Caroline Kininmonth’s approach to dining and artmaking is utterly unconventional – but on King Island, that’s how things roll.
Tucked beneath Currie Lighthouse overlooking the harbour, the Boathouse beams a bright shade of yellow. It has all the ingredients of a great eatery: colourful tables and chairs, soothing seaside views, funky vinyls spinning on rotation… The only thing missing is the food.
That’s the genius of Caroline Kininmonth’s revamped Boathouse, known as the Restaurant With No Food, on the edge of Currie, King Island’s main town.
The whole island has embraced it, and it’s just so much fun to run.
Grab a crew and an assortment of King Island’s finest produce, and Kininmonth will provide the rest: plates and cutlery, washing-up supplies, an old piano, and an honesty box, if you’re keen to take home one of her eye-catching artworks. The Boathouse is imbued with King Island’s distinctive personality: the salty scent of seafood; community connection and hearty laughter; little dolls in kelp dresses; vibrant paintings of wild waves and lighthouses; and cray pots draped from the ceiling.
This eccentric operation could only exist on King Island, 80km off Tasmania’s north-west coast in the wild Bass Strait. Out here, lush pastures keep the cows “fat and happy”, small hillocks pockmark the peaceful landscape, and cranking surf lashes the coastline.
“I do love boogie boarding on the ocean waves,” Kininmonth says.
I live right on the ocean and I see cray fishermen in the middle of the night, bobbing around with these bright lights.
Kininmonth relishes the many wonders of her island home, including the oceanic air.
“If you lick your lips, you’ve had your salt intake. That’s the magic of King Island: the salt.”
Sounds delicious. And her local’s guide to King Island is just as tantalising.
Restaurant With No Food plays host to King Island’s most sought-after produce: think freshly barbecued crayfish, gooey cheese, and premium cuts of local beef and lamb from King Island Meat Providore.
Kininmonth’s go-to list of eateries grows by the year. Out west in Currie, there’s Island Larder for great coffee, hearty breakfasts and fresh sandwiches. Or pop south-east to Grassy for a luxurious feed at Wild Harvest – you might pick up some chef’s tricks at the onsite cooking school.
More culinary bliss awaits at the island’s scenic golf courses.
Failing that, the local shops do the trick.
“Both supermarkets do hampers, so you can take a hamper to the beach, which – to be quite honest – I absolutely adore.”
Kininmonth embodies King Island’s artistic spirit – inspired by nature and an endless motivation to create.
“Well, I just love to paint. I can’t help myself,” she says.
“King Island just gives you the inspiration, because you walk along the beaches and…every time’s different.”
She often combs the salt-swept bays, collecting centuries-old shells for pottery. Here, the “wild and woolly” Roaring Forties winds wash ashore thick threads of chocolate-coloured kelp (a nutritious seaweed used to craft textiles, garnish dishes and feed the island’s cattle).
Find a collection of local artists’ prints, crafts, gifts and paintings at the Reekara Community Complex – perhaps purchase a King Island Kelp Craft basket or a Wild Island mug, hand-crafted from local clay.
Kininmonth’s idea of a wild night out comes totally free.
“There’s nothing better than going out, taking a biiig wide breath and looking at the stars,” she says.
The cosmos shines especially bright here on this quiet island. Or seek out vibrant pockets of nightlife: like live music at the local pub.
“There’s actually quite a lot happening after dark. You have to create your own fun, a lot of it comes from your own initiative.”
Peer into the past
Back in the 1800s, travelling to this island was a risky – and sometimes perilous – endeavour.
“The thought of the 1840s with 100 tall ships a day going past here away to Melbourne or Sydney or Tasmania is extraordinary,” Kininmonth says.
Connect with King Island’s maritime history and visit its various shipwreck monuments, including the Cataraqui: about 400 people onboard perished when this British vessel wrecked in 1845, with only nine survivors.
You might find Kininmonth in King Island Museum’s reading room, poring over letters from shipwreck survivors to their faraway families.
“Can you imagine what the mother in poor old England would have thought?” Kininmonth says. “That’s history."
Stumble upon a secret
For Kininmonth, King Island holds many surprises.
“You have to explore it,” she says. “It’s there if you look for it, it’s not in bright-coloured lights.”
The island is sprinkled with beautiful, and often deserted, secret spots. Two of Kininmonth’s favourite beaches line King Island’s west coast, just south of Currie: the rugged British Admiral Beach, where dreamy rockpools ripple amongst orange-lichen boulders; and Badger Box – 3km of shell-scattered coast.
“There's nothing better than looking at that rolling sea coming in."
The sea rejuvenates you. I don't know what it is, but you pick up the rhythm of the waves and it goes into your body.
“Everyone will look at [King Island] a bit differently but, to me, it is a real, raw Bass Strait Island.”
King Island FAQs
Where is King Island?
Floating between mainland Tasmania and mainland Australia is King Island, a remarkably remote isle in Bass Strait, 80km off Tasmania’s north-west coast. One of the largest of Tasmania’s 334 islands, King Island is roughly the same distance from the rest of Tasmania as it is from Victoria, giving the place a distinctive sense of identity and community. Read more in this handy guide to King Island.
How to get to King Island
Flights head to King Island from Launceston, Wynyard and Melbourne – each journey as scenic as the last. Small commercial planes fly with King Island Airlines from Moorabin Airport in Melbourne; with Regional Express from Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport; and with Sharp Airlines from Launceston and Wynyard airports. Either way, you’ll land in Currie upon arrival. Charter services and private flights can also get you there, including Southern Golf Getaways and King Island Surf Charters. It’s a good idea to book everything before your trip: accommodation, restaurants and rental vehicles can get snatched up quickly.
How big is King Island?
Though King Island feels spacious, it’s really quite small and easy to get around. It only takes about 1hr to drive from the island’s southernmost suburb, Surprise Bay, to its northernmost suburb, Wickham. This oval-like isle is roughly 64km long and 24km wide, with its highest point, Gentle Annie, reaching 162m above sea-level. It may seem deserted at times, but some 1600 locals live here, usually ready to greet you with a smile and a wave. There’s no public transport, so hire a car from King Island Car Rental or Island Car Hire.