Islands have a certain allure that captures the imagination. With its spectacular landscape of towering sea cliffs, beautiful beaches and lush forest, Bruny Island certainly draws you in. Scratch the surface and some amazing tales emerge from the island’s rich history, with each story more intriguing than the last. Here are four places of interest if you’re keen to explore the (sometimes brutal, always fascinating) past of captivating Bruny Island.
Cape Bruny Lighthouse
This historic treasure stands proudly amid a breathtaking landscape, surrounded by the epic sea cliffs and rugged coastline of the South Bruny National Park. The need for a lighthouse became apparent following several shipwrecks in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. The stunning lighthouse was designed by colonial architect John Lee Archer and constructed via convict labour over two years. In 1836, it was lit for the first time, guiding ships and souls for over a century, until it was replaced with a solar powered beacon in 1996.
Today, Cape Bruny Lighthouse is a favourite with visitors. Learn about what life was like for the keepers and explore the inside of the lighthouse on a Bruny Island Lighthouse Tour. As Australia’s second oldest and longest continually staffed lighthouse still in existence, it has a lot of stories to tell.
Bruny Island Quarantine Station
The historic Quarantine Station site at Barnes Bay, on North Bruny, has a fascinating history, ranging from its early occupation by Tasmanian Aboriginal people to its present day status as a State Reserve. In 1884, a state maritime quarantine station was established on the site as a defence against infectious diseases. At the beginning of World War I, German nationals were interned at the site. During the 1919 Influenza Pandemic, the station was used to quarantine soldiers returning at the end of the war.
Today, onsite caretakers welcome visitors on weekends during winter and from Thursday through to Monday during summer (10am – 4pm). Although there have been some building losses, the site still has high cultural significance as a rare example of a late 19th century quarantine station, demonstrating institutional attitudes towards social class and health. Explore the natural beauty of the site and learn about its incredible history by following the signposts on the self-guided Heritage Interpretative Walk.
The beauty of Bruny Island today seems completely at odds with its brutal whaling history. In the 1820s, there were four whaling stations at Adventure Bay alone, with others established at Bull Bay, Trumpeter Bay and Cloudy Bay. Fortunes were made and lost in the slaughter of whales for oil. After the industry declined in the 1840s, all stations on Bruny Island were abandoned, and southern right whales were on the brink of extinction.
Today, the station at Grass Point is Adventure Bay’s best preserved, with remains of several structures visible. Explore it via the peaceful Fluted Cape Walk (keep an eye out for signboards with information). In the north, visit the location of the Heritage-listed Bull Bay Whaling Station. It operated from around 1829 to 1843 and was associated with Captain James Kelly, the first Australian to penetrate the Antarctic Circle (in 1832), and an active and prosperous whaling merchant who owned a lot of land on Bruny Island.
The whale population continues to recover. Whales can be seen off the coast of Bruny Island during migration times, heading north from May to September and south from September to November. Take a wilderness cruise from Adventure Bay to hopefully get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures!
Variety Bay Pilot Station
From around 1831, a pilot station was established at Variety Bay, in Bruny’s north, with the use of convict labour. Today, remains are visible on the site, including the foundations of three recognisable buildings, a bakers oven, rock and brick lined cellar, and a rock-walled watch tower. Nearby, you’ll find the ruins of St Peter’s Church (c1846), which was the first Anglican Church built south of Hobart.
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