unique, offering a rare glimpse into isolated island life
Reviewed Feb 2017
Jack and Jude have sailed to King Island, visiting local friends on several occasions. It is unique, offering a rare glimpse into isolated island life, but it requires great care as outlined below. This succinct review is just part of our complete Tasmania Cruising Guide available at https://jackandjude.com/books/tas-notes/
King Island lies in the western approaches to Bass Strait, an island steeped in nautical history, most of it quite tragic. In 1798, when Bass and Flinders discovered that Tasmania is an island prompted many captains to risk those dangerous straits at their peril because rocky, fog shrouded King Island lay unknowingly right in their way. One of the most tragic shipwrecks, the Neva carried 240 people on board, most of them female convicts or the wives of already deported convicts, and their children. All were left locked below when the ship struck reefs a mere few hundred metres off King Island’s northern shore while the crew took the longboats to safety. This so enraged the authorities that the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest lighthouse, standing 52 m high, was built within cooee of the Neva lying below Cape Wickham.
Situated halfway between the mainland and Tasmania’s north coast is an island 64 km long by 24 km wide with gently rolling hills rising to 213 metres at Mount Stanley. It was sighted a few years after Flinders by Captain John Black, a privateer aboard the Harbinger, who was taking a more southern route than the brig Lady Nelson, the first ship through the Strait. In 1802, it was claimed for Great Britain to prevent the French taking possession, and named to honour Philip Gidley King, the third governor of New South Wales.
Lying directly in the path of the Roaring Forties, the tourist pamphlets claim King Island is a land of long, empty beaches with numerous dairy farms, lighthouses, shipwrecks and now two world-class golf courses. Its treacherous currents may have claimed hundreds of ships and far more than a thousand lives, today it’s more renowned for award-winning cheeses, the freshest seafood and succulent beef. Some say the fine pastures were spawned by seed strewn from shipwrecked mattresses, but whether this is true, the island enjoys the cleanest air, ample rainfall and plenty of sunshine. The pace of life is far slower on Australia's seventh largest island than just about anywhere else, and the locals - there are only around 2,000 of them - boast that the only traffic delays encountered are wallabies, turkeys, possums and pheasants, to name a few.
There are two all weather ports at King, the main one surprisingly on the west coast at Currie, which is the main town. It’s protected by offshore reefs that are a bit tricky to navigate in poor weather, meaning strong winter westerly winds and swell. The other port is on the island’s southeast coast at Grassy. It’s tight. Moorings take up all but a fraction of the available space, and anchoring a large yacht longer than 50’ is unwise – especially as a weekly cargo vessel swings right through the only anchoring spot. At present, the Searoads Mersey arrives Tuesday morns, not a good time to swing on the hook at Grassy. But with a little luck, a stout mooring might be available. Call the Harbour Master on channel 16 beforehand.
There is also an open roadstead anchorage at Naracoopa that is fine in NW to SSW winds. And in the rare summer easterlies, off the northwest coast sits Christmas and New Year Islands. Magic spot, beautiful scenes and fishing that’s all yours.
Currie Harbour, main town.
Everything in Currie is scenically deposited on a bold rocky coast dotted with green forest that’s surrounded by lush pastureland. But its harbour, being on the winter weather coast, seems very exposed, being protected by a rocky reef. The hill above it is dominated by a white lattice light structure built fifty years after the island’s main lighthouse was established at Cape Wickham.
Facilities are centrally located in Currie. Two food stores, bakery, post office, a doctor, pub, and lots of tourist galleries selling local art.
Fuel can be delivered to jetty. Freshwater is available.
Approach on leads heading 106°T. Pass close to red buoy then turn onto 134°T for leads on end of wharf. Usable up to 3 m draught but be careful of shoals either side of jetty. In heavy weather, harbour entrance may break right across.
40°04.05'S ~ 144°03.65'E Harbour entrance
Approach either side of Omagh Reef (Oh my God) using appropriate set of leads. Then turn onto harbour leads 52°T to enter between breakwalls.
Grassy is a small harbour with permanent fishing boat moorings and a couple of others occupied by local yachts. A mooring can usually be found by contacting the Ports office on 03 64611155, they are located in a brick building at the Port. Failing that, two contacts that can be helpful at the King Island Boat Club are Duncan Porter on 0439215188 or John Brewster 0427875832. There are toilets and showers open to visitors at the right hand end of the boat club. If anchoring, about the only clear place is the turning circle of the supply ship, but don’t be there when it arrive. Boats should not be left unattended in this area.
Important: At King Island, all vessels secure to mooring chain. Do not use mooring line to secure your vessel. Pass your line through a link and double back.
Facilities: It's a 5 km drive to Grassy Township, or a 30 min short cut walk through disused quarry by going right immediately on dirt track. One small general store at Grassy, a club serving meals, and maybe 30 houses, and kelp factory producing amazing artifacts by local craftsmen.
Naracoopa, open roadstead
39°54.79’S ~ 144°07.16’E
Shelter SSW to NW in 6 – 10 m sand with some weed, may be affected by swell.
Pretty spot for an overnight stay. Take care near Elephant Shoals.
Franklin Road behind New Year Island
Shelter from moderate SW through W to NW in 4 – 6 m sand with weed patches.
King Island guide warns of numerous snakes.
Yellow Rock Beach,
Shelter from NE to SE in 6 – 10 m sand, affected by westerly swell.
Boiler of paddle steamer Shannon lies on beach.
Hire a car, delivered Grassy, day trips to numerous sights.
Walk coast Grassy to C. Stokes, camp @ Red Hut Impressive
Great care required near island - currents, rocks, swell.