It’s the ‘70s. You’ve just piled up your rickety boat with two months’ worth of supplies. Most of the food is in tins, as this is the only food that’ll keep for this long.
You pull up the anchor and spend a rough few hours crashing across the waves of the Southern Ocean to a remote island in the distance.
A few years back, a man died using this pulley, but it’s been rebuilt since then and now is more structurally sound and therefore you hope, safer.
It’s important to you that the system is safe, as after you’ve pulled up most of your goods, your children take turns getting in the basket and one by one you hoist them up to the top of the cliff.
When everyone’s settled, you go do what you came to this island to do – climb the lighthouse stairs and make sure the light is working as it should be. The burning lantern can be seen way out to sea, a beacon telling sailors not to come too close or risk peril against the jagged rocks that jut out from the ocean.
Fast forward to 2015. We’re crashing through that same ocean, heading out to that very island. Although this time we’re in a speedboat, skimming along the water, and are with a handful of other tourists, being led by two knowledgeable guides.
This is the Tasman Island Cruise run by Pennicott Wilderness Journeys.
Check out the video:
A modern day journey
Times have changed since the ‘70s and there’s no longer a family living on top of the island out at sea. These days the lighthouse runs itself using solar panels, and the jetty has long since rotted away with only an abandoned wooden shack standing on the cliff where the pulley system once was.
It’s a haunting sight, and as our informative guides told us the story of the families that once lived on the island, it captured my imagination.
But that wasn’t the only story for the day.
Taking rock climbing to the extreme
Flying across the water once more, we headed towards a large natural pillar sticking straight out of the ocean. As we got closer to this rock, known as the Totem Pole, we saw a climber nearing the top. What a difficult climb! Even so, he still managed to let go of the rock with one hand to wave down at us with a smile.
It was the perfect day for a rock climb but there’s no doubt that getting to the top of this 60m rock is no mean feat. Just check out this video to see just what a challenge it can be.
Not only is the climb itself a hard slog, the climbers have to hike for two hours to get to the site, then abseil down the cliff and swim through the water to get to the bottom of the totem pole. Luckily the weather was sunny the day we were out there, but nonetheless I didn’t even the climbers and the mammoth task ahead of them.
Wildlife on the Tasman Island Cruise
“Okay, I don’t want to curse it, but we saw a killer whale on the cruise this morning,” our guide told us as we set out for our three hour cruise.
Unfortunately, we weren’t as lucky as the early morning cruise, but we still did see a number of albatross gliding above us. And with a wingspan of up to 3.7m, they were a sight to be seen.
We also smelt some other animals before we saw them – the sea lions. Only males sat on top of the rocks, as the females only arrive in the mating season, and they play fought, pushing each other into the sea and putting on quite a show.
The natural beauty of the Tasmanian coastline
But possibly my favourite part of the entire cruise wasn’t the sea lions. Nor was it the stories. It was the natural beauty of the coastline.
There was a basalt cliff that’s the highest in Australia, which towered above us. Seeing it from the ocean, when it towers above you, seemed much more magical than it could’ve been from the cliff top.
The boat manoeuvred into caves carved out the base of the cliffs by the pounding waves. Caves that have been formed over millions of years as the rocks have come slowly tumbling down.
To get to the caves themselves, the boat would travel through gaps in the cliff’s side, past natural waterfalls tumbling down the rocks and into the captivating beauty of parts of the cliff not seen from the outside looking in.
The professionalism of Pennicott Wilderness Journeys
Some of this journey might sound frightening, but we knew we were in safe hands. The founder of Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, Robert Pennicott, has circumnavigated Australia in a 5.4 metre inflatable dinghy.
The company itself has also raised more than $100,000 towards coastal conservation projects undertaken by the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service. One of the projects was to get rid of all the feral cats on the lighthouse island, allowing the local wildlife to come back in full force and thrive.
Along with safety, Robert Pennicott and his family put sustainability on the top of their list, and the company has won Australian Tourism Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism in 2012 & 2013.
These were just some of the many reasons (not to mention the rave reviews of the company) that made us choose to go on the Tasman Island Cruise.
And if there was someone who loved the day out more than we did, it was probably our parents.
What’s the best cruise you’ve ever been on?
What you need to know:
Cost: $125 for an adult ticket.
When to go:
The cruise times are as follows:
Morning Cruise (All Year)
Check in by 9.15am
Cruise 10am to 1pm
Afternoon Cruise (15 Dec to 15 Apr)
Check in by 1.15pm
Cruise 2pm to 5pm
I’d recommend checking the weather forecast because I’m guessing the cruise is a lot more enjoyable in the sunshine!
How to get there: The address is 6961 Arthur Highway, Port Arthur, and the company recommends leaving an hour and a half to drive there if coming from Hobart.
Anything else: Expect to get wet! It’s quite a bumpy cruise and although you’ll be wearing head-to-toe raincoats, you’ll probably still get splashed. But don’t let this put you off bringing a camera – you can protect it from the weather in the pocket of your raincoat. It can also get cold, so make sure you bring something warm to wear.
Tasman Island Cruise provided us with two complimentary tickets but as always, our opinions are our own.