Everything you need to know about the Tasman Island Cruises award-winning adventure boat tour.
In the far south-east of Tasmania, around 1 hour 20 minutes from Hobart lies a stretch of coastline known as the Tasman Peninsula, which is recognised as one of the most beautiful regions of Tasmania.
This natural beauty made it the obvious location for Pennicott Wilderness Journeys to operate a 3-hour adventure cruise showcasing the unique wilderness and wildlife of the region.
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Check In And Boarding
Visitors are required to check-in 45 minutes before departure time at the Tasman Island Cruises office, which is located just before the entrance to the Port Arthur Historic Site.
During check-in, you’ll be issued a rather unattractive bright red waterproof coverall which will assist in keeping you warm and dry during the cruise.
After a quick safety briefing, it’s a short walk down to the docks at the nearby Ladies Bay. If you have mobility issues, it’ll be a short bus ride.
Here you’ll board one of the Pennicott Wilderness Journeys trademark yellow boats, purpose-built to handle even the wildest of Tasmanian conditions. These open-aired boats have a roofed canopy to block most of the harmful UV rays and an almost 360-degree viewing area.
While cruising away from the docks, you’ll be offered a ginger tablet, which can assist in settling the stomach. If you have known seasickness issues though, I would highly recommend bringing your own medication. The waters around the Tasman Peninsula can get very tumultuous.
Tasman Island Cruise
Departing Ladie’s Bay, the cruise begins with a short burst of the speed as the pilot’s race over to the neighbouring Carnarvon Bay where you’ll slowly weave your way past notable landmarks such as the notorious former penal colony Port Arthur and the aptly named Isle of the Dead, the last resting place for an estimated 1,000 former prisoners.
From Carnarvon Bay it’s a gentle cruise down the bay, passing the colourful cliffs and nesting seabirds, with the beautiful hills of the Tasman National Park in the distance.
Before long you’ll leave the relatively calm waters of the bay and reach the open ocean where you’ll encounter the beautiful white sandy beaches and dunes of Crescent Bay.
Looming far on the horizon, past the breathtaking coastline full of soaring dolerite cliffs and ocean pillars is the dominating presence of Tasman Island. This forbidding island with its near-vertical dolerite cliffs, reminiscent of those found at the Devils Gullett, thrusts hundreds of metres out of the ocean.
The history of the island is truly fascinating and the tour guide gives an interesting insight into the daily life and struggles of the families who lived on the island’s plateau maintaining and operating the Tasman Island Lighthouse.
Now abandoned after the lighthouse was automated in 1976, the island has become a sanctuary for numerous species of birds and a much-needed resting spot for a large number of fur seals as they soak up the warmth between hunting expeditions on the rocks surrounding the island.
The only remaining traces of human habitation are the solitary lighthouse, a few homesteads and the winch house, once the only way to access the island.
Powering a sizable flying fox system, the winch suspended a large wicker basket out over the ocean to pluck people and supplies off the rolling decks of the boats below and hoisted them a staggering 60 feet onto a platform at the base of the island. And if that wasn’t frightening enough, it was followed by a daunting near-vertical tram ride to the plateau above.
Opposite the island across the narrow Tasman Passage is the impressive Cape Pillar, which holds the record for the highest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere, measuring over a whopping 300 metres high, as well as the unique rock formation known as the Blade.
The fantastic tempo of the cruise keeps it fresh and interesting for the entire journey. One moment you’re gazing upon a waterfall trickling into the ocean, the next you’re deep inside an ocean cave or marvelling at one of the many remarkable rock formations such as Cathedral Rock, the Candlestick, the Totem Pole or the Tasman Arch.
But like all great things, it must come to an end. Landing at nearby Eaglehawk Neck, you’ll take a short bus ride back to the Tasman Island Cruises office, where your cruise journey officially ends.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest attractions of the Tasman Island Cruise is the wildlife. And while sightings cannot be guaranteed, there’s a high chance you’ll encounter something.
Fur seals make a regular appearance in the region. They can be difficult to sight lazing stealthily amongst the rocks, but there’s usually a few playing in the water and jostling for the best rock positions. Plus the knowledgeable cruise staff know their usual hangouts and can generally navigate the boat in for a closer look.
Dolphins are another common sight on the cruise, often frolicking and racing the boat and showing off in typical dolphin style with acrobatic leaps, bow riding and general dolphin mischief.
During migration season, whales are regularly spotted passing through and feeding in the abundant waters of Tasmania. The most common is the Humpback whale which migrates northward to breed between May and July, returning southward between September and November.
Our cruise coincided with one of the best whale seasons in history and our eagle-eyed pilot caught sight of a large number of whales on the horizon. We quickly found ourselves surrounded on all sides by a pod of humpback whales, estimated to be around 50 individuals.
For the next hour, these whales put on a spectacular performance including pectoral and tail slapping and hurling their gigantic bodies into the air with powerful breaches.
Large flocks of seabirds, including the mighty Albatross, can be seen riding the wind currents or diving into the frigid waters to feed, while the lucky few might encounter a pod of Orcas, which have been known to frequent the area.
There are a few Tasman Island Cruises options with varying prices. You can drive yourself down to the Tasman Peninsula and join the three-hour boat cruise or enjoy a full-day tour departing Hobart by bus which includes morning tea, the three-hour boat cruise, followed by lunch and your choice of visiting the Tasmania Devil Unzoo, Port Arthur Historic Site or some local sightseeing before returning to Hobart.
The skill and expertise of the cruise staff were second to none. Their passion for the region was infectious and they genuinely enjoyed sharing their knowledge with others. Coupled with the gorgeous scenery, intriguing history and abundant wildlife, it quickly becomes apparent why Pennicott Wilderness Journeys regularly wins awards for best tourist attraction, eco-tourism, sustainable tourism and more. It’s a must-do tour when visiting Tasmania.
- The onboard boat toilets are small and awkward to use, so it’s suggested to go before departing
- Sea spray can occur at any time, so protect any electrical equipment you might bring
- Bring medication if you suffer from seasickness as the ocean can be extremely rough
- Port Arthur Historic Site
- Remarkable Cave
- Tasmania Devil Unzoo
- Tessellated Pavement
- Port Arthur Lavender Farm