King Island, Bass Strait, Tasmania

King Island is situated in Bass Strait, between Victoria and Tasmania. The only commercial trip you can get to the island is by plane, with the flight taking about 50 minutes from either Victoria or Tasmania. The island is about 64km long by 27km wide and is a popular tourist destination, with long peaceful beaches, rocky coasts, nature reserves, shipwrecks off the coast and a lighthouse.

King Island has a pleasant maritime climate with moderate temperatures throughout the year, and good rainfall to support a strong local agricultural industry. Conditions can turn rough through with gales often reaching over 100km per hour. Temperatures are roughly five degrees warmer in winter and five degrees cooler in summer than on the mainland.

Wildlife is abundant on the island due to the remoteness and absence of predators. There is a 50m wide reserve around the island from the high tide water mark, making to the King Island coastline accessible to everyone.

The Island has two large nature reserves covering 7,200. The Lavinia State Reserve situated on the north east is the largest covering 6400 hectares. The reserve has a couple of beautiful ocean beaches; Nine Mile Beach and Lavinia Beach. Within the reserve is Lake Martha Lavinia and Pennys Lagoon, a fresh water lake. Seal Rocks State Reserve down in the south west covers round 800 hectares containing an ancient Calcified Forest and the rugged cliffs of Seal Rocks. The reserves have well defined walking tracks.

To get around the island, you can hire a car or take a coach tour to see the wildlife and natural features of the Island. Fishing tours or diving trips can also be arranged. Alternatively you can explore by foot along the walking tracks and beautiful beaches.

Wildlife on the island that is commonly encountered includes Bennetts wallaby, Tasmanian Pademelon, the Echidna and Brushtail Possum. You might be lucky enough to see a Platypus at dusk around one of the many lagoons and water ways. Other animals around that are less commonly seen include the Southern Potoroo, Ringtail Possum, Swamp Antechinus and Eastern Pygmy Possum. King Island has a number of common reptiles including the Lemon-bellied tiger snake, Copperhead, White-lipped grass snake, Common Blue-tongued Lizard along with various other skinks. You may also see the Green and Gold Bell Frog, Striped Marsh Frog and Eastern Banjo Frog.

Several species of marine animals sometimes visit the shores of King Island including the Australian Fur Seal. You may also see Southern Right Whale and Dolphins offshore. Southern Elephant Seals and Leopard Seals are rare visitors. Breeding colonies of Southern elephant seals used to be found on King Island but the sealing industry wiped them out.

The island is rich in bird life with many birds of prey, water birds, shore birds and waders. The endangered Orange-bellied Parrot only breeds in the south west of Tasmania, and after breeding, migrates up the west coast and arrives on King Island and on the Australian mainland. You may be lucky enough to spot one of these rare birds. A closely related parrot, the Blue-winged Parrot has also been recorded on the island.

You can see Little Penguins on King Island. These birds are the smallest penguin species with adults standing about 40cm tall. They feed in the ocean on small fish, squid and krill then return to their colonies on the shore each night at dusk. You can see the nightly penguin parade at Grassy Harbour. When you arrive make sure you read the information at the viewing area. There are basic common sense guidelines to protect the penguins e.g. keep quite, don’t stand between the penguins and their burrows, don’t handle the penguins, be sensible with torches etc.

Muttonbirds (Short-tailed Shearwater) nest on the island. These birds are harvested for oil and food with a two-week open season on King Island (for those with licence issued by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service). The muttonbird is protected in all parts of Australia except Tasmania, where chicks can be taken, but adult birds are fully protected.

Much of the King Island native habitat has been cleared since European settlement but you can still see vegetation as it once was in the reserves. Saltwater Creek Reserve and The Nook Swamps preserve some of the original swamp forests of Paperbark and Blackwood. The south of island was once covered with eucalypt forest and dense rainforest. Remnant of these forests can be seen at places like Yarra Creek, Grassy River, Pegarah State forest and on the Seal River. Some of the coastal scrub and heath vegetation is well preserved. Rocky coastal vegetation can be seen in the New Year Island Reserve and Seal Rocks State Reserve.

There are a number of accommodation options on the island from hotels and motels to self-contained apartments and cottages. Access to the island is by air, and a number of operators can fly you to King Island including Rex Airlines, Tasair, King Island Airlines, RL Aviation. The island is serviced by airlines from Tullamarine and Moorabbin airports in Melbourne or from Devonport and Wynard in Tasmania.

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