposts; a long-drop loo. However, this one may just take the award for best ‘loo with a view’. The one-way, angled, windows frame the views superbly (you may scoff at the thought, but I bet when you visit your curiosity will take over and you’ll take a peep for yourself!).
All that stepping and beach meanderings – ok, I admit, I walked up and down the lighthouse a few times as that staircase is just amazing for photography – was making me hungry. And fudge is a food group, right? The Bruny Island Chocolate Factory was calling my name. After the cheese and honey I’d already devoured that morning before heading to the lighthouse, I told myself that I could taste, but didn’t need more goodness. Of course, I was also kidding myself – especially after that first taste of their artisan fudge! I had to stop myself at just the mint and orange fudges, but could have easily gone with the chocolate or salted caramel.
Driving across the wooden bridge into a private, and sprawling, forest, I was getting excited as I arrived at my home for the night. Quietly revealing itself from amongst the towering eucalypts and shimmering ferns, the Saintys Creek Cottage greeted me with a scene from a fairytale fable. A cute little wooden cottage, nestled snugly in a small clearing – the grasses and moss kept short by grazing wild wallabies and wombats – I couldn’t wait to light the log fire and settle in, cuppa in hand. A family of blue wrens danced and flitted about outside, and I felt myself slipping into a tranquil and relaxed state; perfect.
Saintys Creek Cottage is self-contained, with all cooking facilities provided (including a BBQ), however my chilled-out vibe was ushering me to let someone else do the cooking tonight. The Hotel Bruny at Alonnah is open seven days until late, making it a popular evening meal choice for visitors to the island, so that is where I headed. My main of Atlantic salmon, farmed just offshore from the island, was juicy and tasteful, and the smashed Tasmanian pink eye potatoes and salsa verde balanced the fish well. Despite being quite full from a days worth of grazing my way around Bruny, there was one dessert that sounded simply irresistible; Tasmanian whisky, raspberry and Bruny Island Honey mousse with boysenberry ice cream and toasted oats. Yes, it was amazing as it sounds. No, I have no regrets for treating myself to it.
That’s the thing about Bruny – the landscapes are awe-inspiring, tantalizing, incredible; but the people of Bruny have managed to create, produce and deliver a food and drink experience that matches those natural wonders. That is no easy feat, but on Bruny it just seems to be what is considered normal.
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