King Island Tasmania

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As Ian Johnson puts his mean-looking all-terrain vehicle through its paces, I worry that we have been abducted by a madman, but it’s just the usual thrill-seeking ride that Johnson likes to give visitors as he moves off-road, exploring the rugged coast of King Island in Tasmania.

Our first stop is Porky Beach, a typical wild slash of sand on the west coast where the ocean roars up to the tiny island. A dot on the map in Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania, King Island is probably best known for its dramatic scenery and iconic cheese.

King Island Tasmania

Johnson, who made the island his home 30 years ago, is a man of many talents.

As well as a crazy off-roader, he is a well-versed historian and a good cook.

At the beautiful Seal Rocks State Reserve, his partner Lucinda sets up some smoking trays of local produce.

Johnson swaps the bus for the barbecue and we feast on slow-cooked pheasant with potato, rock cod (caught by him the previous evening) wrapped in local prosciutto and smoked pears drenched in rich King Island cream, all washed down with the poetically named King Island Cloud Juice (filtered rainwater).

King Island 01

Down a short walkway is the strangely haunting lunar-like landscape of a calcified forest, formed by wind and sand more than 7000 years ago.

Seal Rocks Lookout, perched over the treacherous Southern Ocean, swept by the Roaring Forties winds, is where many a ship met its tragic fate.

King Island 07

Today, 1400 people eke out an existence here and the descendants of early settler Elizabeth Bowling, who migrated to the island in the 1780s, are still around.

Johnson really hits his stride as the bus moves into present-day Bowling land, through rocky ravines and across crumbling sand dunes. We pass Collier Swamp, a haven for migratory birds.

We get another welcome break from the wild ride when we stop near the coast at a secret hollow carved out of rock by the constant sea winds.

Here, overlooking a pebbly beach is the perfect spot for a picnic of cheese, fresh from the King Island Dairy, a few kilometres away.

King Island Bakery

That night, feeling a bit saddle sore from the drive, I enjoy a dinner of local produce cooked by good-looking YouTube chef Guy Turland, of Bondi Harvest, who is here to surf.

The next day I explore the small town of Currie. King Island Bakery is famous for its crayfish and shark pies, Russell Meats sells beautiful beef from the island and Foodworks is a good pit-stop for self-catering visitors, with organic vegetables from the Garden King Island and crayfish from King Island Seafoods at the harbour.

The town is lucky to have artist Caroline Kininmonth, who has set up several quirky places to visit, including her pottery, the Seed Garden and the Restaurant with No Food.

The latter was originally a boathouse that she converted into a cosy cafe (you need to bring your own your food) with poignant views of the harbour.

A welcoming fire is burning as we enjoy morning tea and you can use the barbecue outside.

The only provision is that you donate to the honesty duck and do the washing up before you leave.

A visit to the island is not complete without a visit to King Island Dairy.

There, Swiss-born cheesemaker Ueli Berger watches over his constantly maturing family of cheeses.

About 80 workers turn beautiful, fresh, quality milk into soft, blue and cheddar cheeses.

I learn that the island is a great place to make interesting cheese, but a difficult one to distribute from.

Often the Roaring Forties hold up the boat and 
a passenger plane has to be requisitioned and cheeses piled on seats and flown to the mainland.

King Island 05

The trip to the tiny airport is past the kelp factory, where ribbons of seaweed hang on lines like a forest of huge brown belts.

The remote crime-free island is a glimpse into a simpler time when children could run free and food tasted of the soil in which it was grown.

King Island

How to get to King Island?

Rex flies from Melbourne to King Island. King Island Airlines flies from Moorabbin to King Island.

Where to stay on King Island

King Island Holiday Village has tours and accommodation. Other places to stay on King island are Portside Links Apartments and from King Island Motel. For information about King Island go here.

King Island 06King Island 04

Discover Tasmania

Visitors to Tasmania are likely to pass through Hobart or Launceston. Here are some attractions in Hobart and things to see in Launceston. Being so remote, King Island is likely to be a good spot to see the Southern Lights in Tasmania too. For visitors with families, King Island is an educational place for kids to learn about island living but you may also want to check out this list of things to see in Tasmania for kids.

King Island Tasmania

King Island Tasmania

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mary o'brien travel writer
I travel, I eat, I meet lovely people and I write about my adventures. I’m a freelance journalist based in Melbourne who specialises in travel, food and feature writing. I was on staff at The Age for 14 years and four years ago I opted for the freedom of freelancing. Over the years I have also had work published in Good Food/Epicure and Traveller sections and RoyalAuto magazine.