Francis Cullen, growing up in the island of Tasmania, is outwardly a very ordinary boy. But his inner life is dominated by dreams of a place he calls the Otherland: a transfigured world beyond the real one. In childhood, he glimpses it in the landscapes of his native island; and when he falls in love with a country girl, the dream is central to his feelings for her. After Heather is lost to him, Francis comes more and more under the influence of Lewie Matthews - a youth whose ambition is to become a criminal. Now the Otherland's location is seen as the mainland of Australia, where a mythical life of wildness and crime beckons. Francis, Lewie and their friends pursue this life in Melbourne - until a climax of destruction shatters the dream.