An island off an island off an island is about as far as you can get from everything – and that’s exactly the point. Kirsten Galliott shares why Flinders Island is Tasmania's most underrated hidden gem, highlighting the best things to do, as well as where you should eat, drink, and stay while you're there.
“It’s Freycinet without the crowds,” says Tom Ambroz, who spends his days on Flinders Island foraging for botanicals to use in Furneaux Distillery’s award-winning gin. “The topography where mountains meet beaches is amazing.”
“It’s an incredibly special place,” says Jo Youl, who divides her time between the family cattle farm and The Flinders Wharf, the seafood-focused restaurant she set up in 2019. “Some guests have described it as Freycinet on steroids.”
Are you getting the drift? Flinders Island, at the top of Tasmania and the bottom of Bass Strait, is strewn with hidden bays where oversized boulders are licked with tangerine lichen. It’s fringed by water that’s as blue as a peacock’s chest. And the granite mountains that hover over it are rugged enough to give the island its impressive form but not so imposing that you can’t climb them.
Little wonder it was originally called Great Island. Renamed in the 1800s for explorer Matthew Flinders, the island is now home to some 1000 people who have more than 120 beaches at their disposal and an ocean that practically spits crayfish for much of the year.
Don’t expect a lot in the way of infrastructure or amenities. There are only a few places to eat. There’s not a lot of shopping and accommodation doesn’t extend to five-star hotels.
None of that matters a jot as you wander down a path to a secret beach and spy a wombat waddling to its burrow. This holiday is about diving into crystal-clear (and crystal-cold) water and tramping across coastal tracks. It’s about scaling mountains and keeping an eye out for the distinctive Cape Barren goose. It’s about making a Tasmanian secret your own.
Things to do
Discover a deserted beach
Some of the beaches on Flinders are tourist attractions in their own right (and yes, you do need to go to the wonderfully named Trousers Point on the south-west coast, have a barbecue and take the coastal walk to Fotheringate Beach). Others reward exploration, such as pristine Sawyers Beach or Allports Beach. Marshall Bay is your gateway to Castle Rock, an enormous granite boulder that is best viewed as the light changes at sunset.
Climb Mount Killiecrankie… or the Strzelecki Peaks
How energetic are you feeling? It’s a long, steep walk to the top of the range that reigns over the southern end of the island – the Strzelecki Peaks, named for the Polish explorer – and you’ll need to allow four to five hours return. It's worth it for knockout views across the Strait to the mainland. On the north of the island, Mount Killiecrankie is also steep but it’s an easier, shorter walk (three hours return) and the views are almost as good.
Walk to Stacky’s Bight
The only way to get into this secluded bay is on foot from Killiecrankie Beach (and if you’re lucky, you might be able to watch a fur seal frolic in the water as you walk). A rocky arch, a hidden beach, turquoise waters – this is one of the most picturesque spots on the island.
Hit the east coast
The wetlands of the east are a magnet for animals, from the wallabies at Patriarch Inlet to the swans, ducks and geese at Cameron Inlet. There’s plenty of good fishing here, too – just keep watch for hungry stingrays.
Where to stay
Jo Youl used to spend childhood holidays on Flinders at her grandparents’ property, Quoin Farm. Now she and her builder husband, Tom, have taken over the 1200-hectare cattle farm and converted the old shearing shed into the very chic holiday house Wombat Lodge.
The three-bedroom cottage is a short walk to a private beach and features a fully decked-out kitchen, a wood heater and a bath overlooking Mount Killiecrankie. Breakfast provisions (including local bread and honey) are supplied and the minibar features everything from Olde Spikey Bridge peanut butter (a Tassie favourite) to Furneaux Distillery’s gin, vodka and whisky.
Grab a bottle of wine from the fridge and make the 30-minute walk to “the bar”, a spot halfway up Mount Killiecrankie where you can take it all in. Jo and Tom run three other properties – a studio at the farm called Dwarfs Cottage that sleeps two, plus two beach shacks at Killiecrankie called Crayshack and Killiecrankie Beach House – and can organise “feed me” menus that cover breakfast, lunch and dinner (and may include honey from Quoin Farm or cray plucked from the local waters).
Where to eat
The Flinders Wharf, which also houses Furneaux Distillery, is the best place to eat – and drink – on the island, offering a share-plates menu that features everything from local seafood to Scottsdale pork burgers. “This island has changed how I think of produce,” says “castaway chef” Mikey Yeo, who arrived two years ago after stints on Green Island in Queensland and Rottnest Island in Western Australia.
“While I’m in the kitchen, I’ll chuck a line in and come back a few hours later and hope for the best. I caught a two-kilo squid off the wharf today.”
For coffee, housemade pastries (the rhubarb and custard danishes are highly recommended) and hot lunch options (such as slow-braised brisket soft tacos), head to Cate Cooks in Whitemark on the west coast from Wednesday to Saturday.
On weekends, the Food Van pops up at the Furneaux Museum from 11am to 3pm (check their Facebook page) with a selection of cakes and coffee, as well as more substantial offerings such as local fish curries or Chinese honey chicken.
Need to know
The most scenic way to get to Flinders Island is on a 35-minute flight with Flinders Island Aviation from Bridport, an hour’s drive north of Launceston. You’ll definitely need a car to get around – Marianne and Mick at Flinders Island Cabin Park and Car Hire can sort you out. The only mobile coverage on the island is via Telstra.