Small group tour of Flinders Island
Flinders Island , located in the Bass strait of Australia, was mapped by the British explorer Matthew Flinders in 1798. Flinders Island is the largest of the 52 islands that make up the Furneaux group, which is the eastern group of the two groups islands of the coast of northern Tasmania. The group to the west which includes King island is the Hunter group. The island supports a wide variety of abundant wildlife including the protected Cape Barren Goose and a small permanent population of people.
The program is a guided walking small group tour for mature and senior travellers for 9 days. The traveller experiences spectacular scenery, rugged coastline, stunning views often in a wilderness setting. The field trips during this 9-day walking holiday allow the visitor to learn and experience the natural wonders of these southern islands, deep in the Bass Strait. The visitor on this guided walking tour learns about the bird life, the abundant wildlife including sea lions, wildflowers and spectacular scenery along with the amazing geology and fascinating, if not sometimes uncomfortable history.
This guided tour program commences in Launceston.
We have a welcome dinner on our first night. The following day we visit the museum to set the historical context for Flinders island and Tasmania.
Located in scenic countryside at the head of the Tamar River, Launceston is Tasmania ’s second largest city and a perfect base for exploring the northeast region of the State. We also have some time in the city to admire the attractive and graceful Victorian-era buildings.
This afternoon we transfer to the airport for the short scenic flight from Tasmania to Flinders island to commence this escorted small group walking tour of Flinders Island.
Flinders Island – Furneaux Group of Islands
Flinders is the largest island of the 52 islands that make up the Furneaux Group. Flinders and the surrounding islands are all that remain of the land bridge that once connected Tasmania to mainland Australia and was still present some 10,000 years ago. Flinders is an island of dramatic landscapes: from Mountainous granite ridges folding down from Mt Killiecrankie to the grey granite cliffs of Killiecrankie bay, to the gentle, green farmland that rolls through the eastern part of the island. It is known for its prolific birdlife; thousands of migratory birds rest here on their long flights to breeding areas north of the Arctic Circle. The history of the Furneaux Islands provides a significant component of the tragic story of the Tasmanian Aboriginals, as well as an account of the early maritime explorers, sealers, shipwrecks and cultural events that are of local and national importance. Much of the region is still exactly as Matthew Flinders found it when he first explored this area years ago.
As the ice age came to an end sea levels rose, and Bass Strait was formed which resulted in Flinders, Cape Barren and Three Hummocks becoming islands and small numbers of Tasmanian Aborigines living here being isolated from the mainland.
The Aboriginal community lived in isolation for several thousands of years until in the 1770's. The oldest archaeological site is an Aboriginal midden, which is some 7,000 years old. The first European to make contact with the islands was Tobias Furneaux, the commander of Captain James Cook's support ship. Furneaux's ship became separated from the Endeavour in fog and it wandered around the east coast of Van Diemen's Land eventually reaching the Furneaux group of islands. It was not known that Flinders Island was separate, and that Van Diemen's Land was not part of mainland Australia until George Bass and Matthew Flinders circumnavigated the main island between October 1798 and June 1799. Governor Philip Gidley King named the strait which separates Tasmania from the mainland after Bass and the main island in the strait after Flinders. The first European settlers on Flinders Island were sealers who lived rough and were only interested in killing seals for their oil, they typically sailed out from Launceston to the islands.
What We Will Experience and see on this small group walking tour of Flinders island.
This small group walking tour of Flinders island is a mix of guided short walks and tours of Flinders Island and some outer islands of the Furneaux group to learn the history, flora, and fauna of this fascinating archipelago.
We focus on the wilderness landscapes, the birds of Bass Strait and wildflowers. We arrive at Lady Barron, situated in the sheltered Adelaide Bay in Franklin Sound at the southern tip of Flinders Island and travel to the west coast. Spectacular scenery can be seen as we drive the coast road to Trousers Point, below the twin peaks of Mt Strzelecki. A short walkaround the point to Fotheringate Bay provides access to the variety of heath plants, birds of low coastal scrub and sea birds. The important history of the island’s early settlers resulting in the last settlement of the Tasmanian Aborigines can be learnt at the Furneaux Museum.
At the northern part of the island we fossick for the ‘Killiecrankie Diamonds’ – white topaz and learn of its development stages and visit the beauty spot of North East River. Our private, charter boat visits some of the outer islands and we see mutton-bird rookeries, home of the short-tailed shearwater and beaches with pacific gulls, cormorants, oystercatchers, sandpipers, fairy terns and possible white-breasted sea eagles.
The Darling Range is the island’s central mountain spine of mountainous granite ridges and our walks on this small group tour take us close to the fascinating rock formations and granite mountain peaks. At the summit of Walkers Hill Lookout, we are rewarded with magnificent views some 360-degrees of Flinders and the island group. Passing through some of the soldier settlement areas of the east coast we visit Patriarch Wildlife Sanctuary where we see Bennett and Padymelon wallabies and Cape Barron geese.
Places to know about on Flinders Island
Whitemark is the main settlement on Flinders Island. It sits on the flat coastal plain with Mount Strzelecki rising to the south. The town, has a population of some 150 people, has all the basic requirements - supermarket, bakery, cafe, post office, hotel etc - and is primarily used as a central point because of its proximity to the airport. In the evening, the hotel is the only place in Whitemark where you can get dinner. In the morning there is a cafe and a bakery.
Only a few kilometres north of the Flinders Island airport is a sign directing visitors to Sawyers Beach which provides excellent views south to Mt Strzelecki and an opportunity to get down onto the beach and explore the remarkable granite rocks with their distinctive red lichen.
The Furneaux Museum contains an extensive collection of artefacts for both the Aboriginal inhabitants on the island and the first European settlers. It recalls the events which shaped the history of the island: the geology, the shipwrecks, muttonbirding, farming, island families, the Soldier Settlement Scheme, the Wybalenna settlement and local fauna and flora.
Wybalenna Historic Site
The story of Aborigines on Flinders Island is a story of maltreatment and misguided attempts to solve a problem while actually exacerbating it. In 1834 a total of 134 Tasmanian Aborigines, believed at the time to be the last of their race, were isolated on the island in an attempt to (a) "civilise and Christianise" them and (b) protect them from the rape and murder inflicted on them by European settlers and sealers in Tasmania. It was never going to work because the people charged with looking after them - soldiers and brutish men - were, in fact, part of the problem. By 1847 the settlement at Wybalenna was considered a failure and abandoned with the remaining 47 Aborigines, including Truganini (often cited as the last Tasmanian Aborigines although this was clearly wrong), being sent to Oyster Cove south of Hobart.
Wybalenna Historic Site at Settlement Point on the western coast of the island is a remnant of the original settlement. The Wybalenna chapel, a simple Georgian building with a wooden shingle roof, still stands on a site where Aborigines, removed from their homelands, waited to be returned to the main island that was there home. The chapel was purchased and restored by the National Trust in 1973.
There was a bitter and protracted confrontation in the 1970s and 1980s when Tasmanian Aborigines attempted to assert that the land should be protected, and the unmarked graves respected. The site, located on Port Davies Road at Emita, was finally returned to the local Aborigines by the Tasmanian Government in the Aboriginal Lands Act of 1995. The appeal of Wybalenna today lies in the small chapel which contains a number of Aboriginal artefacts and some particularly informative storyboards which recount the history of the ill-fated settlement and the lives of some of its most famous inhabitants including William Lanney (recognised as the last full blood Aborigines) and Truganini.
Mutton Bird Watching at Port Davies
The mutton bird, correctly known as the short-tailed shearwater, is a migratory bird which flies from the northern hemisphere to nest and breed on Flinders Island between November and April. "Eighteen million of these amazing birds arrive in Tasmania every year with their largest colony (over 3 million burrows) being on Babel Island. The migratory path of these birds is hard to define as they do not come ashore during their migration, but it has been proven that they travel about 15,000 kilometres in each direction (north and south) annually. There is a viewing platform at Port Davies to witness the birds return at dusk.
Emita Beach, Castle Rock and Marshall Bay
The most photographed natural destination on the island is the huge Castle Rock which is about halfway along Marshall Bay. The rock itself is particularly impressive, has patches of red lichen and the surrounding rocks edge around to a particularly beautiful small bay. The sands here are dramatically white.
Killiecrankie Bay is a place of spectacular scenery noted for its beautiful beaches, its walks around the bay particularly to Deep Bight Bay. It is also known for its diamond fossicking on the beach. The pink flowers that abound in the area are known, amusingly, as Naked Ladies.
The main appeal of the Palana is the huge sand dunes which have been blown to dramatic heights by the Roaring Forties. The lonely beach below the dunes is a delightful place for a stroll.
North East River
The beaches are impossibly white, the river is home to a rich variety of seabirds with black swans, pied oystercatchers, ducks and Cape Barren geese dominating. This is another area where the contrast between the white sands and the red lichen on the granite foreshores create a particular beauty with the waters of Bass Strait being green and changing to the deepest blue offshore.
The Southern and Western parts of the Island
Located inside the Strzelecki National Park this is a headland which offers shorter walks at Trousers Point and Fotheringate Bay which pass through casuarina woodland and coastal heath before reaching the coast.
The park is visited as part of the small group guided walking tour program. There are a range of walks ranging from the daunting Peaks Walk - a day walk which rises from the coast to 756 metres - to shorter walks at Trousers Point and Fotheringate Bay which pass through casuarina woodland and coastal heath before reaching the coast. The headland has some remarkable rocks and beautiful white beaches at Trousers Point and Fotheringate Bay. These are popular holiday spots. Trousers Beach is a beautiful cove protected from the winds of the roaring forties, surrounded by granite headlands covered with distinctive orange lichen. Fotheringate Bay also has some unusual rock formations.
Strzelecki National Park and Peaks Walk
Strzelecki National Park lies to the south of Whitemark and covers 4216 ha. It was proclaimed in 1972 and named after the Polish scientist and explorer Count Paul Edmund Strzelecki, who climbed a number of the mountain peaks on Flinders Island in 1842.
Characterised by mountainous granite ridges and a rugged coastline the National park is known for its rare plant and animal species. The park's flora includes forests of Tasmanian blue gum, a dense coastal fringe of tea tree, Sassafras-musk rainforest and rare orchids. Its fauna also includes wombats, Bennetts wallabies, Tasmanian pademelons and potoroos. More than 100 species of bird live in the park including shearwaters (mutton birds) who migrate to the park in summer, the rare swift parrot, forty-spotted pardalote, grey-tailed tattler and hooded plover.
The only other town of any consequence on the island (apart from Whitemark) is Lady Barron which has a general store and a hotel (the Furneaux Tavern). It is a small town set on a fishing harbour. There is impressive birdlife in the area.
In dry weather the lagoon can dry out. When it is filled with water the visitor will see black swans, ducks, Cape Barren geese, a range of migratory birds as well as ducklings and goslings in season.
Cameron Inlet Wetlands
Located 30 km to the east of Whitemark as part of the Lackrana Conservation Area, the Cameron Inlet Wetlands is a series of lagoons - Sandy Lagoon, Bushys Lagoon, Nelsons Lagoon, Toms Lagoon et al - which are noted for their particularly interesting and diverse bird life. Visitors will typically see black swans, ducks, Cape Barren geese, a range of migratory birds as well as ducklings and goslings in season. There are impressive displays of wildflowers in the Lackrana Wildlife Sanctuary.
Patriarch Wildlife Sanctuary
Located on the east coast of the island. Patriarch Inlet and Patriarch Wildlife Sanctuary are important shallow wetlands where migratory birds from the northern hemisphere gather. At certain times of the years it is possible to watch as thousands of soldier crabs scuttle across the sand. In spring the coastal heath is awash with spectacular wildflower displays. One guarantee is the presence of very friendly wallabies at the Wildlife Sanctuary.
Walkers Lookout, although it is only 400 metres above sea level, offers superb 360° panoramic views which are easily accessible via a short trail walk - unlike the walk-up Mt Strzelecki. The visitor can see the tiny settlement of Whitemark far below on the coast, the vista stretches across to Strzelecki National Park and Mt Strzelecki to the south and across to the west the view extends to the coast around the Patriachs and to Mount Furneaux.
* Included Field Trips
Vinegar Hill Lookout for views over Franklin Sound
West Coast: Trousers Point, Mt Strzelecki & Fotheringate Bay
Sawyers Bay and Settlement Point – history of the first European settlers
Wybalenna and Furneaux Museum – history of last settlement of the Tasmanian Aborigines
Port Davis - wild flowers and health plants
Beauty spot of North East River & variety of sea birds
Last traces of wartime coastal surveillance at Palana
Fossick for ‘Killiecrankie Diamonds’ – learn of the development of white topaz
- Day pack and water bottle
- Good walking shoes or boots
- Windproof jacket
- Hat, sunscreen, binoculars, swim suit and beach
Articles about Flinders Island and Tasmania published by Odyssey Traveller:
For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.
External articles to assist you on your visit to Flinders Island and Tasmania:
- Visit Flinders Island
- Discover Tasmania: Flinders Island
- Flinders Island: Cast Away in Tasmania’s ‘Last Eden’
- Flinders Island hiking: The untapped beauty of Flinders Island
- Strzelecki National Park
- Flinders Island, Tasmania
- Discover Tasmania: Strzelecki National Park
- Flinders Island, TAS
- How and why to get lost on Tassie’s Flinders Island
- Flinders Island
Overview: The group comes together in the afternoon for a briefing and gear check. There will be a welcome meal this evening.
Overview: Launceston – Flinders island.
Your flight to Flinders Island departs Launceston Airport at 4pm.
We spend today walking around the coast of Settlement Point in two easy stages. This is an attractive area halfway up the west coast of Flinders Island with numerous bays, interesting limestone formations and caves, and magnificent views of mountain ranges and offshore islands. Plenty of history is on offer during our visit to Wybalenna, the settlement of the last of the Tasmanian Aborigines, and the Furneaux Museum, which tells the history of the islands.
Meals: B, L, D
Walks: 6.5km, 3-4hrs, easy-medium, rock hopping & beach walks
The island’s most imposing features are the granite mountains of the peaks of Flinders and the Strzelecki Peaks. Today’s strenuous hike takes us along a well-marked track through wooded slopes & damp fern gullies, to the summit of Mt Strzelecki, named after the Polish explorer who climbed the peaks in 1842. The views are stunning and on a clear day you can see north east Tasmania.
After our descent, we will have a picnic lunch by the crystal clear waters of Trousers Point, a beautiful granite headland. There is a short run of beaches here, well worth exploring before we return to Lady Barron. There is also an optional 2.5km gentle walk above the rocks from Trousers Point Beach to Fotheringate Beach on the north side of the point.
Meals: B, L, D
Walks: 7km return, 5-6hrs, challenging hike to Strzelecki summit (756m and back). Steep ascent, zigzags most of the way, short steep track in early section, very short section of rock scramble halfway up.
Islands in the Sound
We set off this morning on the charter boat ‘Strait Lady’ to visit some of the outer islands in the Furneaux group. Walking on these islands with their shearwater rookeries, sea birds and scenery, offers a completely different perspective. This day is in sheltered waters with much of the time spent ashore. We explore Cape Barren Island and Great Dog Island, among others, and the Farsund, a steel sailing ship that ran aground on the south-eastern end of Vansittart Island. Islands on the day subject to weather
Meals: B, L,D
Walks: 5-6hr cruise with short walks on islands
We drive towards the west coastal area of The Dock, so named for the natural rock formations. The walk down into this area affords dramatic views out to sea and spectacular rocky outcrops. We then follow the coast south, past a succession of bays and beaches around the headlands of Mt Killiecrankie. At Killiecrankie Bay, we search for the famous Killiecrankie Diamonds, which are actually white topaz. We continue walking to the fishing hamlet of Killiecrankie, with its fishing boats moored in the bay. We enjoy afternoon tea here, followed by a visit to Palana Beach and North East River estuary.
Meals: B, L, D
Walks: 9km, 4-5hrs, part track, rock hopping & beach walks
After a relaxing morning, we travel eastward to Patriarch Inlet, which usually hosts a good variety of bird life. We walk the beach to Red Bluff on the way hoping to see Cape Barren geese – the second rarest goose species in the world with black feet, pink legs and yellow-green facial cere.
Meals: B, L, D
Walks: 7km, 2-3hrs, beach & wooded track
Overview: The Darling Range
Our final day tour. Today we walk through the heart of the Darling Range which forms a spine up the centre of the southern half of the island. Starting from Walkers Hill Lookout to traverse Mt Leventhorpe, we get up close to intricate and craggy granite formations and enjoy the views across spectacular scenery. Tonight is our last night’s farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Meals: B, L,D
Walks: 7.5km track, 3-4hrs, medium difficulty
The tour ends after an early breakfast this morning, with our transfer to Whitemark Airport for the 9am return flight to Launceston.
What’s included in the tour.
- Return economy flights from Launceston to Flinders Island. Luggage limits may apply.
- 7 nights accommodation
- 8 breakfasts, 7 lunches (picnic or local pub/restaurant).
- 8 dinners, BBQ or local pub/restaurant.
- Morning/ afternoon teas on touring days.
- On Flinders Island, transfers and touring by 4WD vehicle(s).
- Experienced program leader and local guides.
- Field trips and fees as per itinerary, including National Park Fees.
What’s not included in our Tour
- International or domestic air fares to/from Launceston.
- Inward airport transfer Day 1, Launceston.
- Transfers from the hotel in Launceston to the airport and return.
- Meals other than stated.
- Items of personal nature i.e. laundry, telephone calls, alcoholic beverages.