Freycinet & The Bay of Fires

When we first agreed to visit Tassie over a Christmas/New-Year, we underestimated the size of the island, ignorantly thinking we could ‘do Tassie’ in 11 days. Truth be told, we have barely touched the sides, having not even covered one coastline with any level of depth. The great thing is we have seen some of the state’s best, and been given a taste of what this awesome place has to offer.

Kirra and Marcus (sister and brother in-law) have added their little legend, Matty, to their clan recently, and were looking for a family holiday as a test-run for their US holiday later in 2018. Having never been to Tassie either, we were over the moon when they asked to join us for a few nights near Freycinet National Park.

So we booked a beach pad, 20 mins north or Bicheno (a sleepy fishing village) in a ‘town’ called Seymour.

Seymour

On the way into Seymour you pass Seymour Cemetery. Now I’m not sure how long the cemetery has been there, but I counted 4 headstones – that should give you some sort of idea of the size of this place.

Our pad was a beauty – built on stilts, and overlooking Seymour Beach, only a few minutes walk away. It had a massive 360 deck, and you could sleep with your door open (we did), and let the noise of the gentle waves sing you to sleep.

Fairy Penguins

The house owner had mentioned there should be penguins on the beach as this time of year – an amazing surprise, and not something I associated with this part of Tassie. Makes sense when you think about it though, I guess.

On the first night, with Matty tucked up and dreaming of milk waterfalls, Kiz, Marcus, Liv and I headed off at dusk, headlamps on and torches in-hand, in search of the Fairy Penguins we failed to find on Bruny Island.

Siri told me that sunset was at 8:44pm and last light would be 9:18pm. To me that equals dusk, so we timed our exploration and left at 8:40pm to find our spot on the deserted beach. The sky was producing some beautiful colour, and we patiently played the waiting game, with darkness seemingly seconds away. 8:44pm came and went, as did 9:18pm, still no penguins. Maybe we were in the wrong spot? What a terrible father I was, promising penguins twice, and failing on both occasions.

We continued to wait, losing patience by the minute, despite the six or so prey birds circling overhead. Surely they knew something, and were waiting for the same thing as us…?

Shortly after the clock struck 10pm (who am I kidding, there’s no town clock in Seymour), we decided we’d waited long enough, the penguins weren’t coming. So we packed up and started on our way back home.

Just as we were leaving, everything started to happen at once. A ruffle and spot of black and white in the bushes, and movement 50 metres down the beach. Then Marcus called it, “I found one!” as he shone his torch towards shore. There it was, our first penguin bellying into the beach. From then on, finding them became easy, so much so that when we finally decided to leave, we had to give way to one on the walking path ahead of us. Penguins are one of Liv and my favourite animals, so we were equally delighted to see these little legends. Fairy Penguins are one of the smaller species, and their fur (or feathers?) is surprisingly blue.

To top things off, after giving way to Pengu on the way home, we were impressed to spot a fellow wombat race across the track in front of us. Two of our favourites in a night – winning.

Freycinet National Park / Wineglass Bay

No one loves a sunrise and sunset more than me (Davo). I have and will continue to chase and photograph sunrises/sunsets to (almost) no end, especially over the next year. For the past month or so I’ve had this dream of watching the sun come up over Wineglass Bay, to bring in the new year. Prior to leaving Sydney I went as far as securing some head-torches, allowing us to hike in the dark either before sunrise or after sunset.

As the dream came closer to reality, a few hard truths hit me:

1. Summer days in Tassie are longer than a piece of string, meaning I would either need to get up or go to bed at stupid o’clock.

2. I have no prior hiking experience.

3. We were actually staying about an hour from the beginning of the hike.

So with these in-mind, I settled for a far more practical approach of hiking as a team on a cracking day. And so we did, on New Year’s Eve, the six of us, made our way to the renowned Freycinet National Park and hiked up to the lookout, and beyond down to the famous beach.

The view from the top was just like the postcards, totally worth the sore calves.

Sadly the wind was coming directly into the bay, so after a hilarious failed attempt at setting up a shelter for young Matty, we settled for a sun/shade spot near the back of the beach. And there we stayed for an hour or so, swimming and ‘laxin’ (Liv’s pronunciation of ‘relaxing’), eating, until we made our return. Holy hell, it’s tough hiking uphill with 20kg (Liv) on your back!

It’s worth noting that, despite hating on them for years, we broke our selfie-stick virginity at the lookout. A big thanks to May Tran (work friend) for the departing gift, I must say it works well and we’re converted 🙂

Bay of Fires

We’re still not entirely sure why it’s called the Bay of Fires, which is nothing a quick Wiki search wouldn’t yield, but hey, meh. Between the four of us (Loz, Kiz, Marcus and I), we decided it’s to do with the colour of the rocks. All along the coastline the rocks are covered in red, like fire. I seem to recall our skipper on the Bruny boat highlighting this, and suggesting it was the perfect mix between fungae and algae. I have as much confidence in our conclusion as I do on the future of cryptocurrencies, so let’s not go banking any houses on it.

We had heard this was a must-do on Tassie’s NE coast, so the wombats took a drive up the coast to see what all the fuss was about. The Gridley’s had already been there, done that, so they had a chill day at home.

The entire coastline between Bicheno and (very likely beyond) the Bay of Fires is awesome. My cousin, Alexander, had pointed out that these were Australia’s nicest beaches, and he wasn’t kidding. You could take your pick of which private beach you wanted, and easily spend days, weeks, months free-camping by the seaside, just awesome.

The Bay of Fires itself is a gorgeous specimen; sand as white as a Bruny Wallaby, and water as clear as Europcar’s Bruny Ferry policy. And the red rocks add the perfect foreground for plenty of photos, way too many and monotonous to show. But here’s a few…

NatureWorld

Despite seeing more wildlife than David Attenborough on this trip, we had yet to cross with one of Tassie’s most famous draw-cards, the Tasmanian Devil. What a name! Could you imagine the pressure these little dudes feel every time someone sees them for the first time?! Oi Jim, the tourists are here again, time to get the fangs out and do our evil shit. Their reputation precedes them, but I’ll tell you what; they do look like nasty little Devils. Although I did manage to cut the tension a little by telling a joke, which this guy (below) seemed to enjoy.

NatureWorld was only 10 minutes down the road from our house, so it was too good of an opportunity not to check it out. Apart from the Devils, there were plenty of highlights, including; Livvy hand-feeding the kangaroos, the wombats (always a highlight), the white peacocks (yep, awesome), and the birds nicknamed Pig Geese, because they sound like pigs when they get angry.

A great way to conclude a great stay, and our time in Tassie.

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!