Bass Strait Escape

Palana Beach, Flinders Island, TAS. © Tourism Tasmania & Steve Lovegrove

Bass Strait Escape

Swap mainland stress for the clean air, empty beaches, historic shipwrecks and rich wildlife on Tasmania’s Flinders and King Islands.

Need a break from the rat race? If Tasmania has a slower pace than mainland Australia, on the islands of the Bass Strait you can drop back another couple of gears.

Geologically, not much has changed on Flinders Island since before the last Ice Age, when the island was part of a land bridge linking Tasmania to mainland Australia.  It wasn’t until 1773, 12,000 years later, that Tobias Furneaux first glimpsed Flinders and the 51 islands around it. He had become separated from the Endeavour in a furious fog but stumbled onto something better.

Today you’ll get a much clearer view of this tiny island jewel, which is just 64 kilometres long and 29 kilometres wide. Watch out for the pink and grey granite cliffs of Mount Strzelecki and Mount Killiecrankie, and the small streams, coastal sand dunes and gentle green farmland. Fly in from Launceston or jump on a ferry from Bridport. If you’re arriving from Victoria, you can fly from Moorabbin or boat in from Port Welshpool.

Only 900 people live on Flinders Island and most of the time you can pretend they’re not here. You’re more likely to run into the furred and feathered residents: wallabies and wombats; tiny wren and giant wandering albatross. Walk to the eastern lagoons and inlets, where thousands of migratory birds break up their long haul flight to the Arctic Circle. In the sea you can dive for giant crabs and crays and spot seals, dolphins and visiting whales.

Bass and Flinders explored Flinders Island by boat and foot in 1798 and 1799, and today old-fashioned walking is still the best way to get around. Climb to the top Mount Strzelecki in Strzelecki National Park.  Walk long, unspoiled beaches strewn with giant, orange-lichen covered boulders and hunt for the topaz they call a Killiecrankie ‘diamond’. Real explorers always leave with treasure.

Base yourself in the small towns of Whitemark and Lady Barron or the settlements of Emita and Killiecrankie. Stay in beachside cottages, friendly pubs, bed and breakfasts or pamper yourself at a health spa.  After rations and rocking galleys, Captain Cook and his crew would have appreciated a good organic meal and relaxing massage. 

For old-fashioned relaxation, you’ll also love King Island. It sits 80 kilometres north-east of Tasmania, in the path of wild westerly winds called the Roaring Forties. You’ll de-stress with every breath of the clean, invigorating air.

Discovered in 1797, the island was once known for its plentiful seals which were hunted close to extinction. The high rainfall, lush pastures and metal deposits also lured hopeful farmers, miners and other settlers.  Today, it’s the empty beaches, offshore reefs, lighthouses, shipwrecks, seafood and dairy that draw tourists to the proud community of 1,000.

Dive into the island’s maritime history at more than 70 shipwreck sites. Go game fishing and watch the local cray fishermen and abalone divers drag their rich catches onto shore. Visit the famous King Island Dairies, where you can sample the flagship thick cream and fine brie while learning about hand-made cheese making and its history.

Visit the Lavinia Nature Reserve and spot wallabies, elusive platypus and birdlife from rare orange bellied parrots to grand sea eagles.  You’ll be more excited than an 18th century botanist over the teeming wildlife. Afterwards, head to Currie, the island’s harbourside commercial centre.  Watch fishing boats dock while you dine on succulent, just-caught crayfish. Life on an almost-deserted island has never been so relaxing.

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