I’ve seen countless coastlines in Australia, yet those on Flinders Island would have to be the best of all. In January I did a Flinders Island walking holiday with Auswalk. Who could imagine there is so much walking opportunity on Flinders, yet with 5 mountain ranges, there is plenty. We did not see another person on any walks, which was a bit uncomfortable at first, but soon became really special and something to look forward to each day. The coastal walks were my favourites, with cute little bays with white sandy beaches cradled by delicate pink rocky promontories. Mt Strezlecki was also great fun, but not everyone managed to reach the 750+metre summit. Mt Pillinger, known to local walkers as the “Eiger” of Flinders Island, is dramatic. I was going really well on the Eiger until walking round the final bend, where I could suddenly see the rope. Poor old heart missed a few beats. Some of the others did it though, and later they said that the view from the top was fabulous, but about the same as the view from the bottom of the rope, so that made me feel better. I was so close that it probably didn’t make any real difference.
They say that good things come in small packages, and that works for the island. There is a lot of wildlife for such a small place, such as Cape Barren geese. They are really huge and make a nest on the ground, so you can get close to photograph. We also saw muttonbirds flying in at dusk, heavily laden with fish for their chicks. Muttonbirds migrate absolutely monster distances each year from the northern hemisphere. Obviously they need good insulation which comes from lots of natural oil in their body. We were surprised to discover that if there are plenty of birds, some selected locals still get permission to harvest these birds. Pharmaceutical companies buy the oil for its valuable Omega 3 content. Also, the downy feathers are used in insulated clothing and the meat is eaten….nothing is wasted. On the way to another walk, we passed a group of beautiful peacocks beside the road. They are not native, but have become feral animals, along with pheasants which we didn’t see. Locals are allowed to shoot both these birds for eating….imagine that! Apparently they are very tasty (birds, not locals).
Back to walking Flinders Island. Even though there are several rental cars on the island, you really need a guide to take you on most of the walks, which start and finish at different places. The guides can arrange to have a second vehicle at the end of the walk, avoiding having to do them twice, or hitch-hiking back to the start. Delightfully, there are very few signs, but you definitely need a good map as well. On another nice coastal walk, our guide told us to wait while he “investigated”. He returned 15 mins later to say that Craig was home, and would allow everyone to take a shortcut through his property and avoid a section of steep rocky shoreline. When we met Craig, he insisted that we stop for a cuppa because he’d just boiled the kettle, and wanted to know all about our holiday and make sure that Hugh was looking after us. Good to know the locals!
There is plenty of accommodation there, mostly self-contained, but we stayed at a lovely place in the middle of a farm, where all the meals were included. That’s not normally my scene, but every now and again some indulgence feels good. The two of us slept like tops compared to home in Sydney, because there was no passing train noise, no street lights, no neighbourhood dogs & cats, no screaming kids, no screeching tyres……….just peace and quiet. Could we possibly move here to live? Nice thought, perhaps in retirement. The weather was great, too, no rain, just a steady wind which is what you’d expect in the middle of Bass Strait. The wind was an unexpected plus because it kept flies away and kept humidity low, absolutely great for walking. Locals said that there’s a huge range of rainfall here, from over a metre each year on the mountain tops right down to about 500mm in other places. That’s about what Canberra gets, not much.
The bus driver always waved to the other drivers. He didn’t know them all, but everyone waves, just in case. A non-wave might be remembered for years. Us walkers down the back came up with a theory that women drivers had a different waving style compared with the men. Men just raised one or two fingers which looked really rude, but was the minimum energy style. Women were more likely to let the steering wheel go and enthusiastically wave a whole hand. Sometimes women didn’t wave at all, but it seemed to happen when there was something else going on in the car. Everyone drove slowly so that didn’t matter either.
After one short walking day, our guide took us to the local museum, and don’t be fooled by the small size of Flinders Island, this museum is very well done. This sounds like an advert, which it’s not, but it could be, because the lady running the place, Kate, asked if we’d seen her wombats. Of course we hadn’t, so she gave us two cute little 12 month old wombats to play with. I’d never even seen a wombat before, much less a little one. They were like puppy dogs, investigating things, running, tumbling over and following each other everywhere. They went to sleep as soon as we picked them up, which made the girls go a bit clucky. Then Kate brought out an even smaller baby wombat, this one so small that it sat in just one open hand. Can I take him home?
There were lots of other animals there, kangaroos, pademelons, wombats and heaps of birds. I can’t remember their names, but there are animals everywhere you look. “Don’t drive at night” said our guide, and I believe him.
Flinders Island sure is a great place for walking, and obviously has a lot more going for it as well. Put it on your list of ‘must’ places to visit.