Truganini Lookout, Bruny Island

With the Grass Point Trail and the Lighthouse Walk taking up the most of our day, Andrew and I decided to keep walking after dinner by heading to the Truganini Lookout.   The Lookout, with its 200 plus steps, is on an isthmus of land connecting north and south Bruny Island and was conveniently located near our accommodation.  

Entrance of Truganini Lookout, Bruny Island
7pm: found the walk entrance.
Truganini Walk, Bruny Island, Tasmania
7.10 pm: waiting for our turn for a selfie at the top.
7.20 pm: kids hurry down to the beach below before selfie is taken.

The beach near the track is open until dusk during Tasmanian summers. When we reached the beach, Andrew and I sat on the sand, satiated and sluggish with pizza and steak from the Bruny Island Hotel. The children spent a few minutes repeatedly teasing then running away from the crashing waves.  

Bruny Island, Tasmania
7.30 pm: found an abandoned sandcastle.
7.45 pm: made our own family sandcastle.

At around 8 pm, Ranger Stacey and her junior rangers asked beach goers to get off the sand. We were informed that the shearwaters and the penguins needed the beach to be clear so they can come back to their rookery located under the platforms above the walk. Estimated time of re-entry in burrows: 9.45 pm for the shearwaters and 10.00 pm for the penguins.  

Truganini Lookout, Bruny Island.
Of course, we stayed!

Ranger Stacey started with an Acknowledgment to Country for the traditional custodians of South Bruny Island, the Nuenonne, before giving the growing group of families a background on short-tailed shearwaters and little penguins, the magnificent birds we were about to witness coming home that night.  Some shearwater oil and a stuffed little penguin were passed around, morbid yet poignant reminders of the millions of birds killed for human use and amusement.  I’m not complaining, I eat chicken…

As informative as the talk was, it made me reflect on how sometimes what is not mentioned in a story is as important as what is mentioned. There was no mention of Truganini or her people that managed to survive the genocide of the 1800s. Truganini was a Tasmanian Aboriginal woman who even in death, could not escape the brutal dispossession and destruction of her land and culture. Her bones were exhumed for public display shortly after her death in 1876 and some of her body parts were sent to different institutions for “scientific study”.  It was only in 1976 that her request to be cremated was finally honoured.

As to what was mentioned in the talk, at 9.45 pm, the shearwaters made their precision landings into or near their burrows. Shortly after, a raft of about 15 penguins landed on the beach. With red cellophane on our mobile phone lights, we witnessed the graceful swimmers turn into bumbling waddlers. With mingled bird cries filling the air, penguin and chick and burrow were reunited for the night.  My son whispered “Good night,” to each penguin he spotted while my daughter had to be sternly reminded by Ranger Stacey to stop jumping so as not to scare the penguins. It was 11 pm when we finally pulled out of the car park and into the dark roads of Bruny Island, smug with the thought of walking three bushwalks in one day, with kids.  

Looking for child-friendly materials that promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness and don’t know where to start? Click here for a copy of Aunt Annie’s Sorry Day to start your journey. 

Want to learn more about birds? Click here to visit the Birdlife website. Identify some birds in your backyard, read up on their current campaigns, and start your own bird survey family project. Click here to buy a copy of Adam Nicolson’s book on oceanic aviators. See below for his description of shearwaters.

Adam Nicolson, The Seabirds' Cry

Lighthouse Walk, Bruny Island

Fresh from our two-hour walk at the Grass Point Trail, still full from our 11 am cafe brunch, and with four hours to spare before our much coveted pub dinner booking at Bruny Island Hotel, Andrew and I decided to drive to the Southern end of Bruny Island to visit the lighthouse. Past endless horizons of cloudy sky and eucalyptus-scented tree-filled green, Andrew focused on getting our family safely through narrow dirt roads as I drifted in and out of my afternoon nap like our kids on the back seat.  

On the road to South Briny Island to visit Bruny Island Lighthouse.
We lost radio reception long before we hit this part of the road.

When we arrived at the main entrance to the lighthouse, Andrew, not one for naps, stepped out to brave the gusts of wind blowing in from the Tasman Sea to explore.  With a quick “I can see the lighthouse from my window, have fun,” I moved to the driver’s seat to resume my nap with the kids, occasionally nudged back to consciousness by conversations carried by the wind into our half open car windows.  Twenty minutes later, with Andrew content with his share of alone time and myself refreshed and resuming the driving duties, we slowly drove away from the lighthouse. 200 metres later, our son woke up, filling the car with guttural screaming to match Sepultura, one line repeated over and over: “I want lighthooooooouuussseeeee!!!!!”.

Bruny Island Lighthouse, South Bruny Island
Faced with the prospect of 17 kilometres of screaming with limited places to stop, I surrendered and drove back to the lighthouse. Carpe diem. We might as well walk.

From the bottom car park white gates, we walked towards an old cottage housing a small museum. Looking out one of the windows, I found myself romanticizing the solitude unperturbed by earlier sign reading, “A welcome and a Warning”.  The lighthouse is claimed to be the oldest existing tower under Australian Commonwealth Control. Completed with convict labour and lit by whale lamps in 1838, these days the lighthouse is decommissioned, replaced by a solar-powered automatic light located on a hill east of the lighthouse.

South Bruny Island, Tasmania
"The story of lighthouses invariably begins with shipwrecks." The loss of 134 lives on George III in 1835 and the earlier Actaeon shipwreck were the impetus for the lighthouse being built.
The view from the Bruny Island Lighthouse Museum, South Bruny Island, Tasmania.
"Imagine living in a remote location, often cold and wet weather, cooped up with two other families and all under rule of an ex-naval man that one may or may not get on with." Reading through some lightkeeper logs.
Bruny Island Lighthouse Museum, South Bruny Island, Tasmania
"Despite their long hours on duty, Tasmanian lightkeepers were poorly paid and many toiled for years without leave." Browsing through equipment while pondering which union, if any, would have covered lighthouse keepers.

After the small museum, we headed towards the wire gates to follow the concrete steps leading to the lighthouse.   My daughter led the way as Andrew and I took turns piggybacking the reason why we got ourselves on this impromptu walk in the first place. 

Bruny Island Lighthouse, South Bruny Island, Tasmania
Counting her steps as she went, "35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 30, 31, 32, 33..."

As we arrived at the lighthouse, we met the keeper who just finished the last tour and was locking up for the day.  “Don’t blow away kids,” he said as he made his way down the hill. Taking the keeper’s words literally, my son tightened his grip on my hands.  Despite much squinting, because I left our binoculars back in the car and because of the cloud cover, it was hard to discern Pedra Branca and Eddystone Rock. These rocks are said to be white-tipped due to generations of pelagic birds’ droppings. 

Bruny Island Lighthouse, South Bruny Island, Tasmania.
Holding on to each other so they don't get blown away.
Bruny Island Lighthouse, South Bruny Island, Tasmania
"Have you ever...ever felt like this?"
Bruny Island Lighthouse, South Bruny Island, Tasmania.
"Hold on to my head. No! No! Stop! Take your hands off my eyes! Don't let go! Hang on! Ok Andrew we're ready." Picture perfect finish.
Tasman Sea from the Bruny Island Lighthouse, South Bruny Island, Tasmania.
Thank you, Mr 3. We would have missed out on this experience if we ignored your epic tantrum.

Some say “Your life is a product of your choices.” By making a choice to turn around, our family found three more tracks to explore for another day: to the white sands of Jerry Beach, to pristine and secluded beaches of Cloudy and Mabel Bays, and to the dolerite cliffs of Quiet Bay. Three more of the thousands of reasons why our family will continue to come back to Tasmania over the years to come. 




1 kilometre return


Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island

Away from the Australian island continent, on the lower eastern side of the island state of Tasmania, lies Bruny Island. Five years ago, Andrew and I were lured to Bruny by the prospect of fresh seafood and cheese.  Five years and two toilet-trained and non-stroller dependent kids later, we went back ready to explore some of the bushwalks the island had to offer.  We started with the Grass Point Trail which started on the beach to the right of the Fluted Cape parking area.  

Start of the Grass Point Track, Adventure Bay, Tasmania
What started with "We'll just touch the water mummy," led to a wardrobe change for my son who, as usual, ended up jumping in.
At the start of Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
Cold receptors triggered, the kids moved to dry sand.

At 11am, there were already families coming back from the trail as  Andrew and I lingered at the start dusting off wet sand. A passing walker recounted how the track took 40 minutes walking in, then 20 minutes walking back. I thanked him and waved to his school-aged children. In the background I could hear Andrew imploring our kids to continue walking.  I mentally doubled, then tripled, the kind walker’s figures.  

Start of the Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
The start was in sight.
Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
The Tasman Sea to the left, land for sale to the right.

The land for sale to the right of the start of the track triggered my memory of a conversation I overheard at the local oyster place the day before. “You must have to travel out of the island to find things to do,” said a lady in her 40s. “It’s so quiet here, what do you do for fun?” her friend added swilling her white wine. Not missing a beat, the stubbled beanie-wearing waiter, the object of condescension or perhaps flirtation, replied, “Oh I keep busy, I bought 40 acres of land in South Bruny a few years ago and I spend my time camping in and exploring it when I’m not working here.”  Anyway, I wondered, will that part of Bruny be subdvided, sold, and commercialised in a few years time or will the owner protect it and keep it wild ala JD Tipper and Mougamarra Nature Reserve? Time will tell.

White wallaby at the Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
Squint view of a white wallaby.
Basking cormorant at Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
Cormorant basking in the 16°C Bruny Island summer.

Andrew and I trailed behind the kids, him taking photos, me finding gaps in the trees to look for seabirds through my binoculars. Our children busied themselves inspecting and collecting what I hoped were gum nuts and not scat, assessing sticks for walking stick suitability, and pointing out insects along the track.   

Shedded cicada skin, Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
"They're sort of like hermit crabs then mummy," my daughter observed when I explained this might be a discarded cicada shell."
Ants on the Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
My son followed a few to try and locate their "ant house".

At one point, my son tripped on the track. I suspect it was because his shoes didn’t really have much tread. He was left with some shallow cuts on his forehead imprinted by the gravel he fell on.  Andrew dispensed some lollipop treats that comforted our son enough to stop crying, but he refused to walk. Some reshuffling of cameras, binoculars and bags between Andrew and I, followed by a safety talk on how to eat a lollipop while sitting on mummy’s shoulder, then we were ready to continue on.  

Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island Tasmania
The Grass Point Trail branches off to the right leading to the Fluted Cape Trail. Another walk for another year.
Through a grove of trees with blackened trunks and bare branches.

The trail ended on a pebbly beach. A few hundred metres away, a tour boat gently bobbed up and down to the beat of the waves.  Our  kids waved and shouted, their hellos muted by the wind. Some people on the boat waved bacwhile most continued to look intently to the right of where we were standing.  Intrigued, I urged the kids to continue walking along the beach to investigate. We were rewarded with a view of a rocky outcrop in front of Penguin Island where terns, seagulls, and cormorants rested.  

It's not often that we come across a variety of seabirds in one spot.
An old man resting on a large piece of driftwood patiently explained to my son that these were kelp - slimy and soft when wet and rough and leathery when dried.

Our walk back the way we came was spent by everyone listening to my son pointing out where his blood dripped all over the trail although in reality, only a pin prick blood was spilled where his forehead hit the gravel. We played along as this distracted into walking most of the track back.

Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
Miss 5-year-old: "That was a fun walk mummy." Mummy: "Which bit was fun?" Miss 5-year-old: "The beach at the start. Hurry up!"
Beach in front of Fluted Cape Parking Area, Bruny Island
Back to the car to get more dry clothes.

Some shelf back in Sydney lay a partially read copy of Adam Nicolson’s “The Seabirds Cry: The Lives and Loves of Puffins, Gannets, and Other Ocean Voyagers” and Jeannie Baker’s children‘s book about kelp, “The Hidden Forest”.  The Grass Point Trail enriched our reading nights when we got back home, bringing us closer to the world and creatures we thought we’d only ever see through books  




4 kilometres return