Perched bravely on the edge of Bass Strait, The Flinders Wharf is a place to drink in the quiet. Remote and breathtakingly beautiful. Breathe for a while and take in the salty abyss beyond – melancholy grey one day, a wild torrent of deep blue the next. Indoors, you’ll be cocooned from the wild buffeting of the roaring forties. Safely sheltered from elements whilst enfolded in the arms of contemporary luxury. A place to surrender your soul to the natural rhythm of Flinders Island.
Time moves differently here. Just ask Jo and Tom Youl, the dynamic young couple bottling a unique island experience for those who brave the journey. “We want to wrap people up in everything that we love about this place,” bubbles Jo in her bright enthusiasm. “Life runs at a different pace over there and in a different way. It’s what we love about it and what we’re hoping to share with others. It’s what attracted us to be here in the first place.”
On island time draws together elemental beauty, bountiful produce and genuine hospitality. “What we’re offering is the complete experience,” says Jo. “Somewhere to book an escape to…to lose yourself in everything the island has to offer. It’s boutique accommodation, raw island beauty and fresh organic produce all wrapped up into one.”
Industrial chic collides with coastal elegance at The Flinders Wharf. Floor to ceiling windows open directly to one of the world’s most treacherous stretches of water, leather couches brimming with comfy cushions invite hours of relaxation, whilst lofty ceilings and concrete details thrust you into a modern era. A homely but stylish vibe reigns over this new restaurant, bar and café.
Launched in 2019, this striking architectural build is something new for the relaxed township of Whitemark. “This site used to be home to the main freight shed on the island,” explains Jo. “But operations were moved down to Lady Barron a few years back. We redeveloped the site but wanted to make sure this new building maintained a nod to the original. We’re happy with the outcome and it’s nice to be standing on the same ground that has served the community for years.”
“We’re proud of the island and love living here,” explains Jo. “We’re really working hard to create sustainable tourism that showcases the best of what Flinders has to offer. It’s also about creating jobs and a future here, not just for our family but for others too. At the wharf we’re about creating a destination that celebrates fresh local produce that is served with true warmth.”
With an tribe of squirming young kids in tow, Jo’s energy seemingly has no bounds. Both her and Tom are hands on in the business and you’ll find them both behind the bar getting their hands dirty. It’s clear they enjoy chatting to visitors and passing on their local knowledge. “The kids are in here a lot with us and we take it in turns working and juggling the family.” She laughs, adding, “Our unofficial motto has become, ‘get shit done’. It’s a super busy time of life for us, but we’re keen to give things a real go.”
Jo grew up on a 5000 acre cattle and cropping farm in Victoria. “We came to Flinders a lot when I was growing up,” she explains. “The farm has been in my dad’s family since the 1930s and we spent just about every holiday here…catching crays, fishing, camping and enjoying the produce. My childhood was defined by the land and I’m really passionate about that.”
It was something that struck this young couple when they made the permanent move to Flinders almost a decade ago. “When we moved here I was acutely aware that there was so much good food around me, but I found it quite difficult to source,” recalls Jo thoughtfully. “It can be hard to access as much of it is exported to the mainland or overseas. Tom noticed it too – being a Tassie farm boy he also missed what was right on our doorstep.”
“We saw an opportunity to create a shared space where likeminded business owners could come together. The Taste of Flinders was the first step in that process and was a business we operated out of a small garage for a couple of years. The expansion into the wharf is really exciting and certainly lets us step things up a couple of notches.”
Spend an evening at The Flinders Wharf and a focus on sustainability and diversity becomes clear. “We have an amazing chef, Mikey Yeo, here with us now and he has really brought our vision to life,” nods Jo. “Fresh, local produce is at the core of what we do and the end goal is to have everything sourced locally. We collaborate a lot with local producers and it’s all about ensuring that the best of what we have here is accessible to everyone, both locals and visitors. We’re excited by the opportunities to be creative and have already had some great successes such as our guest chef series.”
Seasonal gourmet meals are served in fine style at the wharf. Roasted crown of chicken, smoked Flinders beef cheeks and braised neck of lamb are all house favourites. Coastal flavours such as saltbush and kunzea gently introduce the tastebuds to the Bass Strait wilds. The food is served in abundance – both hearty in its portion size, and in the friendly banter from the staff.
A shop and larder on site provide the ability to pick up local delights such as a jar of honey or drop of island whisky. Picnic supplies and take away options are also available. “We’ve got the Furneaux Distillery here on site with us too,” says Jo. “It’s working really well to have them under this roof as the two businesses really complement each other. It’s what we mean by drawing producers together and working with likeminded souls.” The wharf is also home to partner businesses Straitwater and Flinders Island Aviation.
Nestled in the foothills of Mount Killiecrankie is the family farm. It’s a picturesque location home to this family of five and about 600 breeding cattle. “It’s fantastic for the kids here,” grins Jo. “What a way to grow up, right at the northern end of the island with just a whole lot of exploring to be done. We love it.”
In recent times the Youl’s have found reward in opening their property to visitors. “It’s just too good not to share,” nods Jo enthusiastically. “We now have four different accommodation options and are really enjoying hosting guests to the island. Seeing people unwind here is a real joy.”
Dwarfs Cottage and Wombat Lodge are available to those keen to experience farm life with a twist. “Both are located right here on our property. The cottage is a quaint studio ideal for singles and couples. It provides easy access to mountain walking trails and also to Diamond Gully for those keen on hunting for local Killiecrankie gems.” Jo continues quickly, her enthusiasm for these getaways clearly palpable, “Wombat Lodge on the other hand can sleep up to six and has been a real labour of love for both Tom and I. It’s a cosy abode with a lot of custom timber furniture Tom hand built himself. Think sweeping mountain views and secluded beaches…made all the better with luxurious linens and a raft of special touches.”
A further two properties in the seaside hideaway of Killiecrankie itself are also on offer. They share the same boutique styling that the On island time crew have become known for. “Down the road we’ve got the Crayshack and Killiecrankie Beach House,” explains Jo. “They’re both beautiful and provide easy access to beach life. Shoes are optional and they’re the perfect way to surrender to the Flinders vibe. Killiecrankie is wild and beautiful.”
Watching the shadows lengthen as another day draws to a close, Jo provides an open and honest reflection on Flinders life as it stands. “Times are really interesting here at present. We certainly don’t claim to have everything right just yet, and have had our share of teething problems, but there is so much opportunity. Like most of our community, we are keen to see things done respectfully and sustainably. That’s the way forward so that we don’t lose this special slice of magic.”
“Come on over!” invites Jo warmly. “Book your stay, sample the local food and explore all that Flinders Island has to offer. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.”