Killiecrankie Bay looking south from Diamond gully
Flinders Island is Tasmania’s largest offshore island and is by far the largest in the Furneaux Group. Situated in Bass Strait between mainland Australia and Tasmania it is one of the few unspoilt unpolluted places left close to the major population centres of Australia. Combined with the very small population and the majestic scenery Flinders Island is still a paradise untouched.
The island is about 62 km from north to south, and 37 km from east to west with a total land area of 1,333 km2. Mount Strzelecki in the south west is the island's highest peak at 756 m. About a third of the island is mountainous and rugged with ridges of granite running the length of the island. The coastal areas are dominated by sandy deposits often taking the shape of dunes. The coastal areas are mainly covered in scrub or shrubs (and you will never see melaleucas and kunzeas growing so thickly), whereas the vegetation at a higher elevation consists of woodland, mainly eucalyptus species.
The total number of plant species in the Furneaux Group well exceeds 800, showing the great biodiversity of its ecosystem. Animal species include Bennett's wallaby, brushtail possum, Cape Barren goose, short-tailed shearwater, eastern pygmy possum, potoroo, common ringtail possum, Tasmanian pademelon, and Cape fur seal . It is the only remaining habitat of a subspecies of common wombat, which is listed as vulnerable by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and IUCN Red List.
The area surrounding Mount Strzelecki in the south west of the island constitutes Strzelecki National Park. The island also supports a population of feral turkeys . Also in the feral department, there are populations of peafowl and golden pheasants. There are feral cats but no rabbits, foxes or wild dogs. You will also see very healthy tiger snakes and copperheads. The other snake to look out for is the white lipped snake. Flinders is also home to some albino echidnas, more blonde than white.
The climate of this region is generally mild as the sea has a moderating effect protecting the islands from extremes of temperature. Winds are predominantly westerlies and can blow unabated for several days during late winter and spring, with cooling sea breezes during the summer months.
The population in 2011 was 700 people; the median age being 45. Settlements include Whitemark which has the island's main airstrip and shops, and about 155 inhabitants and Lady Barron with approx 110 inhabitants. It is important you wave to fellow motorists as you drive around the island.
People choosing to live here have a lifestyle where you don’t lock your house and you can leave your keys in the car however there are some disadvantages. A return airfare to Launceston on a Sharp Airlines Metroliner is around $350. There is a well stocked IGA but prices are above mainland prices (as you would expect) and fuel is expensive.
The dining is excellent at the Interstate Hotel at Whitemark, the seafood platter would stop most people, and we recommend the battered flathead fillets and chips at the Lady Barren Tavern.
There is good mobile phone coverage (Telstra) over most of the island, data downloads can be a bit slow at times though.
The Flinders Island Hospital, at Whitemark, has 28 beds, five of which are acute care. The hospital provides a 24 hour emergency service and there is a GP in Whitemark.
There are two main fossicking areas, Diamond Gully (the home of the famous Killiekrankie Diamond) and the old tin mine on Mine Creek, with Diamond Gully by far the most productive.
The tides and weather influence fossicking time at Diamond Gully as there is about a 3 metre tidal range. A pleasant 2.5 kilometre walk along the beach at Killiekrankie Bay gets you to Diamond Gully. Then you start looking between rocks, under rocks, digging holes in the sand. Apart from topaz, when digging you will also find many sea critters, various starfish, many different species of small crabs, small fish, shells and worms etc
A collection of fine “Diamonds” from M&J's last three trips, the best went 902cts.
While waiting for the right tides, or if you need a rest from fossicking, there are many other attractions, such as the Furneaux Museum, Mt Strezlecki bush walking tracks, Mt Walker lookout, walk along Whitemark Beach and look for paper nautilus shells or visit the Patriarchs Wild Life Reserve. At the Reserve there is an A frame cabin complete with flush toilets and hot showers. When you arrive here the beautiful little Bennet’s wallabies appear waiting to be fed on the marsupial approved pellets available in the A frame. If you do visit and use the facilities a small donation would be welcomed.
It is very hard to find a spot on Flinders that doesn’t warrant a photograph.