Erith Island - Kent Group National Park, Tasmania

erith island cups view murray channel  

Erith Island, along with Deal and Dover Islands, are the largest islands in the Kent Group and the waterway between them forms the Murray Channel. Our experience with Erith Island on our last visit was very limited. We tried to anchor near the island when a strong westerly came through and we dragged. During our brief anchorage period, we saw the beach and the hut ashore, that was it. This time, waiting for a weather window to head west allowed us the opportunity to anchor off Erith under more pleasant conditions and go ashore for a look-see. It was only a mile across the channel from our East Cove anchorage.


erith island shipwreck 2010


The area close to the hut and the beach at the north end of the bay has claimed several boats over the years including a yacht in 2010. We anchored south in the bay and Cups sat comfortably as we dinghied over to the beach.



erith island west cove beach shack


In 1958, Jack and Gladys Lierich built a hut on the north end of West Cove on the site of the present hut. The hut was built of driftwood collected on the local beaches and lined with sails. Jack was a cray fisherman and they lived in the hut for four years. He built a 38' fishing vessel on the beach, launched her with help from his friends and according to information in the hut, the Mirrabbooka still sails in the Bass Strait.


erith island hut interior


In the 1960's, the Murray-Smith family began yearly expeditions to the island and continue the tradition to this day. They're known as the Erith Mob and have continued to maintain and make improvements to the hut over the years while preserving the integrity of the island. When they're not in residence, the hut is open to visitors and campers. We wandered through the hut. It's very rustic with rudimentary furniture and amenities, but probably quite a welcome respite for kayakers and campers ...and the family who was shipwrecked here in 2010.


erith island cape barren geese


The Erith mob have also cut and maintained tracks across the island. We followed several which meandered up the hill from the beach through bush and forest. There are no wallabies here, but there were certainly a lot of birds. Cape Barren geese shared the track with us for a ways, honking their concern at our presence. Firetails, flame robins, pippits and a brown falcon topped our list of bird sightings. We saw no snakes, but the native skinks were plentiful.


erith island skink with bug


We climbed to a notch between two large hills and were rewarded with a spectacular view of both the Murray Channel and the Deal Island Lighthouse on one side and the Bass Strait on the other. Wilson's Promontory, some 60 miles away, was a faint shadow on the horizon. The key interest in this particular location? An internet connection … three bars worth! David sat on the hillside with the Telstra dongle and the i-Pad reading emails and checking weather forecasts.


erith island internet connection


This sidetrip was enjoyable, but as the wind picked up, we hustled back down the track to the beach, launched the dink and headed back to Cups. The channel roiled with the wind and current, but once back to our East Cove anchorage, all calmed down. We settled into the anchorage, waiting for that elusive weather window. It's always just a couple of days away.


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Deal Island - Kent Group National Park, Tasmania Pt. 2

deal island lighthouse  

The most outstanding structure on Deal Island is, of course, the lighthouse. Built in 1848, it is the tallest lighthouse in Australia at nearly 1000' (305M) above sea level. In fact, it's the tallest lighthouse in the Southern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, it is so high, it was many times occluded by clouds and fog and couldn't be seen by ships … not good if you're a lighthouse. It was manned until 1992, when two new, unmanned lighthouses were built on nearby Northeast Isle and Southwest Island. It looks regal sitting on the bluff as you approach the island, but it's absolutely awesome when you get up close and personal.


deal island lighthouse_spiral_steps


Not only can you visit the lighthouse, you can climb the spiral staircase to the top and get a close-up look into the massive fresnel lens.


deal island lighthouse_view


Stepping out onto the narrow walkway that surrounds the top of the lighthouse takes your breath away with a million dollar, 360 degree view of the Bass Strait.


deal island baby_grave


Not far from the lighthouse, we saw a tiny grave simply marked “Baby”. Research indicates that the grave belonged to the infant daughter of the Jacksons, assistant lighthouse keepers in the 1890's.


deal island mr_bakers_daughters_grave


Another marked grave over by Squally Cove is that of Rev. Mr. Baker's 11-year-old daughter, who died c. 1872 near Deal Island on a ship en route from England to New South Wales and was buried here. The grief associated with burying your child in this isolated place and then having to leave is unfathomable to us, but a necessity in the time and place.


deal island john_hague_grave



We wandered up to Barn Hill to look at the whim, a vertical track used in the early days to haul supplies from the jetty to the Compound above. Bullocks did the heavy work then, but the whim has long since deteriorated to just a remnant of the past. A small ute (pick-up) is used now to lug supplies up and down the road from jetty to Compound. Nearby the whim, the grave of John Thomas Hague, head lighthouse keeper who died here in 1924, is fenced and well-marked.


deal island whim remnants


Walking the well-worn paths on the island, visiting the museum, seeing the lighthouse and the graves, conjures up all sorts of images of the lives that were led here and of the ordeals and hardships faced. We feel privileged to have experienced this place, not once, but twice. The magic never seems to wear off.


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