Pennicott Wilderness Journeys – the Apple of my Isle

“Pennicott Wilderness Journeys” are a family owned Tasmania Tour operator that specialise is showcasing the Tassie wilderness, history, scenery and produce. Founded by Rob Pennicott in 1999, they operate 7 different tours in Tasmania, along with one in Southern Victoria. They employ and train local staff and purchase goods & services from local suppliers wherever possible. They are 100% Carbon Offset and an Advanced Ecotourism Certified operator and are regularly assessed by EarthCheck and have always exceeded world’s best practice standards for efficient fuel, energy and water use.

I had the pleasure of experiencing 2 of their journeys over the past few weeks during my winter trip to Tasmania.

First up was the Seafood Seduction Tour. This tour had been on my #ToDoList for years so I jumped at the chance to get on board with a group of other travel professionals. We met the crew and boat at Hobarts Franklin Wharf and had a brief safety (and common-sense) chat and were on our way towards Bruny Island with glass of Tassie Sparkling in hand – it was only 9am, but the bubbles were welcome to wash down the motion sickness tablets that so the early drinks were medicinal in nature. 

We scooted down the Derwent River with our driver and guide – Hugh & Tim – giving commentary of the sights as we made our way to the western edge of Bruny Island. We anchored in a sheltered bay and watched as the guys prepared our first course of seafood for the day – freshly shucked local oysters. As fresh as you can get, going from Hugh’s skilled hand to our own hands and into our mouths. It was an effort to keep up with his shucking skills, but most of us were happy to slurp up the fresh, sweet oysters as soon as they were handed to us, with even the non-seafood people in our group at least giving them a try – especially the ones Tim cooked up in Tassie Sparkling wine, combining the salty liquor of the oysters and the Jansz for us to enjoy with fresh local bread.

We headed further south along western coast of Bruny Island to a spot the guys said looked promising for fresh Urchin and Abalone. Tim drew the short straw and squeezed into his dry-suit & flippers and gave us a rundown of what he was expecting to find beneath the surface, before he plunged into the 8 degree water for about 25 minutes while Hugh talked up through the next seafood option which was fresh crayfish (lobster) and the many different ways it could be prepared and eaten.

A nice platter of local cheese, olives and breads was put out for us to dig into along with hot & cold smoked local salmon to showcase the variety on offer from local producers. We’d barely put a dent in the platter when Tim resurfaced with his haul. 2 perfectly sized abalone along with 10 spiny, evil looking sea urchins. Hugh showed us how to prepare the bounty with the abalone being presented sashimi style, slow cooked and flash fried with chilly & garlic – all of which were delicious. The sea urchin Uni was one of the best things I have ever tasted. Super fresh, tangy, salty, creamy, buttery explosions of flavour with every bite. Not everyone enjoyed it, so I was happy to take the lot. Spread on bread, on top of a fresh oyster or wrapped in a piece of smoked salmon – I ate them all!

The beer and wine was still flowing when Hugh served up the fresh lobster with the magical tomalley served alongside the meat to dip in as we pleased. We started to make our way back towards Hobart with a stop to have a wander around Bruny Island’s most northern point as one of our group had always wanted to go to Bruny Island so the boys adjusted the usual tour to suit her wishes. Once back on board, more drinks were handed out and Tim cooked up the last of the lobster, abalone and urchin in a spicy, garlic, chilli stir fry that really filled us all to breaking point. We shot back up the river to Hobart as the winter sun was setting – it was a truly magical day and one of the best day tours I have done anywhere on the planet.

A week later, I returned to Hobart on a personal trip and kidnapped my God-daughter from school and we headed to Port Arthur for a Tasman Island Cruise. We checked in and were given rain & wind proof jackets for the day out on the open water. We transferred to Eagle Hawk Neck on a comfortable coach and were split into 2 groups to board our boats. Another quick safety (and common-sense) chat and motion sickness ginger tablet down the hatch and we were on our way around the headland to head south. The sun was out and barley a cloud was to be seen, but the temperature hardly rose above 5 degrees, so we were thankful for the extra layers of protective jacket and the beanie I bought at the check in office.

The 2 boats took turns to head into the caves and bays around the peninsular with expert commentary from our guides – I have no idea how he was still getting around in thongs in the freezing conditions – I guess they breed them tough (or crazy) down south. We spotted a pack of sea lions basking in the sun and got up close to one of the amazing waterfalls pouring straight into the ocean. We missed seeing any whales, but the same tour the day before and after ours were treated to a show of breaching humpbacks with the itinerarys being changed to allow time to sit and watch these huge creatures. 

We zipped further south around the coast and saw the amazing cliff and rock formations of Cape Hauy and Cape Pillar, plus the highest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere – absolutely stunning when viewed from sea level! We rounded Tasman Island and saw the dock and cable system used to ferry supplies to the former light house keepers who once lived on this tiny piece of rock. We continued around the peninsular and made up way up past the Port Arthur Historic site before docking at Stewarts Bay Lodge before heading back to Hobart.

This was another magical day out, and if you decide to join one of Pennicott’s tours please take the offered ginger motion sickness tablets, even if you think that you don’t get motion sickness. The only people on our boat who got crook were the ones that didn’t take the tablets.

These 2 day trips with Pennicott Wilderness Journey’s were both amazing experiences and I can highly recommend them to anyone who wants to experience the amazing Tasmanian coastline, wilderness and produce. The guides are total professionals who love having a chat & spinning a yarn, and the boats are comfortable, safe and stable. A tour with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys should be on every itinerary to The Apple Isle.

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