Neil Oliver hosts the TV series Coast Australia.
Neil Oliver hosts the TV series Coast Australia. Nicholas Wilson

Neil Oliver explores our life on the edge in Coast Australia

WHILE his TV franchise is wide in scope, Neil Oliver has modest ambitions.

The humble Scottish TV presenter, who is an internationally renowned historian and archaeologist, returns in a second season of Coast Australia, the domestic spin-off of his popular UK series.

"I'm an outsider here and I'm seeing everything for the first time," he told The Guide.

"Hopefully because I'm given a first impression and I'm genuinely excited about seeing these places because I've never seen them, a little bit of that will be contagious."

The first season of Coast Australia was a hit for the History Channel. It was Foxtel's second-highest rating non-sports series launch of 2013.

The second instalment sees Oliver and his team of Aussie presenters crisscross the country to profile eight new stretches of coastline.

Episode one explores the region between the Mornington Peninsula and the Gippsland lakes in Victoria, where Oliver becomes one of only five people known to have set foot on the isolated island known as Skull Rock as he joins the first scientific expedition there to discover what life it has sustained over millennia.

The view from Skull Rock in a scene from the TV series Coast Australia.
The view from Skull Rock in a scene from the TV series Coast Australia. Foxtel

"Everywhere you go you think you're telling the best story but the people you talk to go 'if you think it's good here you should go 20 miles that way and talk to so and so'," he said.

"It (the show) builds up a momentum all its own.

"What we tried to do in season one was touch north, south, east and west while being absolutely honest in saying there's 60,000km (of Australian coastline); it's just skimming. Hopefully this will join up a few more dots to build a slightly less superficial picture by the end of season two."

Returning are roving presenters Professor Tim Flannery, marine ecologist Emma Johnston, landscape architect Brendan Moar and anthropologist Dr Xanthe Mallett. Joining them is new Coast Australia team member Dr Alice Garner, a historian from Melbourne's La Trobe University.

The cast of Coast Australia, from left, Brendan Moar, Dr Emma Johnston, host Neil Oliver, Dr Xanthe Mallett, Professor Tim Flannery and Dr Alice Garner.
The cast of Coast Australia, from left, Brendan Moar, Dr Emma Johnston, host Neil Oliver, Dr Xanthe Mallett, Professor Tim Flannery and Dr Alice Garner. Nicholas Wilson

Other regions explored across the eight episodes include northern NSW, Norfolk Island, the Torres Strait and the Pilbara.

With Coast UK now in its 10th season, Oliver hopes Coast Australia will be just as long lived.

"I hope it will go on and on... people in the UK say 'surely you've done it all by now' but it becomes like an encyclopaedia," he said.

"As well as being enjoyable, light television I think it does something quite important. It's celebratory without being nationalist.

"Coast UK doesn't say Britain is the best place in the world. It just celebrates what's there.

"Coast Australia hopefully reminds people about places they might otherwise have overlooked, or because they've seen them before they think they'll never be interested in seeing them again."

Coast Australia season two debuts on The History Channel on Monday at 6.30pm Qld, 7.30pm NSW.


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