Flora & Fauna
King Island is extremely fertile with a mild maritime climate. Native flora and fauna abound due to the isolation of the island and lack of natural predators.
King Island’s climate is one of moderate temperatures with a reliable rainfall that supports an outstanding agricultural industry. However, in the infamous Roaring 40’s gales, winds frequently reach over 100kms per hours. Generally the temperature is 5 degrees cooler in the summer and 5 degrees warmer in the winter than the mainland.
The coastline provides habitat to a variety of species. There is great potential for the diving enthusiast with an abundant support of rock fish, crayfish and abalone. There is a Crown Reserve, approximately 50 metres wide from the high water mark that allows access to the coastline on King Island.
King Island has two Nature Reserves comprising 7,200 hectares and Riparian Reserves on some of the streams and larger lagoons.
The Lavinia State Reserve, to the north east of the Island is the largest reserve and covers an area of some 6400 hectares. Within this reserve is "Pennys Lagoon", which is a rare suspended fresh water lake formation and Lake Martha Lavinia. The Lavinia State Reserve has two outstanding ocean beaches, Lavinia Beach and Nine Mile Beach. Lavinia Beach has safe vehicular access with a highly recommended surfing beach at Lavinia Point.
Seal Rocks State Reserve in the southwest covers an area of approximately 800 hectares and contains the Island’s ancient Calcified Forest and spectacular cliffs at Seal Rocks. Safe walking tracks traverse the length of all coastal reserves. For off-road exploring take a walk along the beautiful beaches or on marked walking tracks.
Visitors to King Island are likely to encounter the following native animals:-
- Bennetts wallaby
- Rufous wallaby or Tasmanian Pademelon
- Brushtail Possum
- Fairy Penguin
Many of these animals are commonly spotted on roadsides, especially at dusk or evenings. Platypus are shy creatures but can be seen at dusk in many dams and streams. The best time to observe Fairy Penguins is at sunrise or sunset.
Other animals that can be seen, but not as easy to encounter, include:-
- Southern potoroo
- Swamp Antechinus
- Ringtail Possum
- Eastern Pygmy Possum.
Reptiles common to King Island are:-
- Lemon-bellied tiger snake
- Copperhead snake
- White-lipped grass snake
- Common blue tongued lizard and skinks.
Freshwater fish, galaxia and pygmy perch and amphibians, green and gold bell frog, Eastern Banjo frog, striped marsh frog (unique to King Island and northwest Tasmania) and others are found in lakes, streams and farm dams.
Marine animals that sometimes visit King Island’s shores include:
- Australian fur seal
- Southern elephant seal
- Leopard seal
- Southern right whale
Sea fishermen and divers, both amateur and professional catch:
- King crab
- Australian salmon
- Gummy shark
- Port Jackson sharks
A wide range of raptors, waterfowl, shorebirds and waders are seen on King Island. Of the approximately 13 bird species confined to Tasmania, 10 are found on King Island. Favourites that may be spotted are the little penguins, short tailed shearwater (commonly known as muttonbirds), ruddy turnstone, the rare orange-bellied parrot, superb fairy wren, yellow wattle bird, dusky robin and flame robin.
The colourful orange-bellied parrot is of particular interest. On the brink of extinction, the parrot has been ranked as one of the rarest and most endangered species in the world. Its breeding area is confined to southwest Tasmania. Only 100-200 individuals still exist. After the breeding season, migrating birds move up the west coast, particularly King Island, and on to the mainland. At certain times of year they can be spotted feeding on the coastal glasswort plains of the Sea Elephant area.
Black swans, ducks and other waterfowl are common to the Island. Shag Lagoon Bird Hide on Heddles Road is a great viewing spot.
Birds of King Island
Enjoy the variety of birds, marine life and wildlife. Find the endemics, exotics and vagrants. Meet the locals. Taste the history and most importantly enjoy your stay on King Island.
When: All year
East coast beaches in particular are wonderful places to search for shells. The prized Nautilus is occasionally found.
The rising sea level after the end of the last Ice Age covered the lower parts of the land bridge, which connected Tasmania and mainland Australia about 10,000 years ago. There are also aboriginal midden sites from this period, mostly on the west coast.
Extinct native animals, whose bones have been found on King Island include Diprotodon, Giant Kangaroo, Emu, King Island wombat and Eastern Quoll.
Notable amongst the introduced species are:
Turkey and Peafowl, feral populations which wander at will over farmland
Brown trout have been introduced to Pennys Lagoon, Cask Lake and Lake Wickham - short term licences are available
King Island’s native vegetation has been greatly modified since European settlement by a significant increase in fire events and the introduction of vegetation clearing. Agriculture in the form of dairying, beef and sheep is King Island's major industry. Introduced and native pasture species, cover the majority of the island.
Native vegetation on the island now represents a relic of the magnificent forests of the past.
In the north were once swamp forests of blackwood, paperbark and tea tree. Visit The Nook Swamps and Saltwater Creek in the Lavinia State Reserve to see an example. In the south were once huge eucalypt and rainforests with giant trees and very dense undergrowth. Relics of these past forests can be found in places such as Grassy River, Yarra Creek, Pegarah State forest and on the Seal River.
The native coast country consisted of varied scrub and heath type vegetation applicable to the climatic and topographical areas. Some of the coastal vegetation remains in good condition but is fragmented.
Visit Lavinia State Reserve for examples of sedge-land and wet and dry heath. Various orchids, heath and flowering tea-tree can be sighted. These flora species flower prolifically in the spring.
Rocky coastal communities can be found in New Year Island Nature Reserve and Seal Rocks State Reserve. Salt tolerant herb lands on the foreshore give way to wind pruned low heaths. Sandy coast and dunes occur both on the west and east coasts, with tussock grassland the most widespread species with heath, shrub and woodland on sheltered sites.