Between Victoria and Tasmania, amongst the wild waves of the Bass Strait are two unique little islands that you might not have heard of before – King Island and Flinders Island. Each wildly different in their own ways, these two islands are home to small populations of mostly farmers and fishermen, with tiny main streets of maybe 6 or so shops, unexpectedly beautiful beaches, incredible local produce and an abundance of wildlife.
You can often spot wild turkeys and peacocks running through the fields of King Island, while it’s not uncommon to see wombats burrowing along the side of the road on Flinders Island. King Island offers incredible cheeses and steak, while Flinders Island often has a menu of delicious fresh seafood. Whilst geographically close to each other, it’s quite surprising just how different these two islands are.
So how do you choose which one to visit? With similar price points and weather throughout the year, it can be difficult to decide which one you should visit. So we’ve broken it down for you, the best of both King and Flinders Island to help you make your decision.
Getting there with Sharp Airlines
Sharp Airlines is the main airline connecting Victoria and Tasmania to King Island and Flinders Island. They have regular flights between Melbourne (Essendon) Airport, as well as Launceston, Burnie and Hobart. The flight from Essendon Airport was only around an hour to each of the islands. The process of checking in at Essendon Airport was an absolute dream, a quiet little airport with no lines, no security and just a short wait before you’re able to board the plane.
A fleet of 19-seater Sharp Airline Metroliners make the short flights to and from the islands, which have one seat on each side of the aisle, three across the back and no overhead compartments – all hand luggage must stay under the seat in front of you or at your feet during the flight, so it’s best to only bring a small bag. With so few seats, flights often book out well in advance, especially for weekends, so make sure you plan in advance for your visit.
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Book your trip: sharpairlines.com
Sitting about halfway between Tasmania and Victoria, at the western end of the Bass Strait is a unique little place called King Island. Known for its fresh local produce, with particularly delectable cheese, steak and crayfish, King Island was so much more than we imagined. It’s home to deserted white sand beaches, stretching as far as the eye can see, rolling green hills covered in cattle, sheep, wild turkeys and peacocks, jagged coastlines and shipwrecks dotted all around the island. It also boasts some of Australia’s best golf, with three courses to choose from.
Larger than you might expect, King Island is approximately 64 kilometres long and 27 kilometres wide. It takes just under an hour to get from Cape Wickham in the north down to Grassy in the south, with the main town of Currie sitting almost in the middle. It’s essentially an island country town, where everyone knows everyone, the main street has just six shops and the farmer fills in for the butcher when he’s on holiday. You’ll feel like a local as soon as you arrive, with a wave from every car you pass on the road.
Things to do on King Island
- Spend the day at one of King Island’s stunning beaches. Disappointment Bay is a definite favourite, with large red coloured boulders scattered across the sand. Little Porky Beach and Lavinia Beach are also great spots, with strong powerful waves, so be careful if you go swimming.
- For a calm, peaceful swimming spot, check out Penny’s Lagoon, a rare ‘suspended lake’ (one of only three in the world), where the freshwater is held by compacted sand and organic matter. There’s no stream or underground aquifer that feeds into or flows out of the lake.
- To taste some of the best of King Island, head to King Island Brewhouse (Thursday to Sunday) for a tasting paddle of their latest brews and views over the hills. Or pop into King Island Distillery (Wednesday to Sunday) offers tastings of their bespoke gin, vodka and whiskey and distillery tours.
- You can’t miss an afternoon cheese plate at the King Island Dairy (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday). There’s tastings at the Cheese Store, we highly recommend the baked brie and a glass of wine, it’s absolutely delicious.
- Head south to Seal Rocks to check out some epic views of the rugged coatline. A short boardwalk takes you to lookout with waves crashing onto the rocks below. While you’re here, check out the unique calcified forest, the remains of an ancient forest that’s more than 7000 years old. An easy 1.3 kilometre (return) walk will take you there, with views across the forest at the halfway point.
- Check out the Cape Wickham Lighthouse, standing tall on the northern point of the island. At 48 metres tall it is actually the tallest lighthouse in Australia, guarding King Island since 1861.
- Play a round of golf at one of the most exciting golfing destinations in the world. With two 18 hole courses on the island – Ocean Dunes and Cape Wickham, and a 9 hole course in the heart of Currie, you could easily spend your whole trip on the green.
- Head to Grassy Harbour at dusk to watch the resident fairy penguin population coming out of the water to their nests for the night. Thousands of penguins come in from the water each night, waddling their way across the road to the shrubbery as the sun sets. When you get to the harbour follow the signs around to the penguin colony. For the best chance of viewing the penguins, park your car across the road, close to one of the small lamp posts that line the road and wait for them to come out. Before you know it, the whole road seems to be lined with penguins!
Where to eat on King Island
When you arrive on King Island make sure you pick up a ‘What’s Happening On King Island This Week?’ flyer from the airport, for all the most up to date opening hours of restaurants and eateries on the island.
- Wild Harvest (everyday, booking essential) offers a can’t miss dining experience, with a seasonal menu of local produce that changes throughout the year.
- View Dining (Tuesday to Sunday) located in the King Island Golf & Bowling Club offers a great modern menu, with sweeping views over the ocean and the golf course.
- The King Island Bakehouse is open daily (times vary), stock up on homemade pies and sweet treats for the day before you head out on your adventures.
- The King Island Hotel is open for lunch and dinner every day, with a great pub menu, or head to the Grassy Club for a buffet meal with the local miners.
- Make sure you grab a steak from the King Island Butchery to cook up yourself, best steak on the island.
- For a completely unique and very King Island dining experience, grab your own food and take it down to The Boathouse (at the end of Lighthouse Street). Known as the ‘restaurant with no food’ this little boathouse sits on the rocky shore of Currie Harbour and is spectacularly designed and decorated by local artists.
Where to stay on King Island
There are plenty of different options when deciding where to stay on King Island, from luxury beach front holiday homes to budget motel rooms and everything in between. To stay right in the heart of the action, check out a self-contained A-frame cabin at Island Breeze Motel. Only a short walk or drive from Currie and with beautiful views over the hills, these little cabins are not only super cute, but have everything you will need for your visit, including their own kitchen, laundry and outdoor deck.
For the ultimate luxury stay you can’t go past Bass Lodge and Shore House. With their beachfront locations, set on the dunes and overlooking the ocean, these houses are exquisitely designed, both with their own fireplaces, private outdoor saunas and sunken timber hot tubs, offering a complete sanctuary during your visit. There are also plenty of options for families and larger groups travelling together.
The eastern side of Bass Strait is home to the Furneaux Group of islands, the largest of which is Flinders Island. Floating alongside the other 50 or so mostly uninhabited islands that make up this archipelago, Flinders Island is a wild place, with rugged granite mountains sitting alongside perfectly calm clear bays, the Darling Ranges running through the middle of the island, wombats burrowing on the side of the road and an incredible food scene.
Tasmania’s largest island (and Australia’s 6th largest island), Flinders Island is about 75 kilometres long and 40 metres wide. More than 65 shipwrecks are dotted along the 120 stunning beaches that make up the coastline of Flinders Island, which you will likely find you have all to yourself to explore. It’s home to just a thousand people, mainly farmers and fishermen, all of whom will give you a wave as you drive past. There is also a small Aboriginal community of around 70 people who live on Cape Barren Island, also known by its Indigenous name Truwana, just south of Lady Barron.
Things to do on Flinders Island
Spend your time exploring the island at your own pace, driving the dirt roads between beaches and lookouts, stopping whenever something catches your eye.
- Check out the epic beaches in the north, including Killiecrankie Bay and Palana Beach. On the way up to Palana Beach make sure you keep an eye out for wombats along the side of the road.
- Head up to Walkers Lookout for a 360 degree view of the island, including the Darling Ranges rising up through the middle.
- The Furneaux Distillery have created Australia’s Maritime Whisky and Untamed Gin, truly flavours of the island. Sitting within the Flinders Wharf, you can visit the distillery for a tour or a tasting by appointment (call 0438 025 705).
- Take a drive out to Patriarch Wildlife Sanctuary, a volunteer-run conservation reserve, where you can get up close with wallabies, wombats and cape barren geese.
- Pop into the Unavale Vineyard (11am – 4pm daily) to try some of Flinders Island’s local wines.
- Check out Trouser Point Beach for arguably one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, as well as the neighbouring Fotheringate Beach and explore the surrounding Strzelecki National Park.
- Tackle the coastal walk from All Ports Beach to the spectacular Castle Rock, a massive, orange lichen-covered granite boulder standing tall along the beach of Marshall Bay Conservation area.
- Head to Yellow Beach for a great swimming and snorkelling spot to spend an afternoon in the water or to check out the views across Franklin Sound.
Where to eat on Flinders Island
No matter where you choose to eat on Flinders Island you’re sure to have a good meal, with menus full of fresh local produce.
- The Flinders Wharf is the perfect place to start with a seasonal menu full of local produce, located right on the jetty with views of the water.
- Grab some fresh fish and chips or check out the specials from the colourful Flinders Island Food Van 7255 (12pm – 4pm Thursday to Sunday).
- Cate Cooks (Wednesday to Saturday) is a small tuckshop and cafe that is the go to for a morning coffee fix and take-away meals.
- Interstate Hotel Bistro (breakfast daily, lunch Monday to Friday, dinner Monday to Saturday) in the centre of Whitemark offers an extensive menu with great pub meals.
- Down south in Lady Barron, the Furneaux Tavern offers lunch and dinner daily, with a cosy little dining room and great outdoor space overlooking the water.
Where to stay on Flinders Island
There are two main areas to stay on Flinders Island, the central hub and main town of Whitemark, and the smaller seaside town of Lady Barron. Both offer basic accommodation styles, with easy access to restaurant options and small local stores. But the best way to experience Flinders Island is by booking one of their boutique holiday homes. Popping up all over the island are incredible unique little stays, from beach houses to farm stays and mountain lodges immersed in nature and beautifully designed.
If you’re planning to camp on Flinders Island, you can find campgrounds at All Ports, Yellow Beach, Trouser Point and North East River. You will need to be fully self-sufficient when camping.
When to go
The summer and autumn months are the best time to visit the islands, when the weather is warmer, days are longer and you’re likely to have great conditions for exploring. The warmer days offer swimming and snorkelling weather so you can hop between the beaches, with outdoor live entertainment at the pubs and breweries, and there is little rainfall.
The Festival of King Island (also known as FOKI) is held on the first weekend of February each year in the natural amphitheatre of Currie Harbour. Plan your visit over this weekend for two days of live music, a 100 metre water slide, raft races, pie-eating competitions and all kinds of other activities to celebrate King Island. Some of the other annual island events include the King Island Show (first Tuesday in March), King Island Golf Open (November long weekend) and Pheasant Weekend (June, Queen’s Birthday long weekend).
The third weekend in January on Flinders Island is the Furneaux Islands Festival, which celebrates island community, culture, food and music with plenty of events across three days. A highlight of the festival is Sunday’s Community BBQ Day with live music, entertainment for the kids, culture circles and a delicious BBQ lunch by local chefs.
How to decide
There’s really no wrong choice here, both islands offer incredible landscapes, beautiful beaches and few people to share them with. There are gorgeous boutique accommodation choices on both islands, great food and drinks to enjoy and plenty of quiet country roads to explore. Choosing will really just come down to what you hope to experience during your visit.
We had an incredible time on both King and Flinders Island, it’s definitely worth adding both of them to your bucket list.
We visited King Island and Flinders Island in collaboration with Sharp Airlines. All opinions are, as always, our own.
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