During our stay on the Tasman Peninsula, we spent a morning taking the Pennicott Wilderness Journey’s three-hour, award-winning adventure cruise which leaves from Port Arthur. A few years back, we took their Bruny Island cruise and had a great time taking in some spectacular scenery and a wealth of wildlife. We still have very fond memories of that cruise. So when we found out that they also had one from Port Arthur, we knew we had to do it!
What is Pennicott Wilderness Journey?
Pennicott Wilderness Journey was formed in 1999, when Robert Pennicott, a local resident, started taking people on cruises around the Southern Tasmanian coastline. These days the business is doing
so well that he now owns ten boats and employs over 70 people. The cruises run daily, except on Christmas day. Over the years the company has won many awards including Australia’s Best Tourist Attraction and the Australian Qantas Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism.
Where does it start from?
Our meeting point for the Tasman Island cruise was Pennicott’s Port Arthur booking centre, located on the Arthur Highway not far from the turn off to the Port Arthur historic settlement. After a short safety briefing, we hopped on a bus which took us to Eaglehawk Neck where our boat was waiting for us.
The exact address of the booking centre is 6961 Arthur Highway, Port Arthur.
The yellow cruise boats are all purpose-built for eco-cruising in the waters of South East Tasmania. They hold up to forty people. Although they are open-aired, the boats do have a roof to protect against the elements. Once on board, the crew gave us a further safety briefing before handing out huge red ponchos to protect us from ocean spray and the cold sea breezes. This was quite handy as the temperature at sea can be up to ten degrees celsius less than on land. After putting on our seat belts we were off!
The Tasman Arch, Devils Kitchen and the sea caves
As expected the scenery was absolutely spectacular! The first stop was the Tasman Arch and Devil’s Kitchen which we had visited the day before. It was so nice to see them from a totally different angle. The arch used to be a big sea cave until the roof collapsed turning it into an arch.
The Devil’s Kitchen is another unusual rock formation carved out by the sea. It would have looked just like the Tasman Arch centuries ago. It is so impressive to see what nature can create over time.
The crew also took us into some sea caves to have a look inside. The boats are well designed for this although it obviously takes some skilful navigation. I certainly wouldn’t be keen on taking the rudder!
The caves were full of photo opportunities. And the crew made sure that they turned the boat around so that anyone could get a photo regardless of where they were sitting.
Our next stop was Cape Hauy, but not before a quick stop near the impressive Fortescue Bay. On the previous day, we had hiked from this bay to Cape Hauy, so it was fun to see the bay from the ocean and to see just how far we had walked. We made a stop at the Candlestick and Lanterns, two large columns of dolerite sticking out of the ocean. We also had a great view on the Hippolytes, another large section of rock separated from the mainland. After a few minutes spent admiring these remarkable rock formations we moved on to Cape Pillar at the Southern tip of the peninsula.
Cape Pillar gave us the most spectacular views on the tour! With its impressive vertical cliffs climbing three hundred metres above the sea, we were in awe of the beauty of this cape. We kept staring up at those huge dolerite cliffs which made us feel really small! This was also another fantastic photo opportunity.
Right next to Cape Pillar was our final destination, Tasman Island. Tasman island is also surrounded by steep dolerite cliffs and used to be the home of a lighthouse keeper and his family. Now it’s home to lots of cuddly seals (well I like to think that they’re cuddly!). We spent a few minutes watching them laze around on the rocks and frolic in the surrounding waters before we headed towards Steward Bay and Port Arthur where our cruise ended.
Depending on the time of the year that you go, you may be able to see migrating whales during your cruise. We went in summer, therefore we didn’t see any whales, but we did see a few pods of dolphins who decided to come and play in the waves made by our boat; it was so amazing to see them putting on a little show for us!
We also saw many seals resting on the rocks near Cape Hauy and even more on Tasman Island. Some of them swam close to our boat and also put on a bit of a show. I love seals; so for me, this was a highlight of the trip!
If you are a bird lover you won’t be disappointed as we also saw many seabirds like gannets, albatross and cormorants.
Tips for a more enjoyable cruise:
– Make sure you bring a lot of layers. Just think that the temperature on the boat will be at least ten degrees colder than on land, so dress accordingly. The crew do provide you with a big poncho but it may not keep you warm enough, especially in winter. And remember Tasmania is not Queensland!
– If you get sea sickness, be sure to take a travel sickness tablet half an hour before hopping on the boat. The crew do offer ginger tablets on board but if you get really sea sick ginger tablets won’t be enough. Also, try to get a seat at the back of the boat. There is less movement there and because of the boat’s design, you will still get great views.
– Bring a spare battery and leave plenty of space on your memory card as you will be snapping off a lot of photos. You definitely don’t want to run out of battery half way through!
– Bring a lens with a good zoom if you have one. It helps when taking photos of the wildlife and you’ll get a lot of opportunities to do that on this cruise.
For a sneak peak of what you can expect on this cruise check out our youtube video:
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