In Search of the White Wallaby

We rose with the sun, packed our picnic lunch and headed in the marina's courtesy van to the ferry dock. We caught the 0745 car ferry to Bruny Island and began my day late, but not forgotten, birthday celebration. First and foremost today, I wished to see and photograph a Bruny Island white wallaby. Previously, we'd only walked a few kilometers from the ferry dock on our mini on-foot excursion. We hoped today to cover all the roads, paved and gravel, that criss-cross the island. It actually looks like two islands on the map, separated by a narrow isthmus called The Neck. We headed there first.

This area is a blue penguin aka fairy penguin rookery with blinds for watching the penguins go to and from the sea each day at dawn and dusk. The timing was wrong to see the bluies, but we did climb the wooden stairs to the top of the hill for spectacular views of both sides of the Neck...D'Entrecasteaux Channel on one side and the Tasman Sea on the other. There is also a memorial to Truganini, the last Tasmanian Aborigine who died in 1876 after a miserable life at the hands of the violent white settlers.

We headed down the east side of south Bruny to Adventure Bay. We had read about the Bligh Museum and stopped in for a look. If you're interested in early explorers of Tasmania, this is the place to visit. All manner of information and memorabilia about Tasman, Furneaux, Bligh, D'Entrecasteaux, Flinders and of course, our hero, Captain James Cook. All of these early navigators found refuge here in Adventure Bay. There's a very lackluster monument to Captain Cook in an overgrown nook beside the road and a stone marker where he supposedly left a copper plaque on tree showing he visited. We had hoped to take some hikes during the course of the day, but high winds, cold temps and frequent showers thwarted our plans a bit. We were glad we were in the van.

The road ends at Adventure Bay, so we backtracked a bit and took a quick 15 minute walk through the Mavista Reserve. This area is rain forest and true to its name, it did rain about every 10 minutes or so. The trees were dripping; the trail was muddy; thick foliage and ferns were glistening with raindrops.

Across the island, we traveled through scenic little villages like Lunawanna and Alonnah … together those town names are what the Aborigines originally called Bruny Island. We headed south to Cape Bruny Lighthouse which is part of South Bruny National Park. The views along the way, especially at Mabel Bay, were stunning.

At the Cape Bruny Lighthouse, we wimped out when greeted by 40 knot cold winds blowing and rain pelting down. We waited for nearly an hour while picnicking on cheese and apples in the van. The sun would peek out for a minute or two, but the wind and cold did not abate and thus the lighthouse was not given any closer inspection.

Our birdwatching netted us superb fairy wrens, New Holland honeyeaters, eastern rosellas, a flame robin and a spotted pardalote plus innumerable Tasmanian native hens which roamed about the island like feral chickens.

The island is about 100 km from the northern point to the southern tip. Though the coastal areas are mostly rugged, the interior is rich and verdant. Farms, fruit orchards and grazing stock abound. We saw Australia's southernmost vineyard, cheese shops, berry farms, an oyster shack and a smoked salmon outlet. The Bruny Islanders are an ambitious lot.

We retraced our route and headed to Dennes Point on the very northern tip of North Bruny. This was an especially pretty little place with lots of little coves and possible anchorages along the protected channel side of the island. We checked out Barnes Bay which looked to be a very protected anchorage for our impending visit.

An absolutely lovely day, despite wind and rain. Oh, and did I forget to mention? I got my birthday wish. Just in case, you're wondering. This guy was NOT penned up. He had jumped INTO a farmer's paddock with a couple of buddies and was munching some lunch.


Many people don't make a big deal about their birthdays. I do. I love my birthday. It's MY day. It only comes once a year and I like to make the most of it. I remember a conversation with a woman who was so disappointed because her husband forgot her birthday. That could never happen aboard Nine of Cups. I start reminding David of the momentous occasion a month in advance. There's no fear of being disappointed here. So what's my idea of a perfect birthday? we're getting right down to it. A perfect birthday has many facets, anticipation being one of them. There are not usually gifts least in the traditional sense. No diamonds or furs. Also no boat parts, blenders or toasters. We found some beautiful shells on the beach once and David fashioned them into a necklace for me. That was a good gift. Flowers? Yes, but not too many. A single rose bought spontaneously from a street vendor and presented with much ceremony did the trick in Ecuador one year.

Parties are not involved either ... although champagne might be. Last year we had just arrived in Bundaberg on my birthday and I was anxious to do a little land travel. We rented a car for the day, chose a national park not too far away, packed a picnic and spent the day walking and taking photos. I saw my first kookaburra, my first goanna and a huge python on the path. We stopped for ice cream cones along the way. We puttered around in some shops and window-shopped, but didn't buy anything. We had dinner at a little, inexpensive Indian restaurant in downtown Bundaberg. It was a pretty perfect day. Just me and my best mate...and my camera.

So...this year, the big day loomed and I was at a loss as to what I wanted to do. I get to choose the matter what activity or trip it might be. David was geared up for anything and even got the use of the marina's courtesy van for the weekend! That was major. We could go anywhere. I thought and thought about the perfect day. We didn't want to overnight anywhere nor spend the whole day driving nor spend a lot of money. David came up with the winning suggestion. A return to Bruny Island by car. I wanted to see and photograph the very rare Bruny Island white wallaby for my birthday.

I know we're going there by boat, but being on the boat sometimes has its drawbacks. It's very weather-dependent. If we're in an area and the weather turns (which happens all the time in Tassie), we need to be on the boat, not looking for white wallabies. Plus we're limited in our explorations by how far we can walk. So a whole day on Bruny Island driving the roads that criss-cross it sounded like a wonderful outing.

It was rainy on my birthday morning and we decided to postpone the Bruny Island trip till Friday. We had the courtesy van and did some errands in Hobart. We shared a small scallop pie for lunch (good, but dear!).

David prepared the birthday dinner, his specialty: white pizza. And what goes with pizza? champagne, of course... and blackberry shortcake with fresh whipped cream for dessert.

Tomorrow's forecast is a bit more sun...we'll head to Bruny Island to find my white wallaby.


Take the Ferry to Bruny Island

We were finished with boat work for the time being and looking for a morning respite. We'd walked down to the Bruny Island Ferry Terminal before. It's only a 10-15 minute walk from the marina. We'd previously noted the times for the ferry departure while also noting that walk-on's rode for “free”. One of our favorite words. I packed a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of water and we headed down to the ferry dock. We were heading to Bruny Island. The island is actually more like two islands with a tiny isthmus in the middle connecting the two halves. First explored by Bruni D'Entrecasteaux in 1792 from whence it got its name, Bruny Island was home to sealers and whalers by the early 1800s. From top to bottom, it's nearly 100km long, so we weren't going to see much of it in our few hours, but we were looking forward to the change of pace and a nice hike.

The morning was warm and sunny and just boarding the ferry was good for the soul. The 15-minute ride across the D'Entrecasteaux Channel on the M/V Mirambeema was uneventful, but it was great to be back on the water if only for a few minutes. Once on the island side of the channel, life slows down. There is a small shop at the ferry-boarding area, but nothing else. Once all the vehicles had debarked, there was no more traffic. We had the place to ourselves. We climbed the hill for views of the channel and Bruny's verdant, hilly landscape.

We saw a brown falcon soaring in the blue sky. Birds chirped and fluttered. We added a spotted pardalote to our birdwatching list. Flowers were in bloom and sheep grazed on the grassy hillsides. Bruny is known for its cheese, wine and smoked salmon. We regretfully missed the Oyster Fest which was held last weekend. We saw signs offering tours, land for sale and 100% Tasmanian wallaby pies.

There's much to see on this island and it's better seen by boat. Beautiful bays and anchorages, a very scenic lighthouse and lots of history await us here. This short trip has whetted for appetite for more. The island is criss-crossed with walks and hiking paths. The east coast especially has been visited by Captains Tasman, Furneaux, Flinders, Cook and Bligh, many of whom anchored in Adventure Bay and we intend, of course, to follow their lead. Soon!