There is no easy way to see the Furneaux…On the islands there are no tourists and no facilities for such. To see the Furneaux you need to be dedicated.
– Patsy Adam-Smith, Moonbird People, 1965.
The Furneaux Islands are home to the red lichen covered rocks and aquamarine seas of Tasmania’s east coast but they haven’t enjoyed the same kudos on Tassie’s tourist trail.
Not much has changed since Patsy Adam-Smith revealed the islands to outsiders in her formative account of her time there.
This Girl has visited just three of the sixty plus islands that make up the Furneaux Group. I recently returned from a mini-vac on the largest and most populated, Flinders Island. It is a beautiful, wild place and there are plenty of reasons to visit, here are a few.
I squealed into Launceston airport late and hysterical, second last for the check in. I hadn’t yet checked into island time.
Last in line were a couple of old-timers I immediately wanted to talk to. In the style of my mother I made a few attempts at conversation. They took a little to warm up. In the ‘departure lounge’, I plonked myself down next to them and said I was staying in Killiecrankie. I’d hit a soft spot. In a few moments we’d worked out I’d camped on their property 12 years ago when one of their daughters had turned 30. We caught up on the welfare of the family including the daughter that still lived on the island.
‘You’ll see her when you go to the show today,’ Margaret said.
‘How do you know I’m going to the show?’
We both screamed with laughter.
Social life has certain limits on the island, the annual show is a big event. ‘Dad said you were here’, she greeted me a few hours later.
Anyone who’s lived their life on an island understands the interconnection and resents the impossibility of anonymity. Islanders seek seclusion and privacy, ironically comings and goings are exaggerated, life under a microscope.
There’s a familiarity with every wave of each passing motorist and the hallos to each passerby, but at the same time, no one wants to be seen to know too much, even if you do. It’s not a Flinders-specific condition. It’s island life, and if you’ve never experienced it, you should. It’s a microcosm on Flinders.
Wildlife abounds on this wild island. They don’t reserve special appearances for dusk and dawn, although you should be especially careful driving at these times. The road kill is shocking and I was pleased that we weren’t collaborators during our five days driving there. There were plenty of close calls though.
On the north west coast is Killiecrankie where we stayed. There was a bowl of water below the deck of our accommodation. It wasn’t long until the wallabies began to gather around it, many with joeys in their pouches.
Wombats are almost as common, grazing on the sides of roads in bush areas. It’s not so easy to get a photo of anything other than a furry bum in retreat but they have a very cute running style and a great arse.
Kookaburras and hawks were the other creatures frequently spotted.
There is a proud Aboriginal culture on the islands. The Flinders Island Aboriginal Association has its base at Lady Barron and provides a host of services to the community and economy including the bakery, which sells the island’s renown wallaby pies. If you’re ever lucky enough to get to Cape Barren Island you’ll find a similar service there, providing everything from the local shop to the island’s fire services.
Flinders Island was settled by sealers, and the Aboriginal women they kidnapped. Later, Aboriginal survivors from Tasmania were exiled at Settlement Point’s Wybalenna (black man’s houses). The majority died of homesickness and the squalid conditions they were assigned to. It’s a sad but important place.
Driving on the island you can be lulled into the false sense that you’re the only ones on the road, apart from the wallabies. It’s easy to relax with no hustle and bustle and surrounded by the natural world. Tourism has largely gone unrealised on Flinders, you won’t benefit from a detailed itinerary. Sleep in, go for a walk, if it’s warm enough, have a swim, then pop down to the local (Whitemark or Lady Barron) for cold one. That’s it. Enjoy.
The gale force winds of the roaring forties, granite mountains, and the rugged coastline with the terrorising Strait in the backdrop, Flinders Island is wild.
Enjoying the environment is central to visiting Flinders. There is no shortage of beach and bush walks. We explored Killiecrankie, Sawyers Bay, Patriarch Inlet and Trouser Point part of the Strzelecki National Park.
Here’s our post on protecting native wild life – Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.