Bruny Island. Cape Queen Elizabeth
“Top Walks in Tasmania”
CAPE QUEEN ELIZABETH (BRUNY ISLAND)
|White sand, turquoise water, geological artistry, massed wildflowers and only moderate hills make this one of Australia’s great short coastal walks.|
|Walk. Bruny Island:||13km return|
|Time required. Bruny Island:||4 hours (longer if you loll on the beach)|
|Best time. Bruny Island:||Sunny day|
|Grade. Bruny Island:||Easy–moderate|
|Environment. Bruny Island:||White beaches, rocky cape, rock stacks, coastal heathland|
|Best map. Bruny Island:||This one|
|Toilets. Bruny Island:||None|
|Food. Bruny Island:||Bruny Island Cheese, which sells artisan cheeses, coffee and cake and seasonal homemade ice-cream, and the Oyster Bar at Get Shucked are just up Bruny Island Main Rd from the walk car park|
|Tips. Bruny Island:||Time your walk so you can include the low-tide route around Mars Bluff.|
Treading any Bruny Island walking track gives you an appreciation of why Hobart’s long-time secret backyard playground is now attracting visitors from further afield. Do you love birds? Jaw-dropping geology? Verdant forests? Lighthouses? Beachcombing? Colonial history? Take your pick of walks, none prettier than the amble to Cape Queen Elizabeth, North Bruny Island’s south-east point – and all within easy reach of the state capital. To get there drive 33km south-west from Hobart on the A6 and B68 to Kettering, there catching the vehicular ferry across D’Entrecasteaux Channel.
The Cape Queen Elizabeth walk starts in a small parking area beside Bruny Island Main Rd, about 18km south of the ferry landing and 4km before the ribbon-like isthmus – The Neck – linking North Bruny Island and hillier, more forested South Bruny. Head east from here on a flat, gated and unused 4WD track, through a corridor of eucalypts and banksias separating farmland and Bruny’s airstrip, where scenic flights take to the air. The trees are often a-chatter with birds, and on warm days hum with bees (and flies).
Bruny Island. Cape Queen Elizabeth
About 700m along, the track sweeps left through bracken, she-oaks and tea tree, and from the next bend you can look across Big Lagoon to the distinctive dolerite columns that give South Bruny’s Fluted Cape its name. Tasmania’s 12 endemic bird species can all be seen on Bruny Island – including the rare forty-spotted pardalote, if you are very lucky – and more than a hundred other species live on or visit the island. Look for waterbirds on Big Lagoon and majestic white-bellied sea eagles overhead. Cape Queen Elizabeth comes into full view as you pass smaller, ephemeral Little Lagoon on the left. Narrower and sandier but still easy going, the track wanders through twisted rough-barked eucalypts and into dunes greened with sand-hugging heath. You’ll hear waves and taste salty breeze before the ocean shows itself.
About 300m beyond the lagoons the track divides. The tide determines which way you go: right, on the low-tide route to Moorina Bay via the beach (fantastic and fun geology) or, if the tide is high, left, up and over Mars Bluff (with sweeping views of lagoons and The Neck). Don’t attempt the low-tide beach route more than an hour or so either side of low water – and even then you’ll probably get wet feet! If conditions give you the choice, take the ‘high road’ first and come back from the cape on the lower route, as described here, which gifts you the rugged geology at the foot of the Bluff as a grand finale.
Bruny Island. Rich Fauna
Assuming conditions allow this, turn left at the junction and work your way up and over Mars Bluff on a footpad, remembering to look back at the broadening view over the lagoons and isthmus and South Bruny’s dolerite sea cliffs. From the top you descend gently to wooden steps that deposit you in soft sand behind a dune. (The lone post with sun-bleached marker arrow atop this dune helps people walking in the reverse direction find this track after visiting the cape.) Stroll along Miles Beach, with Moorina Bay to your right. Moorina Bay is named after a sister of Truganini, the famous Indigenous woman born on Bruny Island around 1812. A spokesperson and leader of Tasmanian Aboriginal people, and briefly a guerrilla fighter with Victoria’s first Australians, Truganini was for many years described, erroneously, as the last Tasmanian Aboriginal person.
About 600m along the beach, detour left, up Miles Creek, to Moorina Bay Hut in the dunes. Two walkers built this rustic shelter in the 1950s, from planks of sawn timber they found in the wreck of theSwift, a ketch abandoned after grounding and washing ashore in a heavy storm in 1935. Back on the beach, continue along the bay. Just before the sand ends in a pile of rocks turn off the beach onto a narrow, sandy track that climbs into the dunes. Above the beach, turn right onto a track running along the cape’s southern flank. This undulates through eucalypts with thick, coarse trunks and others peeling in streamers of bark; through stands of tea tree; through bristling banksias and drooping she-oaks; with views to the south.
As you near the cape’s point, trees give way to shrubs and then stunted coastal heath, and you pass through an area drilled with shearwater (mutton-bird) burrows. The smell of these birds infuses the rest of the walk. Cape Queen Elizabeth’s crown is a web of tracks, but finding your way is only an issue coming down, and even then, the plants are low enough to keep your bearings: look for rock cairns and occasional ribbons. The wonderful view from the top sweeps from The Neck, Adventure Bay and Fluted Cape (another great walk) to the south, around to the Tasman Peninsula and north into the nooks and crannies of Hobart’s waterways. And immediately below, over the precipitous edge, is a fist of dolerite columns.
Now retrace your steps to Miles Beach and amble to its southern end (tide permitting) for the walk’s geological climax. In the lee of the cliff just short of a rock stack is an extraordinary arch fashioned from layered, crazed dolerite. Walk around and through this architectural natural sculpture, before rounding the rock stack that blocks passage into the tiny next bay at high tide. Continue through a taller, narrower archway and a rock corridor to elongated Neck Beach, passing undercut and eroded stone. It’s a short walk from here to the high-tide junction and the track back to the car.