Cloudy Bay from lagoon
(Photography by Steve Johnson)
(Photography by Bridget Dwyer)
Spectacular sea cliffs
The topography and geology of South Bruny National Park provides a varied and scenic landscape which is of great appeal to visitors. The coastline consists of cliffs and headlands broken up by the beaches of Cloudy Bay. Most of the park is comprised of Jurassic dolerite, forming the dramatic sea cliffs in the park. Another interesting geological feature is the mid-bay spit, one of only four in Tasmania, that separates Cloudy Bay from Cloudy Bay Lagoon.
Bruny Island's history is, in many ways, the history of Tasmania. It was inhabited for thousands of years by Aborigines before Abel Tasman, the first European in the region, sailed along its shore in 1642. The safe anchorage of Adventure Bay was first located by Captain Tobias Furneaux in 1773. Furneaux named the Bay after his vessel the Adventure. Adventure Bay was then utilised by Captain James Cook In 1777 and by Captain William Bligh in 1788, 1792 and 1808. Bligh was responsible for the planting of the first apple tree in Tasmania during his 1788 voyage. French Admiral Bruni D'Entrecasteaux anchored in the bay in 1792 and gave his name to both the island and the channel that separates the island from the mainland. Captain Matthew Flinders also took advantage of the bay's safe anchorage in 1814.
The Aboriginal people that lived in the area belonged to the South East tribe and their particular band was the Nuenonne band. The Nuenonne band occupied Bruny Island on a permanent basis and their total numbers are estimated to be some 70 people. The Nuenonne people called the island Lunnawannalonna. This name is retained in the names of two settlements on South Bruny, Alonnah and Lunawanna. The park contains a number of important Aboriginal sites, mainly in the form of middens, quarries and artefact scatters. There is also a number of stone arrangements along the coastline of the park. One of the most famous Tasmanian Aborigines, Truganini, was born in 1803 to the wife of Mangana, the chief of the Bruny Island tribe. She died in 1876 and is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the last Tasmanian Aborigine. In fact many descendants of Tasmanian Aborigines live on to this day.
In the early part of the 19th century whaling was carried out in Adventure Bay mainly catching the southern right whales during their annual migration. There were whaling stations at Cloudy Bay and Grass Point in the north of the park where structural remains can still be seen today. This important industry was not sustainable. A drastic decline in whale numbers resulted from over-exploitation and by the late 1840s whaling had collapsed.
See our "History of Shore-based Whaling" for further details.
The vegetation of the park has significant conservation values. Of particular interest is the occurence of the endangered endemic eyebright Euphrasia fragosa. The vegetation of the park may be divided into four zones:
- Plant communities around the coast that receive a lot of salt water and spray.
- Heathland communities comprising a rich diversity of plant species including many species of orchid. For instance the rare chestnut leek orchid Prasophyllum castaneum occurs in this area. Most orchids flower in spring and are common on the Labillardiere Peninsula. Christmas bells Blandfordia punicea are one of the particularly attractive heathland species found in the park.
- Eucalypt scrub which is dominated by black peppermint Eucalyptus amygdalina that grows between five and ten metres high.
- Eucalypt forest dominated by brown-top stringybark E. obliqua, interspersed with the occasional pocket of white gum E.viminalis.
South Bruny National Park provides key habitat for threatened species, particularly bird life which is rich and varied. The hooded plover uses the sandy beaches and dunes to nest and the swift parrot depends on blue gums for its specialised diet. Partridge Island protects one of the largest surviving colonies of the endangered forty-spotted pardalote.
There are several muttonbird (short-tailed shearwater) and little penguin (fairy penguin) colonies in the park and a small population of sooty shearwaters on Courts Island. Both muttonbird and penguin colonies are vulnerable to attacks by dogs or by burrows being trampled by visitors.
Most animals in the park are nocturnal, however short-beaked echidnas are active in daytime, making them easier to see. One of earliest echidna specimens was collected in 1792 at Adventure Bay. Captain Bligh both drew and described this pecular animal. In the evening brushtail possums, Tasmanian pademelons and Bennetts wallabies are often seen. Around the Fluted Cape entrance to the park a small and unusual population of white Bennetts wallabies may be seen feeding in the open paddocks at dusk.
The surrounding marine environment is home to seals and whales. The Australian fur seal, the most common seal in Tasmanian waters, can be seen around The Friars. If you are lucky enough you may encounter a rare visitor to the park, a leopard seal that has come ashore to rest. Leopard seals are the only seal to regularly prey on warm-blooded animals such as penguins, birds and other seals. Two whale species, the humpback and the threatened southern right whale, also frequent the Adventure Bay area. They are attracted to this area because it is shallow and protected.