Don’t come to Flinders Island!

Flinders Island is the largest in the Furneaux group of islands in Bass Strait. It is on the north-east side of Tasmania and is governed by Tasmania. It’s less than 70km from end to end and 37 km at its widest point. The population is less than 1000. You can get there by a car ferry that leaves once a week from Bridport or fly. 

Like a beach to yourself?

Before you come to Flinders Island you need to have a good hard think.

Don’t come to Flinders Island if

  • Your ideal holiday involves shopping. There is only one gift/craft store and a few other shops (supermarket, butchers, baker, couple of cafes and a swanky new development on the dock at Whitemark which has a distillery.)

  • Your ideal holiday must be fueled by designer coffee in a different new cafe every day.

  • Ditto for Michelin rated restaurant experiences. Having said that the crumbed lamb cutlets at the pub were pretty good!

  • Your holiday must include cultural pursuits like the theatre, galleries and the like. There is a pub and a tavern and a public library.

  • You plan to mix it with the glamourous jet set. The people here are mostly in hiking or farming clothes with big dusty boots and very broad brimmed hats. 

  • If you think bird watching, geotrails, beachcombing along long sandy beaches, kayaking and hiking are boring. (Definitely don’t come under these circumstances)

  • In fact don’t come to Flinders if you don’t enjoy the “great outdoors” because that’s what the island excels at.

ONLY come to Flinders Island if you:

  • Like being outdoors

  • Like walking generally and particularly hiking up hills and mountains

  • Like having the beach to yourself for a quick skinny dip

  • Love scrambling over huge granite boulders covered in bright orange lichen

  • Love counting how many different types of seaweed are in the one rockpool

  • Are a bit partial to driving on corrugated dirt roads at the “right” speed

  • Like following a geotrail and and can tell your pegmatites from ordinary crystals. 

  • Love chatting to friendly strangers you encounter on the trail or in the pub

  • Have plenty of sunscreen and the aforementioned broad brimmed hat to manage the ferocious southern Sun

  • Like wallabies, wombats and pademelons

  • Are not worried about tiny little aeroplanes!

I love Geotrails!!

Pegmatites at Killiekrankie

Flinders Island Interstate Hotel

You must come to Flinders if you are a keen landscape photographer!

Castle Rock

I stayed on Flinders Island for 4 days which for me was plenty to get around and see the sights and relax as well. I flew over with Sharp Airlines from Launceston. It’s only a 25 minute flight. I stayed at the Flinders Bay Cabin Park and also hired an all-wheel drive car (RAV 4) from them.  The studio cabin was very comfy and had all I needed to cook some basic meals.

Sharp Airlines 19 seater Metroliner

Before you go check out the website and make sure you pick up a map and an “Essential Information for Visitors” brochure at the airport. Check out what times things are open because not much is open after dark or on Sundays. This is not the BIG SMOKE and the remote community will not have everything you need 24/7. If that’s the sort of holiday you’d like, have a stay-cation! Basic provisions and petrol are more expensive than elsewhere because everything must be shipped in so expect to pay a bit  extra at the supermarket. A real treat for those into Park Runs! There is a Park Run every Saturday starting at 9AM at the Whitemark Wharf. It’s on a wide flat track so a good opportunity to improve your time!

Walkers Supermarket through the Pub window

There is a developing “foodie-trail” happening with the distillery, and some interesting cafes opening. There is an olive oil plantation and three wineries. The gift shop has some lovely locally made items if you’re looking for a souvenir of your trip. 

Also make sure you go to Wybalenna, a settlement developed to isolate the indigenous Tasmanians in the 1830s. Another dark and sad time in our nation’s history. Go and pay your respects.

The Chapel at Wybalenna

And make sure you take a camera and your cossies, the water is surprisingly warm!

Mt Strzelecki Peaks Walk

Man! Those map makers have done it again! They put the summit at the top of a mighty big hill! 😜 Yesterday I did the Mt Strzelecki Peaks Walk, one of Tasmania’s Top 60 Short Walks. It IS short but like I said it’s uphill! Nonetheless it is a pleasant walk through varying terrain and I took plenty of breaks to photograph the incredible views over the Furneaux Group of Islands and the stunning geology.

Half way up

The track to the top

Mt Strzelecki is the highest peak on Flinders Island (756 m). There is a walker’s registration booth at the track head. The climb up to the summit is not (officially) a technically difficult walk. The path is well marked with bright orange waymarkers and the track itself well worn. Watch out though, as there are also a few well worn offshoots which have probably developed for those seeking a spot for a bush-pee. 

Look out for the orange plastic waymarkers

The suggested time to do the 5.8 km return is 4 – 5 hours. It took me two and half hours to get up and an hour and forty minutes to get down. While I agree it was not technically difficult it still presents a challenge as the last third (??) of the track is devoted to scrambling over very large, smooth granite boulders. My pole seemed more of a nuisance than an aide in these sections and I ended up folding it up and putting it in my pack.

Don’t forget to sign out when you’re done!!

You can join the track from Trousers Point Road. There is an easy to spot sign and although there is no official car park there is enough room to park your car. The way out from the town of Whitemark  is well signposted. 

The little creek is stained with teetree oil

Choose your weather

It would be foolhardy to attempt this walk in the rain. It would be a waste of time on days with low cloud.  Foolhardy because a very large proportion of the track is up, over and between large granite boulders. A little slippery in dry weather the rocks would be outright dangerous in wet weather. In my opinion there is very little point climbing a summit if you don’t get to see the view. 

I would also suggest going early in the day. In the morning most of the track is in shade. Once Tasmania’s rather ferocious sun crests the summit you’ll be in the hot, UV laden rays.

Terrain and Vegetation

She-oaks and Tee-Tree dominate in the first flat sections. They form bowers and a soft bed of needles over the gravelly track. There are plenty of little (invisible)  birds.

These plant species give way to large gums with stringy bark and tree ferns are abundant near the small creek which you’ll cross via large stable stepping stones. There is a system of pipes dipping into the creek which I presume run down to one of the houses across the road from the track head.

As you go higher the trees are replaced by tough spiky grasses and small shrubs. There were some little yellow flowers and white paper daisies. 

The track is well maintained although there were two trees down across the path on the day I did it. Not impassable obviously, but one necessitated an off track diversion. 

There are some wooden steps and some cuttings into the large granite platforms which makes the going a little easier.

I’ve already mentioned it a couple of times above but the walk is ‘interrupted’ by the boulders that have fallen off the side of the sheer rock walls above. You will need to be comfortable with rock hopping. 

View from the top

The view from the top is, as you’d expect, spectacular! I couldn’t find a summit marker or trig spot. I sat and ate my peanut butter sandwich in the shelter of some little bushes and marvelled at how lucky I was to be able to do this walk, both in terms of being fit and healthy enough to do it but also having the means and the time to get to Flinders Island in the first place. 

Flinders Island is the sort of place to go to if you like the ‘great outdoors’ and this climb is a must do while there. 

This post is prepared using my iPad so sorry for the lack of bells and whistles with the formatting!

The Overland Track – Tasmania

The Overland Track needs little introduction and this post is not a blow by blow description of each step of the way. You can get that information from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. This post makes an attempt to capture the feel of the walk as I did it with Intrepid Tours, an Australian small group travel company. 

Cradle Mountain

Go Wild in the Wilderness.

Traversing the magnificent Cradle Mountain National Park in Tasmania, the Overland Track is a well trodden path. Starting at Ronny Creek and ending 65 km and many blisters later at Lake St Clair, it is a visual splendour of varying terrain and ecosystems. You’ll walk through alpine meadows, rainforest and open eucalypt woodlands. If you’re lucky you’ll see various critters like wombats, pademelons and echidna. You will definitely meet bold possums!

This is wilderness country in a World Heritage listed area. Think lots of space, clean air and no mobile phone reception! Depending who your provider is you may get some reception at high points along the way but don’t rely on it. It’s a great opportunity to switch the phone onto flight mode and use it as a camera.

Harder than you think.

The Overland Track is a multi-day hike usually completed over 6 days. Daily distances between camping areas range from 8 – 17 km. There are optional side trips such as scrambling up to the summit of Cradle Mountain or Mt Ossa which add to the distance. Don’t be misled like I was! “Ten K? pffft! – I walk that nearly every day!” I  said reading the descriptions available on the Parks Service website. Hah! Rookie error!  I don’t walk 10 km every day with a heavy pack carrying all I need for the six days, on uneven, muddy paths with steep ascents and descents! Those 10 km are 10 kilometres on steroids!

Bookings essential.

To walk the Overland Track you must book through the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. At the time of writing the fee was $200AUD. The numbers walking the track are strictly limited to ensure there are hut/camping platform spaces available for everyone. This also means you see the same people at the end of each day or along the Track adding  a real sense of camaraderie. You’ll soon be chatting to these track buddies like old friends. 

Mt Ossa! Tasmania’s highest peak.

Intrepid Small Group Tours

I booked this trip through Intrepid Travel as part of my Great Southern Road Trip celebrating my approaching  60th birthday.  I have travelled with Intrepid several times before and you can read about my previous journeys in my post about small group travel. This is the first time I have travelled with them in Australia and I rate the experience ten out of ten. I can’t fault the organization of the trip. The guides (Tim and Ben) were friendly, knowledgeable, helpful and fun!  They helped gel the group quickly and no problems had a chance to arise. They cooked us great meals using very minimal equipment and did it with a smile. 

Cradle Mountain Summit

 Genuine Trek Buddies

The biggest variable on group tours is of course, the people who book the same tour as you do. I am happy to say that my eight fellow walkers were good fun and we developed a good group feel very quickly. Unlike other trips I have taken, I was the oldest by a big margin. Fortunately, my fitness put me in the middle of the pack and I didn’t let the side down! I wasn’t first but I wasn’t last either! My tent buddy, Ms D a fifty year old from Adelaide was such a hoot. We talked for hours about topics from the sublime to the ridiculous. I’m grateful I have made another real friend.

Simple pleasures

We were blessed with good weather for five out the six days. It poured down with rain on our second last night and everything got wet, soggy and uncomfortable. Like troupers we all decided that this added to the authenticity of the experience and toughened us up. There was very little whinging. In fact there was a great deal of hilarity as we were confined to our tents from lunch time chatting endlessly till dark.

Tim and Ben delivered our meals to our tents and we gobbled them up quickly with Tim Tam chasers for dessert! Bliss! Working with nature we were tucked up in our sleeping bags by 8 PM and awake at dawn with the roaring of the camp stove heating up water for a hot drink.

Same Track, Different Experience.

One day I got to chatting to a woman who was booked through another company. It was a ‘luxury’ tour. Hot showers in a cosy private hut at the end of each day. Packs less than eight kilograms and chef prepared meals. She paid $7500. I paid just under $2000. She was miffed that she had to walk alone because the guide was busy with a walker who was not up to the challenge. The diversity of the group was too wide and although she enjoyed the time alone in the wilderness, she was not having “fun” or making new friends.

By comparison, my daily “shower” was in a freezing cold creek, lake or with wet wipes. I carried close to twenty kilograms every step of the way. I camped in a wet tent with a squeaky air mattress between me and the wooden platform. I fought off possums who were trying to steal my muesli bars in the night. I got leeches. I used two packets of blister block bandaids! I played UNO loudly. I made new friends! I survived and I feel invincible! Hot showers are for wimps! 

(This post was not sponsored by Intrepid)

It could be if they wanted to send me on more tours! 🙂