Maria Island – A ‘must do’ when visiting Tasmania
A day on Maria Island is like stepping into another world. If you’ve been before you’ll know that feeling well. Maria Island is a natural wildlife sanctuary and off-shore retreat with historical ruins, sweeping bays, dramatic cliffs and plenty of stories to tell.
Located of Tasmania’s East coast it is an 8 minute drive from Orford Sanda House to the passenger ferry terminal at Triabunna. It is then an easy 20 minute ferry ride across to the island.
Experience World Heritage listed convict history. Discover the stories of the many people who have tried to tame Maria. Climb mountains and look over blue seas. Swim in crystal clear bays and walk soft, white beaches. Feel nature all around you – get in the touch of the sea breeze, the smell of the forest and the sight of the wildlife that is protected here. This is a wild and gentle island, a place to linger, to leave ordinary life behind and be enchanted.
As soon as you step foot on the island you will quickly arrive in the historic Darlington township where you can spend hours exploring the old buildings and discover Darlington’s fascinating history. The stone Commissariat Store, 150 metres from the jetty, is the islands oldest building and is now a visitor centre with displays and information about the island. It was the first convict punishment station and was established in 1825 and lasted for 7 years. From 1842-1850 it became a convict probation station. During this time most of the white lime-washed buildings were built. At its peak it housed up to 500 convicts. Today, it is recognised as the best example of a convict probation station in Australia.
From Darlington it is an easy walk to the Painted Cliffs to see the wonderful patterns in the sandstone. These intriguing markings were caused by ground water percolating through the sandstone and leaving traces of iron oxide in the rock formation. This most likely occurred a long time ago in a monsoonal climate. It’s a lovely place to visit and you can easily walk or ride there from Darlington, which is only 2kms away.
In the early 1900s, Ruby Hut house was built high on the hill overlooking Darlington Bay on top of the ruins of the old Magistrate’s dwelling. Ruby Hut operated a pedal-powered wireless, which at the time, was the only communication link from Maria Island to mainland. It was from here that weather information was transmitted to the Orford Post & Telegraph Office (now Orford Sanda House B&B) for relay to Hobart. It is also said that Ruby would hang a lantern in her cottage window at night to guide the ship that collected and delivered mail for the island.
Across on the other side you can find the Fossil Cliffs which is a fairly easy walk. If you are a keen walker then Bishop & Clerk, the islands towering peaks, can be reached on a 3 to 5 hour return walk past majestic sea cliffs, through grasslands, open forest and tall woodland to rocky slopes. Scramble over large boulders to reach the summit and be rewarded with spectacular views of the island, Freycinet Peninsula and the Tasman Sea.
Maria island is also one of Tasmania’s great bird watching spots. Eleven of the states twelve endemic species can be seen here, including the endangered forty-spotted pardalote and the rare and unique Cape Barren goose.
Wombats can be seen across the island, as well as Pademelons (a type of wallaby), Forester Kangaroos, Bennetts wallabies and Tasmanian Devils.
The waters around Maria island include a Marine Nature Reserve and are visited regularly by seals and whales. The abundant marine life and clear waters makes for spectacular diving and snorkelling.
Maria Island is a must do on your Tasmanian visit. Excellent walking awaits you or mountain bikes are also available for hire.
Check departure and arrivals times and days on web through East Coast Cruises or the Encounter Maria Island Ferry.
TIP – There are no stores or provisions on the island. Take your own food and drink. In summer please use sunscreen and wear a hat.