Whether it’s the product of geography or happenstance there’s something deeply satisfying about a mountain that spills down to the edge of the sea.
It’s not just that you’re afforded the whole paintbox of colours when alpine greys and greens merge with turquoise waters and lichen spread like apricot jam across giant coastal boulders.
Rather, it’s the sheer joy when, having sweated up a summit, you can stride your way down to the ocean and tumble naked into the sea.
Flinders Island, north east of Tasmania in the Bass Strait, may be one of the nation’s least populated spots but it offers more raw thrills and soul-stirring experiences per square kilometre than anywhere else I’ve been in Australia.
Indeed, for our group of 12 Wild Women, somewhat crazed after months of COVID confinement, the scenery, silence and sensory-awakening moments were a reminder of what it means to be wholly, joyously alive.
If Mt Killiecrankie, in the north of the island, offered four seasons in one day and a bone-chilling swim at Mediterranean-hued Stacky’s Bight, then Mt Pillinger, also called the Gin Bottle, reminded us we were in the Roaring Forties. A solid climb took us up to an outcrop of oversized boulders which had to be squeezed through to find a path which took us higher still. The enthusiastic conversations which are the usual backdrops to these trips were snatched away by the wind as the blast found us pressed hard against the granite.
Mt Strzelecki, the island’s highest peak at 756m, is the most challenging of the daily walks but the prizes unfold one after another as casuarina forests give way to lichen clearings, wallabies teach walkers who is boss, and fern-edged paths lead to views which take in the whole island. Lying in a cleft of rock near the top – the sky so blue you could scoop it out with a spoon – offers a reassurance nature can still us as much as thrill us.
As I’ve come to expect from a World Expeditions trip, the walking is only half of it. Our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides, Zoe and Lou, not only kept an immaculate campsite, where we each had our own tents, but they turned out amazing meals including salmon, stuffed capsicums, a top-notch curry and figs steeped in port from a trailer masquerading as a kitchen. Granted, the camp shower was slightly erratic due to unpredictable amounts of sunshine and tents had to be zipped to keep out the snakes, but the things that really mattered were free-flowing: great coffee, loo paper and laughs. World Expeditions reports that they are further upgrading the campsite and plan to establish a second eco camp for the start of the next season in October 2021.
While it’s remote – you travel to the island via a short flight from Bridport – Flinders’ upholds Tassie’s reputation as a gourmet’s paradise with delicious home baking at the Cate Cooks Café, and wallaby burgers and a plate-sized chicken parmy at the tavern. We gave our chips to some kayakers who’d found themselves stranded on a nearby island for several days with barely a muesli bar to share between them.
Travelling home is typically one of the least exciting elements of travel but even the short flight back to Bridport, with packs stuffed behind the seats, proved a treat. The Bass Strait may be renowned for its winds, but the jade water dotted with sand-rimmed islands offers a fitting finale to Flinders’ magic.
There has long been a list of “greatest hits” when it comes to picking the best hiking places in Tassie whether you’re a fan of Cradle Mountain, the Three Capes Track or Freycinet. Flinders has, without question, shot to the top of mine.