Bruny Island

We can honestly say that Bruny Island has become one of our favourite places in the world. The wildlife alone is enough to write home about… Add to that the beaches, views, hikes, isolation, weather, and food, and you can start to see why.

Cape Queen Elizabeth Walk

With the week between Christmas and NY (the one where you don’t know what day it is) being ‘peak season’ for Bruny, we planned for the worst and hit the road first thing from Hobart to get in line for the car ferry; the one that hire-car companies seem to think will sink. I’ll give you a clue – it didn’t.

First stop was Cape Queen Elizabeth Track, where we hiked a 12km round-trip to our very own, beautifully clear and calm beach. I know I’m going to say this a lot over the next year, but, wow, what a beach! Arriving at an isolated beach for yourself on a hot day after a decent hike is pretty special. Stupidly we didn’t pack our togs, but that didn’t phase Liv, who was more than happy to be the free spirit she is and enjoy the water. Some ripper photos not appropriate to publish online.

Searching for white-hoppers

Our house in Adventure Bay was awesome. The owners left a bunch of hay out in the paddock so scores of wallabies greeted us as we arrived, and didn’t leave until we did. The place also had a great spa bath, big enough for a beached whale like me, which was utilised endlessly.

I can now confidently say that 90% of the reason I wanted to come to Tassie was to see the Albino Wallabies on Bruny Island. I’m fascinated at how they came to be, and have survived, here; the only place on the planet. I picked our accomodation based almost solely on proximity to the white-hoppers, unbeknownst to my travelling companions. So our most immediate mission on the first night in Bruny was in search of this rare species… Our initial search yielded no results, much to my disappointment 😦

With the sun going down at seemingly midnight in the far south of Bruny, we decided to take the opportunity to watch the sunset from basically the bottom of Australia, Bruny Lighthouse. A lovely drive through a handful of ‘towns’, with some ripping views and beautiful sights along the way.

As we neared sundown and our destination, Loz convulsed with a scarily quick, “stop the car, stop the car!” Wondering what was wrong, I braked, ready to respond to whatever emergency was required… Is it 10 compressions or 15 for each breath? Shit, why didn’t I listen more in school?!

Loz, lost for breath, pointed out the right rear window and instructed me to get out, for she had spotted a unicorn, nay, an Albino Wallaby, a hundred metres up the hill. Faster than a French frog about to have his legs ambulated, I jumped out, camera in-hand, to see what I’d come here for. It was magical, far exceeding my expectations. White, oh so so white, and just beautiful.

My excitement and eagerness to get closer to Skip scared her away, and she was gone as quickly as she appeared. They exist! And we saw one, pew pew! Turns out this was only the beginning of our time together with these pasty legends – more on that later…

Bruny Lighthouse

We soon arrived at Bruny Lighthouse, on the southernmost point of the island, and basically Australia. Being ‘peak season’ we were expecting to fight for our view seeing the sun go down, but apart from the dozens of rabbits chewing grass, there was absolutely no sign of existence, anywhere in sight. Thinking we had planned our arrival at the perfect moment, we climbed up the hill to the lighthouse and took in the serenity and views, just beautiful. Turns out the sun stays up in the far south until like midnight (not really, more like 9:30-10pm), but we had more time to spare than Steve Smith facing the English ‘quicks’. Time we have; an entire year, actually 🙂

Albino Wallabies

Wildlife is in abundance on Bruny Island, more so than anywhere I’ve seen in the world. En-route back home from the lighthouse, a mere hour trip, we stopped for 10+ possums, just missed scores of wallabies, and were greeted (as always) by a party of wallabies, parrots, bumble bees, and Superb Fairy Wrens (amazing small bright blue birds, and yes, that’s their real name) every time we arrived home. You could only imagine how much Liv loved this place.

With the new year approaching, a time to set and fail new fitness goals, I tried to get a head start the following morning and go for a run while the girls slept in. I made it no more than 200m before spotting another Albino Wallaby, in a neighbouring paddock. Okay, that’s a good enough reason to ditch the run and grab the camera, I’ll run tomorrow haha. In the 2km or so that I walked thereafter, I was lucky enough to see 5 or 6 whiteys, each as amazing as the last one. My itch had now been scratched!

Fluted Cape Walk

For the past few months, eager to learn more about what lies ahead in this massive country of ours, and to pick up any motor home/camping tips and tricks, we started following a bunch of different blogs of families on their own sabbaticals. One particularly good one recently posted some hiking photos with their 4yo in a specialist carrier backpack. Beyond Baby-Bjorns, we didn’t know you could carry a child after they were 2, we just assumed it wasn’t an option. So Loz enquired about the backpack they had, and we’ve since bought a Tula, one of our buys of the year. Liv loves it, it’s easy to carry, and it drinks my sweat like a hungover Sunday sculling a Gatorade.

The Fluted Cape Walk, rated as one of the best in Bruny, is relentlessly unforgiving; seemingly steeper than the price of a can of deodorant at the Adventure Bay General Store, and more constant than Mark Taylor digressing in the commentary box. The views from the top were decent, overlooking Penguin Island (which doesn’t have any penguins, much to our disappointment), although nothing to call home about. What was worth a call was the scenic route home, and the endless swimming spots to relieve the lactic acid. The water isn’t as cold as you’d think, and didn’t feel any cooler than Sydney beaches at this time of year. The main difference between these beaches and Bondi are the serenity, accessibility, and clarity of water; just magical.

On the last leg of the trip we spotted another white-hopper too 🙂

Barnes Bay

That night we headed north for dinner with my Aunty Jane. She moved to Bruny a few years ago and was in the right place at the right time to snap up some elusive Bruny property. In the summer she rents her place out and lives on her yacht in Barnes Bay, a beautiful quiet part of the island. A wonderful fresh dinner with local produce and great company, with whom I haven’t caught up with for too many years, and we were back on the road, doing our best to avoid possums and quolls on the track home.

The Neck

Bruny is an island all but split in two, barely joined by the thinnest of necks. The Bruny Neck is renowned as the home of scores of Fairy Penguins, whom return from a day’s fishing between dusk and dawn to their nests. Perfect! Travelling from Barnes Bay to Adventure Bay takes us from north to south, through The Neck, so this was a great opportunity, late at night, to get close to some cute penguins…

Turns out it’s more dusk and dawn, not dusk to dawn. It was pitch black and there were no penguins, or people in sight. Strike one with promising Liv penguins 😦

Bruny produce

I’m always fascinated by small islands, especially how their economies survive, and how they manage their produce. Think about Iceland, for example. It’s a volcano, basically nothing can grow there, so they have to import everything, except whale and rotted shark (both Icelandic delicacies). Bruny is a small island off a small island (Tasmania), so how the hell do they get their produce etc? We’ll I must admit they give it a good crack. They produce whatever they can, including, honey, livestock, fruit, seafood, and veggies. And they use their yields to showcase and generate revenue, with seemingly one shop for everything. There’s a Bruny Island Honey, Bruny Island Cheese, Bruny Island Chocolate, and Get Shucked, the only oyster Barron on the island. And all of the above are of exceptional quality. Hats off the the Bruniens (my new name for the people of Bruny) for keeping their economy ticking and producing the tastiest oysters and chocolate fudge we’ve ever eaten.

Bruny Island Cruise

Deciding to do tours is always hard when you’re travelling. When you’re just on a holiday it’s a no-brainer; you spend up, do everything, drink too much, and go back to work the following week. When you’re travelling, you tend to think more about the opportunity costs things… if we do this, it means we may not be able to do that, or will have to eat air and dust for the next week… Loz tends to be better at making these calculated decisions than me, so I decided to book a Bruny Island Cruise for all of us, without consulting her.

Man are we glad we did it – seriously f$&king good!

On a fast boat with about 30-40 other Bruny visitors, we cruised around the south-east of this wonderful island towards the wild Southern Ocean. Plenty of wonderful scenery, education and laughs, with an entertaining skipper and a ‘woo guy’ nearby who screamed ‘wooooo’ or ‘oh yeah’ every time we hit a big wave – legend. But apart from all this excitement, the highlights were definitely the hundreds of Australian Fur Seals, lazing and fighting on the rocks; and we were spoilt by the most playful pod of Bottlenose Dolphins who chased us and circumvented the boat for the best part of 30 mins. A truly memorable experience, and it topped off the most perfect trip to one of our new favourite places in the world. Look out Bruny, we’ve got our eyes on you!

Hobart, Port Arthur & surrounds

It didn’t take long for us to realise things are a bit different in Tassie… More One-Way streets than a race-track; an accentuated Aussie accent; and the general relaxed feeling that basically no one is around, ever. Turns out we stand out in Hobart just as much as we did as giants in Beijing, six years ago… When checking-out for our pre-Christmas food stock-up, the cashier immediately asked, “Are you from the mainland?”, like we were total foreigners; as out of place as a Trump presidency. Not entirely sure what the giveaway was, maybe our ‘mainland accent’ or being always seemingly in a hurry…?

Finding fresh fish in Hobart is not for the feint-hearted. We searched high and low, sadly missing Salamanca Markets (and Princess Mary) by a slither of time, and eventually resorted to Woolies, much to our own disappointment at the time. Thankfully they’ve lifted their game and the food was fine.

Speaking of seafood… Loz was busy Googling where to buy fresh fish in Tassie, and somehow came across a headline, highlighting that hire cars aren’t allowed on Bruny Island (where we had 3 nights booked between Christmas and NY). Forget the fact that their SEO/SEM is totally off – why the hell can’t you take a hire car to Bruny, and what the hell are we going to do?! I immediately called our hire car company (Europcar) to investigate, and they said we’re all good… but… their company policy states that we would not be covered, and be fully liable for any damages caused on the Bruny Ferry. When I prodded to understand why, the poor man on the other end simply came to the conclusion that most hire car companies have this policy, “in case it sinks”. Seriously, how stable is this boat?

The peninsula

We had the hot tip to stop at Dunalley Waterfront Cafe & Gallery on the way through, for a coffee and cake with a view. Unfortunately they were closed over the Christmas period, so we pushed on for a coffee fix and stop/s.

There’s plenty to see in the peninsula en-route to Port Arthur, including:

Tessellated Pavement

An impressive slippery dance-floor on the ocean’s-edge, formed into beautiful looking natural pavers over the last 200 million years or so. From there you also get a ripping view of Pirate Bay (the beach, not the torrent one), arrrrrr.

Tasman Arch & Devils Kitchen

These surprisingly impressive gorges are nestled on the southern end of Pirate Bay. Tasman Arch is essentially a giant hole with a bunch of water below it, with a grand cave entrance. It formed when the roof collapsed – it’s entirely possible there was a rave there sometime over the past Millenia featuring Flux Pavillion who literally brought the roof down. And Devils Kitchen is a super-steep, straight cliff leading to the ocean. Both worth a visit.

Blowhole

More like Nohole! What a disappointment, literally just a bit of water with no force, or blow. I’ve seen more energy from Liv eating vegetables than I have from this ‘landmark’.

Port Arthur

We knew very little of Port Arthur’s history. Having grown up in the 90s we only knew it as the place of Australia’s worst massacre in history, and the event that changed gun laws in Australia forever. Unsurprisingly, the folks at Port Arthur don’t like to celebrate that fact, but they do recognise it and encourage visitors to pay their respects to those who were subject to the horrors in 1996.

Port Arthur’s rich history comes from the 1830s and 40s, where it stood as a prison for repeat offenders from all over Oz. Set on 100 beautiful acres of lush, green, isolated land, there are no walls to keep prisoners in – the natural surroundings of ocean, forest, and a thin (Eaglehawk) neck form enough boundary to limit any chance of escape. A short boat-ride to the south-east lie Point Puer (boys prison, ages 7-18) and Isle of the Dead, where Port Arthur’s inhabitants are laid to rest.

Most disturbing was the building where ‘naughty prisoners’ were sent and held for long periods. Basic rules: solitary confinement in tiny rooms; no sound whatsoever (including singing, talking, whistling, humming); 23 hours per-day inside, with 1 hour per-day outside, still isolated, wearing a mask so as not to engage other prisoners, still no noise. Those who broke these rules were moved to the worst part of ‘Hell on Earth’, where they faced days, weeks, months in a completely dark room, no exposure to light, and no noise. This drove so many soldiers to insanity that they had to build an adjoining insane asylum. Pretty heavy stuff.

Apart from the grim history, there’s a strange beauty and calmness to Port Arthur. Definitely worth a visit.

On our way out Loz’s creative juices started flowing as she experimented with our new(ish) camera…

Christmas

Santa managed to find his way to Hobart, much to Liv’s delight. With a year of travel ahead he found it difficult to find suitable gifts that she’ll love that don’t weigh us down or take up too much space in the Wombatmobile. Nailed it… our little wombat loves her arts and crafts more than chocolate (almost), and Santa delivered in spades. However, we found it hilarious when she opened her first gift and shouted, “this one’s for you, daddy!”, as she ripped the paper off a tube of art glue, haha. Gifts could only get better from there.

We substituted not being around family with oodles of quality food, including the freshest oysters, prawns, and salmon, accompanying the best summer fruit, chocolate and plum pudding. And no Christmas is complete without ham on toast for dinner 🙂

For the arvo we drove to the summit of Mount Wellington, which was busy given it’s about the only thing open on Christmas, apart from my shorts top button and belt. There we explored and were lucky enough to snag a nice day, giving us infinite views. Most impressive was the ‘pipe-organ’ rocks, not dissimilar to those of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, and (apparently) Mount Kaputar near Narrabri.

When you travel or holiday, your mind looks for stimulation. On our drive down from Mount Wellington, my mind went to the size of the trees, growing, as we descended… not sure of the actual science behind it, but we came to the conclusion that it’s to do with the wind and natural evolution. The strongest trees are the shortest, so are more likely to survive in higher altitude, where they have greater wind exposure – hence short trees at the top and tall trees at the bottom…?

It can be hard not being around family on Christmas, and we absolutely did notice and miss it this year, despite a wonderful and memorable day.

Boxing Day / MONA

The first thing everyone recommends when you’re heading to Hobart is MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. It’s relatively new and was setup by David Walsh, a Tasmanian who made a killing in gambling, and wanted to give something back to the community. The second thing people recommend about Hobart is getting the ferry to MONA. We’ve never been museum fiends, but we new MONA is a bit different to others – teetering on the fringe of appropriateness and pushing societies boundaries, so we obliged and took the MR-1 (ferry) to MONA on Boxing Day.

We expected weird and MONA turned it up a notch, exceeding our expectations on every level. From the sheep seats on the ferry, to the poo simulator (a machine that is fed real food and water, and simulates human digestion to a point where it shits daily), vulva wall (a wall of scores of vulva moulds), and skeletons doing the wild thing, this incredible museum gets you thinking, and keep thinking well after you’ve left. There’s also a cool waterfall thingy that spells words as the water drops, somehow; Tattoo Tim, who sits in silence the entire day while you check out his tatts (which he has already sold for hundreds of thousands of $$$ when he dies); and the Madonna Room, where 30 tv screens blast out a bunch of amateurs banging out an entire Madonna album, terribly.

Once you’ve had all your boundaries crossed and you feel slightly violated, you walk out onto a green, to the smell of a smokehouse smashing out suculent meats, where you plant yourself on beanbags under a brolly, with the sound of local artists warming up for an arvo set – just perfect. And there we sat for the next 90 minutes or so, just taking in the sunshine, atmosphere, smells, and sporadic sounds of the roaming roosters crowing. A truly memorable experience.

Hobart itself isn’t the most exciting place, but with plenty of awesome surrounds and things to do, we’d happily return.

Wombatical test-run

A few weeks ago we joined up with Loz’s family in Blacksmiths for a ‘learning weekend’…

Rough start

The weekend couldn’t have started worse, as when Liv and I arrived at the in-laws’ place to pick up our (currently unamed) motor home, we found pieces of her all over the road and  yard. The prior night’s hailstorm had its way with her and tore the a/c cover right off her, thus opening the way for buckets of rain to gush through. Zero nights in and we already had an insurance job on our hands, damn it.

Mr Handiman, Stu, went straight into fixing mode and managed a temp fix so she wouldn’t leak over the weekend, and we could spend a few nights in her before dropping off to get fixed.

Water damage
A/C case
Blacksmiths

Blacksmiths Caravan Park was the perfect spot to spend some time with Loz’s family -reasonably close for everyone, and nicely located near the beach. A great pool, ripping playground, and smooth roads for scooting seamlessly.

 Toyota ad

Baby Wombat model

The weekend

It was our last weekend together for a while, and was awesome to spend time with the broader family. We also got to know our newest wisdom member (the motor home) well, and she passed with flying colours. She has exceeded our expectations, particularly on the amount of space she offers.

Memories came flooding back about the amazing time we had campervanning around Europe in 2012. I was also pleased at how easily my memories of motorhome maintenance came back to me – hoses, plugs, taps etc. Oh, and the toilet – we never used the toilet in Betsy, mostly because of a lack of space (and me not wanting to empty Abell’s piss and vice-versa). In our newest member, we agreed we would use the toilet for wee only – apparently Liv missed the memo and christened the toilet with a deuce, first thing – excellent.

Harry & Will at Blacksmiths

Andy at Blacksmiths

Baby Wombat at Blacksmiths

Underwater selfie

Loz/Halz horse ride

Pool action

Pool selfie

Muz & Andy

When you tell your 3yo to brush her teeth

Deb at Blacksmiths

The countdown is on

Our appetite to get going on our trip whetted 100x on this short weekend, and the following Monday back at work was one of our toughest in a while – similar to many Mondays in London after adventurous weekends away in Europe.
With the motorhome now getting fixed, and fitted out with some last-minute optional extras, we’re counting down the days to hit the road.

Bring on Wombatical Downunder.