King Island: where nature creates history and inspires creativity »

Marine history and arts aplenty in the middle of Bass Strait

By Kerry Scambler
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The Netherby Bell, King Island Historical Museum

The Netherby Bell, King Island Historical Museum [©Tourism Tasmania]

The Winding Footpaths of the Cape Wickham Golf Course, King Island
British Admiral beach, King Island
Tourist Information in Currie, King Island
Bull Kelp drying, Kings Island


When you're a small island buffeted by the Roaring 40s sitting in the middle of notorious Bass Strait, chances are maritime history is plentiful, to say the least.

And when you live on said island, where nature can be wild and tranquil in the same breath, where land and seascapes can take that breath away and where few others reside, the inspiration for creative work flows as easily as the waves on the beach.

Shipwrecks and safe havens :

Bass and Flinders charted the waters between mainland Australia and the island state of Tasmania (then Van Diemen's Land) in 1798 and once those maps were made, many a ship's captains decided to risk the dangerous passage to shorten the time. Such decisions often ended in tragedy…

The King Island Maritime Trail takes you around the island, telling the stories of the many shipwrecks that surround the island, the sorrow of the dead, the luck of survivors and their brave rescuers.

Australia's worst peacetime wreck was the Cataraqui in 1845 with 400 souls condemned to the dark waters and just eight crew and one lone passenger surviving.  But, it was not all wrecks and despair, there were many research voyagers visiting the island and documenting in detail the amazing array of land animals, plants and marine life.

Lighthouses were built and in the words of keeper William Hickmott "I suppose there are no lights in these waters so blest by sailors as the two upon King Island". Cape Wickham, built in 1861, is one such lighthouse and it's not just the tallest in the country, it's also now the grand feature of a world-class golf links course.

History, beaches and spectacular coastlines – ingredients for a relaxing and informative holiday. And don't forget the picnic lunch!

Art and culture

Renowned wildlife artist Katherine Cooper says that on King Island she "grew up surrounded by the unspoiled ruggedness of the coast and the power of the sea and, from an early age acquired a great passion for the environment".  

Katherine is certainly not alone in taking her inspiration from her surroundings and there is a vibrant arts and creative culture on the island.

There's painting in all its forms, photography, hand-made artisan soap, artworks crafted from flotsam and jetsam, beautiful items made from abalone and the unique Kelp Craft – decorative hats, figurines and animals out of the local bull kelp. These are inventive and resourceful artists!

Throw in film and dramatic societies, art galleries and local museums and there's more than enough art and culture to serve up with that massively delicious King Island double cream!

This article was compiled from a range of information sources including King Island Tourism

See links below for more reasons to visit King Island.


  • King Island (TAS)

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September 08th, 2016
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