King Island, Tasmania
As a pilot it is always a thrill to visit places that are only accessible by aircraft. Between Victoria and Tasmania lies King Island, completely surrounded by sea and only easily reached by those prepared to spread their wings.
The best beef, cheese and seafood in the country awaits and makes an easy tempter but food is just one thing King Island does well. You might be deterred by the prospect of a chilling climate but King Island is actually milder than either Tasmania or southern Victoria, despite the odd bit of wind and rain.
European history began when Captain Campbell spotted the island in 1797. Many a sailor followed and many perished after shipwrecking near the island. Sealer hunters, soldiers and prospectors all played a part in the final taming of the island and its realisation as a perfect farming land. The King Island Historical Society Museum is housed in what once was the home of the chief lighthouse keeper. The museum collection includes material from shipwrecks and is open daily except in July and August.
History buffs can also head outdoors and explore the King Island Maritime Trail Shipwrecks and Safe Havens, telling stories of the shipwrecks, both heart-breaking and heroic. It also tells of the safe havens set up at Currie and Grassy and of the welcome lighthouses built at Cape Wickham and Currie.
At interpretation sites all around the island, memorial cairns will give you an insight into the lives of those shipwrecked, the brave rescuers and the lighthouse keepers who worked tirelessly through the night to make the King Island waters safe. As you follow the maritime trail, you’ll find yourself transported back to the days when travel by ship was a risky business.
Eventually you’ll get hungry and the one thing everybody knows about King Island – the seafood, beef, pork, bakery and dairy products are exceptional. In season try their succulent rock lobster more commonly called crayfish. There are magnificent local Sea Elephant oysters, giant King crabs and fresh local scale fish.
King Island Dairy has developed an enviable reputation as a maker of some of the world’s finest produce. The King Island Dairy range includes Brie, Camembert, a range of Cheddar, Washed Rind, Triple Cream, Blue, Crème Fraiche, Pure Cream, Ricotta and Mascarpone. For pure indulgence, try King Island Dairy’s Black Label range. All milk for the product is sourced from King Island dairy farmers whose cows are famous for their unique quality of milk. King Island is one of the few areas in Australia and indeed the world, where cows graze all year round.
With the nutritional benefits of seaweeds widely proclaimed, local couple Dennis and Peta Klumpp sought ways to tap this largely neglected resource. Dennis’ background in industrial chemistry and his passion for creating interesting culinary dishes led to the creation of four unique kelp based products – Kelp Chutney, Hot Kelp Pickles, Kelp Lemon Spread and Hot and spicy Kelp Sauce. Storm cast Bull Kelp is collected from King Island’s beaches, processed and mostly exported to Scotland. Kelp processing has become an important part of King Island’s economy. Visit the Kelp Information Room at the factory or view the harvesters at work along the foreshore near Currie. Open 8am – 4pm Monday to Friday, or by appointment.
And then there is the beef. Not much needs to be said because it’s all in the eating. Vegetarian fed cows that graze the succulent King Island pastures and are processed right on the island to Meat Standards Australia (MSA) standards.
King Island produce, particularly smoked beef and salamis, have a reputation all of their own. Local butcher, John Boschetto of Grassy Harbour Gourmet Meat produces a range of Italian fine cuts which includes Prosciutto, Capocollo, Salami and Mortadella. Grassy Harbour Gourment Meat also has smoked King Island eel and smoked black back salmon as well as a range of fresh meat lines and sausages including marinated King Island lamb.
King Island is also famous for its 7000 Year Old Calcified Forest. The 7000 year old remains are all that’s left of an ancient forest, revealed when the lime-laden sand which had covered and preserved the stumps has been exposed over the years from the constant Roaring Forties storms from the Southern Ocean.
Think about flying in for the annual King Island Race Club horse racing carnival season that begins in early December and continues past New Year’s Day. In March there is the Imperial 20, a 20-mile (32km) footrace whose 1hr 28min record is held by Steve Moneghetti and attracts an increasing number of high profile national runners. Alternatively you can sail in during the Melbourne to Grassy Yacht Race, also in March.
The airport is about 15 minutes drive from Currie and regular flights are available with King Island Airlines, Regional Express and Shortstop Jet Charter. Tasair can fly you from Burnie or Devenport.
Cheapa Car Rentals or King Island Car Rentals can lend you some wheels or you can get a taxi to town. There is no public transport on King Island. Tours of the Island are available through a number of operators.
Mobile phone reception is limited to Next G (Telstra) on King Island. If you wish to stay in contact with family, friends or work mobile telephones are available for temporary hire on the island.
King Island can put you up in one of many B&B’s, farm stays, hotels and motels, self contained apartments, farm cottages, holiday houses and units. Advance bookings are strongly recommended all year. If you have not pre-booked accommodation and plan to stay overnight between December and March you are advised to ring in advance and secure accommodation prior to flying to King Island. Accommodation enquiries and bookings can be made through the Visitor Information Centre.