Wednesday, 19 Jun 2019

Strzelecki Mountain. Flinders Island

Strzelecki Mountain

“Top Walks in Tasmania”

Melanie Ball

Strzelecki Mountain. Flinders Island

     Strzelecki Mountain. A combination of history, wildlife and geology fill up a Flinders Island itinerary that will take you to both beaches and mountains. You can leave footprints on white sand trimmed with lichen-festooned rocks or climb the island’s tallest peak for a view extending to Tasmania and across Bass Strait to mainland Australia. Book your flight or ferry ride now!

     Climb Flinders Island’s highest peak for rainbow-hued land-and-sea views reaching to Tasmania and the Australian mainland

Strzelecki Mountain. Flinders Island - photo 1

Strzelecki Mountain. A rainbow arches over Fothingate Beach and Trousers Point

Walk:

7.2km out-and-back

Time required:

4–5 hours

Best time:

Mild, sunny day; do not attempt in wet or misty weather

Grade:

Moderate–hard

Environment:

Forest, rocky slopes, unprotected cliff edges, exposed mountain top

Best map:

This one

Toilets:

None

Food:

Whitemark, 12km north, has a pub, cafe, provedore, butcher (Flinders Island wallaby is delicious) and supermarket.

Tips:

Whatever the forecast carry water, a snack and a rain jacket; wear good-gripping footwear.

Strzelecki Mountain. Flinders Island - photo 2

 

Strzelecki Mountain

     Strzelecki Mountain. The largest of 52 islands in the Furneaux Group, ruggedly beautiful Flinders Island is a remnant of the land bridge that once linked Australia and Tasmania, one of a string of granite massifs created hundreds of millions of years ago by continental collision. The high point of Flinders’ granite spine, and an unparalleled vantage point, Strzelecki Mountain (756m) was named after Polish geologist Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki, who climbed several island mountains during his Tasmanian explorations from 1840 to 1842.

     Captain Cook named the island group after British navigator Tobias Furneaux, who recorded it in 1773, and the largest island was named for Matthew Flinders, who charted it in 1798. (With George Bass, as in Bass Strait, Flinders went on to circumnavigate Tasmania, proving it an island.) So a who’s-who of mariners – and the sealers, mutton birders, farmers and tourists who followed in their wake – wrote Flinders’ Island’s European history.

     Strzelecki Mountain. Aboriginal people occupied the Furneaux Group of Islands from about 6,000 years ago, but the indigenous history of Flinders Island includes a tragic chapter. For here, in 1833, missionary George Augustus Robinson established ‘a sanctuary for remnants of the Tasmanian Aboriginal tribes’, to save mainland Tasmania’s Aborigines from violent clashes with settlers. Diseases and despair claimed most of the nearly 200 Aboriginal men, women and children brought to the island and in 1847 the survivors were transferred to Oyster Bay, near Hobart. The only physical reminders of the Aboriginal ‘sanctuary’ at Wybalenna, on Flinders’ west coast, are a cemetery and restored stone chapel. 

Strzelecki Mountain. Flinders Island - photo 3

Strzelecki Mountain

     Dozens of walks explore the island’s history, coast and lagoons, but scaling Strzelecki Mountain packs the most visual and aerobic punch.

    Strzelecki Mountain. The ascent starts from a stile beside Trousers Point Rd, 12.5km from Whitemark. Drive south from Whitemark towards Lady Barron on Palana Rd (B85) for about 6km, turning right into Trousers Point Rd (C806), along the foot of the Strzelecki range. If the peaks have their heads in the clouds postpone the walk because it is unsafe in severe conditions. If not, clamber over the stile and walk 100m across flat grassland to a walker registration hutch.

     Strzelecki Mountain. The climbing now starts through tea tree into bracken forest strewn with granite boulders embellished with lichen. Cross a creek on stepping stones (see point 1 on map) and continue uphill beside a cascade washing down a granite slide. In the mid-2010s, the island suffered such severe drought that little water ran here and moss fell off the trees and rocks.

     Strzelecki National Park is significant because the geographical ranges of mainland and Tasmanian plants and animals overlap here. Orange arrows show the way within earshot of the creek, up through tea tree and bushy needlewood, a white-flowering hakea.

Strzelecki Mountain. Flinders Island - photo 4

Strzelecki Mountain

     Looking back you start to glimpse ocean and coastal plains, and soon after skirting a massive granite slab about 900m into the walk, an undercut rock presents a coastal vista painted in yellow, green, grey and a colour card of blues. From another boulder you can see south-west Trousers Point and out to conical Mt Chappell Island beyond Fotheringate Beach’s ribbon of sand. Strzelecki Mountain.

     Having zigzagged steeply uphill, the track flattens out so you can catch your breath taking in another fabulous vista, over neighbouring granite domes and up the island’s west coast – and watching yellow-tailed black cockatoos fly overhead! Fallen leaves muffle your footsteps among eucalypts with course lower trunks peeling to smooth grey and yellow stripes up top. These beautiful trees are one of a handful of eucalypt species that grow on Flinders Island (compared with more than 800 across mainland Australia).

     Strzelecki Mountain. The track scales a treed ridge, with a ferny creek gully to the right, hillside dropping away to the left and granite pyramids thrust skywards ahead. A majestic multi-limbed blue gum (see point 2 on map) about 1.8km up frames the top of Strzelecki Mountain.

Strzelecki Mountain. Flinders Island - photo 5

Strzelecki Mountain

     Strzelecki Mountain. Eucalypts give way to more open forest with fewer tall trees rooted in cutting grass, bracken and drifts of paper daisies. It’s beautiful here in cloud and mist but dangerous, so if you’re engulfed – it can happen without notice – stay put or retreat. Don’t push on.

     The track now traverses Strzelecki’s western flank, gifting full-frontals of the two closest, conical peaks, the left one’s granite flank like elephant hide. Lumpy with rocks and roots, the track steps up among age-twisted tea tree and massive mossy boulders that can drip with water. A natural chicane leads to an exposed saddle where you have Flinders Island at your feet. You’ve got a 75m descent before making the final rocky pitch (see point 3 on map); take care as the track can be boggy at its low point and slippery on the climb out. Standing on top of Strzelecki Mountain on a clear day, you are surrounded by crescent beaches, turquoise bays, blue sea, green-and-yellow coastal plains and grey ranges running north. You can sometimes see mainland Tasmania and Wilsons Promontory (Victoria’s southernmost point, across Bass Strait) but this aerie is the plaything of capricious Bass-Strait weather gods who can envelop it in cloud without notice, shrouding even the brightest sun. Revel in the spectacle but stay alert to conditions and retreat if the weather closes in.

     Enjoy the Strzelecki Mountain and the views from the reverse perspectives as you retrace your steps to your car.

Strzelecki Mountain. Flinders Island - photo 6

 Strzelecki Mountain

 

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