Photos: Jam Hassan
Succulent beef, gourmet cheese, some of the world’s best beachbreaks and some incredible landscapes – Australia’s King Island feels like you’re in another world.
Flying to King Island felt like the opening scene of Jurassic Park. Flying over wild seas in a seven seater plane, all we could see was open water. Halfway through the 55-minute journey across the Bass Straight, we flew head on into a dark storm front. Initially, the plane felt at the mercy of the winds, but once we got into the flow of each gust, it all felt graceful as we weaved through the clouds.
Our destination appeared, rising from the ocean, luscious and green, and battered by massive seas. (Probably not that dramatic, but it felt like it at the time). We were on the tail end of one swell, with another five-metre swell coming in the following days.
Anchored in the middle of the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania, King Island is remote, raw and made for exploring. We basically surfed and ate ourselves stupid for a week, while traversing some of the most incredible terrain we’d seen in Australia.
Much of the time we spent was on the bottom half of the island. Exposed to the elements, the landscape is raw, desolate and incredible. There’s nothing around apart from heaving coastlines, coastal bushland, cliffs, and farmland. Sitting out in the water, you realise that there’s nothing between you and Antarctica. In between sets, it can be incredibly calming, as you clear your mind of all thought, just in the moment… Until you imagine bus-sized Great Whites emerging from the oceans’ depths for an appetizer.
No Real Locals
Both islands in the Bass Straight, King and Flinders Islands were devoid of Aboriginal inhabitants when the first settlers arrived in the 1800’s. Even though the islands had abundant resources, initial accounts and recent archaeological surveys have found no traces of humans, suggesting that these islands were never occupied, even in prehistoric times. The indigenous people of Tasmania and of the mainland would have been completely unaware the island existed, very strange considering movement in the region prior to European arrival.
Photos: Tyson Millar
Where to drink
With a case of VB going for $67.95, it makes sense to be social on the tins. With a population of only 1,800 on the island, there’s no shortage of places to wet the whistle. But you’ll want to head straight to the King Island Club in the town of Currie. Cheap beers, good sized pub meals, a couple of fireplaces and an indoor bowling green – you’ll feel like this is your local in no time.
People on the island are friendly folk, welcoming and full of stories about 50-year storms, lighting fires with your tractor, kelp farming – simple things that give you some perspective. People here are straight up, real humans. No matter who you talk to, you quickly get the ‘no bullshit’ vibe. There’s only 1800 of them and word will travel fast about what you’re doing on the island, but buy a few rounds of beers at the ‘King Island Club’ you’re everybody’s new best friend. People are content and happy there – you’ll find yourself saying “hello,” and “good morning” to everyone, and waving at the few other cars on the road. You know, acknowledging other humans for being human.
Everyone’s heard of Martha’s, that dreamy beachbreak that barrels 30 metres from the shore. The swell bends around the north of south of the island creating this incredibly uniquely wedging beachie, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. But there’s a heap of other setups too, you just need the time to go exploring. It’s a small island, so it’s always offshore somewhere – the wind just might gusting 60km/h. Oh, and it’s cold, like Russian escort cold, so make sure you have a 4mm wetsuit, hood, booties, everything. A four-wheel drive’s vital to navigate the island in search of waves. You’ll need local intel as most of the waves are through private farmland, bush, and 4WD tracks on the island. Just be respectful and again, be generous with beers at the ‘King Island Club’. Give the guys at King Island Surf Safaris a call too.
What to eat:
What’s the secret behind King Island’s Beef? Why is it so god damned good? Bull kelp and seaweed’s the secret ingredient. Cattle on coastal farms venture down to the water indulge in a kelp eating frenzy, waist deep in waves, throwing their heads back in total ecstasy. Sea kelp contains tonnes of vitamins, so eating tonnes of King Island beef must be good for you.
A legacy spanning over 100 years, and a Big Cheese (Head Cheesemaker) named Ueli Berger, this is some of the finest cheese in the world. The King Island Dairy Factory was about 20 minutes from where we stayed and we passed it daily. The sample room is open everyday for free cheese samples, so, of course, our consumption went up to critical levels. The Stoked Point Smoked Cheddar was incredible and I had cheese nightmares every night.
These compact kangaroos might look cute and make you feel Australian, but they’re actually a massive pest on the island. During the daylight hours, they stick to the bush and forest areas, however, as soon as the sun begins to set, things get real. The little fuckers turn into bouncing torpedos, on a collision course set for your vehicle. If you don’t take one out yourself, head to King Island Bakery in Currie for a Wallaby pie, they’re really good. Fuck you Skippy.
Light it up
Make sure someone in your group is skilled at building a fire in tricky conditions. Conditions can be wet, windy, or wood can be green, but having a fire can make or break the trip. For your fireplace (in a 44-gallon drum or on the beach) you’ll need to plan ahead. Just make sure you check with Parks and Wildlife service and use common sense.
Poler Stuff Gear guide
Come prepared to King Island. It’s cold, you’ll be on the move in remote areas, in the wind, or maybe the rain – so you’ll need the right gear. Here’s a bunch of essentials for your trip: