Before you start planning your Tasmania getaway, check out this exhaustive list of things to do on Bruny Island. There is something for everyone on Bruny, from unique wildlife to rugged coastline to sandy beaches and scrumptious local produce.
So you’ve decided to visit an island off an island-state off an island continent – this is as ‘down under’ as it gets. Finding Bruny Island on the map of the world is like opening Russian nesting dolls: find the Australian continent, then look for the island state of Tasmania south of the mainland, then look at the southern end of Tasmania, and you will see an island to the east – this it!
Bruny Island has a long history of Aboriginal occupation by the Nuenonne people, a band of the South East tribe. They must’ve been quite hardy people living off the land on one of the continent’s most southerly islands, with nothing but Antarctica further south.
The first European settlements were established in 1818 primarily as a number of shore-based whaling stations. By 1838 Bruny lighthouse was built, and the land was cleared for farming.
For the first hundred and sixty years of European settlement, Bruny island was an isolated community of farmers with a few holiday homes owned by Hobart residents. But in the last two decades, the remoteness of Bruny Island, so treasured by the local residents, turned into the island’s major tourism appeal. Visitors started flocking to the Island in their thousands, bringing frustration to some of the residents and prosperity to others.
Mobile coverage on Bruny is, at best, patchy. Telstra will give you the best connection but will still drop out in some parts of the island. So apart from a fun day of exploring, a visit to Bruny Island is your opportunity to unwind and disconnect.
Bruny Island Geography
Bruny Island is quite large – just over 75 kilometres from its northern end to the southern end – about half the size of Singapore (but with a population of about 800 people). It is made up of two islands: North Bruny and South Bruny, connected by a narrow strip of land known as The Neck. North Bruny is more developed, has sealed roads and the ferry wharf. South Bruny is forested, remote, and the roads south of Lunawanna are not sealed.
There are two main towns on Bruny Island: Alonnah and Adventure Bay, both on South Bruny and the only store on the island is located in Adventure Bay.
Bruny Island Weather
True for all of Tasmania, Bruny Island’s weather can be described as wildly unpredictable. Tasmania lies at 40 degrees of latitude, and its weather is driven by the roaring forties – the strong westerly winds. The locals joke that while Melbourne is famous for having four seasons in a day, Bruny island can have four seasons in an hour. So keep your eye on the forecast and pack a jumper and a raincoat.
On average, summer (December to Feb) daytime temperature is 21-22 degrees Centigrade and winter (June to August) around 13-14 degrees. The shoulder seasons average about 15-18 degrees Centigrade.
Bruny Island Wildlife
Bruny Island is an excellent wildlife watching destination. I, personally, went to the island primarily to see Bruny’s famous albino Bennett’s wallabies. A rare genetic abnormality in these wallabies affects their ability to produce pigment, leaving them with white (colourless) fur and pink noses, ears, and eyes. Normally, albinism would put an animal at a disadvantage compromising its ability to hide from predators. But the lack of predators on the isolated Bruny Island allowed these wallabies to flourish and reproduce.
The current population of albino wallabies on the island is thought to number about 200 animals. They can be found among their ‘normally’ coloured conspecifics around Adventure Bay, particularly near the start of the Fluted Cape walk and in the neighbouring paddocks.
By the way, if you find albino animals as cute as I do, you might like to try your luck spotting a rare albino echidna in Freycinet National Park.
While you are unlikely to spot an albino echidna on Bruny Island, you have a decent chance of spotting a typically coloured one as you explore the island.
Other common animals on Bruny Island are fur seals. The best way to see them is on a Bruny Island wilderness cruise along the South Bruny coastline. There is a colony of these pups of the sea living on the coastal rocks.
And if you find yourself walking in the forest around sunset, you might spot a Tasmanian pademelon – a smaller cousin of Bennett’s wallaby.
Generally, South Bruny has a higher diversity of mammals – 25 species compared to 13 species on North Bruny. This abundance is mainly due to the presence of wet forests and coastal heathlands, which are virtually absent from the northern island.
Bruny Island is home to all 12 Tasmanian endemic bird species: Forty-spotted pardalote, Tasmanian native hen, Green rosella, Black currawong, Yellow wattlebird, Dusky robin, Tasmanian thornbill, Yellow-throated honeyeater, Tasmanian scrubwren, Scrubtit, Strong-billed honeyeater, Black-headed honeyeater.
Some are quite easy to spot: the Native hen, rosella, currawong, wattlebird, Dusky robin and Black-headed honeyeater. To see the rest, you might like to book a birdwatching tour with the Bruny Island local Inala Nature Tours.
You can also spot the Critically Endangered Swift parrot and the Tasmanian Wedge-tailed eagle on the island. If you are a keen birder, you might like to visit the island during the Bruny Island Bird Festival.
How many days to spend on the Island?
There are so many things to do on Bruny island that you could probably spend a week here. More realistically, however, two days on the island is a good compromise that will give you enough time to explore all the popular spots people visit on a day trip plus do one of the hikes, take an eco-cruise, or spend more time relaxing at Bruny’s 10 beautiful beaches.
If you only have one day, you can certainly explore Bruny island in a day travelling just over 60 km from Robertson Point in the north of the island to Cape Bruny Lighthouse in the south, stopping at various places of interest along the way, and returning via Adventure Bay.
Self-drive or a Day Tour?
If you are coming to Bruny Island for a day, you can either bring your own car or take an organized day tour from Hobart. As usual, having your own car gives you more flexibility, while a day tour takes care of the logistical hustles and can give you a more relaxed experience, especially if you book a small group tour.
It also depends on what you want to do on Bruny Island. If you would like to explore the highlights, then a tour would be a better option. Tour groups get reserved seating and priority service at the restaurants, you don’t have to worry about National Parks permits and most importantly, a tour runs to a well-established timeline. Visiting the same places independently, you run the risk of running out of time – there is a lot to see and do on Bruny Island in a day.
However, if you wanted to spend time looking the Bruny island’s famous white wallabies, and do a few hikes and short walks, then you’ll need to bring your own car.
Bruny Island Day Trip
If you do decide to drive to the island for a day, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Bruny Island ferry operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Even off-season, the ferry can get quite busy, so you may not be able to catch the service you planned to catch and will have to wait 30 min for the next departure. This can happen at Kettering on the way to the island and at Robertson Point on the way back. So it’s best not to plan your departure from the island on the last ferry.
- Bruny Island is quite large, and it takes a while to drive all the way to Cape Bruny, then to Adventure Bay and back to the ferry landing. So if you wish to experience most of the island’s highlights, you’ll need to keep moving, not spending too long in any one place.
- The road to Cape Bruny Lighthouse on South Bruny is not paved, and some rental car companies do not allow for their cars to be taken on unsealed roads. You also need to allow plenty of time for the drive from Lunawanna to the lighthouse – it’s going to be slow going.
Bruny Island Tours from Hobart
If you decide to book a tour, there are a few options to choose from depending on what is your main interest: to see the highlights, enjoy the most of the local produce, or see as much wildlife as you can
The popular award-winning Bruny Island Safaris offers a day tour that includes cheese, chocolate, fresh oysters, wood-oven bread, honey and cider tastings as well as a walk on Mount Mangana and Cape Bruny Lighthouse tour. Check prices and book.
Foodies will love the Gourmet Wilderness Tour with the award-winning Penicotte Wilderness Journeys. It includes tastings of gourmet cheeses, sourdough bread, fresh oysters, honey, premium wines, beer, whisky, and fudge. Check prices and book.
For wildlife lovers, Penicotte Wilderness Journeys also offer a tour that includes the wilderness cruise along the western coastline of South Bruny. It’s a great opportunity to see seals, sea birds, dolphins and whales. Check prices and book.
Alternatively, this budget-friendly tour of Bruny Island highlights keeps the costs down by not including lunch or most of the local produce tastings. You can pack your own lunch or pick something up at the general store in Adventure Bay and also decide which local produce you would like to taste.
How to get to Bruny Island from Hobart
Bruny Island is accessed by a car ferry ($38) operated by Sealink from the town of Kettering. The ride is 20 minutes, and the ferry departs Kettering every 30 minutes starting at 6.30 am, with the last service at 7 pm. From Bruny Island, the first ferry departs at 6.30 am and the last one at 7.15 pm. You can check the current Bruny Island ferry timetable and prices here.
If you have 30 minutes to kill at Kettering, you might like to drop into Bruny Island Visitor Center. There is a cafe, public bathrooms and information counter where you can book tours, cruises, or pick up National Parks Pass.
Things to do on Bruny Island
Once you are on the island, there is a lot to see and do. Below is the list of the most interesting things to do on Bruny Island, including the highlights for a day trip and suggested activities for a longer stay on the island. This guide is organized by introducing the attractions along the way, from the ferry landing at Robertson Point at the northern end of the island to Cape Bruny at the southern end and returning via Adventure Bay
These attractions are not necessarily meant to be explored in this order (unless you like starting your days with a glass of whiskey!), it simply makes planning your day easier. Pick the things you would like to do on your way south and leave some others for the way back.
North Bruny is mostly a rural landscape dominated by farmland with aquaculture farms fringing its coastline. It is home to about 95 permanent residents.
Bruny Island Quarantine Station
816 Killora Rd Barnes Bay
Located north of the ferry terminal, the maritime quarantine station is a site for history buffs. There aren’t many buildings left, but there is a lot of history here, covering the period from the early Aboriginal occupation by the Nuenonne, a band of the South East tribe, to early European settlement and the Spanish influenza pandemic and WWI. There are copious information signs on the 322 acres of the station, as well as a few walking trails.
Bruny Island House of Whiskey
360 Lennon Road
With 110 expressions of Tasmanian Single Malts on tasting, including the sought-after Trapper’s Hut Limited Release, Bruny Island House of Whiskey will satisfy most tastes. The cozy property is particularly appealing on cold winter afternoons when you can snuggle up with your drink next to an open fire and admire the stunning ocean views. And because the house of whiskey is located only 3km from the ferry terminal, it’s the perfect way to finish your day at Bruny Island.
Get Shucked Oyster Farm and Oyster bar
1735 Bruny Island Main Road, Great Bay
If you are into oysters, you can’t miss Get Shucked. They serve the freshest oysters you’ve ever tasted. They are even served with some seawater in the shells. That’s because the oysters are grown right here on the farm. The tasting platter of fresh oysters is so good, that you’ll be queuing up for more in no time. I was. And I never imagined that I could eat half a dozen of oysters on my own!
Bruny Island Cheese & Beer Co
1807 Main Road, Great Bay
While whiskey and oysters might be a better idea for the return journey, a cheese platter is a perfect way to start the day on Bruny Island. The tasting platter at Bruny Island Cheese & Beer Co. may include a white mould Saint, a semi-hard George, and the delicious One Day Old (O.D.O.) cheese. You can learn all sorts of facts about cheese and cheesemaking, but it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite flavour. You may want to join their Cheese Club and have a range of delicious flavours delivered to your door a few times a year.
While you are here, you might like to pick up a freshly baked sourdough baguette and some cheese for a picnic lunch later on.
Bruny Island honey
2184 Main Road, Great Bay
The next stop on your culinary delights tour of Bruny Island is the honey farm. There are a few different kinds of honey on tasting, including Tasmanian Manuka honey and a large gift shop selling everything imaginable to do with honey.
A fun thing to do at the shop is to try finding the flightless Queen bee in the hive containing thousands of bees. The hive has a glass wall so you can see all the little bees inside. But while there is a photo of the flightless Queen displayed on the wall next to the hive, finding it seems like an impossible task.
Cape Queen Elizabeth walk
Right across the road from the honey farm, there is the start of the Cape Queen Elizabeth walking track that takes you through the forest of Bruny Island Neck Game Reserve to Mars Bluff – a dramatic natural arch on Miles Beach. The return track is 12.6km and takes between 2 and 3 hrs to complete.
The start of the walk goes past the marshes of the Big Lagoon, which is home to abundant birdlife. So if you brought a pair of binoculars, this would be a good opportunity to use them.
Bruny Island scenic flights
2179 Main Road, Great Bay
If you would like to splurge on seeing Bruny Island from the birds-eye-view perspective, Bruny Island Scenic Flights, based at the island’s airport (more like a landing strip), offer scenic flights starting from $120 per person.
Bruny Island’s geology (think the Neck and the rugged coastline of southern Bruny) lends itself perfectly to being appreciated from above.
Your scenic adventures on Bruny Island begin at the Neck – the narrow strip of land that connects north and south Bruny. For the best view of the neck, climb the timber stairs to Truganini Lookout.
As you ascend, you might notice that the ground underneath the boardwalk is peppered with small burrows. These are the nests of Little penguins and Short-tailed sheerwaters (a.k.a. muttonbirds). To see the birds emerge from the ocean and waddle to their burrows, you need to visit the Neck around sunset during the summer months.
If you do decide to watch the penguins (and sheerwaters), especially during the peak times (September to February), make sure you follow penguin watching guidelines and do not disturb the birds.
Once you climb to the top of the Truganini Lookout, you’ll understand where the Neck got its name. The 2km-long strip of land connecting the north and south Bruny Islands is so thin (100 meters at the narrowest point) that it wouldn’t take much sea-level rise for the ocean to cover it completely. The 360-degree panorama from the lookout is the best view on all of Bruny.
South Bruny Island is larger than North Bruny, less developed, has a greater range of altitudes (from beaches to cliff tops) and greater diversity of habitat types, wet eucalypt forest and coastal heathlands.
Less than half of South Bruny Island has been cleared for settlement and agriculture, and 5,149 hectares of the southern tip of the island is protected by South Bruny National Park.
The Bruny Baker
Corner of the main rd and Sheepwash Road
This is my favourite ‘shop’ on Bruny Island. Two lonely converted retro fridges sit unattended on the corner of the road, with the only allusion to it being a place of business being a wood plank above the fridges with THEBRUNYBAKER painted on it. But when you open the fridges, you’ll find that they are stoked with loaves of still hot, fresh-from-the-oven sourdough bread.
The Bruny Baker is operated on the honesty system – there is a little box inside one of the fridges to deposit your cash in. And the bread is absolutely delicious. So if you didn’t pick up a baguette at the Cheese & Beer Co, grab a loaf for lunch and have a picnic in Adventure Bay.
Alonnah is one of the two main townships on Bruny Island. It is tiny, and you could easily drive through without realizing you just passed a town. There aren’t many things to do in Allonah, but here are a couple of options for exploring Alonnah:
Bruny Island Historical Society
3895 Bruny Island Main Road
The history room, operated by the island’s Historical Society, is a little museum and a depository of all things related to the history of the island, including stories about Nueonne Aboriginal people and convict and early settler history. It would be of interest to history buffs or to anyone who might have family history ties to Bruny Island.
Alonnah Sheepwash Track
The nearby historic Alonnah Shepwash Track is your opportunity to see some of the remnants of the settlers’ lives. The walk follows the old walled road between the sites of the two old jetties and takes about 1hr (return) to complete. There are public toilets at the start of the walk.
3959 Bruny Island Main Rd
Hotel Bruny has a lovely bistro that, apart from delusions food and the local beer, has a lovely atmosphere and friendly staff. So if you fancy a pub lunch, this is a great spot.
Bruny Island premium wines
4391 Bruny Island Main Rd
Famous for being Australia’s most southern vineyard Bruny Island Premium Wines lies on the outskirts of the tiny sleepy settlement of Lunawana. The family-owned business where grapes are hand-picked each year to produce award-winning wines with varieties including Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
The property is also home to one of the best restaurants on the island, famous for its fresh oysters, clams and Tasmanian salmon.
Lunawanna Community Hall
4586 Bruny Island Main Rd
There is nothing particularly interesting about Lunawanna Community Hall, apart from the very fact of its existence. But this is where the sealed road ends. There are good public bathrooms here, and this is about it. From the community hall, it’s a dirt Lighthouse road all the way to Cape Bruny, 18 km away.
Cape Bruny Lighthouse
Situated in the remote and wild South Bruny National Park, Cape Bruny is a good opportunity to stretch your legs after a long drive and enjoy the stunning views of the rugged coastline.
There are a few things to do around the lighthouse. The carpark is located next to the former living quarters of the lighthouse keeper and his family. There is a little museum in one of the buildings with an interesting collection of shells and animal bones washed up by the sea.
The short walk to the lighthouse is obviously the main attraction here. If you appreciate birds, keep an eye out for Scarlet robins, Superb fairywrens, and New Holland honeyeaters as you make your way up.
Across the road from the beach, there is the only general store on the island where you can pick up some additions for your picnic lunch and get some petrol.
Next to the shop is the quirky Penguin and Pardalote cafe and the cute building of the church behind a white picket fence.
Bligh Museum of Pacific Exploration
876 Adventure Bay Road
For a remote island, Bruny has an extraordinary amount of history. Abel Tasman, Tobias Furneaux, James Cook, Matthew Flinders, William Bligh, and Bruni d’Entrecasteaux all have left their mark in the history of exploration of Bruny Island.
The Bligh Museum of Pacific Exploration is a good spot to peruse some of the early maps and charts were drawn by the maverick explorers as well as their diaries and manuscripts. There are even the remnants of the tree on display to which Cook had supposedly tied up his ship during his visit to Adventure Bay in 1777.
Bruny Island Cruises
1005 Adventure Bay Road
One of the most adventurous things to do on Bruny Island is the 3-hr wilderness cruise operated by Pennicott Wilderness Journeys – the same company that runs the award-winning Tasman Peninsula Cruises. Their Bruny Island day tour includes the cruise as well. And if you are visiting the island independently, your adventure will start at their office in Adventure Bay.
The cruise is a spectacular journey along the rugged coastline of South Bruny. Expect to see a fur seal colony, sea bird rookeries, dolphins, and humpback whales during their migration (May to November).
Grass Point Walk
Fluted Cape parking area on Adventure Bay Road
Right next door to Penicotte’s office, there is the starting point for Grass Point Walk. It’s a lovely 4km (return) coastal walk full of history – Abel Tasman landed here in 1642 and then James Cook in 1777. The trail takes you to the ruins of a whaling station and to the ‘whaler’s lookout’. It takes about 40 minutes to reach Grass Point.
From the Point, you could either return the same way or continue onto the more challenging Fluted Cape Walk.
Fluted Cape Walk
Fluted Cape parking area on Adventure Bay Road
Shortly after passing Grass Point, you will reach a gulch between the point and Penguin Island. At low tide and calm seas, you can hop across the exposed rocks to Penguin island. The hardest part of the track is where it climbs from the beach to the top of Fluted Cape, which, at 272 meters, is one of Australia’s highest sea cliffs. The views of the dolerite coastline and Penguin Island from the top are jaw-dropping.
From the top of the cape, the trail sharply descends back towards Adventure Bay, joining Grass Point track for the last 800 meters to the Fluted Cape parking area. This is a good area to look for the island’s adorable albino Bennett’s wallabies.
Mavista Nature Walk
This atmospheric walk takes you along a shaded gully filled with wonderfully mossy forest, similar to the forest in the far south of the Tasmanian mainland. Towering stringybarks and blackwoods are so tall here that you can barely see where their crowns meet. In between the giants, massive tree ferns add a Jurassic feeling to the landscape.
This is only a short walk (1.4km) that takes about 30 min to complete. So if you are looking for a walk after lunch, the Mavista walk is a great option.
Bruny Island Chocolate Company
55 Adventure Bay Road
A tiny shop that sells delicious homemade chocolates and fudge. If you a visiting as part of a day tour, you’ll be treated to a sampling platter. If visiting independently, don’t miss chocolate truffles – they are divine.
And this provides the perfect segway to a review of Bruny Island eateries. Scroll on to learn where to find the best food on the island.
Where to eat on Bruny Island
Bruny Island is home to a number of scrumptious eateries where you can taste local produce. But if you are looking for a proper meal, here are the island’s three main options:
Bruny Island Premium Wines, Lunawanna . Not only is Bruny Island Premium Wines an award-winning winery, but it is also a fantastic restaurant. If you are in the mood for a variety, tasting and share-platters are a good start. You can choose from cheeses, oysters, salmon, pork and olives – all produced on the island. Or, for something a little bit more substantial, try their famous Grilled Huon Salmon Fillet. You can check the current menu here.
Bruny Island Cruises Seafood Restaurant, Adventure Bay. Established by Pennicotte Wilderness Journeys, the Seafood Restaurant offers some of the finest dining on Bruny Island. Try their famous gourmet rolls packed with fresh salad and providore ingredients, homemade pumpkin soup, or the delicious smoked salmon salad. Enjoy the stunning ocean views as you kick back with a glass of local wine or some Tasmanian artisan brews. Check the current menu here.
Hotel Bruny Bistro, Allonah. Hotel Bruny’s Bistro has a mouthwatering menu with all meals prepared from local ingredients. Choose from seafood chowder, crispy skin Bruny Island Atlantic salmon, coffee-rubbed porterhouse steak or braised shoulder of lamb and enjoy one of the most atmospheric pub meals in Australia. Check the full menu here.
Where to Stay on Bruny Island
Bruny Island has a wonderful variety of fabulous accommodation options. Whether it is a beachside pad you are looking for in summer or a cozy cottage with a fireplace in winter, there is no shortage of options on the island.
Below are some of the more unusual picks that you might like to check out.
43 Degrees Bruny Island in Adventure Bay is a collection of secluded apartments across the road from the beach. The property is wildlife-friendly, and you may spot Bruny’s famous White wallabies on your doorstep. If that’s not enticing enough – the spa bath has to be! Check availability here.
Adventure Bay Retreat Bruny Island is a stunning cottage wedged between the forest and the sea, tucked away in a secluded spot. If you visit in winter, you will love the fireplace. Check availability here.
Secret Spot in Lunawanna is a secluded beach house on a quiet street in a tiny township. Tucked away in this secret spot, you fall asleep to the sound of a crackling fireplace and wake up to the ocean views. Check availability here.
Some useful Books for the Bruny Island trip
Here are some books that I found particularly useful in planning my Bruny Island trip. If you are interested in Bruny’s famous white wallabies, you might like to read about them as well.
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