The Nature Lover
Flora & Fauna Funtime. (3 or 4 Days)
What we lack in traffic jams, pollution and shopping malls we make for in other ways
King Island can’t always guarantee the weather for sun worshippers, the waves for surfers or the wind for kite flyers. What we can guarantee though is the wallabies and a range of other creatures both commonplace and unusual. It is estimated that for every King Island resident there are over 300 wallabies which seems highly improbable until you take a walk at dusk and see quite how many of them are out there chomping away on the succulent and valuable King Island grass.
Other animals, such as the Orange Bellied Parrot are found at the other end of the scale in terms of population. They stop over on King Island during their migratory journey between mainland Tasmania and Victoria but as there estimated to be only 36 birds in the wild you’ll be lucky to spot one.
If you’d like some bird watching tips then we can recommend staying with John and Rhonda at Naracoopa Holiday Cottages. John is a keen twitcher and will be able to tell you about some of the best spots for bird watching on King Island. While in Naracoopa head to the jetty and enjoy the fabulous views and see what sea-life you can spot in the clear waters below. If you’re not staying in Naracoopa then stop at the Pegarah Forest on your way down and see how many different local birds you can spot there. Make sure you’ve downloaded the Birds of King Island guide before you visit.
Next, head out towards Sea Elephant River, King Island’s only tidal river, which is a haven for water birds and which exits at the southern end of the RAMSAR listed Lavinia Nature Reserve. Unfortunately, you’ll have limited chances to sight an Elephant Seal as they were largely hunted off the island many years ago and nowadays only the occasional straggler returns.
This is a truly beautiful and peaceful site so perhaps a good spot to unpack the picnic hamper ordered from Foodworks featuring plenty of delicious local produce. There’s also a public toilet at Sea Elephant for your convenience.
Next we suggest you take a leisurely drive towards Currie and look out for Bicentennial Road (between Reekara Road and Ridges Road), take a look out to the east where you’ll see the regrowth of a number of King Island natives following a devastating fire in 2007.
Once back in Currie head towards British Admiral Beach (Top 101 Australian Beaches-2012) and take an afternoon stroll along the most popular beach on King Island. Feel free to explore the tracks through the sand hills behind the beach and keep an eye out for the very happy wallabies that have made most of the tracks you walk along. Keep walking to the other end of British Admiral and follow the track to Badger Box Beach. At the end of this much smaller beach you’ll find a Short Tailed Shearwater colony. These incredible birds leave King Island in late April and spend the southern winter in the Bering Sea, around the Aleutian Islands in North America. They return in spring to reclaim their nesting burrows on King Island where they rear just one chick. Locally these birds are known as Muttonbirds and are harvested in a short open season declared each year.
After this beautiful evening walk it’s time to head back to Currie for a hearty dinner at one of the local eating houses before heading back to your accommodation for a good night’s sleep.
Today we’re heading south so pack some good walking shoes and remember that the weather can change very quickly on King Island. We always recommend packing a sun hat and a raincoat! Head along the coastal South Road, past the Ettrick River and Pearshape Lagoon until you see the signs for the Copperhead Cliff Walk, Seal Rocks and the Calcified Forest. This area is one of the most spectacular on King Island and it would be easy to spend most of your day here. Take your time to ponder the ghost of an ancient forest, rapidly covered by covered by sand some 7000 years ago to leave behind the calcified remains of tree stumps you can see today. Make sure you enjoy the view of the Southern Ocean waves crashing against the steep cliffs at Seal Rocks and try to find time for a walk along the Copperhead Trail.
Whether you’ve packed your own lunch, ordered a hamper from Fooodworks or purchased a roll from the bakery, take your pick of prime spots at which to enjoy your picnic before you meander further down the coast towards the southernmost point of King Island at Stokes Point.
Stokes Point Light cannot compete with the other, more famous lighthouses on King Island but it is a good landmark to keep an eye on as you explore the rocky coastline around here. At the right time of year locals come to some of these spots to harvest natural sea salt from the shallow hollows in these rocks. A rather less peaceful harvesting was carried out here in the past, evidence of which is the Sealer’s Wall about 1kmsouth of Surprise Bay. This beautiful beach is another of King Island’s best and is great location for an afternoon swim to cool off from the exertions of the day. If you have time on the way back to town then stop off at the Huxley Hill Wind Farm to learn more about King Island’s renewable energy program.
Depending on your timetable you can take a leisurely approach to Grassy or you can try to combine it with yesterday’s other southern locations. The only lunch available in Grassy is from Marie’s Corner Store which sells pies and pasties along with other provisions. In case they sell out or you’d prefer something different we’d recommend ordering another hamper from Foodworks or fresh salad rolls from the King Island Bakery in Currie. Platypus are only found in eastern Australia but if you book a tour with your local guide, Ondrea (who can claim a 100% success rate in spotting these unusual creatures) you can enjoy the sight of these egg laying mammals in their natural habitat. The walk to see them is not long but the path is steep so good walking shoes are required. Once you’ve seen enough platypus and made it back up the hill, ask Ondrea to point you in the direction of the South East Trail which starts in the old mining town of Grassy and meanders down through the old sheelite mine to Sandblow Beach. Once again keep your eyes open for a range of local flora and fauna and bear in mind that you may have to get your feet wet in the small creeks that cross this path depending on the time of year.
On the way back towards Grassy you might have time to pop into Portside Links for a look their gallery featuring local art and light refreshments before making your way down to Grassy Harbour for the fascinating Fairy Penguin Parade. Penguins return from their day’s labours at dusk so during the summer you could see them after you have eaten whereas in the winter you should book your table for after dark to allow sufficient time to enjoy this natural delight. You will probably be watching the penguins alone but please make sure you follow the guidance on the signage nearby to minimise your impact on this spectacular daily migration. While in Grassy it would be very unwise not to visit King’s Cuisine where Steve serves up a range of local foods in an inventive and sometimes surprising style.
We’ve saved some of the best of King Island until today but depending on how much time you have you can choose to get there by car or on horseback. King Island Trail Rides offer horse rides both short and long through winding sandy tracks and across some beautiful beaches. You could either choose to ride for a couple of hours this morning or arrange a longer trip with Mick and Eliza which could involve camping on your way to the North of the island.
However you choose to get here, there are plenty of stops to enjoy along the way, especially Yellow Rock Beach and Yellow Rock River which will respectively offer an opportunity to see a range of shorebirds and waders. If you’re coming from Currie and travelling by car make sure you follow the signs to the bird hide along Heddles Road.
You’ll need to keep moving though because we’re heading all the way to the top of the island to see the 150 year old Cape Wickham Lighthouse made from locally quarried stone. Feel free to eat your lunch in the picnic shelter and use the toilet facilities located nearby before you head off on the Cape Wickham to Victoria Cove Grazing Trail. Once you’ve taken your photos and started your journey back down south you will see a sign for Disappointment Bay to your left, this is a beautiful beach and well worth a visit if you have time but you absolutely must stop at Pennys Lagoon and Lavinia Beach. Both are in close proximity to one another and are world class in very different ways. Pennys Lagoon is an example of a perched lake, one of only three in the world, while Lavinia Beach is not only stunning but is also considered to be one of the world’s best surf beaches. There is a very gentle walk here on the Pennys Lagoon Loop Walk where you’ll see someinterpretative signage and may even catch sight of a wallaby taking an evening drink from this freshwater lake. Keep an eye out while on the beach for well camouflaged shorebird nests and also for the beautiful shells which can be found here.
On your travels around King Island you’ll have noticed the kelp harvesters working, particularly if you’re an early riser. If you’re heading back to Currie and have time then why not pay a visit to the Kelp Factory where their product is hung, dried and processed before being exported, usually to Scotland where it is used in various industrial processes. Visit the office and ask for the key to the Visitors Centre for further information about this fascinating process.
Before you leave King Island there are two more creatures whose acquaintance you must make. Penicullum-roquforti and penicillum-candidum are the bacteria that respectively make blue and white cheese so tasty. You’ll be hard pushed to see them but you are invited to sample them at the Fromagerie, adjacent to the King Island Dairy on North Road. These are also one of the few creatures on King Island that your friends and family would like you to take home.