With its dramatic location in the middle of the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania’s North West coast, King Island is like all of the best parts of the state distilled down into a smaller package, perfect for a weekend getaway. It’s home to some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches, boasts two new golf courses which are ranked among the best in the world and is famous for its succulent beef, rich gourmet cheese and crayfish plucked from the island’s crystal clear waters.
To start your short break you can fly to King Island, either from Tasmania or Melbourne.
There are three airlines flying from Melbourne each day – Rex leaves from Tullamarine once a day, with additional flights sometimes available in the summer, Sharp Airlines leaves from Essendon Airport twice a day and King Island Airlines depart from Moorabbin airport twice a day.
Visitors from Tasmania can now fly from both Launceston and Burnie-Wynyard with Sharp Airlines up to three times a day.
Alternatively, if you are travelling in a group it may be surprisingly cost effective to charter a plane.
What to do
Once you touch down you can take your pick of hiring a car and going it alone or joining a tour. There are plenty to choose from, including King Island Tours (03 6461 1177, www.kingislandholidayvillage.com.au) with their 4WD coaches they offer one to four-day photography, bird, farm or fishing tours or they will tailor a tour to your request. King Island Benns’ Tours (03 6462 1938 or 0428 785 134, www.kingislandbustours.com.au) will take you in comfort and style to the top spots – shipwrecks, history, birdlife, beaches, lighthouses and golf, fully catered with the best of island produce. King Island Pleasure Tours (0421 062 246, www.kingislandtravel.com) create personalised tours which cater for your interests to ensure a memorable experience.
For individual tours you might like to join Horse Trail Rides (03 6462 1163, www.kingislandtrailrides.com.au) for an exhilarating ride along British Admiral Beach or even one to three-day camp out trips. For a paddock to plate experience try Meat Your Beef – King Island Farm Tours (0427 118 903, www.meatyourbeef-kingisland.com), who also offer accommodation for those who would like a farm stay to add to their experience. For a unique experience Lighthouse Tours (0439 705 610, www.kingislandrambles.wordpress.com) take visitors to the lense room at the top of the Currie lighthouse from where splendid views of the town and harbour are available.
Undoubtedly the island’s famed golf courses are a drawcard. It’s a ‘must visit’ destination for travelling golfers wishing to challenge themselves surrounded by the raw natural beauty of King Island. Take your pick from the two 18-hole links courses at Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes and the nine-hole local course found in the heart of Currie. Golfers have been flying in from all over the world and no one seems to be able to agree on which is the best but you can’t argue with the experts who rank both Ocean Dunes and Cape Wickham in the top five for Australia and heading towards the top 20 in the world. You’ll just have to play them all and judge for yourself.
If you’re a keen surfer then King Island is a top spot to hit the waves. Martha Lavina beach, on the north-east coast, has been described by Tracks magazine as “the best beach break in Australia”. The advantage for surfers of visiting a relatively small island is that invariably something will be happening on one coast or another. No good on the east coast? Just drive 20 minutes over to the west and have a look there. While some of the waves are more for the experts you can find ideal beaches with gentle waves for beginners and you can also hire boards if you didn’t come prepared.
The waters around King Island are a fisherman’s paradise and home to a wide variety of species including mako sharks, kingfish, Tasmanian striped trumpeter, bluefin tuna, nannygai, salmon, gummy sharks and many more. Should you have a hankering to throw in a line there are plenty of opportunities. With King Island Fishing Tours (0499 806 243, email@example.com) you can join a fifth generation local guide and be taken to the hot fishing spots. They offer tailor-made trips for two to nine people, with lunch and morning tea included on full day trips and all fishing gear supplied. Proline Fishing Charters (0429 846 279, www.prolinecharters.com.au) offer three-day fishing trips which are fully catered and return flights with Vortex Airlines, or day trips if you are already on the island. Southern Coast Charters (0429 983 112, www.southerncoastcharters.com.au) own the largest fishing charter vessel in Victoria with room to sleep up to 10 people. They offer clients from Port Fairy and the Victorian mainland extended fishing and adventure tours to King Island of up to three or four nights.
For such a small population King Island is over-endowed with creative people, keen to share their talents with visitors. If you’d like to meet local makers then drop into the King Island Arts & Cultural Centre (open 1pm-4pm, closed Tuesdays) at Currie Harbour and browse through a collection of art and crafts made by local people. Check listings for exhibitions and workshops. If you’re down towards the south of the island and you fancy a coffee or a cake then Portside Links Gallery at Grassy Harbour offers exhibitions featuring local and visiting artists. If you don’t have much time then the Hole in One gallery next to the Ocean Dunes Hotel on Main Street has a few works by local artists as does The Boathouse.
King Island has a grim history of shipping disasters and one of the best ways to find out more about their fascinating past is to visit the King Island Historical Museum (open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 2pm-4pm). This well-stocked and informative museum, staffed by local volunteers, is located in the old Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage in Currie. There are also stories featuring Soldier Settlers, sealers and other early pioneers. Another great way to get in touch with the island’s history is to follow the King Island Maritime Trail. Opened in 2001 it features interpretive signage close to the sites of many of the most notable wrecks. Trail brochures are available on your arrival at the airport and from KIRDO in Currie. Also make sure to pay Cape Wickham Lighthouse a visit. While you can’t go inside, it’s still worth a visit because at 48 metres tall it is both the tallest in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere. Made from locally quarried stone, the lighthouse celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2011.
While you are exploring King Island there are a couple of notable spots you shouldn’t miss. As you fly over the island on arrival you will be struck by how flat it appears. This is why the churning sea and the steep cliffs at Seal Rocks come as something of a surprise to many visitors. Nearby there’s The Copperhead Walk along the rugged cliffs and the remarkable remains of the 7000-year-old Calcified Forest. You won’t be disappointed if you visit the oddly-named Disappointment Bay. The long stretches of white sand, occasionally broken by large rocks are perfect for walking, swimming, surfing, paddling or just generally relaxing. There are many stunning beaches on King Island but this one features prominently when visitors recount their “wow” moments. Easily accessible from Cape Wickham Road at the north of the island, this beach is well worth the small diversion on your way to the lighthouse or golf course. If you love getting out amongst nature there are 44 walking tracks on the island, from 10 minutes to 4 hours. For a comprehensive guide pick up a copy of Walks of King Island from Australia Post in Currie and other retailers.
Where to eat
Currie, Grassy and Naracoopa all offer a choice of dining opportunities with menus featuring the best local, seasonal produce. Both Ocean Dunes and Cape Wickham golf courses now also offer quality dining options with views of their magnificent fairways for golfers and other visitors. It’s always a good idea to phone ahead to confirm opening hours and ensure availability at any of the following options:
In Currie why not try Elle’s Beef & Reef (03 6462 1459) open Sunday to Thursday, 7am to 6pm, Friday to Saturday, 7am to 8pm. The King Island Bakehouse (03 6462 1337) is legendary for salad rolls, cakes, coffee and pies made fresh on the premises every day. Open Monday to Friday 7am to 5pm, Saturday to Sunday 7am to 3pm. The King Island Club (03 6462 1124) offers local beef and fresh seafood at its bistro, counter meals and takeaways. Open seven days, noon-2pm, 5.30pm-8pm. The King Island Hotel (03 6462 1633) is a centrally-located bar and bistro offering a range of meals. Open seven days, noon-2pm, 6pm-8pm.
Located 10 minutes south of Currie is Cafe Brewer (6461 1256), offering a menu that changes daily which includes gluten free and vegetarian options. Open seven days, 8.30am to 4.30pm. Bischoff’s Cafe & King Island Gourmet Ice-cream (0409 331 316) is located 8 minutes east of Currie. Serving organic coffee and teas from The Art of Tea, enjoy home made treats with menu changing daily. Specialising in high tea with 48hrs notice required. Open seven days 8am–5pm.
In Grassy, the Grassy Club (03 6461 1341) is a friendly bar with good quality counter meals. Open Monday to Thursday 4pm-8pm, Friday to Sunday noon-8pm. King’s Cuisine (03 6461 1003) features the freshest produce from ocean and field. Open Thursday to Monday, 6pm-8pm, Friday and Sunday, noon-2pm. Wild Harvest (03 6461 1176) showcases King Island produce with a menu changing daily and had fantastic views. Open seven days from 6pm.
In Naracoopa, head to Baudins Restaurant & Bar (0467 383 676). This colonial-style licensed restaurant provides a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere where you can experience Chinese cuisine. There is also a separate lounge-bar area. Open Tuesday to Sunday.
Alternatively, why not grab a hamper full of local produce from Foodworks or stock up on local cheeses from the King Island Dairy and find one of the island’s excellent picnic spots.
Where to stay
King Island offers a range of accommodation styles to suit every taste from hotels and cosy bed and breakfasts to holiday cottages, farm stays and well-appointed coastal hideaways.
In Currie try King Island Green Ponds Guesthouse and Cottage B & B; Currie Harbour Accommodation – Gilligans, Skippers Retreat, Starlight Studio, The Chart Room; George’s on Huxley; King Island Escapes – Alexandra’s Apartment; Island Breeze Motel and A-Frames or King Island Hotel. Located within a two-minute walk of Grassy is the King Island Motel. There is also a wide-range of self-contained accommodation options on the island, for more information visit www.kingisland.org.au