Martin Clunes: Islands of Australia

Friday nights get a charming new travel series thanks to a charismatic Doc Martin star.


I think if ABC had a documentary as good Martin Clunes: Islands of Australia it would be premium Sunday night viewing.

Instead this new series will screen at 8:30pm Fridays, which probably speaks to Seven’s chockful schedule. Don’t let the timeslot put you off, this is effortless armchair travel.

As the Doc Martin star tells us in his opening introduction, there are 8220 islands in Australia, “wrapped around it like a necklace.” Who knew?

Clunes will traverse the coastline as he learns about island life -its people and natural wonders- in this series produced by Prospero Productions with Clunes’ own Buffalo Pictures.

It opens with Clunes kayaking to tiny Fort Denison in the middle of Sydney Harbour. Once a military fortress, it is now host to wedding ceremonies and a stunning vantage point of a spectacular city.

But it isn’t long before he lands in Lord Howe Island, 800km east of the mainland. With its sweeping vistas and volcanic terrain, Clunes is clearly awe-struck, and who can blame him? When you imagine a pristine island paradise, “chances are it looks something like this.”

Yet in this garden of eden, there are only 350 residents and no more than 400 tourists at any one time. Lord Howe’s own Kentia palms were even a favourite of Queen Victoria. It’s up to Mr. Clunes to attempt to shinny up a palm for the cameras. Yes, it’s not all beach strolls, even for a Cornwall doctor.

Next stop is Norfolk Island, our eastern-most territory, which harbours a dark convict history. But we learn the descendants of convicts and the Bounty mutiny have embraced their past. Now with a thriving tourist industry, one local jokes “crime can pay.”

On Restoration Island in the Great Barrier Reef, Clunes meets a “modern day Robinson Crusoe,’ 72 year old Dave, the island’s only inhabitant (save for his pet dingo Polly, spiders, jellyfish, sharks and crocs). In this interview Clunes learns what makes a successful businessman turn his back on society for a solitary, tropical life. There’s a moment too when Clunes is uncomfortable learning just what is required in turning seafood to sustenance, but it’s personal moments like this that give this doco its colour.

Last stops are in the Torres Strait, to Thursday and Friday Islands, and a lovely nod to how music is central to the Indigenous culture, finding modern ways to celebrate old values.

In his summery, tropical shirts Mr. Clunes is a relaxed and expressive tour guide, albeit as a Brit bringing our backyard home to us.

Prospero Productions (Ned’s Head, Navy Divers, Outback Truckers) have packaged together a charming slice of our coastline, that makes for a warm addition to Friday night viewing.

Only 8214 more islands to go.

Martin Clunes: Islands of Australia 8:30pm Friday on Seven.

3 Responses

    1. Yes Martin was great as Gary in Men Behaving Badly. That particular character has had a massive influence on my life and I am still married to my first wife somehow!!!! Then again she is a nurse…..

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