From up high on Mount Wellington you can see right across the Derwent and out to Storm Bay, with South Arm and Opossum Bay fish-hooked around to face back towards the city. Beyond lies Bruny Island, separated from ‘the big island’ by the d’Entrecasteaux Channel, and further across to the east coast are Eaglehawk and the infamous Port Arthur.
We drove over to Bruny one misty cold morning via the car ferry at Kettering, to discover a much bigger island than first thought. At 362 square kilometres and over 50ks in length, there’s a lot to see here, not least the stunning wilderness, both on the island and, back cross the channel, to snow-capped mountains and the Southwest National Park.
The island is in two halves, joined by a thrillingly narrow isthmus called ‘The Neck’ where you’ll find the Truganini Games Reserve Lookout and the Fairy Penguin rookery. Penguins are quite prolific here and can be found returning to their sand dune burrows at dusk, but sadly no sightings for us in the mid-morning shiver – but just as well, as I fear the coachloads of tourists would overwhelm this site in the late afternoon (in summer at least).
It’s a laid-back life on this island, even more so than the ‘big island’… here you’ll find freshly made bread and Anzac biscuits stuffed into old fridges that stand beside the road, with an honesty slot for your $7. There are parades of colourful letterboxes that announce the turnoff to a tiny hamlet of souls. Small roadside book exchanges. And perhaps as a result of the prolific wildlife here and the inevitable roadkill, small shops offering homemade Wallaby Burgers.
There’s a spectacular 360-degree lookout here accessed by 279 wooden steps with a small monument at the top commemorating one of the last native speakers of the indigenous language and, sadly, one of the last individual souls of pure Aboriginal Tasmanian descent. Truganini was born in 1812 on Lunnawannalonna (the pre-European name for the island) daughter to the island chief and died on the 8th May 1876.
At the very end of the island sits the convict hewn stone tower of the Bruny Lighthouse which has been battling the elements here since 1838. It must have been an unrelentingly arduous life for the lighthouse keepers with the original lantern containing 15 lamps consuming almost half a litre of sperm whale oil for every hour of use, ensuring constant refilling and trimming of wicks.
Cape Bruny is a wild and remote place that feels like it’s perched at the very end of the world – and I guess in many ways it is, as below this point is nothing but the cold Southern Ocean and Antarctica.