Go island hopping with Doc Martin star Martin Clunes
SOME of Australia's hidden gems are secrets no more thanks to Martin Clunes.
The actor and star of Doc Martin visits more than a dozen of our country's more remote destinations in his travel series Islands of Australia.
Martin and his film crew skipped many of the obvious locations for lesser known ones, like Restoration and Pitcairn islands.
"It would be a different show if we were to make a show about an island everybody knew," Clunes tells APN's The Guide.
"We were out to find the surprises, I guess. We skipped the (Great) Barrier Reef, for example, because we've all see that.
"We avoided all the ones we'd heard of, apart from Tasmania of course."
The show is already a hit. Its debut this past Friday was the most-watched program of the night, attracting a national audience of 1.179 million viewers.
Clunes, who also narrated Islands of Britain for ITV in 2009, relished in Australia's tangible history.
"Our history (in the UK) goes back so far it gets vague and sometimes the only historian available was a songwriter from 300 years later," he says.
"Australian history is there in handwriting, the time, the place; it's interesting and immediate... whereas we get a bit muddled.
"I was talking to an indigenous guy I met at Rottnest (Island) and he said 'where are your people from?' I said 'I dunno; I think my dad's people might have come from Scotland or Ireland'.
"Then I asked 'how about you?' He said 'that hill over there for about 5000 years'."
The 54-year-old said he was impressed at how Australians are now embracing their convict history.
"I remember being out there in 1999 when I went right round Australia making a documentary, and you kind of didn't mention the penal system or the convicts," he says.
"It's so different now. Everyone is claiming their history in a really healthy way and they get a lot from it."
Clunes nearly circumnavigated our coastline for the three-part series, visiting 16 out of more than 8000 islands that "wrap around Australia like a necklace" on his 13,000km odyssey.
As he points out in the first episode, if he visited one each day it would take him more than 22 years to see them all.
"You can't avoid seeing the commonality of island life," he says.
"The sort of things I came away being most impressed by were the people and their sense of community and their care for one another in a world where care seems to be out of fashion."
In this week's episode he explores the remote islands of the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia.
He discovers magical and colourful creatures off the Muiron Islands of Ningaloo Reef, traditional delicacies and football in Tiwi and in the Abrolhos he visits the scene of one of the grisliest tales in Australian history.
Clunes, who was in the country last week promoting the series, will spend the rest of the year at home with his family before filming commences on the next season of Doc Martin next year.
"The best acting job I'll ever get is Doc Martin and to get to go off and do these amazing things in the downtime is perfect," he says.
"If this goes well and there's a broadcaster interested (in another season) I'll be there. It's a perfect complement to acting."
Islands of Australia continues tonight at 8.30pm on Channel 7.