There are wombats to spot, a beach for every bottom and a food scene to rival Bruny Island’s... Jo McKay reckons she’s found paradise and is ready to share her spoils.
Things to do:
Flinders Island Adventures
Lindsay and James Luddington, who’ve called the island home for more than 40 years, through Flinders Island Adventures they offer four-wheel drive and walking tours, as well as boating excursions for keen fishers and those wanting to explore the surrounding islands.
Flinders Island Aviation and Unique Charters
Get an aerial perspective with Flinders Island Aviation who offer with an hour-long scenic flight (plane or helicopter) over the shallows, shoals and aquamarine waters of the Furneaux Group.
Born-and-bred islander Chris Rhodes runs onshore and offshore fishing trips. Join his crayfish tour to learn how to set and pull craypots or plan your trip for a full moon, when you can try landing a gummy shark.
Perfect for a tipple at the end of the day, the Furneaux Tavern in Lady Barron is for locals and visitors alike. Fellow patrons will happily share intel on their favourite island hangouts and the entire bar has unimpeded views of Franklin Sound.
Looking out over Killiecrankie Bay
Places to Stay:
HOT TIP: Few eateries open at night so self-catering accommodation is your best bet. Here, we share three of the best options.
The Cray Shack
A beach house on the waterfront in Killiecrankie, The Cray Shack has two bedrooms, a media room (which can be used as an extra kids’ bedroom) and an inviting deck overlooking the water. The larder is stocked by A Taste of Flinders and while the bathroom facilities are outside, the views from the shower cubicle are incredible.
This two-bed, two-bath holiday home is set on four hectares of bush, with walking access to Blue Rocks Beach and views of Arthur Bay. There’s an open living area and a well-stocked chef’s kitchen, plus snorkelling gear, kayaks and beach towels.
West End Beach House
This architect-designed eco home is set on a 10-hectare beachfront property. The living areas and bedrooms open onto decks, while a large, Romanstyle tub takes centre stage in the bathroom. A fully equipped kitchen lets you make the most of the local produce.
The Full Story:
I’ve come to Flinders – a 1300-square-kilometre landmass made mostly of bushland, mountains and undulating farmland – for a laid-back escape with no schedule. Just four days of exploration. Before arriving, I knew Flinders was the largest isle in the Furneaux Group, a cluster of 52 islands between Wilsons Promontory in Victoria and Tasmania’s north-eastern tip. I also knew it was a haven for bushwalkers, birdwatchers and fishing enthusiasts. Recently, I’d heard murmurs, too, about a growing food scene. In April, the inaugural Food & Crayfish Festival attracted 160 people over one weekend, taking up more than a third of the island’s accommodation in one hit.
Three Blue Ducks chef Mark LaBrooyat the Food & Crayfish festival
But I confess: I never expected Flinders Island to offer such inviting coastal landscapes. Its location, bifurcated by the 40th parallel south commonly associated with the roaring forties, led me to assume it would be all blustery winds and biting cold. And yes, it can deliver that. My first afternoon here was one of extreme gusts and constant showers. But today, with gentle breezes and strong March sunshine, I could even consider swimming (average water temperatures at this time of year are about 17°C to 20°C). Alas, I have not packed a swimsuit. But sitting on my deserted beach, does that even matter?
As I contemplate skinny-dipping, I make a mental note to thank the kind locals who had suggested I explore the Trousers Point area. As it turns out, Flinders Island is the kind of place where listening to the inhabitants pays dividends. About 830 people reside here and most are proud advocates for the isle.
A front row view of Trousers Point Beach
As well as snorkelling and swimming, nearly everyone suggests beachcombing so I dedicate hours to wandering the seafronts, in northern spots like The Docks, Palana Beach, Killiecrankie and Holloway Point and on other beauties, such as Allports, Marshall and Sawyers. I marvel at the granite formations that punctuate the sandy strips, including the mammoth boulder at Castle Rock with its striking horizontal slash. A few others recommend Walkers Lookout so I drive up the steep bush-lined road late one afternoon and am treated to 360-degree views and a burning sunset.
From Lois Ireland, whose family has run the general store in Whitemark, E.M. Bowman & Co (03 6359 2008), for 97 years, I get bushwalking tips: 756-metre Strzelecki Peak is king, she says, but she also rates Pillingers Peak and the new walks around Killiecrankie. Her daughter, Claire, who’s recently returned to Flinders with her South Australian husband and young family, eagerly recommends the Furneaux Museum in Emita. I subsequently lose an entire afternoon poring over flotsam from shipwrecks, as well as whale bones, paper nautilus shells and other scientific and natural specimens. I make a visit, too, to the sombre Wybalenna Chapel, a tribute to Tasmania’s Aboriginal people who were cruelly relocated here in the 1800s.
Back in the main township of Whitemark (population about 300), Margaret Wheatley tells me about diamond fossicking in Killiecrankie. At her shop, Killiecrankie Enterprises, you can hire sand-sieving gear for finding topaz – charmingly known as “diamonds” to all who live here.
Whitemark itself is a quaint country town that’s no more than a few streets in size but, along with E.M. Bowman & Co and Killiecrankie Enterprises, there’s a pub, supermarket and two art galleries featuring local artists, plus a thriving café and deli, A Taste of Flinders, where residents queue each morning for barista-made coffee. Owner Jo Youl plans to open a bigger café and provedore on the wharf in Whitemark by the end of the year (she’s also the dynamo behind the Food & Crayfish Festival, now set to be an annual event).
Sensing my interest in the island’s food scene, Jo steers me to another gourmet haunt, Flinders Island Condimental (0438 560 184), 250 metres from her café. There, I browse shelves laden with organic dried goods and owner Jon Hizzard’s relishes and hot sauces. He and his wife, Alison, also sell homemade organic sourdough and on Wednesdays the scent of their freshly baked pies and quiches fills the streets of Whitemark.
Casual encounters with wildlife pepper my happily unstructured days. At The Cray Shack in Killiecrankie, where I’m staying, a pair of French doors opens onto a deck and grassy backyard. Each morning when I wake, I see pademelons and wallabies grazing on the lawn against a backdrop of sand and sea. They return at dusk, hopping and nibbling; I enjoy their antics with a G&T in hand as the dipping sun sets Mount Killiecrankie and the ocean ablaze. I’m keen to see wombats, too, and it’s Jo Youl who recommends the scrubby meadows along the dirt road that leads into Killiecrankie. Jackpot. I catch sight of several squat rears scurrying away. Back in the car, I see yet more wallabies in the undergrowth by the side of the road; some even hop alongside the car.
It’s for this reason all vehicles have a bull bar – even my beat-up hired hatchback (circa 2000) has one. Tellingly, the bar is low to the ground and finishes about, well, wallaby height. Mine remains unused – and for that I’m grateful – but it’s a salient point for visitors: driving between dusk and dawn can be fraught. It’s worth slowing down on the roads.
There’s very little to be in a hurry for anyway. Yes, the people here have umpteen suggestions for how best to enjoy their idyllic isle but rushing from one beach to the next, or from lookout to bushwalk, isn’t what they have in mind. Slowing down is what this warm, laid-back community is all about and connecting with locals is part of the charm.
Whitemark resident Annie Revie and her cat, Dominic
At the bare minimum, you’ll get a wave from every driver, some with an economic index finger, others with a more elaborate gesture. “You don’t have the big-city rush,” says tour operator James Luddington. “It’s a bit like stepping back in time.”
On my final afternoon, I decide to try another suggestion from a local resident: Yellow Beach. I explore a few rock pools at the eastern end but the sun is sinking and I don’t have time to walk the entire stretch. I’m sad about this but, in a way, pleased. It means I’ll have to come back. And who knows? Maybe next time I’ll discover that Flinders has more than one beach for me.
Photo credits: Visit Flinders Island & Chris Crerar