AS Australia tries to sleep off our disappointment in the pool, Rio’s Olympic swimmers have headed out to party.
THERE are holidays you go on to ride mopeds and drink cheap beer (Asia), those that help expand your mind (Europe) and the ones devoted to a bucket-list challenge of some kind (climbing Kilimanjaro, walking Kokoda).
But occasionally you discover a spot that defies neat description. It doesn’t fit into a particular holiday box; it exerts a curious charm that is hard to pin down; and is usually devoid of other tourists, which is a big bonus, let’s face it.
Welcome to King Island: the land of hefty Angus cattle, beautiful bays and beaches, a stunning lighthouse, and world-class produce.
You may be tempted to escape the winter cold with a package deal somewhere north, but King Island — located in Bass Strait between Melbourne and Tasmania — is a much better choice.
Here is why you should go:
YOU CAN EAT A CRAYFISH PIE
King Island has become synonymous with gourmet produce and for good reason.
Crayfish and abalone are among the more expensive of the exports, but not all of it leaves the island. In fact, the cafes and restaurants go to great lengths to incorporate King Island produce in their menus, and the bakery in the main town of Currie even adds shellfish to their pies.
The iconic crayfish pie ($14) is made from the island’s prized lobster, and they taste amazing.
YOU CAN GET UP CLOSE TO LITTLE PENGUINS
Victoria’s Phillip Island Penguin Parade is one of the state’s most popular wildlife experiences because, put simply, people love little furry creatures that waddle.
On King Island, if you head to the second-largest town of Grassy at dusk you will see masses of them coming in from the water to their nests each evening.
Even just driving slowly in your rental car down by the Grassy harbour will bring many of them into sharp relief in the roadside shrubbery. And you will have them all to yourself.
YOU CAN PLAY GOLF ON ONE OF THE WORLD’S BEST COURSES
Cape Wickham Golf Course is attracting attention as a destination course of international standing, largely owing to its spectacular ocean views.
It only opened in November, but has already been ranked 24th in the World’s Top 100 Golf Courses by the influential Golf Digest USA magazine.
The 18-hole links course offers views of Bass Strait from each hole, with eight holes parallel to the ocean. Unlike many of the top courses, the Cape Wickham course is open to the public, with golfers flying in from overseas for a game.
The 18th hole even bends around the beach, which is in bounds.
YOU CAN EAT CHEESE FOR FREE
When most people think of King Island, they think of the award-winning cheese, which is certainly delicious, but costs a bomb at the local Coles or Woolies. But if you head to the King Island Dairy cheese shop, you can taste a sample of each of their chesses.
The staff supplies crackers to enjoy with the range, as well as a rating sheet in which you can rank your favourites.
Cheese is also available to buy, too, and it’s often up to half of what you would pay on the mainland.
Expect plenty of pre-orders from friends and family.
YOU CAN ENJOY ISOLATED BEACHES
Island holidays are great, but if you have to share your little slice of paradise with too many other tourists, it can become less like paradise and more like a human car park.
King Island has miles of uninterrupted coastline and some spectacular coastal walks offering beautiful views of the beach and water.
On a clear day, the Seal Rocks lookout is one of the most stunning vistas you’re ever likely to see and there are a number of nearby walks that you can do, which vary in length from a few kilometres to more arduous hikes.
YOU WILL FALL IN LOVE, LADIES
OK, so this one is not guaranteed, but, like many rural communities across Australia, there is a surplus of blokes (and not that many women).
Take it from me. I met my partner of 10 years during a holiday to King Island. I was living in Brisbane at the time and travelled there on a whim one oppressively hot February.
I had never been to the island before, but felt compelled to visit for some strange reason, and so I rashly booked a flight.
I locked eyes with one of the local painters in the cafe on my first afternoon on the island, and, three months later, we moved overseas together.
We have since settled in Melbourne, but visit King Island as often as life allows us.
Every time we go I am struck by the quiet magic of the place, the way the wind heaves in the trees and the wallabies dart about at dusk.
And I find myself thinking, ‘Not a Bali bogan in sight’.
How to get there:
It’s a 40-minute flight to King Island from Melbourne.
Rex Airlines flies from Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport; Sharp Airlines flies from Essendon, while King Island Air flies out of Moorabbin.
Where to stay:
In the main town of Currie, Devil’s Gap Shacks offers ocean views.
Or stay at luxury units at Portside Links in Grassy, which is a short walk from a secluded beach.
For more information visit: kingisland.org.au
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