Travel

Bass Strait's Flinders Island, the forgotten land bridge to the mainland

In the whipping winds of Bass Strait, just 54km from Tasmania's northeast tip lies Flinders Island, a natural paradise of stunning seas, rocks, beaches and coves. Andrew Bain explains why the island is a must-visit (especially for adventure-seekers).

Words and photography by Andrew Bain

Until 12,000 years ago, you could walk across Bass Strait, following a narrow land bridge along the line of what is now the Furneaux Islands. For Aboriginal people, it was a pathway between what is now the Australian mainland and Tasmania.

The highest point of that land bridge is now the mountains of Flinders Island, Tasmania’s largest and arguably most spectacular offshore island.

Though no longer a pathway between lands, it remains covered in pathways of its own – visit and it feels as though the island remains custom-made for walking.

Fotheringate Beach

Three of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks are on Flinders Island, and to hike them is to just scratch the surface of its walking possibilities.

This is a place where granite mountains rise more than 700 metres directly from the sea, orange lichen coats boulders as thickly as jam, empty beaches stretch out for kilometres, and wildlife far outnumbers people.

Hiking to the top of Strzelecki Peaks will reward you with views back to nearby Tasmania (and keep an eye out for the birdlife - the island has more than 200 species)

The island’s best known beauty spot, and site of two of the Great Short Walks, is Strzelecki National Park at its southwestern edge. Here, the colourful, strangely named Trousers Point is backed by the stark slopes of the Strzelecki Peaks, the island’s highest point.

The summit of this mountain is reached on a walking track that climbs through the dark forest that wraps around its jigsaw of granite rock faces.

The 2 hour walk to the top of the highest mountain on any offshore Tasmanian island is the most challenging on Flinders, but it's worth every bead of sweat and every shuddering gust of Roaring Forties wind.

Peer south on a good day, and Tasmania’s north coast is visible along with a constellation of small islands in Bass Strait.

The climb’s gentler companion piece is the short walk around Trousers Point, a love handle on the hip of the island. At the walk’s start is the tiny beach that forms Flinders' most famous scene, with boulders strewn across the headlands like knuckle bones, and the Strzelecki Peaks rising in a wall just behind the shores.

Trousers Point on Flinders Island is said to have earned its curious name either from a man who made a fortunate but trouser-less escape from the wreck of the Sarah Ann Blanch or was the place a box of trousers washed up from the wreck of the Cambridgeshire in 1875.

It seems like an incomparable scene, until you walk the 2 kilometres around the point’s coastline to Fotheringate Beach and find another sight just as good.

My favourite walk on Flinders Island, however, isn’t even one of the Great Short Walks.

Near the top of the island is Killiecrankie, a small town above bone-white sands. It's a gem of a beach, but there are other treasures here also – namely, Killiecrankie diamonds and a stunning loop walk around the coast and over Mt Killiecrankie.

These so-called 'diamonds' are, in fact, a type of topaz found in a range of colours along Mines Creek and Diamond Creek. You can fossick for them at the point where Diamond Creek washes through the beach’s northern end, but the walking route continues straight on from here, veering off the shores briefly stepping back onto sand at Stackys Bight.

This small cove, lined with turquoise shallows, appears almost to have been carved from a different place, with a large limestone arch curling out from a headland at the end of the beach.

The sparkling waters around Stacky's Bight are as lush and inviting as a tropical paradise, though water temperatures here range from 12 to 20 degrees celsius.

It might easily be a stray piece of Thailand or another tropical beach rather than a chilly, far-southern strand in Tasmania.

Beyond Stackys Bight, the walk exits Killiecrankie Bay and picks along the coast over massive granite rock shelves that slope down into Bass Strait.

Mt Killiecrankie’s cliffs – a sleeper favourite with rock climbers – tower overhead, and the coastal stretch of walking ends at The Dock, a mountain-backed beach strewn with boulders and headlands. I’ll long argue that it might be Tasmania’s most spectacular beach.

When sea levels rose 12,000 years ago, Tasmania, Flinders and King islands broke away as their own islands from the continent of Australia.

To return to Killiecrankie, the walk follows the beach’s 4WD access road to a low saddle, from where a walking track veers away, picking past honeycombed granite boulders to a low summit with a big view across most of the island.

Partway between Trousers Point and Killiecrankie, at about the point where the 40th parallel bisects the island, the third of the Great Short Walks seeks out Castle Rock.

This 6km trail follows a succession of small white beaches lining Marshall Bay to reach an enormous boulder, plugged in the sand, that rises like a giant granite whale.

Castle Rock has its own majestic beauty erupting from the beach.


As I stride along the beach, I’m seemingly alone in a postcard, as I’ve been on every walk on the island. Ahead, Castle Rock grows from a pebble to a rock to finally loom larger than any human structure I've seen on the island. It feels appropriate for a place where nature remains the predominant force.

Andrew Bain is an award-winning travel writer specialising in outdoor adventure, who can usually be found cycling when he should be working. He has published several Australian adventure tourism books.

A bright orange lichen grows on Tasmania's east coast granite rocks, creating a glow like hot cinders.

Citro travel tip:

Sharp Airlines flies to Flinders Island from Melbourne and Launceston. Late spring and summer are great times to explore Flinders Island when it's warm enough to take refreshing swim after a day's walk.

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