Maria Island in Tasmania: a guide to hiking and camping
Hiking and camping on Maria Island in Tasmania
It’s been a few years since I was on Maria Island in Tasmania. Time flies and I realize that I have not nearly written everything that’s to be seen there. It has been an amazing trip and while I rethink about the highlights, they definitely were hiking the Overland Track and hiking and camping on Maria Island in Tasmania. Between the fluffy and wild wombats, that is. If you’re a sucker for cute animals, you are going to love the pictures below!
Even though I didn’t travel to Tasmania to see wildlife in particular, I of course did want to see kangaroos and wombats. During my first stop in Cradle Mountain National Park, the wallabies surrounded my tent. While hiking the Overland Track, a 6 day hiking trail from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair National Park, I heard that it was impossible not to see a wombat on the trail. Just like the tiger snake in fact, the third most dangerous snake in Tasmania. Call it good luck or bad luck, I saw neither during my hike. However I kept in mind one thing that one of the hut wardens had told me: ‘if you want to see wombats, go hiking and camping on Maria Island. It’s a wildlife paradise!’ And so I did …
About Maria Island in Tasmania
It sounds a bit weird to say Maria Island in Tasmania because it’s not actually in Tasmania but rather next to it. Maria Island is located in front of Tasmania’s east coast and covers about 115 square kilometers. Like Port Arthur it’s a former convict probation station and it’s in fact the most in tact one in Australia. Until the 19th century British convicts stayed on this island. You can reach Maria Island by boat from coastal town Triabunna. On the island you can only walk or bike. Your vehicle must remain on the main land, except when like me you travel by bike. Maria Island happened to be one of my stops while biking in Tasmania.
About my visit to Maria Island
The day before my planned visit I call the ferry company to see if they can fit two people and their bikes for the crossing the next day. The boat to Maria Island is rather small and so I do recommend making a reservation ahead. There is still space available and the next morning I hop on my bike from the rather depressing town of Swansea, where I camped in between big camper vans as there was no other spot available. I’m really looking forward to enjoying nature the silent way again.
Beautiful nature can definitely be found on Maria Island. Even the convicts here were impressed by it. The bike ride from Swansea to Triabunna isn’t too long (51 kms) and I arrive in Triabunna pretty early. I can take an earlier ferry, however I still need to shop a little for groceries in the local super market. Not a whole lot later I step onto the boat and the crossing is quite rough. I was already informed about this so I was glad I took a sea sickness pill beforehand. Upon arrival on Maria Island the bikes are offloaded at the Maria Island Pier
After I pitch up my tent (more about Maria Island camping below!) I hear some noise in the bush. And all of a sudden I see something hide and then I realize it’s a wombat. My first wombat! Totally excited I grab my camera from my tent, not knowing I will see at least another hundred wombats during my 24 hour stay on Maria Island.
Hiking to Painted Cliffs on Maria Island
In the afternoon I hike to Painted Cliffs, a bunch of orange/red cliffs on the west coast of the island. The hike out isn’t too long and takes me along old buildings and through a very special forest. Here I see tracks of a snake in the sand as well as a baby tiger snake. Good to know they have them here, too, even though it’s a whole different island. Even though it’s high tide and the Painted Cliffs are not completely visible, they are still stunning. When you are here at the end of the afternoon they are at their most beautiful, as the sun lights them up. I have a look around, take some pictures and eventually walk back to Darlington across the beach. I run into plenty of wombats and can’t stop taking photos. They are just so cute! Eventually I arrive back at my tent and it’s time to prepare dinner.
Tasmanian devils on Maria Island Tasmania
They have Tasmanian devils on Tasmania too and from what I’ve heard, they are less shy than on the main land. I’d rather not run into one though as their teeth are incredibly sharp and they can make a bite very painful. Luckily Tasmanian devils are typically nocturnal animals and the chance of running into them during the day is very small. When I wake up during the night I hear a sound just outside of the tent. I have left my garbage in a bag outside and when I take a look, I notice something has been trying to steal some leftovers. Just when I’m about to go back to sleep, I hear a loud cry. It has to be a Tasmania devil. The sound frightens me as it sounded rather close. It makes me realize that not running into one is probably a good thing.
Day two on Maria Island
The next morning it’s time to break up camp again. I have another two days of biking ahead of me before I’m back in Hobart and have to return my bike. Before the boat to Triabunna leaves, I make a short hike to the Fossil Cliffs on the eastern side of the island. This is obviously the wilder side of the island as the rock formations are dramatic and stunning at the same tie. Soon after it’s time to head back to Darlington and catch the ferry to the main land. I say goodbye to Maria Island, the park ranger and the wombats. I feel sad that I only got to spend 24 hours here because I’d have loved to check out some of the longer hikes on Maria Island. However I’m rather short on time and I’m back on Tasmania’s main land before I know it, enriched with an amazing natural experience.
Suggested Maria Island itinerary and practical information
Before finishing this blog I will also point out the most important information about your visit to Maria Island. Please also check out the Parks & Wildlife Service Tasmania website for anything else you may want to know or did not tell you about in this blog.
Suggested itinerary for your Maria Island activities
Afternoon day 1: Arrival on Maria Island by ferry, pitch up tent followed by hike to Painted Cliffs
Early evening day 1: check out wildlife around Darlington
Late evening day 1: dinner at your campsite
Morning day 2: Hike and/or bike to Fossil Cliffs
Afternoon day 2: Departure from Maria Island back to Triabunna
Boat to Maria Island
When I traveled back in 2016, I took the Maria Island ferry as pictured, but they are no longer running. As from what I could find online, Encounter Maria Island has taken over the ferry from Triabunna to Maria Island. They have up to five sailings each day and suggest to book ahead to avoid disappointment. The crossing will be more or less 45 minutes and as I mentioned previously, can be quite rough. Do not forget to take your sea sickness pills.
Maria Island accommodation and Maria Island camping
Accommodation only is available in the old Penitentiary at Darlington. This offers 9 rooms, each with 6 bunk beds and comfortable mattresses, a picnic-style table and chairs and a wood-fired heater. A larger tenth room sleeps 14. Accommodation is basic and needs to be booked well ahead. There is no electricity and toilets are nearby. In case you prefer to stay less basic then overnight in Triabunna instead and make a day trip to Maria Island.
There is plenty of camping on Maria Island and can be done in several spots. A fee needs to be paid as you are entering a national park, however there is no actual camping fee on Maria Island. I stayed on the campsite near Darlington, the largest settlement on the island. There are a few BBQ’ here as well as toilets and drinking water. Other than that, it’s pretty basic but I love it!
There are no shops on Maria Island and you will need to take all your necessities with you, including food for the duration of your stay. There is no cell phone coverage on the island either. Like I mentioned, it’s all quite basic yet as a lover of nature and the outdoors, you will love it without a doubt.
I hope you found my blog about Maria Island in Tasmania useful. In case you have any questions feel free to ask them below. Please also make sure to order your copy of Lonely Planet Tasmania before you set off so you can plan as you go.
Alternatively, you may also enjoy my other posts about Tasmania:
– Tasmania road trip: when the nav said no but the map said ‘go!’
– The best hikes in Tasmania
– Snakes in Tasmania: how to avoid them when outdoors
Also read: Road Trip in Tasmania – a self drive 7 day itinerary for Nature Lovers – by fellow blogger Eloise
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Candace and Dylan
This is a great post on Maria Island. So many beautiful photos of the wombats! We look forward to reading more of your stories.