fbpx Skip to main content

Mum’s hand clutched mine as we felt the single engine plane bump along for take off.

“I hate small planes” she squealed. We soon felt a lift off from the rubble and grass runway below us.  We were airborne!  Fear and nerves as we climbed skywards soon turned to awe as we peered out the window taking it all in.

The countryside in north west Lutruwita/Tasmania is stunning and after rolling greens of various shades, soon we were passing coastline, where a white sandy beach gave way to a kaleidoscope of blues, turquoise, and aqua of the ocean.

“Keep an eye out for whales” said our guide Stac.  And we did.

Our journey to Flinders Island with Tasmanian Expeditions had just begun, and with a 7am start from Launceston we had been driven to a small airport at Bridport. From here a charter flight in a single engine 15 seater plane would carry us to the tiny airport of Whitemark about 25 mins flying time away.

Flinders Island is part of the Furneaux Islands, once connected to Tasmania and mainland Australia during Gondwana times. But with the oceans rising over the millions of years since, these three lands separated and created a slice of pristine coastline coupled with geological and (heartbreaking) Aboriginal stories.

Seeing tiny islands below us (no whales) some with runways, some old farms, others untouched, we arrived on a tiny airstrip ready for adventure!

Meeting our remaining guides Nigel and Clayton, we had a bit of an introduction session with our 10 fellow walkers and a briefing before heading out on our first walk of many for the week.

Day 1 – Flinders Island Experience

Beginning our experience on the traditional lands of the Palawa Pakana peoples, we started with an acknowledgment of Country before walking from Allports Beach to Castle Rock, also known as one of Tassies Great Short Walks.

Much like Bay of Fires, our first glimpse of beach was granite boulders covered in orange lichen under blue sunny skies.  The sand was white meeting the turquoise waters.  It was so inviting for a swim as the sun gave an impression of being warmer than it really was.  Our walk was only 3.5km but would be on compact trails that were sometimes sandy, sometimes rocky, on and off beaches and through low coastal scrub. Exploring the variances in granite, we reached a mini monolith called Castle Rock.  A lonely big boulder that from a distance resembles a smiling whale. As we approached, we could appreciate not just the immense rock, but also the patterns and stories that emerged from the flatter rocks at low tide. We lunched with views of Marshall Beach in stillness as rolling waves moved across the bay and spilled onto sand almost hypnotically. Sublime.

After lunch we were driven to Wybalenna to learn more about the tragic outcomes experienced by Aboriginal people in Tasmania. Such an important part of the history of Flinders Island and at times incredibly confronting and difficult to listen to, but events that must be retold. May sharing this history encourage kindness, empathy and compassion. As well as an understanding that Aboriginal people continue to live and connect with Country and culture in Tasmania despite different versions of history telling us the Palawa / Pakana people did not survive invasion and colonisation. This is simply not true. A sombre and reflective opportunity to acknowledge and pay respects to those resting in unmarked graves near the cemetery and Wybalenna Chapel.

From here we drove to our bush campsite where we found our Flinders Island home amongst the trees, settling in to our skyview glamping tents ready for 5 nights off the grid and just a stone’s throw from a secluded beach.

It was very much ‘sit back and relax’ while we explored our new digs. We checked out the beach (considered a swim…..) and we used water heated by gas stove to enjoy a one bucket hot shower. Simplicity and sustainability. Already I was loving this set up!!

Our group enjoyed a delicious 3 course dinner prepared beautifully by our guides under a communal tent where tables, chairs, a tea and coffee station, boardgames and books allowed people to meet, eat/drink and chat/play games.

Then it was back to the tent to enjoy stargazing once the sun set but with a full moon the stars were late to the party and I believe I fell asleep long before they showed up…

Day 2 – Mt Killiecrankie, Diamond Alley & Stacky’s Bight

The following morning, I woke toasty and warm on my camp stretcher feeling excited for a day on the trails. A freshly brewed coffee may have contributed to this thanks to home delivery by my tent mate, Mum. After a solid breakfast of muesli and eggs, it was time to hike up Mt Killiecrankie! The first 2km included 200m of elevation and the views on the way up improved around every rock. It was also an adventurous little trail with scrambles under and between giant boulders with some steep bits and gentle bits. We passed through woodlands and scrub, rocky gaps and caves with banksias and eucalypts lining the trail.

We reached the summit for 360 degree views around Flinders Island and beyond, and fruit-caked our way through morning tea thanks to our guides. On our descent we took some steepish downhill sections with rocky navigation (long legs helped!) to the coast and into Diamond Alley where topaz is found but also known as Flinders Island Diamonds as they were once thought to be due to the clear stone and hardness being so close to a diamond. My eyes were peeled to find one.

While I didn’t find any topaz what we did find was wow after wow on this walk. We reached a gorgeous beach called Stacky’s Bight and it was here where a natural arch had formed and a little bay with a beautiful swimming beach. We had lunch here and some group members had a swim before we continued to snake our way around headlands and beaches.

Orange popped from the rocks with lichen literally lighting up the coastline amongst bright purple pea flowers, purple samphire, cushion bush and multicoloured pig face. We strolled amongst towering rocks, rock pools and even met an echidna in the scrub. The walk was paced with plenty of rest stops, time to enjoy our surroundings, swims if we wanted and finished with another stunning beach called The Docks before a long steady uphill climb back to the bus.

A 12km circuit completed leisurely and with time for a swim back at camp or a cuppa and a hot shower, I felt content.  Mum and I enjoyed hot tea and reflected on our day and what a beautiful walk it was.

Day 3 – Mt Strzelecki

After another delicious multi course meal, again I am not sure I saw the sun set. Toasty and warm in bed, I slumbered heavily and woke to birdsong well after sunrise.  With a zip of the tent, a steaming hot cup of freshly brewed black coffee landed in my hands thanks again to Mum (can you see a theme here?). It was going to be another awesome day of adventure especially as we were going to attempt Mt Strzelecki!

The weather was going to turn later in the week. But truth be told, it had already started and it looked like our plans to summit were going to be hit and miss depending on when the rain was due to arrive. Today was scheduled to be our hardest walk, and rain, well it would just make it that bit harder or create unsafe conditions that would require us to turn back or skip the walk altogether.

We drove an hour to the start point leaving a bit earlier to allow time for the full-day walk. Apparently, the walk would be 6.5km return and it would take 4-5 hours but the terrain is technical and at times quite steep and difficult – it’s not unusual for people to be up there for 6-8 hours. This all sounded awesome and while I was worried about my ankle 14 weeks post fracture, I loved how this walk would challenge me.

Elevation started straightaway after we walked through a hug of trees arching over us. If it wasn’t for the awesome nature inspiring conversations with Clayton our guide it might have felt that bit harder. How we talked while going uphill so steeply for that first hour, I am not sure. We rested a lot. The trail became rockier and steeper after passing eucalypts, melaleuca and a gully of ferns. The rain started and before I could get my rain pants on, I found my first (ever) leech on my stomach just below my belly button. Ew!!!!

I used some hand sanitiser to remove it and while I couldn’t do much more at that point, it did its thing and bled for a while. I was in a bit of shock but as the rain kept falling and visibility decreased I realised I had more to think about in terms of where to put my feet.  My ankle was hurting from all the directional changes it had experienced so far and what worried me was that I still had to get down. So did Mum.

There were a couple of other walkers in our group who felt similar and after 500m of elevation (300m more climbing to go) we decided to head back down.  The rain was creating fear around downhill walking on rocks and so 4 of us returned down for lunch in a less leechy location. The rest of the group continued up another 100m higher or so to the saddle in sideways wind before having to turn back as well. They were maybe 45 mins behind us by the time we finished.

I was glad my ankle survived with just a little soreness – it lasted 4.5 hours after being sufficiently tested on rocks in various directions. I was also proud of Mum completing the hardest walk she had faced in a long time.

Next time we would train for this we laughed.

The rain had arrived for the day and our guide Nigel drove us to Whitemark so we could dry off and warm up with a coffee at the wharf returning not long after with the rest of our group too.

It was a satisfying walk despite not summiting and we all acknowledged that the walk had enough challenge to it!

We returned to camp for cold water recovery at the beach and a hot shower for some followed by yet another stunning multicourse dinner. Amazingly with limited running water and facilities, our guides delivered a sumptuous meal every night, delicious fresh lunches every day and both cooked and continental breakfasts. No-one went hungry!

Day 4 – Whitemark & Furneaux Museum

Another coma sleep behind me, plus my well-trained tent mate delivering a steaming morning brew, I enjoyed a leisurely start to the day. The weather was meant to be coming in rough so we had a beach walk from camp with time to noodle and comb the sand. Rock pools, sea creatures, shore birds and plenty of shells to admire as we enjoyed an hour with the wind behind us. While today would be a recovery day of sorts after Mt Strzelecki, we would try and visit Patriachs Inlet on the island’s eastern side.

The tides were huge and coming in faster than we could walk the beach without damaging the fragile coastal plants. In the short time we were there, the colours were incredible. Again the samphire, pig face (which was fruiting!) and dune plants painted the landscape in colours that included almost the whole rainbow. We headed to Whitemark after our bus had an issue that could potentially shorten the day’s adventure so we used this opportunity to explore the diamond shop, find local condiments made on the Island and to sample the best coffee in town.

On our way back to camp we called into the Furneaux Museum for 90 mins of exploration. Diving into the maritime history of Flinders Island, the time capsules, Aboriginal culture and shell necklace making. Plus seeing a huge collection of paper nautilus shells had me guessing when I might one day find one of these elusive beauties (a life goal of mine). With curry night approaching, we returned to camp for hot showers and relaxation. Reading, chatting, beach wading – there was no point being on a phone as there was little signal, limited means to charge from (subject to solar panels receiving enough sun) and the detox felt great.

Day 5 – Palana Beach to Northern River Inlet

Our final full day of walking was a section of the island up the very north at Palana Beach to Northern River Inlet.  While only 10km on the clock, the walk was not a quick one. Beaches, headlands, rock hopping and again the tides meant some climbing to avoid swimming our way around the bays. Some of the terrain was difficult to navigate with balance, concentration and foot placement tiring us all in various ways. At lunch we relaxed on Jackson Beach with swimming, sunbathing and some of our group members blissfully dozing. The sun shone as we left the pristine beaches behind us and climbed slightly uphill onto a 4WD track that, at times, meandered and undulated its way in hard to navigate scrub.

We rested in the shade of the she-oaks to escape the sun. We sighted an echidna and wallabies before finishing with pounding surf at Northern River. On our drive back to camp we also saw wombat, echidna, Cape Barren geese and pheasant which was awesome.  But it didn’t end there! A quick dip in the ocean allowed me to meet a ray in the shallows back at camp rounding off a wonderful day connecting with nature.

Day 6 – Fotheringate Beach to Trousers Beach

Waking on the final day of our Flinders Island experience, it was sad to pack up even though we had a full day of activity ahead. We said farewell to our gorgeous campsite, nestled in such a sheltered spot of the island, we not once felt the tent walls move in the wind despite the trees swaying above us.

We visited a seasonal market on our way to the southern parts of the island where our closing walk would take place. Just as well the CWA baked (they must have known we were coming) as our group enjoyed the spoils of local goodies and the book exchange raising money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. A quick visit to Fotheringate Beach, a delightful lake like bay with Mt Strzelecki shadowing in the distance almost begging us for a swim in the warm sunny conditions. So tempting.

But our walk was to start from here, and we made our way to Trousers Beach named aptly after a local sailor lost his trousers on a ship that wrecked nearby. Some years later a trunk of trousers showed up on the same beach from another wreck… This is another walk that made the top 60 Short Walks of Tasmania and a beautiful 2km of coastal trail to the most beautiful beach.

To give up the opportunity for a swim here felt wrong. One last opportunity to immerse! In the sunshine the water felt warmer than it had all week. I floated with my feet in the air, bobbing around in a turquoise blanket of water. With Mt Strzelecki summit in the distance, disappearing under cloud felt the trip coming to a close with immense gratitude for the week that it was – the weather (all 3 seasons), the time in nature to just be, to sleep, to not have to cook or clean, to have the means to say yes to this experience.

Massive thanks to Tasmanian Expeditions for this opportunity – the guides Stac, Nigel and Clayton for leading, caring and sharing the passion for Flinders Island and all her stories. Thanks to Mum for being the bearer of coffee every morning and suffering through me sleeping 10 hours a night and for being brave enough to say yes to an adventure with me before even looking at the itinerary.

Big Heart Adventures is taking expressions of interest for our private hosted departure to Flinders Island in February 2025. Contact us for more information!

Additional Reading

Big Heart Adventures is a commercial tour operator (CTO) and leads walking adventures throughout South Australia, Australia and overseas. We offer fully guided walking tours and self-guided walking adventures.

To see all our South Australian walking tours, visit our website here.

You can check out all our other walking tours here.

Read more about ‘Big Heart Adventures’ and wellness walks

To learn more about ‘Big Heart Adventures’ and wellness walking, visit our website here.