As published in the Weekend Australian Magazine on 1 May 2021 (full article here):
Kittawa Lodge, King Island, Tasmania
I am not entirely joking when I send my host Aaron a message from a hilltop lookout: “Has anyone ever been picked up by the wind and blown out to sea?” I’ve experienced wild Tasmanian weather before but nothing quite like these Roaring Forties that rock the car you sit in, steal the beanie from your head, hurry you along like tumbleweed. If it’s wild rawness that draws people to King Island, this is how to see it – in an invigorating blast that’s flattening grass and whipping up whitecaps out to the horizon. Only the sea eagles riding the gale look entirely in command.
The cray boats are tethered tight and the tiny township of Currie is abuzz with surfers who’ve flown in to ride Martha Lavinia, where turquoise waves barrel off a 5km stretch of white sand. That more sheltered northern part of this Bass Strait island is for tomorrow. Today I’m heading south along empty gravel roads, past farms and stands of wind-sculpted paperbarks, to shipwreck memorials and lookouts, detouring to the otherworldly Calcified Forest before retreating to my base for the next two nights seeking calm and comfort.
You have the freedom to get roughed up by the weather when you know what awaits you back at your chic villa tucked in rolling dunes about 15 minutes’ drive from Currie. The log fire and deep bathtub instantly vie for attention. Sun briefly beams through the soaring windows that reveal sweeps of ocean and darkening sky, while in the foreground wallabies shelter in the green tufts, ignoring my presence. The only sign of civilisation is the distant blink of Currie Lighthouse.
Aaron Suine is there to greet me and says it’s this dramatic weather that guided him and his husband Nick Stead when they began dreaming of this retreat, a haven from which to watch the fronts march through. All froth and fury one day, calm blue the next. They never tire of it.
The former Sydney professionals had never been to King Island – about 80km off the northwest coast of Tasmania and home to about 1500 people – until they chanced upon this 38ha property with 800m ocean frontage. With a young son and seeking a lifestyle change, they made the move, completing these two standalone off-grid one-bedroom villas in 2019, riding out the Covid border closures and the flurry of visitors when things reopened.
They’ve had fun styling and decorating in the calming hues of nature, using the slopes and gullies of the land to keep each place private. My light-filled open plan living area features a full-size kitchen, dining and lounge areas that lead to a separate king bedroom and the ensuite with its inviting concrete tub positioned to enjoy the ocean views and night sky. (“Some guests have three baths a day!” Aaron laughs.) Binoculars and books are carefully arranged, guest gumboots and coats provided, and on the walls are captivating paintings by local artists Dianne and Andrew Blake that are available for purchase.
Stock up at the local supermarket and seal yourself off from the world, if that’s your thing. Or take up the hospitality package that will see Aaron whip up a four-course meal in your kitchen that might include homemade pasta or King Island eye fillet, often with freshly plucked saltbush, wild rocket and watercress from their property. He’s a fine cook and terrific company. Another day a fresh crayfish might appear in your fridge with handwritten cooking instructions. A well-stocked larder and carefully curated bar complete the culinary experience.
It’s impossible not to slow down here and match the rhythm of an island that invites gentle exploration – north to south will take just over an hour’s driving time.
On my final morning, the weather has blown itself out, the sea has settled and two rainbows crisscross the sky. A local at the airport tells me I picked a wild weekend to visit. “And look at it now, a beautiful autumn day,” she says. “Just when you’re leaving. What a shame!”
- Perfect for: Couples seeking escape, special occasions, maritime history buffs (more than 100 vessels have come to grief here) and golfers (there are three courses).
- Must do: Visit Cape Wickham Lighthouse (at 48m the tallest in Australia) and the Calcified Forest; walk the empty beaches and look out for the bull kelp harvesters.
- Dining: Let Aaron do your cooking at Kittawa Lodge; drop into King Island Dairy for supplies and tastings. The bakery at Currie has crayfish (and wallaby) pies and good coffee. If connecting through Launceston, make time for lunch at Stillwater.
- Getting there: Fly from Melbourne, Hobart, Launceston or Burnie.
- Bottom line: From $880 per night (two-night minimum) including breakfast provisions (see website for dining packages). Check out the six-night collaboration with Stillwater Seven hotel in Launceston – three nights in both locations, gourmet meals, selected flights, car hire on KI, and other extras, from $9910 per couple.