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My partner saw a house-sit advertised for May-June on Bruny Island, and after meeting the owners it was agreed that he would move in for 8 weeks. After a brief conversation we agreed this would be a good move and brighten up winter no end. Bill was to stay on the island and I would commute for weekends. This is a 'sort of' trip report because I lived at home during the week and went to work as usual, however the weekends had a distinct safari atmosphere.

 

A winter house-sit in the mild climate of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel was very appealing when compared with memories of last winter in Hobart.

 

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West Hobart and Mt Wellington June 2012.

 

Sure we had some gray days and some chilly nights but these were tempered with winter sun, a great choice of beaches and some wildlife watching opportunities.

 

Bruny Island is southeast of Hobart and is accessed by a 15-20 minute vehicular ferry trip from Kettering

 

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Cars arriving at Roberts Point, Bruny Island on the Mirambeena.

 

The island is around 100 km in length and is joined by a narrow isthmus known as ‘the Neck’

 

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We had been to ‘Bruny’ (as the island is locally known) for a couple of short breaks in 2002 and 2009 which we really enjoyed and had always said we must spend more time there. Bill was looking forward to taking the dinghy and catching flathead (a local sweet-fleshed fish easily caught in the shallows) and enjoying a beachside life for 2 months. Lily, the German Short-haired Pointer is happy wherever he is,

 

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I temporarily reduced my hours at work so that I could have Friday afternoons and Monday mornings off allowing for 3 nights on Bruny and 4 in Hobart each week.

 

The house is just 1.5 km on the south side of the ‘capital’ Alonnah and the block runs down to the water

 

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There are 9 houses at Sunset Bay

 

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and most weekends we are the only residents. Drifting off to sleep to the sound of the waves on the beach, rain on the roof or the wind in the tree-tops is a treat. Its blissfully quiet, the pace of life is deliciously slow and the only intrusion into the peace is when 3-4 cars drive by at once, signifying that a ferry recently discharged vehicles at Roberts Point 40 km away.

 

My weekly routine is to finish work at noon on Fridays, gather up a few supplies and head to Kettering which takes around 45 minutes from home with a stop at a local farm stall for fresh fruit and veg. Once I’m ‘in the queue’ for the ferry, there is time for a decaf from the Mermaid Café before driving onto the Mirambeena. Locals, tourists and weekenders are milling around at the dock – some play ball and Frisbee games with dogs whilst others chat amiably until loading begins. Many vehicles have big toys attached, boats, kayaks and mountain bikes whilst others are loaded up with building materials and garden supplies. The atmosphere at the dock is one of anticipation – a change of pace on Bruny for most of the Friday afternoon commuters. The drive to Alonnah takes about 40 minutes and I’m soon on the deck with a cuppa gazing out over the waters of the d’Entrecasteaux Channel and keeping an eye out for birds in the garden.

 

Our days are spent in the slow lane – exploring the island, checking out the local eateries and walking the dog on the many empty beaches that the island offers in winter. This photo of a dirt road and a cluster of country mail boxes evidences secluded island life.

 

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Alpacas graze side by side with sheep

 

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and children catch the Space Shuttle to school

 

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Rural Bruny offers picturesque sights of green paddocks and dirt roads

 

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The Adventure Bay Market has delicious home baking, cards featuring Tasmanian birds and wildlife and hand-knitted alpaca garments. A second hand stall is a fund-raiser to purchase new carpet for a local church. The weekend always flies by, and all too soon its Monday. After a leisurely breakfast its time to drive back to Roberts Point to catch the 10.00 am ferry back Kettering and to work in Hobart

 

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Kettering

 

The South Bruny National Park showcases the natural heritage of the island and the (now de-commissioned) South Bruny Lighthouse (1838) is testament to the importance of the waters around Bruny to early shipping. Tourism is developing well on the island which boasts a number of unique attractions that includes the Bruny Island Cheese Co, Get shucked (oysters), Bruny Island Premium Wines, Bruny Island Smokehouse, the Bligh Museum that specializes in the maritime history of the region, a local art gallery and Rob Pennicott’s Award Winning Bruny Island Cruises.

 

The island has approximately 600 permanent residents and I’ve heard that this swells to over 3,000 in peak holiday times. There is a long tradition of timber cutting which has been surpassed by farming and tourism today. The island has been classified by Birdlife International as an Important Bird Area because it supports the world’s largest population of the endangered Forty Spotted Pardolote, 13 of Tasmania’s 14 endemic species with good populations of Swift Parrots and a breeding colony of short-tailed shearwaters.

 

Bruny Island is a haven for wildlife. Seabirds are easily seen, and thousands of birds gather at Daniels Bay at low tide

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or perch near the water on available vantage points

 

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Black-faced cormorants and Pacific Gulls, Grundy's Point, Bruny Island.

 

Black-faced cormorants are sometimes seen at the Roberts Point ferry station

 

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Pacific Gulls

 

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and Pied Oyster Catchers

 

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relax in a quiet corner of Adventure Bay. White-faced herons stalk the shallows in the still mornings and are often seen in front of the house,

 

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A White-bellied Sea Eagle is often perched in a dead tree just south of the Neck late in the afternoon

 

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The garden at Sunset Bay is frequented by many birds that include Green Rosellas

 

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shrike thrushes

 

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New Holland Honey-eaters (here’s a photo taken elsewhere)

 

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and elusive Flame Robins

 

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Scarlet robins rarely sit still long enough for a photo,

 

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Nor does the brilliantly coloured Superb Fairy Wren,

 

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Noisy wattle birds are heard from the tops of the tallest trees.

 

Brown Falcons are frequently seen at roadkill or perched on power lines along the road,

 

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A rare sighting of a wedge-tailed eagle was especially welcome

 

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The Tasmanian sub-species is widespread, yet uncommon. The declining population is due to habitat loss, decline in breeding success due to nest disturbance and a small breeding population (approximately 95 pairs raise a chick each year and the mortality rate among chicks is thought to be around 50%), decline in the number of mature birds and an unnaturally high mortality rate possibly due to persecution.

 

I was lucky to see a flock of feeding Yellow tailed black cockatoos at the roadside. The closest was 3-4m from the car and I was able to get good photos of this bird chewing into a branch to extract a juicy grub. The ripping of the bark and gnawing of the branch were quite loud for a bird of this size.

 

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There is a colony of white wallabies at Adventure Bay and its possible to see most other species of native wildlife,

 

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Echidna, Bruny Island (2009).

 

There are no Tasmanian devils or wombats on Bruny, except at Inala. Lily is a big disadvantage when looking for white wallabies or bird-watching! Dolphins and seals are features of the Bruny Island Cruises itineraries

 

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(Photos from 2009)

 

 

The island has an emerging reputation for fine food and we have managed to try most local eateries as well as sharing some meals with our friends Chris and Pip who live at Apollo Bay. Every Friday night we eat at the Hotel Bruny which is owned by an energetic and enthusiastic young couple. The menu features local produce that includes freshly caught fish, Cloudy Bay lamb and apple and blueberry crumbles and old-fashioned apple fritters.

 

The Lunawanna shop has a range of basics such as the newspaper, milk and a few tinned foods. Fish and chip lunches, toasted paninis and freshly baked muffins are also available. There is also a choice of bulk foods such as flours and pulses. The summer bistro at the Winery has been recommended to us, sadly the winter menu is quite limited so we have cheese (Bruny cheeses of course) and coffee before heading home.

 

A favourite for lunch is the café at Dennes Point. The décor is polished wood and glass with stunning views over the D’Entrecasteaux Channel

 

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and the coffee and cakes are memorable. The art gallery contains a good range of jewellery, textiles, pottery and art works and the small providore next door has some basics shelved alongside more exotic ingredients. We usually head north via Barnes Bay which is a safe anchorage for yachts. The area is very scenic

 

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Bruny Island has a strong maritime history as many early explorers called at the island to replenish fresh water supplies. Some of the notable early visitors are commemorated by the Explorer’s Monument

 

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set in a private garden. We also take advantage of an open day at the historic Quarantine Station during National Heritage Week. The Station is a microcosm of major western historical events – two world wars and the flu pandemic.

 

The land the station was built on was originally farmed by the Cox family between 1836-1885. Mrs Cox was sent to Tasmania as a convict and possibly assigned to Anthony Cox as a housekeeper. The couple had 11 children and scratched a poor living cutting wood that was shipped to Hobart for sale. The farm was sold to the government in 1885 for £300 pounds – a far cry from the $125,000 that an average building block sells for today.

 

The Quarantine Station was built in 1885 (possibly in response to a fear of a smallpox outbreak) and remained in use until 1983 when it was used solely for plant quarantine. Its early use was for quarantining migrants who entered the station through a fumigation chamber that is in good condition today

 

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The Station was sold to the Commonwealth Government in 1914 when it served as an internment centre for ‘hostile aliens’ living in Tasmania. Amongst the first residents was the crew of the Oberhausen a German ship docked at Port Huon taking on timber. After the First World War the station became a tent city where returning soldiers were quarantined in an attempt to minimise the spread of Spanish flu. Following the epidemic years of 1919-21 the station fell into dis-use due to advances in communications, improved standards of public health and the increasing use of air travel saw the decline of human quarantine stations throughout Australia. A plan to re-open the station for German internees during World War 2 did not eventuate. During the early 1960s Tenders were called for some of the station buildings which were reportedly purchased by locals and re-built on other sites or building materials were recycled.

 

After the tour we are off to have lunch with Chris and Pip our friends who live at Apollo Bay. The water was sparkling in the May sunlight as we arrived for lunch. Chris was bringing the Wild Honey back from Kettering where she had been sheltering from some wild weather. For the wooden boat fans, the Wild Honey is a Lyle Hess cutter built of celery top pine by Bill’s 1999-2000 intake at the Wooden Boat School in Franklin, Tasmania.

 

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We ate a delicious lunch on the deck as birds flitted through the blue gums around the house. Left for home late in the afternoon, driving very slowly as wallabies were beginning to move out of the bush as night approached.

 

There is a clearing along Wooreddy Road where its possible to see a couple of dozen wallabies at a time, they graze quite brazenly in a couple of cleared paddocks and the larger animals don’t even hop off when vehicles approach, preferring to stare us down

 

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Bruny has many beaches that we enjoy visiting – Whayman’s Beach is one of Lily’s favourites

 

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Cemetery Beach

 

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(The old cemetery has a few weather-damaged headstones dating back to the 1940s)

 

Sharpe’s Beach

 

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where bright yellow pigface grows out of the shell carpet

 

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a quiet corner of Adventure Bay

 

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Cloudy Beaches

 

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Kelp gulls and storm petrels at Cloudy Beaches

 

Some mornings the sea mist at Alonnah adds a mysterious air to the Channel,

 

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There are so many beautiful places on Bruny its hard to name a favourite - I enjoyed the changing faces of Daniels Bay from gray and threatening overcast days to bright blue mornings when sky is clear and the blue is reflected in the water and wet sands of the beaches. I never tired of patiently waiting to see if Sunset Bay was going to put on an evening show - we saw sunsets that ranged from red and yellows to black and silver. The weekends flew by and before we knew it we were cleaning up and moving out. We both enjoyed our time on Bruny, and who knows - we may be looking for another house-sit next winter.

 

I’ll finish up with some sunset photos taken at Pontoon Beach

 

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This looks idyllic, @@Treepol . I was just about to ask you whether you would do this again, but your second post suggests you might.

 

You obviously enjoyed it enormously but what were the inconveniences of doing this? I imagine it took a lot of planning to make this happen.

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@@wilddog planning? Not really. Bill saw the ad in Gumtree - the photo of the sunset grabbed his attention. He contacted the owners, we met up at a pub in North Hobart and we all had a think about it and we were delighted when they rang to say that Bill could move in.

 

Bill had much more work to do than me, as he left his house for 9 weeks and moved to Bruny Island. He needed to be very specific in his packing - clothes, food, half a ton of dog food :), cooking items such as the wok, towing the dinghy, fishing gear....it goes on. It was much easier for me, I left a few things on Bruny and commuted for the weekend - I also bought groceries and supplies each week as some items can be hard to find on the island.

 

The ferry timetable is a bit restricting, although there are 9 ferries each way per day. Its necessary to be in the queue or if you arrive too late, there will be a wait of at least one hour for the next one. During busy times, the ferry goes into shuttle mode to clear a backlog of vehicles and this break from the timetable is a source of frustration for residents as the ferry shuttles at the captain's discretion and there is currently no way to let passengers at either Roberts Point or Kettering know that the timetable has been temporarily suspended. The trip from city to Alonnah was about 1.25 hours plus waiting time in the queue - the ferry trip across the Channel takes around 15 minutes.

 

I was lucky because work welcomed my suggestion to temporarily reduce my hours for a while and this freed up Friday afternoons and Monday mornings and I didn't have to jostle for a place on the 'peak' time ferries at the weekend. Bill was very conscious of being on an island and dependent on the ferry timetable to get back to the 'mainland' whereas this didn't concern me, but then I was travelling back to Hobart every week and he had much longer periods on the island than I did.

 

There were some aspects of rural life that I'm not used too - tank water and remembering to turn the pump off when we went out, a septic tank, how dark it was at night with no street lighting, how quiet it was with no near neighbours most of the time and precious little traffic, how bright the stars were at night, a wood fire (that Bill saw to) that necessitated collecting and cutting wood and sticks, mud outside the house when it rained, slippery dirt roads after rain and there was so much wildlife around at night that we opted not to drive at night. There was a distressing amount of roadkill. I felt very safe on the island - there was a story in the local paper about the theft of newspapers - 1 each Saturday from a different mailbox and I didn't hear of any other crime while we were there. I was surprised to see a couple of slabs of beer left in a ute tray in the pub carpark one Friday night - they wouldn't last long in Hobart! We were told during our 2002 trip that the worst robberies occur when people come over by boat and remove property over the Channel, so theft is not unknown.

 

The Bruny Island News is the local paper and we learnt a lot about community events and services through this - the health centre hours, online access centre opening times, Men's Shed activities and the open day at the Quarantine Station.

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Brilliant report. Love the sound of this and your discriptions are wonderful. Thanks so much.

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Great pic of Lily on the beach. Can't believe it's almost been a year! Brings back memories. The chowder at Hotel Bruny, mmm...

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Just great! a nice read with beautiful photos. We had a beach house in Washington state and needed to take a ferry to get there. When my husband would come from work on Friday mornings, he always said that getting on the ferry was like going to another planet. Is the Cloudy Bay wine somehow connected/related to this Cloudy Bay?

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Idyllic is the right word, @@wilddog - sounds like a lovely extended holiday and the views are spectacular! They should do those Space Shuttle school buses elsewhere too :)

 

Any whales in these waters, Pol?

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Love the echidna :) BTW my grandfather used to be a regular in the Sydney Hobart air race back in the day...

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Very enjoyable read - made me relaxed just looking at the photos! And Lily is adorable! Thanks for sharing.

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I think I've had some Cloudy Bay wine....probably not the same location but took the name!

BEAUTIFUL bird pics and report; really enjoyed it .

 

One day....hope to explore your part of the world.

 

Thanks for sharing

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Thanks everyone for reading along and for your kind comments.

 

@marg @graceland I don't know of any link between Bruny Island and Cloudy Bay wines. The Cloudy Bay wines that we have in Tasmania are from the Marlborough Sound area of New Zealand - the do a reasonable sauvignon blanc.

 

@@Sangeeta Tasmania does not have a whale watching season - whales are only seen infrequently as they migrate north to the warmer waters. Some seasons there is a report on the news when a whale lingers in the Derwent River, but this is a rarity.

 

 

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