The Furneaux Islands are a group of approximately 52 islands at the eastern end of Bass Strait, between Victoria and Tasmania. The largest island in the group is Flinders Island, followed by Cape Barren Island and Clarke Island. Flinders Island contains five settlements: Killiecrankie, Emita, Lady Barron and Whitemark.
All of the Furneaux Islands are spectacularly wild and rugged making them the ideal place to take a refreshing break from our busy, technology-driven world.
With a pleasant climate throughout the year, it's cooler than Melbourne in summer and unexpectedly warmer than Melbourne in winter and with more sunny days than the Gold Coast!
Much of the region is exactly as Matthew Flinders found it when he first explored this area 200 years ago so it's easy to imagine walking back through the centuries as you roam the coastlines, beaches, mountains and plains.
If you climb to the top of Mt. Strzelecki, prepare to be awestruck by the stunning views (and make sure you have a camera with you).
The mountain was named after the Polish explorer, Paul Edmund Strzelecki who visited Flinders Island and climbed the highest peak in 1842. The Strzelecki National Park, which is approximately 7,414 hectares, has only two trails – one going to the top of the highest peak and one along the rocky headlands of Trousers Point. The rest of the area consists of a stunning coastline and bushland hiding many great surprises.
Much of the Furneaux region is a mixture of natural bushland and rural land with a diversity of native animals from Bennetts wallabies, pademelons and potoroos to possums, wombats and echidnas. The incredibly diverse birdlife puts on a spectacular show with over 200 species visiting or living on the island's shorelines.
The island also has a spellbinding array of wildflowers. The most beautiful of these plants being the shy bush and rock orchids which lure botanists from around Australia.
Originally called Great Island, Governor King renamed it Flinders Island in the early 1800’s after the English sea-captain Matthew Flinders, who charted much of the waters around the islands.
Before Bass Strait was flooded, it was a travelling route for Aboriginal groups but once the islands formed and Tasmania was cut off, the Tasmanian Aboriginal community was separated and over thousands of years following, developed their own culture and practices.
They lived permanently on Flinders Island until around 4,000 years ago when, for reasons presently unknown, they used it as a temporary base.
Tobias Furneaux was the next known human contact when he sailed past (but did not land) in 1773. In 1797 the merchant vessel “Sydney Cove”, en route from Calcutta, was beached off Preservation Island, south of Cape Barren Island. This saw the discovery of large quantities of seals and the start of Australia’s first export industry - wholesale sealing. By 1810 the sealing industry had passed its peak but many sealers who remained on the smaller Furneaux islands took Aboriginal women as partners and became known as the Straitsmen.
From 1803, as settlements in Tasmania increasingly pushed into Aboriginal lands, conflict became fierce and for the next three decades or more, erupted as the Black War (1824-1831). It’s argued as the biggest frontier conflict in Australia’s history.
In 1830, George Augustus Robinson, with the authority of Governor Arthur convinced the remaining Aboriginals (those they found), to accept exile to Wybalenna on Flinders Island. This settlement was far from successful – by the time it closed in 1847, 130 people had died and many children had been removed to attend the orphan school in Hobart. The remaining 47 Aboriginal people were then transported to Oyster Cove in Southern Tasmania.
Despite this history, Tasmanian Aboriginal people, many with Straitsman ancestors, live on and much of their culture survives. Over 16% of the population of Flinders Island is Tasmanian Aboriginal.
In 1999 the land title of Wybalenna was handed to the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania.
The restored Wybalenna Chapel is the only building remaining and it’s worth spending some quiet moments here to read the history.
As a visitor you will notice the unique lifestyle of island residents and how strongly they value their natural and cultural setting. The Furneaux Museum at Emita provides an insight into the early history of the islands and its inhabitants (and we will try and visit this museum during our kayaking tours). The Museum features historic and replica buildings containing information and artefacts from all over the region.
Credit: this information has been compiled from various sources including www.visitflinders.com.au and https://www.aboriginalheritage.tas.gov.au/cultural-heritage/aboriginal-h...