Tasmania's islands boast sweeping beaches, dramatic coastlines and abundant wildlife.
By Ellie Schneider
Explore five of Tasmania's islands – Flinders, Macquarie, Bruny, Maria and King – and immerse yourself in the glittering beaches, rugged ranges and unique flora and fauna that these idylls have to offer.
Flinders Island, off Tasmania's north-east coast, is the main island of the Ferneaux group, a collection of 52 islands that stretch across Bass Strait between Tasmania and mainland Australia. Flinders Island can be reached via a scenic flight from Launceston or ferry from Bridport, and offers fantastic bushwalking, turquoise waters and abundant wildlife. For breathtaking coastal views take the four to five-hour return walk to the granite massifs of Strzelecki Peaks. Or on the shore, follow the 1.5-hour trail to Castle Rock, which is spectacular at sunset. Pack a picnic hamper with quality local produce from Flinders Island Fresh in Whitemark before you go. North East River is a favourite spot for fishing and you can book a Rockjaw Tour to catch the famous Flinders Island crayfish. Other activities include diving or a round of golf overlooking the beautiful scenery at the Flinders Island Sports Club. Stay for the weekend at the beachfront Sawyers Bay Shacks, with views across Bass Strait and Mount Strzelecki.
Macquarie Island, known as "Macca" to Tasmanians, is an extraordinary subantarctic island about 1500 kilometres (930 miles) south of Tasmania, halfway to Antarctica. This World Heritage site isn’t populated by humans, and offers a unique wildlife experience. Access is by expedition cruise only. It's a midway stopover point for long voyages, which depart Tasmania's capital city of Hobart heading for East Antarctica, or is a destination in its own right for shorter subantarctic voyages. Macquarie Island is one of only a few islands in this rugged part of the world where native fauna can breed. About 3.5 million seabirds and 70,000 elephant seals arrive on Macquarie Island each year to breed and moult. There is also a growing population of fur seals and a large colony of king penguins, which gather on the shore and slopes at Lusitania Bay on the east coast of the island.
Windswept Bruny Island is about 360 square kilometres (138 square miles) in size, divided by a narrow, sandy isthmus known as the Neck, which is one of its key attractions. Make your way up the timber staircase for an incredible view of Adventure Bay. Or take in the magical coastline from the sea on a wilderness cruise and look out for Bruny Island's dolphins, fur seals and fairy penguins. The island offers numerous swimming and surf beaches, as well as the forested South Bruny National Park. Explore the wilderness on the five-hour Labillardiere Peninsula circuit or the 30-minute Mavista Nature Walk, keeping an eye out for white wallabies. If you're a nature and bird lover, book an Inala nature tour. Bruny Island is also a great food and wine destination. Sample artisan cheese at the Bruny Island Cheese Co and freshly shucked oysters at Get Shucked. Then indulge in handmade fudge and chocolate at Bruny Island Providore. To reach Bruny Island, catch the short car ferry from the town of Kettering, 30 to 40 minutes drive south of Hobart.
Beautifully rugged King Island lies 80 kilometres (50 miles) north-west of mainland Tasmania. Its 145 kilometres (90 miles) of coastline stretches along Bass Strait, and is home to unique seabirds and wildlife. The island is well known for its produce, with numerous beef and dairy farms (King Island Dairy cheese is a must), and seafood that is sourced by restaurants the world over. Follow one of King Island's many walking trails, either guided or self-guided, to get off the beaten track. See the tallest lighthouse in the Southern Hemisphere (Cape Wickham Lighthouse on King Island's northern tip), or the partial remains of the Shannon shipwreck, on picturesque Yellow Rock Beach. Avid surfers flock to King Island for its numerous breaks, such as at Martha Lavinia Beach, and King Island Surf Safaris offers tours for up to seven people that include a chartered aircraft, accommodation on the island and 4WD access to all the great surfing spots. King Island is also home to three world-class golf courses: Ocean Dunes, Cape Wickham and King Island Golf Club.
With no cars and no shops, Maria Island, just off Tasmania's East Coast, is a haven for rare wildlife. Don't be surprised if you spot the swift parrot, Cape Barren goose or Tasmanian devil as you explore sparkling beaches, steep cliffs and the island's convict heritage. You can also experience the island on foot with the four-day, three-night Maria Island Walk. Along the way you'll discover tall stands of aromatic blue gum trees, 300-million-year-old shell fossils embedded in limestone cliffs, white talcum-powder beaches, lichen covered boulders, and soaring dolerite columns, as well as more wombats than you are likely to see anywhere else on Earth. Each night your efforts are rewarded with gourmet food and wine and a comfortable bed.