Just off the eastern coast of Tasmania within easy reach of Hobart, Bruny Island combines dramatic landscapes and seascapes with gourmet dining.
A tranquil pool on the Luggobine Circuit on the Labillardiere Peninsula.
Bruny Island is often described as Tasmania’s premier island destination. Located less than an hour’s drive south of Hobart, it is nearly 100 kilometres long and provides a wide diversity of subjects to photograph. As you travel from the tip of Dennes Point in the north to the Cape Bruny Lighthouse in the south, the topography changes dramatically.
Visitors can expect everything from sheltered sandy beaches and attractively located farmlands in the north to tall forests, open bays and wild coastlines in the south. The island is split by a narrow neck of land, where visitors can climb to the top of a tall sand hummock for spectacular 360-degree views.
More than half of Bruny Island is set aside as National Park and State Reserves, which contain walking tracks that take you into rainforests and heathlands and to dramatic coastal areas. Many of them contain plant species not found anywhere else in Tasmania. The island is also seen as a birdwatcher’s paradise, and there are a number of rare and endangered species to find and photograph.
Getting There/Getting Around
There are several ways of travelling to the island. The most popular is the vehicular ferry with roughly nine sailings each day, leaving Kettering roughly every 90 minutes during daylight hours. The crossing takes 20 minutes and excellent views of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel can be enjoyed from the upper deck. Fares and a timetable can be found at www.bit.ly/bi-ferry.
The view from the ferry across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, which separates Bruny Island from the mainland.
Most of the roads on the island are unsealed, but they are usually well-maintained and usable by normal vehicles. However, if you hire a car in Hobart and plan to drive to the island, make sure the rental conditions cover taking the car on the ferry and driving on unsealed roads. (As far as we know, Bargain Car Rentals is the only company that expressly permits travel to Bruny Island.)
Several tour companies offer package tours, among them full-day tours that leave from Hobart at 7:45am and return at 5:30pm There are also a number of packages that cover two or more days and include walking, bird- and wildlife-watching and visits to salmon and oyster farms. Opportunities to sample local produce may be included.
Independent travellers can take advantage of many walking trails, from easy strolls that take less than 30 minutes to full day walks. For seafarers, both Bruny Island and Kettering offer a number of boat chartering and boat hire options.
When to Go
Most people visit Bruny Island in the summer when the sea is just warm enough to swim in (averaging around 21 °C between December and March). But there’s no reason not to visit at other times of the year. Tasmania has a temperate maritime climate, which means there are seldom extremes of temperature, although it can get both hot and cold.
Because of its southerly latitude, the seasons are much more evident in Tasmania than they are in mainland Australia. Summers are mild and winters cool but seldom frosty, even though snow falls on Mount Wellington behind Hobart. But it’s unlikely to snow on Bruny Island.
What Gear to Take
The gear you take will depend on what types of photography interest you. A standard zoom lens (24-105mm for 35mm format, 18-55mm for APS-C DSLRs or 14-42mm for M4/3) will cover most situations.
Photographers interested in wildlife should bring a telephoto lens ““ with a focal length of at least 200mm required to capture most subjects. Birdwatchers will probably require an even longer lens.
Some locations can only be reached by fairly long walks so, if you plan to visit them, make sure you have a comfortable camera bag. Take water when it’s hot as you can’t always be sure of fresh drinking water, particularly along the coast.
Boating, kayaking and surfing are popular activities and all provide potential for picture-taking. Underwater photography is possible in several places, including Cloudy Lagoon, which is ideal for snorkelling. If this is your passion, make sure you are suitably equipped with housings and a wetsuit (the water can be cold, even in summer).
Specific Places to Visit
The Truganini Lookout is the best way to get a perspective on the layout of Bruny Island. It’s reached by steps that take about 15 minutes to climb. From the top the 360 ° panoramic views are spectacular, with the Tasmanian mainland to the west and Adventure Bay and the Pacific Ocean to the east.
Looking south from the Truganini Lookout on the Bruny Island Neck, which separates the northern and southern sections of the island.
At the base of the steps are boardwalks and viewing platforms from which you can observe the short-tailed shearwaters and the Little (Fairy) penguins between September and February. Walking along the Neck Beach to the north takes you to Moorina Bay, which has unusual rock formations, including an interesting archway.
Adventure Bay has a large caravan park and rentable accommodation and is a good base for longer stays. Several walks begin here, including the easy 90-minute return trip to Grassy Point, where there are visible remains of structures associated with the whaling industry. Southern Right Whales can sometimes be seen from this point during their migration times between June and late October.
The walk to Fluted Cape also starts and ends at Adventure Bay. It takes approximately three hours and begins with a level stretch along the sea’s edge before climbing steeply to provide spectacular views of the distant Tasman Peninsula. White Breasted Sea Eagles may be seen along the cape soaring in the thermals.
The Mavista Nature Walk is an easy, 30-minute return track through pristine rainforest, that is accessed from Resolution Road at Adventure Bay. This lovely walk meanders through a fern glade next to Waterfall Creek and is dotted with information boards. Other rainforest walks in this area include Mount Mangana (moderate, 1.5 hours return) and Clennett’s ‘Top Mill’ site on the western side of Coolangatta Road. This old mill site is reached in 15 minutes and contains vintage machinery.
More demanding walks include the Slide Track (6 hours one way) which is 13 kilometres long and follows an abandoned timber-getting tramway. This track crosses rocky and undulating terrain through wet forest with slippery, uneven surfaces. Robust footwear, warm clothing and wet weather gear are advised as the weather can be unpredictable.
East Cloudy Head at the southern end of South Bruny Island is reached by a demanding walk (4 hours return). It provides spectacular views of the rugged coastline and passes through an area with plentiful bird life.
The Labillardiere Peninsula has two walks, the shorter Luggobine Circuit, which takes 1.5 hours return and the 7-hour Labillardiere Peninsula Walk. Both walks start and end at Jetty Beach campground and include both coastal and heathlands.
Cape Bruny Lighthouse at the southern tip of Bruny Island is also worth a visit. It’s the second oldest lighthouse tower in Australia, and has the longest history of being continuously manned (158 years). As well as being photogenic, the lighthouse is well positioned to provide pleasing views of the coastline both on the island and across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel.
The Cape Bruny Lighthouse.
We can recommend taking one of the Bruny Island Cruises, which leave from the jetty at Adventure Bay. During three hours, the custom-designed boats speed southwards along the rugged coastline in a 50 kilometre circuit, which loops back after providing passengers with close-up views of hundreds of seals basking on the rocks.
Boats carrying Bruny Island Cruises passengers pass between these rock pillars.
The open design of the boats makes it easy to take photographs, although there is a risk of having your equipment splashed. The excitement is in coming really close to coastal wildlife, cliff faces and sea caves. (This company also runs day trips from Hobart, which include this cruise.)
See additional images in Photo Review Mag app February 2014 issue, where this article was first published.