My ’round Tasmania bike tour ended with a ride back into Hobart and a room at the Prince of Wales Hotel in the Battery Point district of the city. I got there in the early afternoon. The next day would be Good Friday, and everything would be shut. Easter Sunday would likely also be a very quiet day in the city. Having already spent some time in Hobart, I had one more short excursion, one more “to do” on my list – a ride down to Bruny Island.
I’d spend a couple of nights tenting on the shores of Adventure Bay on the south part of the island beyond The Neck. The Saturday afternoon boat cruise to the south end of the island promised to be one of many highlights. (See here for the Bruny Island Cruises promo!)
My plan was simple – reorganize my gear at the hotel, go down to the Salamanca Market and buy a couple of days worth of food supplies, and arrange to leave behind at the hotel a bag full of gear and clothing I would not need for my three-day mini-tour.
On Good Friday morning I was ready to go by 7:30 a.m., knowing that for the first couple of hours I would have the road pretty much to myself as I made my way to the ferry landing at Kettering for the short boat ride over to the north end of Bruny Island. (While a number of British sea captains, including James Cook and Robert Bligh, visited the island, it gets its name from the Frenchman Bruni D’Entrecasteaux, who passed by in 1792. Not only does he have the island named after him but the water between it and the mainland is known as D’Entrecasteaux Channel.)
From Battery Point I cycled southeast on Sandy Bay Road past the University of Tasmania area and on through Taroona, a suburb of Hobart famed these days as the town where Mary, the Crown Princess of Denmark, went to high school. Born in Hobart, she was known as Mary Donaldson in those days, but a chance meeting with Frederik the Crown Prince of Denmark at the Sydney Olympics would change her life. It would also provide endless fodder for Aussie tabloids and another potential question for the Down-Under version of Trivial Pursuit!
The image above – my first of the day since I started pedalling and another Trivia question – What Taroona structure was once the tallest on the island? Answer: The 48-meter tall Shot Tower. (See here for the reason behind the Tower’s name.)
From Taroona (with its dedicated bike lane right through the town) the road continues over Bonnet Hill, the single toughest hill of the ride but a relative piece of cake after a ’round Tasmania bike ride. Significant road improvements were in progress on Bonnet Hill, and a part of the plan is a bike lane.
Here is the Google Maps-generated elevation chart for the ride to Kettering. Note that Bonnet Hill looks a lot less challenging than it does in the chart inserted in the map above!
Down through Kingston and on to Kettering via Margate, Traffic was still quite light and, as in Taroona, there was a generous paved shoulder on the B68 to make use of – it certainly made the ride even more enjoyable.
Approaching the ferry terminal, I had to smile as I cycled by vehicle after vehicle in a line-up that stretched back about 700 meters. Once at the front of the line, I leaned my bike on the wall of the Mermaid Café and went in for my reward, a cup of Flat White with a double shot of caffeine. I chatted with the few pedestrians until the ferry – the smaller of the two – pulled up to the landing area.
Once on Bruny Island, I got to work on the second half of my day’s goal – the 39 kilometers to my tent spot at the Captain Cook Caravan Park on Adventure Bay. While I may have gotten on the ferry first, I (and those on foot) would wait until all the vehicles got off before getting on my way. This meant that all the traffic was ahead of me and I would not see many other vehicles until shortly after the next ferry landing.
As nice a ride as the road to Kettering had been, this would be even better, given the wonderful views of bays and beaches I was treated to from my bike saddle. Other than the three hills indicated in the elevation chart below, the route is pretty much flat.
The hill that requires the most effort is the very first one as you leave the ferry behind – and even it was dealt with fairly quickly. As I was going up a cyclist at the end of her Bruny Island tour was coasting down. We exchanged info on the road conditions – she was on the way to Hobart and planned to use the route I had just come in on. Since she too had been on the Strachan to Derwent Bridge road, she knew what I meant when I said ” No real hills”!
Once the two first uphills (and the downhill rewards) are done, there is an almost twenty-kilometer flat stretch. The wind was gently blowing in the same direction that I was going so the kilometers passed by even easier. Past Get Shucked, the oyster place; past the Bruny Island Cheese Company; past the Bruny Island Airstrip towards a part of the road I had been anticipating since seeing the Google Earth satellite view months before – The Neck! It is a four-kilometer-long isthmus which connects the north and south part of the island.
The middle section – the 2.5 kilometers through the narrowest part – is not a paved (i.e.sealed) road; instead, it is hard-packed sand. Some trip reports I had read made it seem like a big deal. From my experience, even a set of 24 mm tires would be fine to deal with this stretch. The dirt was mostly firmly packed down. Admittedly, it would be the only dirt road I would cycle over on Bruny Island. It may be that other sections of road may need wider tires. A heavy rain would also change the nature of the road.
As I cycled by this part of The Neck, I noticed the side walking trail up to the lookout and the Truganini Memorial. I figured I would check out the view on the way out in a couple of days, so I kept going.
I had initially worried about eating the dust stirred up by passing vehicles, but it proved not to be an issue given the light traffic conditions, the short distance of the dirt road, and the fact that wind has already blown away the really loose sand.
I got off my bike as the photo above shows and walked down to the beach. A couple were just putting away their fishing gear, and we exchanged greetings. I’m sure I said the word “Wow” more than once as I scanned the scene and took in the view of the beach and of Adventure Bay framed by the headland in the distance. Attached to the physical beauty of the spot was the thought that just over 200 years ago the British sea captains James Cook and Robert Bligh had both sat in this very bay while their men resupplied their ships with fresh water and food. Here they also made contact with the natives who lived on the island, known to them as Lunawannalonnah. This contact would lead to the tragic demise of the entire Nuenonne community, of whom Truganini was apparently the last survivor.
Back on the road, I cycled south to the junction. At this point, the main road – B68 – continues on the right to the island’s two largest communities – Alannah and Lunawanna. I turned left – as in the image below – and headed to Adventure Bay. It was around this time that a gentle rain started to fall and I got a bit wet as I finished off the final seven kilometers to the caravan park.
Adventure Bay is perhaps the third-largest community on Bruny Island with a mix of private residences (weekend retreats for Hobart urbanites) and tourist rental accommodation, as well as a café and a general store for food and sundry items, a tennis court, and an Anglican church. Near the south end of the bay is the Bruny Island Cruises reception centre and not far away is the dock from which their boats leave for their three-hour cruises to the south end of the island. I had booked a seat on the next afternoon’s cruise.
The rain stopped just before I started to put up my tent at the Caravan Park. Just behind the tenting area runs Cook Creek. With my accommodation for the next two nights up and ready I walked down to the beach and then over to the mouth of the creek. Then I walked along the beach back to the commercial heart of the community – the general store and the café! I also checked out the sculpture across the road – see the pix above.
The boat cruise was scheduled for 1 p.m. so the next morning I contented myself with a walk along the beach, brunch at the Penguin Café, and a visit to the general store where I bought a copy of the Saturday paper. Heading back to the Caravan Park, I headed for the excellent kitchen/dining building. It has everything you might need – I made use of the kettle and made myself a cup of coffee to go along with the news. No wi-fi on Bruny Island, at least not in Adventure Bay, so it was back to paper!
Had I been a bit more ambitious that morning – and If I didn’t have a 1 p.m. boat ride coming up – I could have done a thirty-kilometer circuit of South Bruny Island. The ideal thing would have been to spend another day on the island but given my schedule that was not possible. There are definitely enough to roads and trails to pedal down that two or three days on the island – maybe using Adventure Bay as a base camp – would be easy to fill.
For example, look at the map below for a ride that would take you from Adventure Bay over an elevated central plateau to the west side of the island and the two communities of Lunawanna and Alonnah before you headed back to Adventure Bay.
Instead, I made a second cup of coffee and chilled. The woman spreading vegemite on a slice of toast responded to my “What does that stuff taste like?” with a “Here, you try this little piece and tell me”. My scrunched-up face and a “Definitely an acquired taste – and one I don’t think I’ll be acquiring!” ended her attempt at Aussiefication. When I told her my spread of choice was crunchy peanut butter she laughed and admitted that her father now had her daughter eating his favourite peanut butter on toast too.
It is a short walk around the bay from the Caravan Park to the Bruny Island Cruises reception building. At 12:30 I made my way over there for the one-hour-plus cruise down to the bottom of the east coast of the island. It was well worth the $105. even if the water that day was less than ideal. The result was more than a few blurry images of a rugged seacoast and some animal life we passed along the way. Soon to come is a post that will cull the better shots from a boat rocking in the waves – a difficult shoot!
On Easter Sunday morning I got up around 6:45, intent on packing up, having breakfast, and getting on the road by 8. I figured everyone would barely be waking up by the time I got going and that the road would be all but empty. That pretty much proved to be the case. It was just me and the changing views from my saddle vantage point on a beautiful sunny morning.
On my way down The Neck, I stopped at the Lookout. The pix above and below capture some of the awesome view. At the bottom of the steps I stopped to read the Truganini information board pictured below left; later, at the top at the top behind the top viewing platform, I noted a stone cairn with a Truganini commemoration plaque.
I was looking at what was once her whole world – until strangers from far away came and took not only it – but everyone she knew – away.
It’s funny how a return trip along the same road becomes a completely new trip! Now the few uphills became exhilarating descents; even the views were different! Cycling the roads of Bruny Island brought back memories of a tour I had done of the half-dozen Southern Gulf Islands between the B.C. mainland and Vancouver Island a few years ago. Relatively empty and well-maintained roads, fabulous views of beaches and bays … just a relaxing place to pedal along.
The way back to the mainland was on the larger ferry this time – the two-decker Mirambeena. This time it would be last on and last off once we got to Kettering.
It was about noon when I got back to Kettering and the road to Hobart. The traffic for the next hour and a half would be the worst of the trip, with the waves of vehicles from the ferry being joined by other road traffic coming from B68 south of Kettering. It was only when I got to Kingston where the bypass takes most of the traffic to the A6 that things settled down. The stretch over Bonnet Hill and through Taroona and on to Hobart was almost traffic free.
Missing from this post are shots of the road for the return ride from Kettering! I took zero pix as I made my way back to the Prince of Wales Hotel in Battery Point to collect the stuff I had left behind. A vegan lunch and a Flat White with soy milk later, I left the POW and headed over to Goulburn Street to Nararra Backpackers and my $60. single private room, somewhat cheaper than the $205. the POW room rate!
Conclusion: The ride from Hobart to Bruny Island and back was one of the highlights of my three weeks of cycling in Tasmania. Had I known what it was like I would have set aside a couple more days to leisurely explore further the island’s backroads. All in all, it is a laid-back corner of an Aussie state that is already pretty laid-back. It proved to be a great way to end my ramble ’round Tasmania!