Matthew Brace revisits Tasmania’s stunning Bruny Island.
We stood speechless, gazing at one of the most stunning vistas we had ever seen. Low hills swept down to the long curve of a white-sand beach. The late afternoon light caught the regimented sets of waves as they broke sedately along the bay, their spray creating fleeting rainbows.
The expanse of bush between us and the beach was alive with birds. Scarlet Robins, Pardalotes and Superb Fairy Wrens darted in and out of the greenery. Green Rosellas chewed seeds as they perched on swaying branches. Way above all this, two magnificent sea eagles soared and wheeled, barely flapping their wings as they rode the thermals.
It takes approximately 60 seconds to fall in love with Cloudy Bay but it’s a passion that lasts a lifetime. This beautiful, exhilarating piece of wilderness is near the southern tip of Bruny Island, off the southeast coast of Tasmania. It’s hard to pick a favourite spot on this incredible island but Cloudy Bay is definitely up there for us.
Bruny is blessed with an extraordinarily diverse range of environments, from verdant, mossy forests to craggy coastlines and long, arcing beaches, all populated by a host of rare wildlife.
Here you can breathe some of the cleanest air in the world and feel instantly re-energised. You can take long walks and find completely natural vistas with not one manufactured thing in sight: no roads, buildings, powerlines, not even an aeroplane’s vapour trail in the sky. You can visit the Cape Bruny lighthouse and, with a zoom lens on a clear day, spot the white, guano-covered islet of Pedra Branca, 26kms offshore in the Southern Ocean.
You can kayak the pristine waters of the South Pacific and wash up on lonely beaches. You can eat local every day, creating your own picnics with cheese, bread, honey, beer and whisky all made on the island, and more oysters than you can dream of.
Whatever you do on Bruny, nature’s soundtrack will be playing: the crash of wild waves, the trill of birdsong and the wind whispering through the forests.
Getting into the Bruny rhythm
We only dragged ourselves away from the view over Cloudy Bay when the final splashes of sunset pink had drained from the sky and the last fairy wren had called it a day and flitted off to its nest. Back inside the Cloudy Bay Beach House – our home for the first few days on the island – we realised we had been so mesmerised by the view when we arrived that we had dumped everything and dashed outside.
The wheels of washed rind and smoked truckle, and the bottles of porter and IPA we bought en route from the Bruny Island Cheese and Beer Company were still in the car. The two-dozen oysters from the marvellously named Get Shucked sat on the kitchen worktop and our suitcases were where we had left them, unopened.
The Cloudy Bay Beach House is no ordinary beach house. It’s a single-storey, architect-designed box with glass walls and wide, wooden decks. It is bold and discreet at the same time: bold because its striking, modernist design contrasts with this ancient and largely unchanged landscape, and discreet because it doesn’t impose on its surroundings but snuggles into them; it’s surprisingly hard to see the house from anywhere nearby.
The Cloudy Bay Beach House is undeniably romantic and the perfect spot for couples wanting total privacy and wilderness luxury.
We were up with the dawn most mornings, using the house’s telescope to spot oystercatchers down on the shoreline. We ran along the beach some days, to Cloudy Corner at the far southern point and back, past flocks of fat seagulls. On less active days, we took walks through the sandy bushland down to the creek, watching the potoroos as they scurried through the undergrowth.
Kayaking for two
One fine afternoon, we headed for Adventure Bay, where Captain Cook moored his ship HMS Resolution in 1777 and where Captain Bligh anchored HMS Bounty 11 years later, shortly before the famous mutiny in the South Pacific.
We took control of somewhat smaller vessels on our visit – two ocean-going kayaks courtesy of Southern Sea Ventures, a Tasmania-based, wild kayaking operation. We launched from the beach near Resolution Creek, so-called because Cook used the stream to replenish his freshwater supplies. Once clear of the waves, we headed up the stunning coastline to The Neck, the sand dune isthmus that links North and South Bruny, and where, in summer, thousands of Little Penguins breed in burrows scratched out of the dunes.
We rode a two-metre swell, looking down through the crystal-clear, turquoise water to swaying forests of kelp. From our vantage point just offshore we saw towering eucalypts clinging to the clifftops and sea eagles using the highest branches as fishing perches.
We explored narrow gullies in the cliffs and then timed our beach landings carefully to run our kayaks smoothly up the sand. Cruising back to Adventure Bay we listened to the gentle waves and watched gannets dive-bombing small shoals of fish.
Post-paddle, we headed for a well-deserved plate of fish and chips at the Bruny Island Cruises restaurant. But we had another reason for stopping here: the restaurant’s car park is on the edge of bushland which is home to a small population of very rare albino wallabies. They’re not spooked by humans and will pose for Instafabulous shots. We saw more along the Grass Point Track which we walked, eventually reaching the gulch facing Penguin Island.
There, to celebrate the wonder of Bruny and all things natural, my wife – an all-weather ocean swimmer – went for a dip. Bracing as this was, she needed several shots of Tasmanian whisky back at the house that evening to warm up.
Most afternoons at the Cloudy Bay Beach House were more leisurely. We nodded off in the cow-hide armchairs after reading books from the house’s cute cupboard library (including, I was delighted to find, a much-thumbed copy of my old book, the Bradt Guide to Tasmania). But we always stirred from our slumbers in time for our sunset ritual: rugging up and having cheese and crackers and a glass of Bruny beer on the deck, while the birds put on their evening show.
Natural wonders and a source of goodness
The Cloudy Bay Beach House is one of a few amazing properties on the island that are run by Brunyisland.au, a company passionate about the preservation of Bruny’s wild beauty and rich cultural landscape. As well as having the highest environmental standards, the company also supports projects protecting the island.
One of their other properties is a bumpy, 10-minute drive through the woods from the Cloudy Bay Beach House and is ideal for those who want to go a bit more rustic. The Cloudy Bay Cabin is a cute, red hut off the grid and right on the beach; it’s ideal for two free-spirited souls.
For our second week on Bruny, we relocated to Little Taylor’s Bay on the west coast to check in to the company’s most recent offering, The Pier House. It has its own little jetty, which was a great spot for yet more sunset cheese and beer, and a resident wallaby family that hopped by most evenings to nibble at the grass and say hi.
It’s also located in native forest, so you only need to walk a few metres from the house to be in the wild. One blustery afternoon, we sat in a small clearing and were joined by a group of female Superb Fairy Wrens, foraging under the bracken. They came within a metre of us, totally unfazed.
Then, we heard the unmistakeable cries of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos echoing around the forest and were lucky enough to see a pair high in a eucalypt.
Once the sun had set and the wallabies and birds were safely home, a different kind of natural spectacle began: Bruny has some of the darkest skies in the southern hemisphere, which means stargazing here is about as good as it gets. We got little sleep on our first night at the Pier House. Instead, we spent hours lying on beanbags on the deck watching the most brilliant astronomical array. The utter silence of the surrounding forest focused our senses on the Milky Way that was splashed dramatically right across the sky above us.
Bruny gives you moments like these and creates memories that stay with you and give you strength to get through the darkest days in your life. It’s all part of Tasmania’s magic, a spiritual energy that makes it deeply moving and romantic. After two weeks on Bruny Island we felt as if this place was the epicentre of the Tassie magic and a true source of goodness.
A few days later, we stood at the stern of the Mirambeena car ferry as it glided over the glistening D’Entrecasteaux Channel, taking us back to the Tasmanian mainland. We watched Bruny’s tree-lined shore retreat and felt a pang of loss – we should have stayed longer. We held hands and promised to return.
- Cloudy Bay Beach House: https://brunyisland.com.au/cloudy-bay-beach-house
- The Pier House: https://brunyisland.com.au/the-pier-house
- Cloudy Bay Cabin: https://brunyisland.com.au/cloudy-bay-cabin
Related Story: 10 Must-See & Do Experiences in Tasmania.