Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Flinders Island- living a past era

This summer just gone I was set on ensuring that a 'summer road trip' was had. Summers seem to come and go so quickly these days, and for some reason just aren't as 'summery' as they used to be. I'm sure the long hours spent in the work office has something to do with this... as opposed to the once two month long holiday we'd get.

Everyone was in. The plan was, to officially make a plan for a trip away- even if it was for just a long weekend. What a great plan!

Alas- it never happened.

So when reading an article a few weeks back in Hobart's local newspaper about a 'long lunch' to be held on Flinders Island- I knew there and then that I would be sitting at that long table. Could it be more perfect? I'd get my summer holiday (although delayed) and I'd get a 10 course degustation lunch on pristine Flinders Island!

The first hurdle was of course the tiny plane. Yup- there is just one airline who fly to Flinders Island, and just one tiny plane. But to my surprise, Flinders Island situated to the North East of Tasmania, takes just 30 minutes to reach from Launceston airport. I could cope with that.

I arrived on the Friday morning and already had a list of things I wanted to do in the coming days. Meet the locals, buy some Flinders produce, try some Flinders produce, meet a farmer, meet a cow, go for a walk- without getting lost, find the local abattoir, get to the north of the island, check out the pub, and of course do a wine tasting.

I soon learnt that everyone on the island waves to each other when they pass you on the road. I initially thought everyone simply knew each other- but apparently even though only having a population of 800-1000, this is not so. It's customary to wave and if someone doesn't, then they are presumed to be a tourist. So away I went, and as silly as I felt, I waved at the first car I passed. But they didn't wave back. I think my jaw dropped, possibly I blushed a little, and then I just laughed. Typical! From then on, every other driver waved at me, and I soon felt like a local.

Another thing on Flinders, no-one locks their car. In fact they leave their keys in the ignition. Does that not take you back to an ideal of the 1930's where girls only wear dresses, and men ask you to dance?! I just got a grin on my face when I heard this- it took me back to an era I've never experienced.

I stayed in Whitemark- the main town on the island. It consists of a few streets, two which are lined with shops- newsagent, grocery store, gift shop, bakery, cafe, butcher and pub. It's impossible to get lost. I headed straight to Freckles cafe. Of course. One wallaby burger straight up. Flinders Island Wallaby meat is very popular I would soon learn. It was delicious!

I then headed to the bakery for some fresh baked hot cross buns- how did they know I was coming? From there I walked another few meters to the local butcher. The meat all looked amazing! So fresh, and well, it was. All local meat- but no chicken or pork. Neither are farmed on the island. The thing that stood out there was again the wallaby. It was bright red- it looked enticing. The butcher told me all the wallaby is from the island. They marinate it in red wine and garlic. I had to get some!

That afternoon I took a drive to the South of the island. There you will find a town called Cape Barron. This town is really beautiful and set on the water. A few houses had white picket fences to set the scene. There is a local tavern here- and from what I've been told they do great meals. I got to try their sticky date pudding and it passed the test.

Also down this end of the island is Mount Strzelecki. You can't miss it! If you get time go for a hike. The sign states it's a 5 hour return. I would've loved to head up it- but time just wasn't on my side.

That night I headed to the Whitemark pub. Wow. 1930's eat your heart out. It's everything you want an island pub to be- although I'm sure in the 1930's there never used to be Tas Keno. The hallways were painted antique green, there were high skirting boards, ornate ceilings and light fittings. It even had that 'smell'. You know the smell your nan's house normally has. The bar however just smelt like a bar.

The place was packed to the limits. It felt like everyone on the island was there. After all it was a Friday night. I ordered a few drinks and Tasmania being Tasmania, I ran into someone I knew and managed to squeeze on their table for dinner- which was lucky as the restaurant was fully booked!

Wallaby again made an appearance on the menu, and although tempted, I opted for the chicken parmigiana. I don't normally let myself eat such deep fried food- but when you're on holidays you're allowed to kick your heels up! So I did!

Whilst waiting for our meals I couldn't believe how many were being pumped out of the kitchen. The lady serving them must've been the owner, but I can't be sure. She had the most wonderful red lipstick on, and I instantly admired her. She was run off her feet all night, but upheld that femininity and poise. When our meals came out, I wasn't disappointed and can recommend the parma to anyone who visits!

After a good sleep I got up early and headed off to Emita beach, about 20 minutes drive North of Whitemark. From here there's a 7km return walk to Castle Rock- a huge rock on the coast.

The walk takes you along the beaches and through some scrub areas. It seemed short enough, which was manageable for the time I had before the lunch. There was a guide post with an orange triangle which led the way- so off I set, camera in hand.

15 minutes into the walk I found myself on the edge of a cliff. Suddenly I began thinking this was something my mum wouldn't manage- yet I was sure the walk description was 'level 2'. I must be lost. That'd be right. A bit of friendly bush bashing and cliff climbing and I found myself on a beach. Let me just say this was the start of many more wrong turns to come! I ended up having words with Flinders tourism- this track needs a re-do!

Castle rock was pretty amazing when I finally got to lay eyes on it- and the weather couldn't have been better! The beach was so pristine and there was no sign of any man made thing. This was the summer getaway I wanted- a few degrees warmer and I would've been in!

The afternoon was most definitely my highlight! It was time for lunch- albeit I was already running behind time! The lunch was at Partridge Farm and held by 'A Common Ground' a group founded by three Hobart foodies- the guys from the Gourmet Farmer. The day was so perfectly organised and the principles behind it were fantastic. Only food sourced from the island was able to be used for lunch. I sat with and met the islands wine maker, the farmers, and the guys from the abattoir. It was just an amazing long afternoon. I do plan to post a separate entry about the food enjoyed at this event, so watch this space.

My last day on Flinders was spent in the North. I made the trip up to Killiecrankie after meeting the owners of the local cafe JJ's on the Bay. Their location is prime realty! The cafe overlooks the bay and the mountain looming above. If you're lucky, grab a stool on the deck and sit gazing out at it all while you enjoy your lunch. Sitting here you will totally forget that you'll be back in the office the next day...

As soon as I walked in I felt welcomed by the owners who were both working behind the counter. My attention then went straight to the menu- which you guessed it, featured wallaby again. And yup, I was ready to give it a go again. I am really quite fond of eating wallaby for many reasons. Wallaby along with kangaroo is a really great red meat alternative for both your health and the environment. Wallaby and roo are extremely high in protein and very low in fat. Gym junkies love the stuff. Wallaby also produces far less methane than cattle.

Looking at the menu I couldn't decide between two items- so I ordered them both. One was the wallaby terrine. Wow. I'd never ever heard of such a thing. Wrapped in bacon and filled with pistachios, it looked like any other terrine, and it tasted fantastic! Secondly I ordered the lasagna- but no ordinary lasagna, it was, yup you guessed it, a wallaby lasagna. Equally as delicious, and just what I needed for my wine inflicted headache! Both were served with a garden salad- and even though I forgot to ask them, I could swear the vegetables came out of a local garden. The tomatoes and cucumbers were so sweet and so delicious!

Back on the road, I had the 45 minute journey back to Whitemark. Wave to the drivers passed, pack my bags, wash the car and leave it at the airport with the keys in it of course. Somehow successfully smuggled on excess baggage- all local produce of course- Flinders Island beef, honey and figs off a local old tree I found.

I slept the whole way back to Launceston. The small plane didn't seem to phase me second time around. What a fully loaded weekend. I successfully ticked off all the things on my list and the weekend exceeded all my expectations! 

Although I found myself in the 1930's most of this trip, the local people were far from it. I found many have chosen to make the 'sea change' to Flinders for health and happiness, escaping the city life. I can see why. Flinders Island is a MUST visit for everyone!


  1. Hi Esther

    Great blog!! I must recommend it to all my friends! Was lovely to meet you and am glad that you had a great time. We finished picking figs today and have donated them to a local (do you remember the juggler?) to make something out of them - stay tuned!

    Til next time :O)

    Jacci (your RHS at the table!)

  2. Jacci Hi! So glad you like the blog! Oh figs... what a lucky juggler! Ha!
    Let me know what he does with them :)

  3. Hi Ester,
    Great blog, just a shame you didn't visit
    Vistas and Chappells Restaurant Flinders Island's
    only Fine Dining experience ,a favourite with visiting chefs,locals and Tourists, great supporters of Farm gate to plate and organics.
    Next time maybe?

  4. looking forward to your comments on the food at the lunch, many locals- who are spoilt for freshness of product- felt they prefered catching it and cooking it on a beach barbie to the "fancy" techniques used. It was a great event and I shared your "wine induced headache"!
    ps the town of Lady Barron was named after a Lord Barron's wife. the island of Cape Barren was named by Cook because it was.

  5. Hi Lois!
    I will be posting about the lunch very shortly! Unfortunately my photos didn't come out as well as I'd hoped. But I will definetly be posting about it because I loved it all.
    Ah that wine induced headache... I think a few of us would have struggled!

    And to the annonymous reader- I did visit Vistas, however the man there informed me they were booked out all weekend! Clearly a local favourite! Definetly another visit may need to be on the cards and I will have to book in advance!

  6. It is very nice blog and how you spend your leisure time in Flinders Island during the summer time. I recommended all my friends to visit your blog if they want to read the real beauty of Flinders Island. Keep it up. Read more on Flinders Island visit http://www.sawyersbayshacks.com.au