Maria Island – Escape from Civilization in Australia

Written By: Megan Claire

Located off Tasmania’s east coast, Australia’s Maria Island has something to offer everyone.

With sweeping bays, isolated beaches, rugged cliffs and mountains, historic ruins and quiet lagoons, it is an unspoiled gem – a haven for nature lovers, bushwalkers, adventure seekers, wildlife enthusiasts and photographers alike.

Maria Island was a penal colony and 14 convict buildings, and ruins unchanged since the convict era, the island is now too a World Heritage Listed Convict Site.

Fascinating history comes together with spectacular natural beauty on this incredibly remote wildlife sanctuary and National Park.

Maria Island, Australia

maria island australia farm

Our escape from civilization began with a ferry ride from Triabunna. Traveling to an island with no cars or shops, we packed as much camping equipment and food as we could possibly carry on our back.

While there were bikes available for hire, we walked, taking in as much of the stunning natural scenery as we possibly could.

In fact, in attempting to take in the entire island in two days, all we did was walk!

However, the hours flew by quickly as we eagerly explored.

Convict Buildings of Darlington

Transported back through history, we hiked past the remaining convict buildings of Darlington. The Maria Island Penal Colony was once a convict station in the early 1800s.

Discovering abandoned buildings is a hobby we indulge in all over the world, however the buildings on Maria Island were particularly fascinating.

Ranging from old cottages and farmhouses to kilns, brickworks, convict barracks, cement silos and a cemetery, the remains of the buildings on the island have something to say about multiple phases of history.

We let our imaginations run wild, conjuring up ideas of what life on the island would have been like during the convict era.

Camping with Convicts on Maria Island

maria island australia ocean

No imagination required, however, to experience the living conditions from back in the day.

What once was a convict penitentiary is now used to accommodate visitors rather than detain them!

Limited accommodation is available for those wishing to stay in the old penitentiary, now a “wood-heated dormitory-style backpacker unit,” with shared facilities and no power.

Camping on Maria Island

backpacks australia

Though appealing, we chose to camp! It took 4 hours of hiking to reach our campground at Encampment Cove 5 – If you include the afternoon nap we took on one of the islands isolated beaches!

The sandbar which connects the two sides of the island was absolutely stunning, and the only traces of life were from the abundance of wildlife who call the island home.

The Tasmanian Devil

australia beaches of Maria Island

Maria Island is a wildlife sanctuary, we hiked past so many wombats we almost mistook them for rocks.

The island sports all manner of native Australian wildlife.

It is a breeding ground for the endangered Tasmanian Devils (devils have been introduced to the island to form part of an “insurance population”), and absolutely overrun with wombats, emu’s, Cape Barren Geese and wallabies.

We spent hours trying to spot a Tasmanian Devil, bu tit wasn’t meant to be!

We had been informed on the ferry ride over that National Geographic were soon featuring the story of 12 Devils being released into the wild, and were looking to obtain photographs.

This was incentive enough to hike off the beaten path and into the uncharted areas of the island in pursuit of the crazy creature!

animals australia

While nothing came of our search, the fact that we knew we were sharing the island with Tasmanian Devils was adventure enough.

What should have been a 4-5 hour hike eventually became a 6-7 hour hike after numerous detours into the bush pursuing wildlife with our camera’s ready.

They may not look fast, but let me assure you, wombats can RUN!

Painted Cliffs of Maria Island

painted cliffs of Maria Island Australia

Along the way we also took in the phenomenal Painted Cliffs – spectacular sandstone cliffs with wonderful honeycomb patterns formed through staining by iron oxide.

While this kind of rock formation is not uncommon, it is rare for it to be so exposed and accessible for tourism.

A 2 and a half hour hike from the main port in Darlington, the cliffs weren’t overrun by tourism as we had expected.

In fact, there were only one or two other people exploring the area when we arrived.

This was the true beauty of Maria Island. While only a short trip from Tasmania’s capital of Hobart, it is not overwhelmed by thousands of visitors.

The wonder of the island remains intact, and traveling here offers a rewarding sense of discovery and adventure – as though you are discovering and experiencing the island before the rest of the world gets the chance.

Untouched and largely uninhabited (discounting a Park Ranger and those ever-elusive Tasmanian Devils), Maria Island truly is a wild wonder.

How to Get to Maria Island

  • Maria Island is 75 km east of Hobart.
  • Access is via Maria Island Ferry (+61419 746 668) or East Coast Cruises (03 6257 1300), both of which operate daily from Triabunna.

When to Visit Maria Island

The best time to visit is during Australia’s summer and autumn months from December through until May. A daily park entry fee of $12 per person is payable on arrival.

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About Megan Claire

Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure! Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home. Their travel blog aims to give you the best tips and advice on travelling, volunteering, living, working and holidaying abroad. She hasn’t been everywhere, but it’s on her list! Follow Megan at: MappingMegan / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest / YouTube / Twitter

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25 thoughts on “Maria Island – Escape from Civilization in Australia”

  1. My home state! I am really glad to see Tasmania appearing in so many people’s travel plans now. For a long time it was an overlooked part of Australia

    • Hope the storm blows over for you so you can enjoy Christmas! You should definitely experience an aussie christmas at some point; lovely summer days the whole holiday season! Happy Holidays 🙂

      • I would love to enjoy an Australian Christmas. We may be going to Queensland in the Spring. Can’t wait! And thanks so much for sharing. We now have added Maria Island to our list of must visit destinations!

    • All the best to you in the Ice Storm. Toronto looks insane right now. I hope you were one of the lucky ones that got their power back quickly.

  2. Is it bad that we are from Australia, but have never been to Tasmania?

    Looks amazing. and completely different to anywhere else in Australia

    • I’m bias lol but it’s the most beautiful Australian State. The air is fresher, the water cleaner; it’s an all round paradise :D!

    • I always find it the most difficult to explore your backyard. There are so many places in Canada we haven’t visited, but it’s on our list. I know you’ll get there one day.

  3. Superb photography Meg! I didn’t know you were originally from Tasmania. Its the only Aussie state we’ve yet to explore and as we’re currently in Melbourne I’m having to sit in my hands in order to stop myself booking tickets over there right now! Thanks for inspiring me!

    • Thanks Charli!! You should definitely plan another trip to Australia; Tasmania’s the best State 😉 Such a quick trip from Melbourne too :D!! Merry Christmas!

      • We certainly have to explore more of Australia. I’d love to take 6 months to travel around and really experience it.

  4. Maria Island is so beautiful – I actually went there on school camp in primary school!! I didn't appreciate it properly back then, but now you have me wanting to go back. It sounds awesome. Although I didn't realise non Tasmanians had heard of it!

    • I hail from Tasmania originally…so that may be why. Don’t hold it against me for just broadcasting our hidden gem to the world :D!

      • I love it! Keep broadcasting away! It’s the locals who truly let us all see the amazing places we would have never thought of going. Thanks for a great article!

    • Isn’t that the truth, we never appreciate school trips until we are older. But nice to see that Megan’s article has inspired you to go back! She’s certainly inspired us to go ourselves.

    • Thank you Megan! We appreciate you sharing this hidden gem with us and all the readers of ThePlanetD. We love having people write for us because there is no way we can visit everywhere and it inspires us to explore new places too! You’ve made us want to head to Maria Island the next chance we get!