There is no surprise why Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, is renowned as the city of boats. Waiting for our Pennicott Wilderness Journeys Full Day Bruny Island Tour to begin, the Harbour glistened as boats of many sizes, from the humble fishing boat to the Red Roughy Antarctic exploration vessel and the rickety Castella – built in the same year as the Titantic! – rocked back and forth in the crisp Tassie breeze.
Upon entering the Hobart office, tour leader Huw emerged as quite the character from behind the desk. Before long, Huw’s vibrant bounce had us all onto the mini bus and making our way through Hobart towards Bruny Island. You can join the tour at Bruny if you so wish, driving to the island yourself, however I highly recommend taking the bus from Hobart if possible. Whether a local or a tourist, it’s a great way to learn more about Tassie.
Thanks to Huw’s impressive and entertaining tour guide knowledge, the bus ride was a fascinating insight into Tassie’s capital; both the thriving city today and the convict history. Hobart, the second oldest city in Australia, was home to 60,000 of the 120,000 convicts who descended upon Australia in the 18th century. We wound our way through the lively Salamanca district with its historic sandstone buildings, markets, restaurants and bars.
As we drove out of the CBD and past many quaint seaside towns, Huw explained the city’s infamous whaling history which saw 10,000 whales, almost every single majestic creature in the Hobart River killed throughout the 1800s. Only two years ago did Tasmanians see the first whale born in the river once again. It’s taken centuries for the population to return however hopefully with a better understanding of the need to protect the whales from becoming extinct, more whales will begin to breed in these waters.
A quick stop at a local bakery filled the bus with the smell of fresh bread. Lunch is provided on the tour with all ingredients sourced fresh on the day from local producers. We soon arrive at Kettering to drive on board the car ferry which will take us across to Bruny Island. There’s time to check out the boats, get a coffee and indulge in a quick breakkie if needed at the small cafe as we wait – but do keep in mind morning tea isn’t too far away on the other side!
Before we know it, we’re off the ferry and on the road once again traversing across Bruny Island itself. Bruny is made up of a north and south island joined by an extremely narrow neck of land. Both islands are similar in size to Singapore however in comparison to the 5.9 million Singaporeans, only 650 lucky people call Bruny home. Although do be warned – the population grows to around 10,000 during the holiday period!
Pennicott Wilderness Journeys have their own shop and cafe on the island where we stop to enjoy a drink and a delicious home made blueberry muffin before jumping on board the bright yellow boat and adorning ourselves with the highly attractive oversized red jackets. Tour leader, Chris joins the group and together with Huw, the pair make for highly entertaining and knowledgeable guides. Ginger tablets are handed around for those who may suffer from sea sickness. I look out to the peaceful watery expanse with nervous anticipation as I contemplate what awaits our little open boat as we take on the Tasman Sea. The engine roars and we’re off.
The boat darts in between the jagged sea cliffs soaring to impressive heights. We stop at various points as we learn about the land formations and wildlife which are so unique to this part of the world. Roaring through the water, we hit the waves with force and are thrown in our seats from left to right. Roge and I braved the two front seats despite the warning that the people in these hot seats are in for an exhilarating, bumpy ride. If your stomach churns at the thought, I’d recommend sitting in middle of the boat for a more sheltered experience. : )
Chris and Huw were fantastic at making sure everyone was comfortable and feeling ok. If you’re daring enough like we were to sit in those two front seats, do be prepared to be hit by all forces of nature! We stopped to marvel at an intriguing blow hole but as the boat drew closer I feared the worst. A huge spurt of water came dumping down on Roge and I as the boat (us included) roared with laughter. Yep – they got us!
We stopped off at various rock formations along the way including zooming through the narrow gap between the Totem Pole and Catherdral Rock – an experience which sent the shrills of excitement through the boat!
Zooming around the headland, we arrive at a spectacular male Australian Fur Seal Haulout. Seal stench aside, the seals are incredible as they playfully dive into the water, bark at a fellow seal who may be encroaching on their space or lie languidly on the rocks. Chris and Huw allow for plenty of times to take photos, video and simply watch these intriguing animals.
We then made our way back to shore as I held tightly onto my beanie and jacket, shielding my face from the ocean spray and bitter wind – squealing with laughter at every bump and turn.
Steaming homemade pumpkin soup awaited us back at the cafe along with a generous and delicious roll of salad and Tasmanian salmon or local ham. On the bus ride back to Hobart, we stopped off at a couple of places to sample more of the local produce including chocolates, fresh oysters and smoked meats with Huw assuring all food lovers on the bus there’s plenty more produce to indulge in on the island should anyone wish to return.
Nods were seen all round the bus. Huw and the team had taken us on the most spectacular journey from Hobart to Bruny Island, sharing with us the history, quirky facts, delicious treats and most importantly some of Tasmania’s most unique and awe inspiring natural wonders. Bruny Island is a must for anyone venturing Tassie’s way and the Pennicott Wilderness Journeys team are a wonderful team to take you out there. As they like to say, just follow the yellow boat road – you won’t be disappointed.
By Bruny Island adventurer and GoDo team member, Gemma