If you are a fossil collector, rock hunter, or have an interest in geology, Fossil Bluff in Tasmania is a must-see destination. It is classified as a state geological monument, and is surrounded by other geological wonders.
Fossil Bluff is a sandstone bluff with layers of fossils encased in the stone. It is washed by the waves of the Bass Strait, a stretch of ocean which separates Tasmania from mainland Australia. This bluff was beneath the sea in the Oligocene geological period (about 38 million years ago), and it lies on top of layers of tillite which were deposited by glaciers in the Permian period (about 280 million years ago). You can walk around the bluff at low tide and see where the sandstone and tillite meet. Some of the layers of sandstone are rich in fossils, while others are not, showing the different climatic conditions that occurred during the millions of years of the Oligocene period. The fossils are not dissimilar to many of the shells you will find washed up on beaches today.
Unfortunately, you are not permitted to take specimens of fossils from the Bluff.
During low tide you can walk around the Fossil Bluff and along the beach to the Silver Gull rookery at the mouth of the Inglis River. Little Penguins, also known as Fairy Penguins, nest along most of the shoreline and from September to February, and you can find their nesting areas by looking for telltale signs of their excrement. Never disturb the penguins, as their numbers appear to be declining, probably because of the proximity to the Wynyard Golf Club which sits on top of Fossil Bluff. Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) is the smallest species of penguin, at 43 cm (16 inches) tall, and is found only on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand
To the west of Fossil Bluff is Table Cape, which is a circular volcanic plug with a northern face rising 170 metres (560 feet) above the sea. The volcanic soil on the cape grows a variety of crops and is regarded to be the richest agricultural soil in Tasmania. The basalt is approximately 13.3 million years old which, in geological terms, is recent.
East and west of the beach and at intervals for many kilometres to the east is a low flat gray rock. This is the Wynyard Tillite, about 280 million years old, which was formed in the geological Permian period. It was formed in the age of glaciations while Australia was part of the super continent called Gondwana. The glaciers flowed from the south towards the north and when they were melting and reached areas of depression they slowed down, and dropped the rocks they were carrying. Over time, mud covered the rocks, which became a mudstone conglomerate. You can find (and keep) granites, cherts, quartz, jaspers and agates in the tillite, and on the beach as small pebbles.
Fossil Bluff is only 3 kilometres (2 miles) from the city of Wynyard, Tasmania. It is at the tip of the promontory formed by the Inglis River where it meets Bass Strait. Wynyard is on a direct flight from Melbourne, or 40 minutes by car to the terminus for the Spirit of Tasmania ferry from Melbourne to Devonport. Redline Bus services are available to Wynyard from Hobart / Launceston / Devonport.
The main street in Wynyard has all facilities… restaurant, cafes, chemist, fresh fish at Wynyard Wharf, supermarket, butcher, post office and newsagent with a variety of shops to browse, on line access centres at the Local Library and also at the Wonders of Wynyard Information Centre.