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Introducing King Island

Flat, fertile and uncomplicated, King Island (known locally as ‘KI’) stands guard over the western end of Bass Strait. It’s not a huge place – just 64km long and 27km wide – but the island’s beaches, rocky coastline, oddly oversized wildlife, world-famous cheese and bucolic simplicity more than compensate for its size.

Discovered in 1798, the island became known as a breeding ground for seals and sea elephants, which were hunted close to extinction by brutal sealers and sailors known as the Straitsmen.

Over the years, Bass Strait’s heaving seas have wrecked hundreds of ships, around 60 of these off King Island. Australia’s worst peace-time catastrophe occurred here in 1845 when the Cataraqui, an immigrant ship from Liverpool, went down just 150 yards offshore, drowning 399 people.

The main township is Currie on the west coast, which has a pub, two supermarkets, a petrol station, ATM and post office. Over on the east coast is Naracoopa, a beachy collaboration of holiday shacks with a fabulously derelict jetty, perfect for fishing. In the southeast is Grassy, a former scheelite mining boomtown, abuzz with rumours of the mine reopening.

For help planning your trip, contact King Island Tourism (1800 645 014; www.kingisland.org.au). Another useful website is www.kingisland.net.au. For tourist information on KI, visit The Trend (6462 1360; trend@kingisland.net.au; 26 Edward St, Currie; 8.30am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm Sat, 9.30am-5pm Sun). The Online Access Centre (6462 1778; 5 George St; 10am-5pm Mon, 10am-7pm Wed, 1-5pm Thu, 10am-9pm Fri, 10am-noon Sat) charges $5 per 30 minutes.