Nature, history and adventure awaits you on Maria Island. If a quiet peaceful break is what you are looking for then Maria island is the place to visit. Island activities include walking, cycling, swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, wreck diving, fishing, boating, kayaking, bird watching or simply chilling. A National Parks Pass is required and is included in the ferry price. A very detailed map is available for purchase online or at the rangers office on the island. The tracks are well sign posted, you are never going to get lost.
For all relevant information and history of the island check out the website.
With sun hats to wet weather gear packed, after all it is Tasmania, we headed to the pick up point in Hobart to meet East Coast Cruises shuttle bus to Triabunna. https://eastcoastcruises.com.au/. Bec our driver shared interesting history of Maria Island as we travelled the 90kms along Tasmania’s east coast.
In brief, aboriginals inhabited the island before the arrival of whalers and sealers in the early 1800s. The British arrived in 1825 establishing a convict settlement followed by the Diego Bernacchi era of cement works, farming and horticultural. In 1972 Maria Island was declared a National Park.
Other options from Hobart to Triabunna are Tassielink public bus service, self drive, booked flights from Cambridge, booking a boat charter or private boat/yacht.
Having already booked our seats on the Encounter Ferry, https://encountermaria.com.au/timetable-pricing-luggage-check/ we just needed to obtain the luggage tags at the Triabunna Tourist Info before boarding the ferry with many others.
With clear skies and calm waters the ferry crossed the bay to Maria Island taking under an hour. Gathering our backpacks from the luggage crate we headed to the rangers office to book in at Darlington camp ground. Darlington, the restored convict settlement is the main area on the island.
There is no booking required to camp on the island but there is a per night fee to camp at Darlington. Free camping is offered down south at French Farm and Encampment Cove. Basic bunkhouse accommodation is available at the Penitentiary, bookings are necessary.
Tourists need to be self sufficient and bring all food, supplies and bedding as there are NO shops on the island, not even a coffee shop. The only vehicles belong to the rangers so for the tourist to get around it’s by foot or bicycle. Bicycle hire is available on the island or bring your own on the ferry.
Making our way to the camp ground it was evident by the tents already set-up others were enjoying the tranquillity that the island offers. Being mid December we had thought perhaps not too many would be about. Finding a spot amongst the shady scrubby vegetation Ian set up camp whilst I went off to explore the area. The large camp kitchen featuring bbq plates, gas cookers, kettles and tank water was most impressive. The ablutions block was even more impressive with showers and hot water for $1. Being multi day hikers the prospect of a hot shower rather than a bird bath at the end of the day was sheer luxury.
Clearly not perturbed by humans, wombats, native moor hens and Cape Barren geese wandered in and around the campsites. Being nocturnal, possums and Tasmania Devils roamed during the night, campers are advised to store food and belongings in the supplied galvanised bins. While possums enjoy a midnight feast on any food left out, the Tassie Devils have been known to confiscate shoes to hoard in their dens.
Not wishing to waste any time we headed off to explore the 4km Fossil Cliffs Circuit. Making our way towards the bay we passed by the 1920 silos which stored cement before being shipped to the main land. In 1884 Diego Bernacchi, an Italian entrepreneur obtained an island lease from the government and established a cement works making use of the limestone deposits. As part of the historic heritage whale bones are displayed, evidence of the whaling industry that was operational from the island.
Stopping off at a brick barn that was built in 1846, Ian enjoyed wandering around the remains of the historical farming implements. Wandering on we passed the convict cemetery and further along the landing ground which is still operational for those flying onto the island.
Gazing upon IIe du Nord, an uninhabited rocky island, the gusty wind certainly had picked up encouraging me to step back from the cliff edge as it plunged steeply to the ocean below. Continuing on down to the fossil site we leisurely wandered around viewing the fossils embedded in the rocks. Loosing ourselves in history and nature it was fascinating that in 2018 we were gazing at 290 million year old marine shellfish embedded in rocks.
With a short steep climb up from the Fossil Rocks we walked along enjoying the coastal views as waves crashed into the cliffs below.
Wombats roamed gnawing on the lush grass, we wondered if they ever took a pause from eating. Leaving the coast behind we wandered through the ruins of the Engine House building. The brickwork was impressive especially the arched ceiling, obviously the work of very skilled labourers of the 1880’s.
Not finished exploring for the day, a veer left had us following the 1.5km Reservoir Track in amongst the towering gums. Reaching the convict built reservoir, we took a break and enjoyed lunch at the picnic area. Today the reservoir still supplies the Darlington area with water with the excess overflowing into Bernacchis Creek.
Following Bernacchis Creek until reaching the main track we made our way back to camp passing by the ruins of the Twelve Apostles, which were cottages built in the 1800’s for Diego Bernacchis workers.
After a day of being immersed in nature and history we had much to chat about over dinner. With the setting sun and a drop in temperature it wasn’t long before we zipped up the sleeping bags and drifted off to sleep listening to the waves rolling in and out.
Until next yarn, happy hiking from Bernadette and Ian