Gen­tly does it

Diana Sim­monds falls for the charms of Tas­ma­nia’s Bruny Is­land

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

OW for­tu­nate is Bruny Is­land that it was named af­ter French nav­i­ga­tor-ex­plorer Bruni d’En­tre­casteaux and not the ju­nior of­fi­cer he sent to check out what was then thought to be just an­other bit of Tas­ma­nia. Let’s be hon­est, no mat­ter how beau­ti­ful, would you re­ally be that keen to visit Cretin Is­land?

This is how it didn’t hap­pen. On the morn­ing of April 30, 1792, two small boats set off from d’En­tre­casteaux’s tem­po­rary an­chor­age at Rocky Bay (known to this par­tic­u­lar fleet as Port du Sud). Their in­struc­tions were to sail east north­east, do a bit of map­ping and look for sources of fresh wa­ter.

The first boat to reach land along this com­pass read­ing was com­manded by M. Alexis Ig­nace de Cretin and it was mere chance, lack of pro­vi­sions and wa­ter, and then con­trary winds, that af­forded Bruny Is­land the first of some nar­row es­capes at the hands of Euro­pean ex­plor­ers. De Cretin wasn’t able to progress much fur­ther north than Par­tridge Is­land (his first land­fall at the south­west­ern tip of Bruny, and which some­how es­caped be­ing named Isle du Per­drix) in the three days al­lot­ted to the lit­tle ex­pe­di­tion.

Re­luc­tantly they re­turned to Port du Sud to re­port on their find­ings. It was only later — when fur­ther for­ays by de Cretin, ac­com­pa­nied by the ex­pe­di­tion’s hy­dro­g­ra­pher C. F. Beautemps-Beaupre, went the other way and found them­selves in Ad­ven­ture Bay — that they worked out the forested land­mass was an­other is­land.

The ex­ten­sive and nav­i­ga­ble se­away was then named for the boss, D’En­tre­casteaux, and the is­land, too. Poor Beautemps-Beaupre. Poor de Cretin.

Poor Lun­nawan­nalonna, too. Of course Bruny al­ready had a name be­fore the cheese-eat­ing sur­ren­der weasels ar­rived. It’s com­mem­o­rated to­day in two of Bruny’s small town­ships: Alon­nah and Lu­nawanna. But how de­li­ciously ironic nev­er­the­less that one of the many at­trac­tions of mod­ern-day is­land life is a visit to the Bruny Is­land Cheese Com­pany. Here, at South Bruny, Nick Haddow has turned more than a decade of learn­ing the fro­mage-maker’s busi­ness in Europe into a range of fab­u­lous cheeses.

The French ori­gins of the range are ob­vi­ous but eth­i­cally raised and con­tented cows and goats, which are en­tirely lo­cal to the is­land, do­nate the milk from which they’re made. The cheesery also has a wood-fired oven and, if you’re quick off the mark, you can pick up a fresh­baked sour­dough loaf, too.

OK, so now you have ex­cel­lent cheese: how about some wine and other spe­cial ed­i­bles? Aus­tralia’s south­ern­most vine­yard is nearby and while it caught the pro­saic end of the nam­ing process, Bruny Is­land Pre­mium Wines pro­duces a lus­cious un­wooded chardon­nay and a de­li­ciously chewy pinot. Th­ese come from 10-year-old vines that cling to the windswept slopes all around the cel­lar door and are a must to drink at a pic­nic lunch or evening spent in front of the fire.

Be­fore head­ing back to base, trek up to the north is­land for an un­ex­pected trea­sure: Bruny Is­land Smoke­house. Eat here or cart away to your rented hide­away a boot-load of freshly smoked sal­mon, oys­ters, duck, mus­sels, trout and other deli items. Th­ese lo­cal pro­duc­ers should be on the shop­ping list of any­one vis­it­ing Bruny, whether on a day trip or to stay longer.

And longer is good. The is­land is one of the most ro­man­tic and re­mark­able, rugged and un­ex­pect­edly ac­ces­si­ble des­ti­na­tions an is­land-lover could dream of vis­it­ing. At the same time, be­cause it is an is­land it can be tricky and for­bid­ding and should be ap­proached with proper re­spect and awe. And just like those first Euro­peans, your sup­plies can make or break the stay.

Bruny also has a range of gen­eral stores in its town­ships for tra­di­tional gro­ceries and pro­vi­sions, so you can shop lo­cally for most needs (and you should sup­port the is­lan­ders). Once on the is­land, a nat­u­ral re­luc­tance to leave quickly in­vades even the most ci­ti­fied synapses: the ex­pe­ri­ence is not some­thing you want to rush.

The is­land’s ap­peal is easy to see: it is beau­ti­ful and

Swell time: A high-pow­ered Bruny Is­land Char­ters boat zips along on an eco-cruise be­neath the cliffs and rock tow­ers of South Bruny Na­tional Park largely un­spoiled. When d’En­tre­casteaux’s frigates L’Esper­ance and La Recherche made their way along the coast it would have looked much as it does to­day as you ap­proach on the ferry from Ket­ter­ing. Squint un­til the clus­ters of houses and patches of for­est clear­ance be­come blurs and it’s easy to imag­ine what the sailors saw and won­dered at. Al­though when ex­plor­ers did go ashore and had a poke around the first cit­i­zens’ homes, there were no wel­com­ing B&B signs or pots of honey for sale. More of­ten than not the res­i­dents took to the hills and forests when long­boats were spot­ted.

Bruny is re­ally two is­lands joined by a nar­row isth­mus known as the Neck, which is a wild, wind­blown strip of sand and sea­grasses, home to fairy pen­guins and other seabirds. On the west side of the isth­mus is Isth­mus Bay (the nam­ing com­mit­tee must have run out of in­spi­ra­tion by then) and on the seaward side is Ad­ven­ture Bay. Al­though it is a great spot for ad­ven­tures, it ac­tu­ally com­mem­o­rates To­bias Furneaux’s ship of that name and his visit in 1773.

The bay was a favoured land­fall for sail­ing ships com­ing out of the south­ern ocean pas­sage. Not only is it a shel­tered and ex­ten­sive an­chor­age but there are many fresh­wa­ter streams, in­clud­ing one that has been iden­ti­fied as the place where James Cook re­plen­ished sup­plies. It’s also where early white set­tlers made a start. Lov­ingly pre­served relics of the whal­ing and tim­ber in­dus­tries are to be found, while botanist David Nel­son, as a mem­ber of Cook’s 1777 ex­pe­di­tion, col­lected what would be­come the first sci­en­tif­i­cally de­scribed eu­ca­lypt.

Whether it’s fish­ing, surf­ing, sun­bak­ing, bush­walk­ing, mooching, sail­ing, kayak­ing, div­ing, whale-watch­ing, bird-watch­ing, swim­ming, pre­tend­ing to be a pi­rate or tuck­ing up with that pile of books you’ve been sav­ing for this very pur­pose, the is­land has to be one of the most glo­ri­ous places on earth to do any of it. One ad­ven­ture that’s avail­able to the most sloth­ful and least in­trepid is a Bruny Is­land Char­ters eco-cruise.

It’s a de­cep­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. Be­fore you board the sleek, high-pow­ered boat, a life­jacket and bright or­ange wa­ter­proof cagoule are handed over. And you don both, al­though you can’t see why: it’s sunny and the bay is merely frilly. Five min­utes later the boat rounds Fluted Cape and meets the swell of an ocean that has brooked no in­ter­fer­ence since it left Antarc­tica.

The eco part of the cruise is partly about the boats and partly the knowl­edge­able and ex­pert boat cap­tains and crew: there is no roar­ing up to dol­phins or seabirds. In­stead the spe­cially de­signed boats have mod­i­fied en­gines that are quiet and rel­a­tively un­ob­tru­sive. Mean­while the crew de­lights in find­ing and point­ing out sea ea­gles, mut­ton­bird rook­eries, kelp beds and other lo­cal thrills. They also ex­plain the ge­o­log­i­cal for­ma­tions of the tow­er­ing sea cliffs and other fea­tures of South Bruny Na­tional Park, along which the boat cruises.

It’s from this ex­trem­ity that you may glimpse the is­land’s his­toric light­house. In 1835, three ships were wrecked off Cape Bruny on the way north to Ho­bart. The loss of the En­chantress (17 lives), the trans­port Ge­orge III (134 lives) and the Wal­lace (its crew was res­cued) caused a fright­ful ag­i­ta­tion. John Lee Archer was com­mis­sioned to de­sign a light­house and the sturdy stone tower was built by con­vict labour and com­pleted in 1838.

From then on its lamps beamed out into the night ev­ery 10 sec­onds un­til 1996, when they were re­placed by a nearby au­to­mated so­lar light sta­tion. Hap­pily the light­house and its re­serve (where the keep­ers and their fam­i­lies kept cat­tle and chooks and grew es­sen­tial fresh veg­eta­bles) be­came part of the La­bil­lardiere Na­tional Park. The orig­i­nal store and quar­ters were de­mol­ished; there is a cosy keeper’s cot­tage close by where you can stay if you book well in ad­vance.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion on Bruny is var­ied and only lack­ing six-star, multi-storey, trop­i­cal re­sort ho­tels. If that’s what you want, how­ever, you won’t be on Bruny any­way. Oth­er­wise the full spec­trum of self-con­tained, self­ca­ter­ing, eco-friendly, fam­ily-friendly, fully catered, comfy, edgy, ba­sic or lux­ury is avail­able. There are camp sites at glo­ri­ous lo­ca­tions, again with a range of fa­cil­i­ties and costs. Wher­ever you de­cide to stay, what you will have in com­mon with is­lan­ders and fel­low vis­i­tors is the prospect of savour­ing a glass of wine or lo­cal beer, eat­ing the fresh­est fish and seafood and en­joy­ing the sun­set or a tow­er­ing storm out to sea. Ex­plor­ers never had it so good.


Bruny Is­land Smoke­house, 360 Main Rd, Great Bay, North Bruny, (03) 6260 6344 (check for open­ing hours). Bruny Is­land Pre­mium Wines, 4391 Bruny Is­land Main Rd, Lu­nawanna, (03) 6293 1088. Bruny Is­land Cheese Com­pany, 1807 Main Rd, Great Bay. Open seven days; www.brun­y­is­land­ Bruny Is­land Char­ters, 915 Ad­ven­ture Bay Rd, Ad­ven­ture Bay, (03) 6293 1465; www.brun­y­char­ Light­house Keep­ers Cot­tage, Cape Bruny, (03) 6298 3114. www.bruny-is­ www.dis­cover­tas­ma­

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