The Hobart

King Island: Less Royal, Still Grand

by Lily Whiting
King Island: Less Royal, Still Grand

Anchored in a stretch of no man’s land between us and Victoria, King Island is an uber relaxed, grassy island, equally hugged and battered by its surrounding oceans. More of a fishing-like village than a commercial tourist hotspot, a recent four day trip was spent a little slower than anticipated, but like its wallaby and crayfish population, widely welcomed by all.

Getting around

There are no buses or public transport, so a hire car is a must if you want to explore. While it was thirsty on the $2.60/L fuel (ouch), it was necessary so we could make it to all capes and troughs of the island. Once we started driving, we very quickly stopped counting each cow personally and began estimating the inhabitants of paddocks that call the rolling grassy hills of King Island home. Google says an odd 100,000 cows which means our estimating game was way off.

The road to Cape Wickham. Pic: Adam Gibson


Being a relatively low lying (162m at its tallest) landscape, wind is inevitable. A southerly wind shot us up to the northern tip to Cape Wickham on day one, marking the southern ‘eye of the needle”, only a mere 90 km stretch from Victoria’s Cape Otway. Take a terrible double-chin selfie trying to fit in the scale of Australia’s tallest lighthouse in all its glory. Beyond the townships, there are nil cafes or lunch jaunts – instead opt for a picnic table overlooking one of the many beaches with a packed lunch. The coastlines are not underwhelming in the slightest, with the Eastern shores mildly reminiscent of the East Coast with their speckled orange rocks, fine pale sand and teal waves. Similar to the first, each day started slowly, followed by avoiding the wind and a simple lunch overlooking a coast­line, preferably uphill of the kelp drying on the shoreline. To hide from prevailing winds, take your picnic or dinner and make yourself at home in the Restaurant With No Food. Lunches and picnics can be as basic or boujee as you like here, all for a little donation but make sure you do your washing up, there’s no dishy here.

Crayfish. Pic: Lily Whiting


If we were whinging about the price of food on mainland Tasmania, spare a thought for locals of King Island. We opted to keep the food side of things in house for breakfasts and lunches – home-cooked breakfasts, plunger coffees and filled rolls for lunches. Allow for an extra 20% as a minimum added to your food budget if purchasing from local supermar­kets, a little (a lot) more for fresh produce. King Island crayfish and beef were a lavish exception to our subdued diet plus an extra night spent at the King Island Hotel for a surprisingly well-priced and solid pub meal. Aside from the pub, the brewery and distillery are both quaint and worth a visit, for a chin wag at the very least. The brewery has been operating for a mere 18 months, with no beer leaving the island, and Heidi is an enthusiastic spirit lover with a rustic tasting room and petite still just out of Currie. A visit to King Island wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the dairy for a wedge, or three, of cheese. Cheese tastings are compli­mentary, best with some bubbly. Not all cheese makes it off the island, sometimes they save the best to be bought onshore, so be sure to squeeze a wedge of pepper­berry aged cheddar into your suitcase. If there was a crowd favourite establishment in our four days on the island, it would have been the local bakery in Currie. Dozens of pie flavours scribbled on a blackboard and a cake cabinet brimming with old school bakery delights. Vanilla slice, a baked passionfruit tart and one of those long donuts filled with jam and cream, an inner child’s delight!

The Restaurant With No Food. Pic: Stu Gibson


With everything in an easy driving distance, we stayed at Grassy, a small sleepy town 35km from the hub Currie. A former mining town, many fibreglass houses were a little worse for wear, however ours had been beautifully constructed with any and all types of decorations and gimmicks found on the island. Being only 24 kilometres wide and 65 kilometres long, with a car, sleep anywhere you like.

Cattle at Pearshape. Pic: Adam Gibson

Keep in mind

Everything else can be negotiated except for two things, small planes and only Telstra service. Although only a 45 minutes flight from Burnie/Wynyard, if you aren’t a fan of small planes and bumpy rides, motion sickness tablets are advised. If you’re an Optus customer, enjoy the switched off holiday! Four nights and five days was a slow way to see King Island but like any trip away, it allowed for everyone to slow, settle and sink into the relaxed nature that locals clearly love. Anything less and it would still feel like Tasmania.

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May 2024

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