King Island

Australia, Tasmania Add comments

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TasmaniaLisa holding a Giant CrabKing Island is located in Bass Strait above the northwestern tip of the island of Tasmania, we visited some of Lisa’s family friends, the Jordans, for a few days before making our way south to Tasmania.  The island subsists on its famous King Island Beef and King Island Dairy cheese, as well as being a magnet for lobster fisherman attracted by the bounty of crustaceans living in the surrounding ocean.  The Newby family from Sydney were also on the island for our visit, Lisa’s mum attended school with Sue Newby and the Young family met the Jordans through the Newbys, remaining close friends and travel companions ever since.  There are roughly 1600 inhabitants of the small island, it’s the kind of place where everyone knows each other on a first name basis and life takes a relatively slow pace compared to the hustle and bustle of nearby Melbourne.

We stayed with the Jordans in their beautiful home in Currie for our six days on the island, they were the epitome of hospitality, providing the best the island has to offer for our visit and making it very difficult to The Human Hurdle Race at the King Island RacesThe King Island Racesleave.  After flying in on a small plane from Melbourne we all ventured to the King Island The King Island RacesRace Club for the last of the season’s horse racing meets.  There was quite a gathering for the event, the stands being full for each of the nine-or-so races, which had everything from trots to conventional gallops.  The betting was via a conventional TAB or the slightly more traditional bookies at Honest Howie’s Betting Emporium, The King Island Racesboth venues frequented multiple times by members of our troop, most of whom had a win or two during the afternoon.  The steak sandwiches at the races were definitely some of the best we’d ever tasted, King Island scotch fillets served up in a sandwich with all the Aussie fixings, including a helping of bacon and egg.  If it wasn’t for the line I would have gone back for seconds!  We had a surprise visit from the premier (US: governor) of Tasmania during the afternoon, on the island for the last race meet of the season as well as to celebrate the reopening of the island’s abattoir.  I was also lucky enough to win one of the raffles when my horse came in first in race seven of the day.  It was a bit of fun to watch the Human Hurdle Race, a clash involving locals racing over hurdles whilst holding a flute of champagne, the winner collecting a South Pacific holiday worth $10,000. 

 Lisa snacking on one of the best steak sandwiches ever at the King Island RacesSteve and Jenni at the King Island RacesLisa and Linda at the King Island RacesThe King Island Races Lisa and Sam at the King Island RacesThe King Island RacesThe King Island Races Jenni and Lisa at the King Island RacesSue and Linda at the King Island RacesThe King Island RacesThe King Island Races The King Island RacesThe King Island RacesThe premier of Tasmania (David Bartlett) at the King Island RacesSam and his raffle winnings at the King Island Races John and Dawn at the King Island RacesThe Human Hurdle Race at the King Island RacesThe Human Hurdle Race at the King Island Races 

Grant's famous deep-fried camembert wedgesCrayfish pies from the King Island BakeryFrom the delectable cheeses of King Island Dairy to succulent cuts of local beef and delicious Giant Crab from the deep waters west near the Southern Ocean shelf, we sure had a memorable culinary adventure during our stay.  Grant dished-up his famous wedges of deep-fried King Island camembert, served with plum sauce they were well worth the hundreds of calories in each bite!  A new addition to my list of Australia’s best bakeries is King Island Bakery, which serves a selection of baked goods infused with local produce, the crayfish pies and camembert, bacon and spinach pies were absolutely to die for.  My dad sent a case of wine to the island for our stay, coupled with the Jordans’ extensive cellar no one was wanting for exquisite wines with any of our meals.  Rob even broke out some of his Muscat and port selection for dessert one night, I think I’m going to have to go on detox for a little while to give my liver a bit of a rest after six days on King Island. 

Panoramic of the Jordans' property overlooking British Admiral Reef A gift from Sam's dad waiting for us on arrival at King IslandSteve reading the paper at the Jordans'King Island beef for dinner one night at the Jordans' The King Island ladies: Lisa, Sue, Linda, Jill, Carol and DawnGrant making his famous deep-fried camembert wedgesLisa and Grant Legs of lamb for dinner one night on King Island 

Albatross shadowing KingfisherGrant's abalone boatKingfisher's cabin in the early morning darknessThe Jordans operate a crayfish boat, Kingfisher V, based out of Currie, King Island’s main town.  The boat is quite a vessel, having enough deck space to accommodate 50 crayfish pots, five beds below the cabin as well as enough tank space to hold a few tonnes of crayfish and abalone.  Kingfisher is typically skippered by Rob or the eldest son Paul, shipping out for Sunrise over the crayfish pots on Kingfisheranything from day trips out of Currie to multi-week voyages along the isolated west coast of Tasmania and around to Hobart.  The lobster caught by Rob and Paul don’t usually hit Sam holding a four kilogram crayfishthe domestic markets, they’re typically flown to Melbourne and then transported live to the Asian markets or, for the crayfish over 2.5 kilograms, they make their way to the USA (bigger’s always better in the States…).  Grant, Dawn and Rob’s youngest son, operates his own abalone business, for which he dives off a custom-built abalone boat amongst the rocky reefs surrounding most of King Island.  Unlike conventional SCUBA gear, grant dives using a hose and boat-secured, nitrox-filled (nitrogen-enriched oxygen) tanks enabling him to stay A hermit crab pulled up in one of the deep crayfish potsunderwater for multiple hours at a time (I think he mentioned his longest dive being around seven hours!).  When I go diving with mates on California’s north coast I’m happy to pull up my legal limit of three abalone per day.  When Grant goes diving he’s not happy if he’s not pulling up in excess of 100 kilograms of abalone per hour, which equates to roughly 200 Blacklip Abalone per hour!

I ventured out with Rob and his deckhand Russell for a Giant Crab on Kingfisher's deckday on Kingfisher.  Russell’s a jovial young bloke who was happy to show me the ropes on Kingfisher, he’s the recent new owner of the only post office on King Island and loves his new home to bits.  We set off from Rob, Carol and Sam cleaning Giant CrabCurrie’s harbour at around 4:30AM, leaving the rocky cove with the assistance of land-mounted light beacons guiding the way in the darkness.  The operation of the Jordans’ crayfish boat is a well oiled machine, pots are marked using GPS and retrieved from the deeps A Giant Crab about to be cleanedusing a custom-built winching system.  By the end of our trip I was retrieving the lobster from the pots, Russell re-baiting them with Australian Salmon ready for their next drop, and Rob supervising to make sure everything put in the tanks was of legal size.  Quite interesting to note the colour difference in lobster pulled from different depths: we had a number of pots pulled from roughly 70 meters (240 feet) below the surface, the lack of light at that depth results in lobster with almost white exoskeletons, a marked difference to the bright red shells of the crayfish pulled from shallower water.  It was a lot of fun, a very unique experience to see the inner-workings of the commercial lobster industry.  On our return to Currie Rob retrieved four Giant Crabs from Kingfisher’s tanks, caught a few weeks earlier by Paul and Grant on a trip west to the deep waters of the Southern Ocean shelf.  The crabs were an amazing sight, the male crabs had claws as big as an adult human’s forearm and can crush a glass soda bottle with ease (notice the cable ties holding the crab claws against their bodies so we all could keep our fingers attached!).  The Jordans treated us all to a dinner of Giant Crab for Carol’s surprise birthday dinner, such sweet flesh and an amazing amount of meat in each crab’s claws and legs.

Grant's abalone boatGrant pulling his abalone boat out of the shedGrant getting ready to launch his abalone boat in GrassyThe freight ship delivering supplies to King Island in Grassy Russell getting salmon ready to be used as bait in the crayfish potsRob displaying a three to four kilogram crayfishRussell getting the bait readyKingfisher Rob the skipperSunrise from KingfisherRob and Russell pulling in a crayfish pot A hermit crab pulled up in one of the deep crayfish potsRussell removing crayfish from the potRob measuring the carapace of one of the smaller crayfish Crayfish boats in the Currie harbourAlbatross shadowing KingfisherCrayfish boats in the Currie harbour Russell holding a Giant CrabRob pulling Giant Crab from Kingfisher's tanksGiant Crab on Kingfisher's deck Sam holding  couple of Giant CrabLisa holding a Giant CrabSam holding a four kilogram crayfish Lisa, Steve, Jenni and Greg on the way out to KingfisherCarol and Rob on the way out to KingfisherRob, Carol and Sam cleaning Giant CrabGreg and John the workers

The coastline north of the main town of CurrieKing IslandLisa entering the cave at Seal RocksWhen we weren’t eating, drinking or fishing we spent our time exploring the island, the rocky coastline made for some beautiful photos.  Grant has a well-stocked supply of toys in the sheds at the rear of the Jordans’ property, everything from jet-skis to hang gliders.  Grant and I took out the jet skis toward the north of the island one afternoon, launching at the southern end of beautiful Quarantine Bay and venturing out toward nearby Christmas and New Years Islands.  We found some spots of good swell in the middle of the deserted beaches of Quarantine Bay, Grant demonstrating how to charge the larger waves and ride the face before they crashed.  I managed to flip my jet-ski on one occasion, giving Grant a good laugh and myself a bit of a fright as I tried to right the craft and restart it before the next set of waves was on me.  Grant also took us all on a trip to Seal Rocks State Reserve at the southern tip of the island, home to a calcified forest, beautiful stretches of coastline and a stalactite-filled cave.  It was a bit of an adventure getting into the cave but well worth the mud most of us left with on our clothes, the cave’s two caverns are filled with a myriad of stalactites and mineral deposits creating fantastic patterns on the walls. 

Celebrating Carol's 60th birthdayLisa and Jill at Steve and Jenni's beach house on King IslandJenni and Steve's beach house on King IslandThe coastline north of the main town of Currie The coastline north of the main town of Currie  Old lobster pots and 'D the Dog'Getting ready to launch the jetskis in Quarantine BayGetting ready to launch the jetskis in Quarantine Bay Sam with the jetskis in Quarantine BaySunset from the Jordans' house on King IslandThe calcified forest at the south end of King Island The calcified forest at the south end of King IslandView along the southern coast of King Island from Seal Rocks'D the Dog' sprinting next to the car Seal Rocks The entrance to the cave at Seal RocksLisa, Greg and Grant clambering on the rocks on the way into the cave at Seal Rocks Greg entering the cave at Seal Rocks 'D the Dog' drinking after a big runMuddy boots after a trip to the Seal Rocks caveGreg, Lisa, Linda, Jill and JohnLisa, Jenni and Sam at the Nautilus Coffee Shop Caroline's Pottery on King IslandCaroline's Pottery on King IslandKing Island Cattle on Grant's farmGrant's cattle on King IslandCattle on Grant's farm 

Kingfisher in the Currie harbourRemoving crayfish from the tanks on KingfisherRemoving crayfish from the tanks on KingfisherWe were lucky enough to be on the island when the Jordans were offloading their crayfish catch for export.  The exercise involves the local seafood processors packing the live lobsters into crates for transport to Melbourne, the crayfish are removed from Kingfisher’s tanks via an on-ship crane.  Awesome to see hundreds of kilograms of live crayfish being unloaded into the crates, a very colourful payday for the family!

Paul on KingfisherRemoving crayfish from the tanks on KingfisherRemoving crayfish from the tanks on KingfisherKingfisher in the Currie harbour 

Removing crayfish from the tanks on KingfisherKelp drying on the racksSampling the finished product at the King Island kelp factoryIn addition to all the beef, cheese and seafood exported from King Island, another major industry for the tiny land mass is the export of kelp.  The Bull Kelp endemic to the north coast of Tasmania contains a high concentration of alginates, compounds found in seaweeds used for a dizzying Sampling the finished product at the King Island kelp factoryarray of applications: in foods for thickening and stabilization of drinks and creams, for syneresis in ice-cream and cheese, as a thickener in The King Island kelp factorypharmaceutical lotions and creams, as a gel in dental impression powders, for its water holding properties in paper coatings, as a binding agent in ceramics and welding rods…  I could go on!  Paul and Grant used to harvest Bull Kelp from the King Island beaches before they had bigger fish to fry, when we visited there were 55 registered kelpers on King Island but only a couple of full-timers.  The huge strands of kelp are collected from the island’s beaches using winches and trucks and then hung to dry for a number of days at the kelp factory.  Once dried the kelp is roughly a quarter of its original size, at which point it’s further dried in a massive wood-fired oven and hammered into small flakes.  The flakes are exported to factories all over the world in shipping containers, the manager of the plant even puts the stuff on his cereal in the morning!

 Kelp drying on the racksThe wood-fired furnace at the King Island kelp factoryThe wood-fired furnace at the King Island kelp factory 

Currie harbour and the lighthouseIt was an absolutely fantastic six days on King Island, I’d love to go back one of these days.  We’re so appreciative of Linda Newby and the Jordans’ hospitality, it was such a treat to be toured around the island and hosted like royalty for our visit, thank you all so much!

British Admiral Beach

British Admiral BeachCurrie harbour and the lighthouse'D the Dog' loading into the Hilux'D the Dog' loading into the Hilux'D the Dog' loading into the Hilux Kingfisher coming into Currie harbour'D the Dog'Lisa in the cockpit of Grant's ultralight Jabiru planeGrant's ultralight Jabiru plane


This entry was posted on Thursday, January 28th, 2010 at 10:00 AM and is filed under Australia, Tasmania. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

8 Responses to “King Island”

  1. tracy bogue says:

    miss you guys!!!
    Thanks for the call on my bday!!!

  2. Diana says:

    Loved these! Brought back memories of my own visit to King Island in the early 1990’s! Think you guys will love Tasmania. Love to all 4 of you!

  3. Pat Schink says:

    Wow! I was there at the same time last year. I loved reliving all the things I saw and did through your eyes. It made me homesick for a place I had only been to once and very grateful for the good friends we have in common. I can’t wait to see how you find Tasmania. I loved Tasmania.

  4. Idaho Youngs says:

    Just seeing all the seafood made my mouth water and the size of the crabs/crayfish are HUGE…….Was the Kelp flavorful?

  5. Gail says:

    Giggling here thinking about the 5 lbs in the 5 days I gained when we visited there. Wonderful pics and descriptions again help me re-live or imagine your adventures. Hugs to you all!!

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  8. Kim George says:

    Hello Sam,

    Some great photos of King Island, very nice to browse through !

    My name is Kim George, and although I’m stuck here in Brussels, I’m actually a died-in-the-eye King Islander, having grown up there, and returning every year for holidays. I also worked for Robert and Dawn back in 1985, as a deckhand to Robert for his abalone diving (+ building that rock retaining wall behind his shed !).

    I’m putting together some photos of King Island for a document that I will be using to show potential investors in a tourism development on King Island. Would you mind if I use some of your photos (such as with the crab, crayfish, Currie Harbour, coastlines). I’m mostly interested in the images without people (although the best shots of the seafood are with someone in them).

    Your photos are way better than mine, but no problem if you prefer not to.

    Kind regards,
    Kim George

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