Tom and Jo’s island life
Daily jobs on Tom and Jo's Flinders Island farm range from farmer to cleaner to builder to cocktail mixologist to parent of three energetic farm kids.
Jo Youl has a baby on her hip as she pushes the vacuum across Killicrankie Beach House’s floor in preparation for guests touching down on Flinders Island. Meanwhile, her husband is tending to 600 Angus cattle and tonight she’ll be managing the restaurant floor of her venture, The Flinders Wharf. On Island Time might be a brand Jo is translating to reality for visitors but for the Youls, Flinder’s show-stopping beaches come with a side of hard work.
Jo’s great grandfather bought Quoin Farm in the 1930s. It’s located in the northern reaches of Flinders, a small island off Tasmania’s north east tip. Home to about 1000 permanent residents, the island is one of 52 dotted throughout the Furneaux Group.
When the opportunity came to take on the family’s 820-hectare patch, Melbourne-based Jo couldn’t resist. In 2012, after studying and working in agricultural marketing, she moved full time to the island she spent just about every childhood holiday.
On Flinders Island, a decade long friendship with Tasmanian Midlands farmer and builder, Tom Youl, blossomed into marriage. Taking up a position at the council and later opening her own café, Jo built the foundations of what would become a hospitality venture that has redefined the island’s food and drink experience.
“Growing up, we’d feast on local crayfish, prawns from the river and wallaby off the farm,” smiles Jo. “But when I moved here, I found it hard to access the island’s amazing bounty. I wanted to start a business that celebrated the local producers; The Flinders Wharf concept came from this. I wanted a multi-business space that would allow others to come in and showcase our island offering.”
At the Flinders Wharf venue, acclaimed Head Chef Mikey Yeo takes the restaurant helm and Tom Ambroz distils small batch craft spirits next door at the Furneaux Distillery Co. A suite of offices and business space stretches across the mezzanine level and a first-floor store is home to everything from Whitetag clothing which supports white shark research through to Killiecrankie diamond jewellery handmade on the island.
After opening The Flinders Wharf in April 2019, with three children in tow, Jo and Tom launched a portfolio of accommodation options in early 2020. The first, Wombat Lodge, was originally a shearing shed on the family property.
“It was so run down. We didn’t know whether to burn it down or do something with it,” laughs Jo. “But it’s now so special. Its exterior is clad in recycled timber from Tom’s parents former house and inside we have special Flinder’s touches like handmade stools topped with wallaby skin by a local island maker and Bass Strait bath products. We are excited to do so much more in the storytelling space as we progress.”
Beside Wombat Lodge is a petite studio also for rent and Jo manages two more properties at nearby Killiecrankie Beach. To assist, the Youls have five busy casuals on the island, a full-time chef and a lengthy list of standby casuals for peak season. When busy, Tom also hops in for the odd bar shift.
“It’s certainly been a labour of love,” smiles Jo. “I haven’t taken a wage since we opened The Flinders Wharf, but we’re doing it with the bigger picture in mind. We have thoughts on future accommodation options beneath Mount Killiecrankie, currently researching what’s coined ‘future food systems’ – which are literally houses that feed people. They might have roof top gardens and a feature mushroom wall. The mastermind behind it, Joost Bakker, has his Greenhouse 5.0 prototype set up in Melbourne’s Federation Square. There’s so much potential on this island and we can’t wait to tap into a sustainable and exciting island future.”
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