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
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.
- Check out another great Australian Island – Kangaroo Island
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
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
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
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!
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
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.