‘The ultimate sea-change destination’: The family living a simpler life on remote Flinders Island

From our Property Partner Domain

Family life on a remote island in Bass Strait looks good on Jo Youl.

Ten years ago she left inner-city Melbourne for a new beginning with her partner (now husband) Tom on Flinders Island, a relatively pristine place of natural beauty off the north-east coast of Tasmania.

The island can be reached by small plane, or by taking the weekly freight ferry from Tassie. This isolation, its quiet roads, crystal clear beaches and small community (the island’s population is about 1000) has never stopped charming the couple, who are now parents to three young children, Alice, 8, Billy, 6, and Georgina, 3.

“The kids have such an amazing upbringing,” Jo says. “It’s really free, and they run wild. They’re muddy all the time and don’t have to wear shoes and it’s a really safe community.”

Their home is Quoin Farm, a 1200 hectare property outside the small settlement of Killiecrankie. The farm and family home have been in Jo’s family since the 1930s, used for years as a holiday house for family catch ups. She remembers spending school holidays there with her grandmother, catching fresh fish and wild prawns with her cousins, and generally running amok.

Idyllic memories aside, the reality that faced Jo and Tom when they moved permanently into the old house in 2012 gave them “a bit of a shock”, Jo recalls.

“The whole farm was really rundown and needed a lot of work. I was definitely quite anxious, moving from a nice townhouse in Richmond to a possum-infested house on Flinders Island.”

She remembers telling herself she’d give it a crack for six months then reassess, but she was soon won over by the slower pace and the surrounding natural environment. She and Tom embarked on a “really rewarding” renovation of the farm house, updating it room by room, doing the work themselves.

Now, a decade on and bursting with family life, Jo says the house is due for another facelift. “We sort of let the kids really trash it,” she says. “Which has been good … but it’s definitely due for another reno next year.”

The family spend much of their time out of the house anyway. Tom runs the farm, including about 2500 cattle, while Jo works to bring people together to experience the island’s beauty and fresh produce.

In 2019, she and Tom opened a waterfront hub called The Flinders Wharf in Whitemark, the island’s main town, which houses, among other things, a restaurant and provedore that champion the renowned locally-grown produce, such as Angus beef (from the Youls’ own stock), crayfish, abalone and wallaby.

Back at Quoin Farm, Jo also runs two stylish and secluded farm stays called Dwarf Cottage and Wombat Lodge, which were once rundown farm buildings before being renovated. She says her family loves hosting visitors who are new to Flinders Island, watching them gradually adapt to the island’s slower rhythm.

That means getting used to businesses that operate on non-city hours and having just one main supermarket and a handful of pubs and eateries in town. Jo insists that once you get used to planning for groceries and other essentials (she has a huge pantry for this purpose), the lack of shopping opportunities is a gift; it’s just more time to get outdoors for fishing, diving, and picnicking.

Summers spent swimming at the nearby unspoiled beaches are particularly beautiful, she says, and that’s also the time when many absentee property owners return to Flinders Island for their holidays.

Jo reckons it could be the ultimate sea-change destination for many city-weary families if they get off the beaten track for a visit.

“This is definitely somewhere to come and explore. For people with young kids, it’s potentially a really great option,” she says. “If they’re willing to make the change to a really remote place, it’s an amazing upbringing for their kids. It’s a really simple life, but it’s really fun.”

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