Bruny Island Long Weekend food, wine and walking, Tasmania: The newest Great Walk of Tasmania

It's the sunset end of a late autumn day and I'm standing naked in a forest, surrounded by the tallest trees I've seen in years. 

Not exactly where I'd expected to find myself on my first evening on Bruny Island, just south of Hobart. But as solar-heated water rains down on me from a shower rose and the sun streams in over my left shoulder, I realise that moments like this make Bruny Island Long Weekend what it is: a way back to simple, natural pleasures. 

Tasmanian adventure guide Rob Knight came up with the idea for the three-day experience three summers ago while leading day tours of the island. 

"That's the way most people see Bruny," he says. "We'd sort of skip across the island, but you never had enough time to connect or engage with the place. It missed the point of what Bruny's all about, which for me is this instant feeling of rolling off the ferry and your shoulders relax and you're on 'Bruny time'."

Our long weekend starts early on a Friday morning, not with a ride on the Bruny Island car ferry but with a private boat transfer from Hobart's waterfront. An hour later we're stepping onto an old jetty at the northern tip of Bruny, feeling like the only people on the island. 

It helps that there are just five of us (the maximum is eight) plus Rob and our other guide Tom Wolff. 

We load our overnight bags into a van and set off, Rob giving us an introduction to the island as he drives. 

The first thing to know, he says, is that Bruny is effectively two islands, North and South, connected by a narrow isthmus called The Neck and stretching about 50 kilometres end to end. It's also a microcosm of Tasmania. 

"It has an Aboriginal history that goes back 2000 generations, a north-south divide and all the parochialism of that [North Bruny is basically one big sheep farm while South Bruny is wilder, larger and more populated], niche agriculture. I think understanding Bruny gives you a pretty good understanding of Tassie," says Rob.

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One of the advantages of being so close to Hobart is that you get three full days on the island. So within two hours of meeting each other, we're bushwalking on the exposed southeastern tip of North Bruny.

It's a delightful walk: a sandy track bordered by wildflowers, some barefoot beach-walking, a peek inside a cabin built from driftwood in the 1950s and a gentle climb to the wind-whipped edge of Cape Queen Elizabeth, where we pause for a picnic. 

That's when I realise how light my daypack has been; all I've had to carry is my camera, a water bottle and a raincoat. Rob and Tom have taken care of lunch, conjuring from their packs goats cheese and roasted vegetable tarts with colourful salads, served in biodegradable boxes with wooden compostable cutlery, followed by chocolate and cups of tea as we gaze out at the Southern Ocean. 

By mid-afternoon we're back at the van, but before driving across the isthmus to South Bruny and our camp for the next two nights, we stop on the rim of Great Bay, on the sheltered western side of North Bruny, for a treat.

In March 2016, Bruny Island Long Weekend became the newest Great Walk of Tasmania. It's an elite club; the other seven walks include award-winning heavyweights such as Maria Island Walk, the Bay of Fires Lodge Walk and Cradle Mountain Huts' Overland Track. 

The Bruny experience differs from its better-known siblings in one important way however: it offers the chance to cross the tourist-local barrier by meeting people who have grown and supplied the food you're eating. 

People like oyster farmer Sam Hauser. Unfortunately, Hauser is away this weekend (as is pig farmer and celebrity chef Ross O'Meara, whom we'd planned to see the next day), but he's told Rob to help himself. So Tom wades out to the racks and returns with a basket full of shells. Then he and Rob get busy with oyster knives, handing us freshly shucked oysters fresh from the sea, with or without a squeeze of lemon. Best after-walk snack ever. 

Then it's on to South Bruny, where most of the island's 700 residents live, in two small towns named after the Indigenous name for the island, Lunawanna Alonnah. The rest of South Bruny is mostly national park or forest reserve veined by forestry trails. (Logging was suspended in 2015 to protect the island's critically endangered swift parrots.)

One of those trails leads to Rob's 43-hectare property. It's the definition of secluded: no signposts, no name on the locked gate. And the epitome of sustainable simplicity.

On one side of a clearing ringed by towering mountain ash and bluegums are four safari tents, each roomy enough for a comfy king-sized bed. Nearby is that forest-shower (with a basket of fluffy green towels and large bottles of Sukin biodegradable toiletries) and a surprisingly lovely composting toilet (with a washbasin, a mirror, even a hook for your towel). 

Then there's "the shed". Made from recycled celery-top pine, this is the camp's kitchen and dining room and has a wide deck that catches the day's last rays shining through the trees. That's where we gather after our showers for pre-dinner Tamar Valley wines and Bruny Island cheeses.

Sitting on the edge of the deck that first evening, it takes me a few minutes to notice the silence. The camp is solar-powered, so there's no generator. Because it's away from the island's main roads and the coast, there's no noise from vehicles or passing boats. Sometimes you can hear the surf at Cloudy Bay on South Bruny's south coast, Rob says, seven kilometres away. The blessed absence of Wi-Fi and mobile reception even silences our phones.

Being early in the walking season, the temperature takes a dive when the sun sets. That's our cue to move into the shed for dinner and close the barn doors against a chilly breeze. With no windows it's a bit like dining in a garage, albeit one containing a long candlelit table and a crackling log fire. It suits the unfussy aesthetic of the camp.

The meals are unfussy too, showcasing the all-Tasmanian fare; Rob also sources as much as he can from Bruny. Several times during the weekend we'll be driving along and he'll say, "That's where we get our olive oil from" or "The guy who makes our bread lives there". By the end of the trip we're on first-name terms with almost everything we've eaten.

Before we retire to our tents – is it only 9.30pm? – Tom issues us with hot water bottles and says we can sleep in tomorrow: breakfast is at 8am. "That's when the croissants come out of the oven."

Of course going to bed early means waking up early, but the joy of sleeping under canvas in a proper bed is that you can linger in comfort, listening to the morning birds and the thump-thump of Bennetts wallabies grazing outside, until the coffee's ready. 

All weekend, in fact, there seems to be an abundance of time. You're more likely to hear the guides say, "There's no rush" than "We'd better get moving". 

But we still manage to tackle the 18-kilometre Labillardiere Circuit Track at the southern end of South Bruny National park on day two (Rob tailors the itinerary to each group's wishes; there are no forced-marches here). 

As we walk, we learn about French naturalist Labillardiere and his commander on that 1792 expedition: Rear Admiral Lachevalier Antoine Raymond Joseph de Bruni d'Entrecasteaux who discovered that Bruny is an island and subsequently gave his name to it and to the channel separating us from the rest of Van Diemen's Land, as it was then. 

Walking all day we see plenty of wildlife, including an inquisitive echidna that stops to sniff everyone's shoes, but only one other human, which seems incredible this close to Tasmania's largest city.

That sense of isolation disappears temporarily on our last day when we find ourselves among 120 daytrippers on a three-hour Bruny Island Cruise out of Adventure Bay – because it's the only way to see the rugged and roadless east coast of South Bruny. 

It's worth it: the boat drivers are fun ("There's a light for reading and a whistle for attracting sharks," says Mick, modelling a lifejacket during the safety drill) and we get up close to sea-level blowholes and Jurassic dolerite pinnacles and mobs of New Zealand fur seals and Australian sea lions. 

Back on dry land again, serenity returns. There's time for one last leisurely meal, a late lunch at the architect-designed Jetty Cafe on North Bruny, facing the sparkling D'Entrecasteaux Channel. Then our chartered boat arrives to whisk us back to Hobart. 

Bruny Island Long Weekend is more than Tasmania's latest gourmet guided walk. It's a backstage pass to an island where life revolves around good food, good company and plenty of time in the outdoors. Sounds like the recipe for a perfect long weekend.   

TRIP NOTES

MORE

traveller.com.au/tasmania

discovertasmania.com.au

FLY

Virgin Australia and Jetstar fly direct to Hobart from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. See virginaustralia.com and jetstar.com

TOUR

Bruny Island Long Weekend is a three-day experience that departs from Hobart on Tuesdays and Fridays between October and April. The all-inclusive cost is $1695 per person; there's no single supplement. See brunyislandlongweekend.com.au 

Louise Southerden was a guest of Bruny Island Long Weekend and Tourism Tasmania.

Five more Bruny Island experiences

PENGUINS

Little penguins come ashore at dusk at The Neck, the spit of land joining North and South Bruny. See brunyisland.net.au

WINE & WHISKY

Bruny Island has the southernmost vineyard in Australia (brunyislandwine.com) and a whisky distillery (tasmanianhouseofwhisky.com.au), both open for tastings and dinners.

SEE THE LIGHT

Tours of Cape Bruny Lighthouse in South Bruny National Park run daily, led by a former lighthouse keeper. See brunyislandlighthousetours.com.au 

FISH NIGHT

Friday is fish 'n' chips night at the Jetty Cafe at the northern end of North Bruny, local and line-caught of course. See jettycafebrunyisland.com

ISLAND ART

Also at the Jetty Cafe, Art at the Point showcases the work of the island's many artists and runs workshops. See artatthepoint.com.au  

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