Enjoy golf on King Island on some of the best courses in the world, alongside exquisite cheese, sensational beef and whisky worth travelling for. However, the real magic happens when you combine these with some other not-so-well-known island offerings.
It’s a common sight on King Island: a light shower sweeps across the green hillocks that are smooth as jade carpets, and a rainbow forms, arching gently above Cape Wickham lighthouse. The sun is still shining, and out on the green slopes a peppering of golfers look up to the heavens – no doubt praying for a perfect putt, or perhaps for Mother Nature to stop playing havoc with their drives.
They are already challenged by the winds barrelling in off the coast, where the roaring forties have whipped the waves up into a white-wash frenzy.
“This has to be one of the toughest courses in Australia,” one golfer shouts to his mate, as the rain disappears and the sun shines bright once more – lighting up his ball, which has landed on the beautifully rocky beach below. A crow dives down to pinch it, mistaking it for an egg within easy grasp.
“Has to be the world’s most difficult natural bunkers,” says another golfer, huffing as he heads to scramble down the escarpment.
Golf on King Island
Anyone serious about golf will notice right away that Cape Wickham Links on Tasmania’s King Island – ranked as Australia’s number-one golf course and 24th in the world – is reminiscent of the place where golf began 600 years ago: St Andrews Links in Scotland.
It has the same barren landscape, which has been meticulously transformed into undulating green slopes that glide down to meet the ocean, in a remote part of the world where the wind blows wildly and the rain is frequent.
At the northern tip of King Island, Cape Wickham sits on one of the most remote parts of this remarkable 1,098 square kilometre island. It’s about 40 minutes north of the main town of Currie, and there’s nowhere else here to buy lunch or have a drink – so it’s a good thing the clubhouse has some of the best views in the country, and simple yet stylish cabins that sit along a ridge overlooking the course.
Most people who visit the island to play golf take advantage of all three assets, then head south to enjoy the other award-winning golf course, Ocean Dunes.
Lost at sea
While on the tip, it’s well worth checking out the iconic 48-metre-tall Cape Wickham Lighthouse – established in 1861 – and taking a drive out to view some of King Island’s many shipwreck sites.
Sadly there’s a tragic, gripping history of shipwrecks off King Island, with close to 100 ships having crashed into the shores and reefs here, claiming more than 1,000 lives. This is largely due to the treacherous seas and the fact the roaring forties took sailing vessels across the bottom of King Island – captains would think they were coming into mainland Tasmania or the bottom of Victoria, and instead hit King Island.
As Luke Agati, President of the King Island Historical Society, explains: “captains and seafarers used to call it ‘the Eye of the Needle,’ and if you didn’t go through that eye perfectly, you were slammed into King Island.”
The Cataraqui shipwreck – in which 400 souls were lost, including 186 children – is still the worst civil maritime disaster in Australian history. You can visit the memorial further south.
Down on the dunes
About half an hour down the road from Cape Wickham Links is Ocean Dunes Golf Course, which also boasts some of the best views possible on a golf course. It was ranked number five in the country in 2023. It also has a clubhouse with breathtaking views over the 18 holes and the ever-changing vista of Bass Strait and the Indian Ocean.
It’s only 10 minutes from Dunes to Currie, where there’s plenty of accommodation, and a few luxury lodges out of town set amid the wonderfully wild landscape.
As at Cape Wickham Links, you can book a package of food, accommodation and golfing, and most groups make time to check out other local venues and institutions, including a smattering of restaurants, the local pub, the museum, and Currie lighthouse, as well as the famous bakery renowned for its delicious pies and sausage rolls.
The King Island Golf & Bowling Club in Currie is also worth a visit, as not only can you join in a game with the locals, you can dine above the ocean and the pretty-as-a-picture golf course at the recently opened Views restaurant.
Peace and harmony at Ettrick Rocks
There are retreats, and then there are incredible spaces paying homage to some of the world’s most remote and wild places – the harmony between them being a well-considered yet organic equation.
Step into any of the three Ettrick Rocks Luxury Retreats on the spectacularly rugged coast about 15 minutes out of Currie, and the views that King Island is famous for unfurl before you like oil paintings in constant motion.
If the loungeroom with its sweeping floor-to-ceiling windows and clean-lined architecture was a cinema, the only film you’d want to watch are the waves rolling, crashing and seeping into the red-rock landscape, awash with green and grey native grasses.
The rocky coastline is so exposed to the ocean surges and constant salt spray that only tough species such as sea celery, bower spinach, sea box, wind-pruned heaths, and coastal spear and salt grass thrive out here – jostling and swaying for your attention.
A dining room with an elegant, fine-lined table and chairs in ash hardwood offers guests another place to linger longer, indulging in the great outdoors while enjoying a meal cooked in the expansive kitchen. Or there’s a BBQ area outside where you can fillet fish, flash-fry some rock lobster or flip some local King Island steaks to your heart’s content.
The bedrooms are a haven of muted tones that tie in with the natural landscape – the king-size beds and bay window lounges offer more relaxing vantage points to drink in the rugged beauty of the landscape. Aside from the almost-camouflaged wallabies dotting the landscape, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported to the other side of the Earth and deposited on a far-flung Scottish isle.
That’s just one of the many things that makes King Island special: utter remoteness.
The island might be only 65 kilometres long and 25 kilometres wide but, as they say, from little things big things grow. And even if you don’t play golf, you might just want to give it a whirl, as then you can walk off some of the whisky, beer, gin, meat pies, cheese, lobster and beef that you may or may not have consumed. After all, what happens on King Island stays on King Island. Including your score, if it’s not your finest, of course.
Get into the good stuff
If you are a whisky or spirits lover, look no further than King Island Distillery, run by local Heidi Weitjens. Heidi has been on a decade-long journey perfecting the art of creating gin and whisky, with the mentorship of none other than the grandfather of Tassie whisky, Bill Lark.
Swing by her tasting room on the outskirts of Currie and you’ll most definitely be wanting to take home more than a wee dram. She also produces a tongue-tingling limoncello that has enough zing to make you sing, and a coffee spirit that rivals any of the cold brew martini mixes on the market. Her gins are as clean and crisp as King Island’s water, and her Tiger Tonic Spirit is a signature drink like no other: the first garlic spirit, made with local manuka honey, lemon garlic and ginger. It comes together beautifully to offer an antibiotic tonic that tastes so much better than some of those European stomach tonics on the market.
Go cray cray for lobster
King Island crayfish (aka southern rock lobster) is some of the best in the country, and just like the island’s cheese, whisky, beer and beef, if you plan ahead you can make a meal of it while you’re there, or take some home with you. Wander down to Currie Wharf to see fishing trawlers and boats coming in and out – it’s the buzzing hub of the island’s thriving seafood industry. Pre-orders can be arranged through King Island FoodWorks, or call King Island Seafoods or Aptus Seafood.
Restaurants with food (and a special one without)
There are some great places to dine on King Island. The King Island Hotel restaurant is fun and cosy, and it has an extensive menu and wine list. Next door, you’ll find the quirky Legs café and diner, which also has great coffee, a bar, and takeaway meals.
At Oleada in Currie you can fine dine in a 16-seat rustic restaurant, with a European-style ambience and great service dished up by local husband-and-wife team Heidi and Max. Over at Grassy check out Wild Harvest, which also runs food tours to show visitors all the amazing island produce they utilise in their wonderful dishes.
If you want to buy your own local produce and prepare it yourself, look no further than The Restaurant with No Food – a bright yellow boatshed lovingly restored by local artist Caroline Kininmonth, who has filled it to the rafters with eclectic art, and bits and bobs in wacky ensembles that are enough to make anyone smile. World famous chef Tetsuya Wakuda has cooked up a storm here and loves the island’s rock lobster and abalone.
Help yourself to glasses, plates and cutlery then settle in and watch the buzzing harbour while you dine with the ocean breeze in your hair. Clean up after yourself and make a donation before you go. Even better, snap up a piece of Caroline’s art – you’ll see it all over the island, bringing joy to many.
For the love of beer
King Island has a brewery smack-bang in the middle, with awesome views across the rolling countryside with cows and all. King Island Brewhouse (aka KIB) has a range of top beers to suit all tastes, and you’ll find the cans at local eateries, bars and bottle shops. The distinctive logo features a giant octopus tentacle (much like the legendary kraken, who took sailors to their watery graves) curled around a lighthouse. The brewery has teamed up with King Island Meat Providore so you can cook your meat on the BBQ, and it also hosts popular pizza nights with live music.
If you enjoyed reading about golf on King Island, for more bucket-list golfing adventures, check out the annual Outback Queensland Masters (and maybe win the million-dollar hole-in-one!)