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Getting a bit down with the gloomy weather on the west coast, we decided to head east.  With sunshine comes our enthusiasm to do some more exploring. “Maria Island” sounds like a fun place and we decided to check it out over the next three days.

I just would like to put a few things straight:
  • Yes, it is not remote hiking but nevertheless, there are some good hiking options and campsites;
  • No motorised vehicles (apart from national park vehicles) allowed on the island.  Yahooooo!!!
  • I won’t go into the convict and other industries history of the island, Google is much better at that than me (especially as I sometimes get my facts mixed up); and
  • Although spelled Maria the island is pronounced Mariah (as in the singer).  Don’t ask me why, I didn’t come up with that one.


The boat trip cost us $110 ($45 per person plus $10 each for backpacks under 15kg). One night we will camp on a free campsite in the centre of the island and the second night we plan to stay at Darlington campsite for $13.

Fishing boat - not our ferry!

Approaching the island I was surprised at the number of buildings as well as the steep mountains. Obviously, this is not going to be flat country walking.  Not that we should be surprised, after all, we haven’t seen much flat in Tassie so far.


Apart from the island having been a convict settlement, a place of agriculture (including vineyards, silk, vegetables, wool, etc.) and cement works, it was also a land-based whaling station. (Not much left of this one)


With a big day ahead of us we skip town (Darlington), planning to visit it and spend some time in it tomorrow.  Passing historic buildings on windswept hills, we head off on the inland track to “Mount Maria”.


After about one hour along the inland track, we get to the mountain turnoff and although the beginning is a gentle uphill along smooth walking tracks, we soon hit the boulder fields.  It is worth mentioning that before the boulder fields, about 3.3 km from the turnoff you get to a small stream that could be used to top up your drinking water (but maybe don’t rely on it).

The boulder fields slowed us down a lot, but it was a fun scramble.

 Some places were a bit of a strech but the scramble up had no exposed or dangerous sections.

Although the views on the way up were limited, the peak rewarded us with close to 360-degree views of the island.


Once we got over the stunning vista, we realised that what we could see on the horizon, was our destination for tonight, i.e. our campsite.  It may look spectacular, but also very very far away.  But we were not letting this faze us and we sat down for lunch instead on the top of the island.


On the way down we made short work of the boulder fields.


And admired the myriad of colours that the native flora served up.


After 7 hours hiking, 22 kilometers, and one mountain we arrived at French’s farm (one of the historic endeavors of the island). The woolshed is still in pretty good shape and you can still imagine the hustle and bustle when this place was in its heyday.


Wombats are now the main permanent occupants alongside the Wallabies and paddymelons.


We were the only ones joining the wildlife that night, right next to the old homestead.


The morning dished up more sunshine (definitely more sun on the east coast than the west coast of Tassie).


With low tide in the morning, we were able to head down the ocean beach of the Isthmus and return via the protected bay that had about 20 sailing yachts moored in it.


One of our more quirky feathered friends are the Cape Barren geese, that are found all over the island.  But for some reason, they seemed to have a go at me every time we crossed them, but not Kerrie.  Maybe they knew that I was wondering what they would taste like?


Once off the beach, we rejoined the walking track around Encampment Cove, where there is another campsite.


The convict probation cells, near Encampment Cove, were what I considered one of the most spectacular remains of the bygone era.


On the way back we followed the coast road (much easier going than the inland track) along stunning beaches and coves.  Along the way, we were overtaken by a number of cyclists, which would be the ideal way to explore the island.  Bikes can be hired from either the ferry service or the ranger station on the island.  But this time around we enjoyed the walk.



Before returning to Darlington, we explored the painted cliffs and although it was not low tide (which makes them more accessible) they were spectacular in the afternoon sun.



Back at Darlington I was being inspected by a local resident (i.e. wombat), and passed with flying colours.

We explored the many historic buildings, which included the penitentiary, which now can be booked for overnight accommodation (you are even allowed to leave on the next day, unlike their original occupants).


The buildings are very well preserved in their original condition and it makes a nice trip back in time exploring them all.


Although we had to pay for tonight's campsite, it was well worth it and we relaxed amongst all the animals, including wallabies, geese, and wombats.  But to Kerrie’s disappointment, we didn’t see any Tassie Devils that normally wander around here.  Today was pretty long with 25 kilometres of walking, but not as steep as the first day.


Day three, another glorious day and we are off to climb the Bishop and Clerk (i.e. can be seen in the background of the below photo).


Once you hit the coastline you follow on top of the cliffs before entering the forest and once again a steady uphill.


Along the way, you encounter some more boulder fields (of course) and a lot of spectacular views, which are all outdone by what you get on the summit.


The scene before us is hard to put into words and we can chalk it up as another of Tassie’s wonders.



If you can only do one thing on Maria Island, we would suggest climbing “Bishop and Clerk” (this is just our preference, but we have pretty good taste).


After two long days of hiking, the way down was a good knee cruncher.


The “Fossil Cliffs” on the way back are the leftovers of the cement quarry and contain millions of fossilised shells and other crustations.  Although I am not an archeologist (or whatever profession looks at fossils), I was still amazed by the display of ancient lifeforms.



Continuing back to Darlington we came across some more ruins, including this old millers house, with the round foundation of the old windmill still present.


Nearly all ruins include fireplaces, which tells you a lot about the weather on this island.



We are a bit sad to leave “Maria Island” and its amazing history.



But back on the mainland we enjoyed an amazing fish and chips, washed down with some nice wine.



Distance traveled:
Day 1: 23 kms
Day 2: 25 kms
Day 3: 12 kms

Difficulty:
Easy to medium (with some more strenuous, but not dangerous climbs)

Best time to visit:
Summer

Our tip:
Spend at least three days and use bicycles to get around with side trips (e.g. mountains) on foot.

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