Grassy, Australia

Photo: King Island Tourism Tasmania
Photo: King Island Tourism Tasmania

Your secret hiding spot has been discovered. Tasmania is on everyone’s must-visit list this year. While you’re happy that this gorgeous, rugged island is finally getting the love it deserves, you’re a little sad that it will no longer be considered an undiscovered gem. It’s time to find an even more remote spot.

You don’t have to go far to find one. King Island, in the Bass Strait, sits halfway between Tassie and Victoria on the mainland. The island was first discovered by seal hunters in 1799. They were followed by wallaby hunters, castaways from shipwrecks—due to the strong westerly winds that roar through the strait—and ultimately farmers. No big city ever developed though. To this day, the island has few roads and no traffic lights. Ships deliver supplies on a weekly basis. The emptied ships return to the mainland with beef and cheese, kelp and bottled rainwater. While visitors fly from Melbourne in search of stunning coastlines, freshly caught seafood, and interesting animals.

Most of those animals are difficult to find anywhere else. The orange-bellied parrot is a critically endangered bird that uses King Island as a migratory stop as it travels to and from Tassie. The fascinating platypus is one of the few mammals that lays eggs. Plus the little penguin—affectionately called the fairy penguin by Aussies—is the smallest type of penguin in the world. It only averages 12 inches tall.

Photo: Tourism Tasmania
Photo: Tourism Tasmania

You arrive in Grassy, on the east coast, in hopes of seeing those little fairy penguins. But you have some time to waste first. Right now, the blue-coated penguins are in the water fishing for anchovies and sardines. They won’t return until dusk. Stop at Marie’s Corner Store to pick up lunch to go. Follow the trail from the center of town down to Sandblow Point. The old mine road is lined with white gum and ti trees. A mine monument—scheelite was mined here until 1974—stands to the left. While you have beautiful views of the bay and the harbor ahead.

When you reach Sandblow Point, you find a gorgeous beach with white sand and cerulean water. Eat lunch under the warm sun as you watch the waves roll onto the sand and the ships coming and going from the harbor. Walk along the beach until you reach the King Island Boat Club at the end. Stop at Portside Gallery, Frogshack Nursery, and Lymwood Larder on the way back into town. Then eat an ocean-to-table dinner at Wild Harvest, where the menu changes daily. Sugar-cured wallaby carpaccio, molten Phoques Cove Camembert, and a fisherman’s hotpot—featuring the restaurant’s famous braised octopus—is on the menu tonight.

The fairy penguin parade is about to begin by the time you finish an early dinner. Walk back to the beach and stop to check out the guidelines on the information board. You shouldn’t stand between the penguins and their nests, to which they’re returning. At first the beach is quiet. Then you start to hear a throaty rumbling noise. The rumble turns into a trumpet sound, before two white bellies emerge through the darkness. The parade has begun. Another penguin follows the first two; they’re quickly followed by a half-dozen more. Before long, the sand is covered with flipper marks, and the sound of crashing waves has been drowned out by braying. The penguins have arrived home for the night.

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