After three weeks in mainland Tasmania, visiting rural clinics, I boarded a plane to King Island. King Island, pop. ~1600, is part of Tasmania but is located in the the Bass Strait – between Tasmania and the mainland. It is famous around here for dairy and, happy days, cheese. While there, I spent time with the local GPs, had a tour of the incredible nursing home facilities, did home visits with the community nurses and spent a day with a visiting psychiatrist.
One of King Island’s claims to fame is that it is home to Cape Wickham lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in the southern hemisphere, which stands at 48m tall. There is plenty of information about the way the lighthouse worked: it’s now fully automated so there’s no need for a lighthouse keeper on site. This was particularly exciting for me as my Grandmother was born and brought up on a lighthouse: her father, like his father before him, was a lighthouse keeper.One of King Island’s charms is that, because the mains water tastes terrible, many people drink rain water, which is highly drinkable. This was a tap from the hospital:Growing up in London with recycled sewage for drinking water, I can’t call myself a water snob, but for any interested water snobs… King Island Cloud Juice is bottled cloud water that is distributed across the world and (apparently) sold at a high price in fancy places. The company was founded by a local teacher and is marketed on the premise that King Island has some of the cleanest air in the world, making particularly clean (and delicious?) water.
Speaking of fancy drinks, how about fancy food? I found wallaby mince on sale at the local supermarket and used it to make some delicious pasta: it was slightly richer/gamier than beef mince but good all the same. The bonus was that is was £3.28/kg!Most of King Island’s industry is dairy farming and I was lucky enough to catch a milking session at a rotary dairy.We tasted milk both fresh from the cows and immediately after it was cooled. It was delicious – would have made a marvellous milkshake!
Here I am next to a vat of milk. This vat is nearly filled twice and day: after each milking session it is emptied and the milk is taken to the cheese factory.Sadly the cheese factory itself isn’t open to the public, but the King Island Dairy does have a small shop and tasting room (it has a long table, with cheese laid out, ready for anybody to help themselves), with tasting notes. As it isn’t guided, and you really can just help yourself, it reminded me of working as a chalet girl in a French ski resort and having “tastings” of the cheese offcuts that were too small to go on the cheese board for the guests…Of all the rural communities I’ve visited so far, I believe the most successful communities, in terms of happiness, are those that have a thriving community spirit. This often involves a strong sense of culture, both traditional local culture, and culture imported from elsewhere.
After a lovely Australia Day at the beach, we picked up some wine and steaks and went to The Boat House, a small restaurant run by a local artist. The catch is, the restaurant is BYOF: BRING YOUR OWN FOOD!! There’s an honesty box for use of the BBQ and after eating, guests must wash up and replace the table settings. We had the place to ourselves and the views were spectacular.The place is crammed with local objects, there’s a radio, plenty of books and local information and the walls are decorated with the artist’s work, which can be bought via the honest box. You just take the art from the wall, incredible. It’s a testament to the lovely people of King Island that this system works!King Island is certainly fortunate to have a thriving local economy that supports a interesting and active community. It was an absolute pleasure to visit.