For those seeking adventure off the mainland, take a flight to Tasmania’s King Island. Swell pumps up from Antarctica and breaks onto the empty stretches of Martha Lavinia Beach. But it’s not just barrelling waves that make the journey worth it.
- The flight to King Island in the Bass Strait
- Camping right by a famous surf break
- Visiting Pennys Lagoon, one of the world’s only perched lakes
Welcome to Martha Lavinia Beach
In the top eastern corner of the little wilderness known as King Island, is a not-so-secret surfer’s pocket – an eclectic left, right and centre barrel that turns just off the pristine Martha Lavinia Beach. For years, diehards and locals alike have salivated over Martha’s circular, aqua-electric form.
But the crisp whites of the gravel roads, the lush, succulent greens of King’s coastal foliage, the butter-yellow sands and the spirited Bass Strait winds will lustily overcome just about anyone lucky enough to find themselves in this paradise.
This is précis King Island – welcome to the pearl in Tassie’s oyster.
Surfer’s Breakfast at Martha Lavinia Beach
Martha Lavinia isn’t shy about being one of the top surf breaks in Aus; she puts on her best show over the colder months when the two currents that encircle the island greet again at its north-eastern tip. Look for south-westerlies and two metre swell on the forecast, and you’re almost guaranteed a jolly slide.
That said, there are so many other secret locations around here to paddle out you can’t lose! Nowhere’s far, we just can’t let those out of the bag anywhere other than ’round the campfire. Besides, everyone knows the best breaks are the ones you stumble on yourself, and the best thing about King Island is that you’ll hardly have to share.
Take a Paddle on Pennys Lagoon
Pennys Lagoon is set back and up from Martha’s sands and is a rare phenomenon in itself – one of only a couple of known perched lakes in the world (another is Lake McKenzie up north on Fraser Island, QLD).
It’ll be chilly in the winter months, that’s for sure, but it’s stunning to look at, and the facilities are spot on. A morning fry-up following post-dawn waves here is a must, and you’d do well to spend the rest of your day hiking and exploring the surrounding shores. If you’ve brought the kayak, what are you waiting for?!
For a super unique birdwatching experience, hit up the Birds of King Island group before you head over. King happens to be a bit of an avian refuge, situated smack on the migratory paths of an immense number of sub-species; here you could observe anything from the Short-tailed Shearwater or tiny Fairy Tern to a Satin Flycatcher or Flame Robin.
If you’re feeling auspicious, you could spot one of the world’s rarest birds, the Orange-bellied Parrot. You might not think yourself so lucky, but they’re out there – check around early Autumn.
You can even register for the Wings on King project, helping local volunteers collect data that’ll enable them to construct a more detailed storyline of the island’s flying friends.
On Ya Bike!
King’s steadily undulating gravel and sealed roads are a dream for anyone who loves a pedal, especially those who can’t admit to frothing an inclination greater than 2.5%. Spanning out like spokes from Lavinia Reserve are miles of melaleuca-lined tracks begging you to choose your own biking adventure.
Head south towards Sea Elephant River, or north towards Cape Wickham. On the way you’ll observe parties of wild peacocks, fat cattle in lush fields of green, the haze of sand gusting across the shore, and rough, salty plaques marking tribute to the countless shipwrecks of the 1800s.
Basecamp – Pennys Lagoon/Martha Lavinia Beach
Recently reno-ed facilities and a marked reduction in reptile mates make camping at Pennys in the cooler months a temptation indeed. There’s a fair amount of scrub for windbreak and protection, plus toilets, BBQs (!) and the kick-off point for a number of bush walks and trails.
It’s not a huge area, good for intimate groups and individuals, and it’s only a 40-minute drive back to civilisation for supplies, in case someone forgets the condiments.
If you’ve got a larger crowd and want to put seconds rather than minutes between your sleeping bag and a wave, you can also camp out on the beach at Martha.
Sleeping on the sand is beyond sensational on a starry, breathless night, the prospect of which should have you keen as Kipp Caddy. No national parks pass necessary, free camping all year round. What more could ya want?
Please note! Please refrain from taking vehicles on the beach. Keep to the tracks up behind the dunes to avoid Fairy Terns nesting and prevent sandbank degradation.
- At least a 4/3 wetty (even booties) for anything in the Bass during the winter months – that water touches Antarctica!
- Kayak and boogie-board also wouldn’t go astray
- Binoculars and birder gear
- Appropriately rated sleeping bag and camping equipment (low temps, wind chill factor)
- Spare tent pegs and rope – you could face a windy one out here, but it’s good for gettin’ the blood up!
- Warm clothes, fleece and windbreakers, no matter the season
- First aid kit
How To Get There
If you’re coming from the mainland or Tassie and don’t fancy swimming, then a quick flight is the answer – there are no passenger ferries to King Island!
Sharp Airlines also fly from Hobart, Launceston or Burnie (Wynyard) in Tas.
Alternatively, if you’ve managed to scrape together a clique and you want to bring a number of your own planks, it could certainly be worth your while to charter a private plane for a speccy day trip – King Island Surf Safaris operate out of Barwon Heads, on Vic’s premier surf coast, specialising in just this.
Similarly, Yarra Valley Aviation offers a streamlined, no-fuss portal from Melb’s eastern suburbs. Your small plane passes over the awe-inspiring coastlines of Port Phillip Bay then cloud-hops the Bass Strait in adventurous style – it’s another kind of adventure altogether.
Picking up a whip from King Island Car Rentals at Currie Airport when you arrive couldn’t be easier. Just give them a bell before you show up so they can put one aside for you.
Pile into the car and head out from Currie on North Rd for half an hour ’til you hit Egg Lagoon, then turn east on Haines Rd towards the Reserve. Pennys Lagoon is on the left just before you hit the coast. Martha Lavinia and Nine Mile beaches are another couple minutes past this (go on, go take a peek before you set up camp).
Distance Covered / Time Taken
Currie township to Pennys Lagoon – 48km / 40 mins drive
Photos thanks to @bronni and Tourism Tasmania