Location: Tasmania, Australia
Guidebook: The Rough Guide to Tasmania 1 (Rough Guide Travel Guides)
Hiking in Maria Island National Park offers a wide range of options, from multi-day treks to the Island’s south coast to single day hikes to lofty lookout points and white sand beaches. There are also highly visible remnants of the island’s convict past to be explored.
Getting to Maria Island
Located off the east coast of Tasmania, Maria Island is accessed by a daily ferry which leaves the small town of Triabunna. The island is essential divided into two areas, separated by a narrow peninsula. Darlington, in the north, is the location of the park headquarters and the ferry drop-off point. The main campsite is also located here, with showers, toilets, and a basic cooking area (there is nowhere to buy anything, however). Several hiking trails run around the north of the island, past ruined buildings.
Hiking and mountain biking trails run to the south of the island, across the peninsula. Just before the peninsula (when travelling south) are the island’s other campsites: French’s Farm and Encampment Cove, both with basic toilet facilities. The Parks and Wildlife Service has a very useful page on Maria Island, including details of its history and the various hiking trails, with basic maps.
Maria Island Hiking Trails
Darlington Convict Ruins: Darlington itself houses the park headquarters, a campsite with showers and bathrooms, and some restored historic buildings from Maria Island’s convict era. Just beyond these – up the hill past the concrete silos near the dock – lie a few more historic remnants. An old barn built by convicts in 1844 stands at the top of the hill, but perhaps most poignant is the old graveyard. Surrounded by a wooden stake fence and overlooking the ocean and the mainland, Maria Island’s dead were buried here from 1825 to 1942. Many of the tombstones have long since broken and fallen, but the encrusted engravings can still be read an invoke a very different era. Don’t miss the Maori grave in the far corner.
The Grand Hotel ruins are located inland from the cemetery – there is no path there, but it seems acceptable to walk across the hill to the ruins. This hotel was opened in 1888, replacing the convict buildings and hospital that had previously occupied the site. By 1923 the hotel had closed and the buildings were used as offices until 1930.
Painted Cliffs: An easy and short (less than 30 minutes) walk south from Darlington, these cliffs are a must-visit. Water moving through the rock has left coloured patterns on the cliff faces which look particularly photogenic at sunset. Despite the proximity to Darlington I always found the cliffs very peaceful, with very few people. The hikes to the isthmus, French Farm, Encampment Cove, and Haunted Bay all pass right by these cliffs.
French’s Farm and Encampment Cove: These two campsites are located close to each other at the north end of the isthmus. They make good stopping off points for hikes to Haunted Bay or for access to the beaches. Of the two campsites, Encampment Cove is the most picturesque, with its views over the bay and ocean. There are also some old convict ruins beyond Encampment Cove, although I didn’t walk to them. The hikes to any of the southern locations are a much more serious undertaking than the hikes around Darlington. I found the heat, even in the shade, relentless – and there are no sources of drinking water so it is essential to carry all you will need. That said, the hiking trails are beautiful, passing through (what I would consider to be) classic Australia bush, with stunning seascape views. Navigation is not an issue as the trails are wide dirt vehicle tracks (though the only vehicles allowed down there are parks vehicles).
Haunted Bay: Located at the very south of Maria Island, it is possible to get to Haunted Bay from Darlington and back again in a single day, particularly if you are cycling. I preferred to camp at Encampment cove, leaving most of my gear in the campsite. It is possible to walk along the white sand beach on the bay side or use the trail further inland. From the trail you can hear the crash of the waves on the Pacific Ocean, and there are several spots where you can squeeze through the undergrowth to get a glimpse of the water. As with all paths on Maria Island, the trail to Haunted bay is wide and easy to follow. Shortly after the isthmus is a branch, with the right side heading to Rob’s Farm and the left to Haunted Bay.
Being a small and flat island the hike is an easy one, and the forest provides a lot of shade. Along the route you will encounter many echidna scurrying along the ground, as well as wallabies. Earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon kangaroos will probably startle you by crashing through the bushes as you approach.
Maria Island GPS tracks and maps
Download this map/gpx file (created with Garmin eTrex 30 GPS)
Haunted Bay (unfortunately incomplete due to battery failure!)