*The writer travelled at his own expense.
I love cheese. Huge fan. My first French phrase I learnt (when I was travelling at 11) was, Avez-vous du fromage fumé s’il vous plaît? which translates to, have you got some smoked cheese please?
So when I found out my favourite Australian cheese, King Island was a destination you could visit, not just a fancy brand name, and they still made the cheese on the island; I became obsessed with a cheese-cation. I wanted not just a foodie holiday but a gouda one too.
Roughly halfway between Victoria and Tasmania, in Bass Strait, bearing the full brunt of the roaring forties is, King Island.
Like all good island destinations, it’s not the cheesiest place to get to. There are daily flights with Rex, though only from Melbourne. However, this also means unlike other islands in Australia, King Island is not teeming with tourists.
What makes King Island cheese so good? Everything, it’s a wholistic product of it’s environment. The wind means there’s no pollution, the regular southern storms ensure the grass is greener, salt from the sea provides minerals. Ultimately happy cows equate to astronomical cheese.
To know and understand King Island cheese, isn’t just about consuming it; it’s becoming lost in thought as the crashing waves and seals bark on the rocky shore. It’s watching Cape Wickham lighthouse (the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere) light up the starry sky, it’s gazing out as grey-green storm clouds twist and bellow their way across endless ocean. Most of all, it’s about isolation. A place where nothing else matters, but the cheese.Jade Jackson
Most Australian cheese lover’s are aware of the Award Winning Seal Bay Triple Cream Brie and the Surprise Bay Aged Cheddar (all their cheeses are named after locations around the island) but at the King Island cheese shop, adjacent to the factory you can find the full catalogue including Discovery Bay Ash Brie, Stormy Washed Rind, and their decadent selection of blue vein cheese including their famous Roaring Forties Blue and Black Label Triple Cream Blue.
As if a bountiful supply of cheese wasn’t the start of a perfect holiday, it gets better. A small wheel of cheese at the King Island Cheese Shop (175g-200g) is only $4 each (usually $12) and they also sell 1kg wheels of camembert and brie cheese. I flew to King Island with 8kg of luggage and came back with 22kg; all cheese.
If you can’t wait to get back to your accommodation to eat your cheese, they also sell platters paired with wine and beer which you can devour on-site.
King Island cheese is creamy, it’s rich, it’s smooth, it melts in your mouth. As a cheese aficionado, there’s few cheeses I’ve found around the world that match the consistency and sweetness of King Island.
On the island, there’s two main towns, Curry and Grassy which include small supermarkets, a bakery and a butcher. Though pretty much all I ate all week was cheese.
As a writer and lover of islands, I’d often fantasised about staying in a nice house, on a clifftop, overlooking the ocean. No people, just clouds and the ocean. I was delighted to easily find that on King Island.
Most accommodation is based on holiday houses so you’ll have kitchen facilities along with a lounge room, many also feature a spa. The island is small enough you can base yourself in one spot, and do day trips around, however I was there to escape a noisy office, and eat cheese.
I stayed at the King Island Holiday Village in Grassy. It was bigger than I needed but it fulfilled my single request; a balcony, overlooking the ocean, from which I could sit, read, and eat cheese. The only sounds were from the wind and the waves.
Most visitors rent a car to explore the island, however at the time of visiting I didn’t drive, so the owner of my accommodation, Ian Johnson kindly picked me up from the airport. I hadn’t planned on exploring too far, but Ian offered to show me a working dairy farm which was one of many farms to supply milk, directly to the cheese factory.
Half an hour later I was in gumboots herding cattle, pulling fence posts and though the cows had already been milked, we finished the morning with coffee and sandwiches. The farmer said “I’ll just go and grab some milk.” He went out to the vat which was freshly milked, and filled up the jug and plonked it on the table.
Curious, I asked for a glass and what was to them, ‘just milk’ was the sweetest, creamiest milk I’ve ever tried. It ruined store bought milk forever more.
On my last day, Ian was heading out to catch a fish for dinner, so before dawn, we hiked down to a remote beach. Fairy penguins wandered up into the dunes just as the red of the rising sun appeared from between a gap in the clouds. I was told that you can usually throw a line and catch a salmon, straight from the beach.
Even though we didn’t catch anything, Ian insisted I join him and his wife for dinner, who coincidentally worked at the King Island Cheese factory.
After dinner, she brought out a cheese platter. I nibbled on a piece of what appeared to be cheddar, but it’s rich bite with a hint of caramel took me by surprise. I asked “what cheese is this because I don’t recognise it” thinking I’d tried them all. She responded, “oh it’s not commercially available, it’s an aged cheddar we created specifically for a cheese show in Germany, aged for 36 months” (the standard is 12 months).
I wanted to cry. Here was the single greatest cheese I’d ever tasted, rich crumbly, smooth, with a soft and sweet odour and never again, would it be.
As she cleared the leftovers, she casually said “here, you may as well take this, it won’t fit in the fridge”. In my hands was a 2.5kg chunk of smoked cheddar.
Thankfully flying domestically you are permitted to transport cheese if it is securely sealed and processed (i.e not raw). King Island airport sells foam coolers which can be taped up and checked in as luggage or the King Island shop also sells cooler bags which can be carried as hand luggage. New Zealand allows packaged cheese to be carried through customs but travelling any further than that you’d want to eat it all before then.Book your King Island flights now.
For the carnivores, King Island is also famous for it’s beef, and yes you can buy sides of beef, sealed ready to transport.
There is limited cell phone reception (Telstra only) which means you can easily switch off, enjoy the peace and quiet and totally relax.
A remote island, with few tourists, famous for cheese, what’s not to love? Create fondue memories by heading to King Island for your next brie-zy trip away.
All books discounted and with free worldwide shipping.
The Light Between Oceans M.L Stedman
Set on a remote, windswept Australian lighthouse island. A captivating book that if read whilst on King Island, will immerse you so totally you won’t ever want to leave.
The Island Aldus Huxley
I’ve bought now four copies of this book, not because it’s so good but because it sounds amazing and each time I encounter it, it has a different cover and description so I think it’s a new book. Find out why I keep becoming enchanted by it.
The Art of Natural Cheesemaking David Asher
Learn how to make your own cheese so you’ll have something to yarn on about to the locals. Compare tricks, but rest assured, they won’t be revealing any of their trade, King Island secrets anytime soon.