Kent Group National Park

The six islands and islets of the Kent Group comprise Tasmania's northernmost national park - located about 55 kilometres north-west of Flinders Island and approximately the same distance from Wilsons Promontory in Victoria.

 

The Kent Group National Park consists of three main Islands, Deal, Erith and Dover. The total land area of the park is 2,374 hectares, while the largest of the islands - Deal - has an area of 1,576 hectares.

 

The islands and islets have a rich Aboriginal cultural heritage with human occupation of the area estimated to date back between 8,000 and 13,000 years. The islands also have a long European history. The first European to see the islands was Mathew Flinders in 1798, during a voyage to Preservation Island to rescue survivors of the Sydney Cove Wreck.

 

The islands were used for extensive fur seal sealing, for a period of about 50 years. A lighthouse station was built on Deal Island in 1848. The island has not had permanent inhabitants since 1992 when the lighthouse was deactivated, although volunteer caretakers have since lived on the island.

 

Access

 

Access to the Kent Group of Islands National Park is very limited due to the remote location of the Islands. Until recently it was possible to fly by light aircraft to Deal Island, however the airstrip is now closed as it was deemed dangerous and was also having a detrimental impact on the island. Even though the islands are accessible by water there are no commercial charters available.

 

Private boats still frequent the waters around the islands. These waters offer safe anchorages and spectacular scenery. The area has long been recognised by yachties and fisherfolk for the tranquil, untouched bays and coves.

 

Facilities

 

The Kent Group of Islands is located in a very remote and isolated area of Bass Strait. The islands have been reserved for the protection of their unique marine and land ecosystems. Facilities are therefore very limited. Visitors must be self-sufficient, as there are no shops on the Islands. The islands do not offer any formed walking tracks or public amenities.

 

Camping on the islands is limited, with some areas being restricted due to their cultural significance. The islands' ecosystems are very fragile and it is imperative that minimal impact camping methods are used in all situations.

 

There are no established campsites on the islands, although there is a small hut located at West Cove on Erith Island. This hut is of historical significance and should only be used in the case of an emergency.

 

The islands have long been recognised by sailors and fisher-folk alike for their safe anchorages when bad weather sets in.

 

Activities

 

The Kent Group of Islands is situated in a very remote and isolated area of Bass Strait. Due to this location, amenities and facilities are almost non-existent.

 

Formed walking tracks throughout the islands do not exist. The islands offer some spectacular scenery that is best observed from the water. Sea kyaking is a popular way to explore around the islands, however accessing the islands by sea kayak is a major undertaking and is only suitable for highly skilled and experienced sea kayakers.

 

The islands were originally of interest to settlers due to the large Australian fur seal colonies. Thus, there is the ever-present spectacle of seals in their natural environment, although, of course, in greatly reduced numbers than was the case when settlers first arrived on the islands. It is advised that the seals be observed from a distance by boat. It is important not to approach within 100 metres during the breeding season November to December. See our Seal Watching Guidelines for futher details.

 

There is also great opportunities for diving in the protected bays and coves around the islands, although swimming and diving within the seal colonies is not advised as where there are seals there are sharks!

 

Highlights

 

Natural History

 

Geoheritage
The Park typifies the region’s geological history, being composed of a granite intrusion, overlain by younger sediments. The granite is part of a large bathylith extending from Wilson's Promontory to north-east Tasmania. During an early Quaternary ice-age low sea levels exposed the continental shelf and wind blown sands deposited in the group, typically along the west/windward side of islands. The calcareous dunes have subsequently been subject to consolidation and secondary cementation, forming aeolianite. These limestone and limesand deposits now veneer the group’s granite bedrock.

 

The group is high compared to many others rising to 305 metres above sea level at its highest point on Deal Island.

 

Vegetation
The vegetation of the Park is broadly typical of the islands of Eastern Bass Strait. The major community types are dominated by Poa tussock grasses, drooping sheoak Allocasuarina verticillata, Smithton peppermint Eucalyptus nitida, boobialla Myoporum insulare, and teatree including coastal teatree Leptospermum laevigatum.

 

Dover Island is the least impacted by fire and human activity. It is largely covered with low forest, closed scrub and heath and it is almost totally free of weed species. Erith Island exhibits the most human influence. Until 1996 the island was the subject of a commercial grazing lease and underwent frequent associated firing. The island is largely covered by open Poa grassland and a high number of invasive exotic species.

 

The national park has biogeographic significance. The native flora of the Bass Strait islands is uniquely transitional between mainland and Tasmania floras, and contains many geographic outliers; species which are either at the northern or southern end of their range. As a result there are many species not normally found in association. The heath community found on the higher parts of Dover Island has considerable conservation significance, being unique and only reserved in this location.

 

Fauna
The Kent Group is an important Australian fur seal breeding site and is the largest of only five sites in Tasmanian waters. It is especially significant because, unlike other sites, it is secure from high seas when pups are young and vulnerable. The islands are also important sanctuaries for the common diving petrels and fairy prions, and are home to significant colonies of short-tailed shearwaters, little penguins, sooty oystercatchers, cormorants and terns. Deal Island is a highly modified island, with very little of its natural environment intact due to fire, land clearing and grazing. The diversity of terrestrial birds and reptiles is of significant importance. The larger islands also are habitat for a range of native animals such as bandicoots, potoroos and possums.

 

Historical Heritage
The Kent Group was discovered by Mathew Flinders in 1798, during a voyage to Preservation Island to rescue survivors of the wreck of the Sydney Cove.

 

It was the investigations of Mathew Flinders that led to the discovery of the vast Australian Fur seal colonies around the Kent Group of Islands. The further exploration of Bass Strait soon followed this. Some of the sealer settlements in Eastern Bass Strait were amongst the earliest European Settlements outside Sydney Cove.

 

The Kent archipelago was named after William Kent, commander of the Supply, by Governor Hunter, although others claim that the nomenclature was chosen by Flinders himself. Some of the sealer settlements in Eastern Bass Strait were amongst the earliest European Settlements outside Sydney Cove.

 

By the 1820s a number of sealers had made more permanent homes for themselves on the Islands. In 1803 the great British Botanist Robert Brown landed on Deal Island and made extensive collections. This led to the findings that Deal Island was home to many species of marine algae as well as terrestrial species.

 

In 1848 a lighthouse was built on the largest of the three islands - Deal. Convicts and bullock teams built the lighthouse over a period of several years. The lighthouse was completed with the help of the then New South Wales, Victorian and Tasmanian Governments, with the aim that it would enable more free trade through the waters of Bass Strait. The lighthouse was constructed on a hill top that rose 288 metres above sea level. Today the lighthouse is sometimes visible at night time from Wilson's Promontory in Victoria, some 80 kilometres away.

 

The island was used for cattle grazing for a short period in the early 1930s. During this time there were stock yards and one small hut constructed at West Cove on Deal Island and substantial clearing was undertaken. The impacts of grazing and agricultural use of Deal Island has had a severe impact on the natural environment.

 

Kent Group National Park
via Freycinet National Park Office
Private Bag
Bicheno TAS 7215
Phone:03 6256 7000
Fax:03 6256 7090

 

Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania

 

 

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