You might recall the invitation we published from John and Anne Cole-Cook a while back, imploring Think Tasmania to visit Maria Island. As the owners of Maria Island Ferry, they are very passionate about sharing their special part of Tasmania with the rest of the world. And now we’ve been; we’ve seen and we’ve come to understand their love. So we’d highly recommend you all make a date to visit this stunning national park off the east coast of Tasmania.
We were greeted by John and Anne at the Triabunna Marina where we loaded our bikes onto the ferry for the short half-hour boat ride out to Maria Island. We spent some time on the upper “Dolphin Deck” during the trip out although the day started off a little cool and we’d forgotten our jackets. Luckily for us the day was forecast to get better. It wasn’t long and we arrived at the picturesque Darlington Bay where John unloaded our bikes and we set off on our day’s adventure.
Visitors are encouraged to drop in at the Commissariat Store just off the jetty to purchase a Tasmanian National Parks pass or to pay for camping or accommodation on the island. The Commissariat Store also has a wealth of information about the island. As we already had a Tasmanian National Parks pass and were armed with information provided by Anne on the trip over, we headed straight off on the Fossil Cliffs Circuit.
Maria Island is a mix of natural and colonial history. Our first ride took us past spectacular cliffs, ruins from convict and commercials days and to the world-class fossil site. In the 1920s the limestone fossils were mined to manufacture cement at the cement works near the jetty. We encountered some steep hills on our ride where we must admit having to alight our bikes to walk up… but boy did we enjoy going down the other side!
Walk, Ride, Swim, Snorkel: Lots of Things to Do
The circuit returned us to Darlington where we took a walk around the historic township before eating some of the lunch we had packed for the day (there are no shops on the island). We filled our drink bottles at the camping ground where there is a large undercover BBQ area as well as toilets and showers.
Next we tackled the Painted Cliffs Circuit, an easier ride than the previous one that brought us to the sandstone cliffs at the end of the beautiful white sand of Hopground Beach. Having spent some time exploring the remarkable patterns and natural artwork of the Painted Cliffs we trundled off back to Darlington via the Oast House track through the bush.
By now the clouds had cleared to reveal a spectacular blue sky and it was time to tackle the equally clear blue waters near the jetty of Darlington Bay. While snorkeling around the area we spotted plenty of fish in the marine reserve.
We enjoyed it so much that after a quick ride through tall Eucalypts up to the convict-built reservoir we headed back for another swim and snorkel.
Darlington Bay: Experience the Dolphin Deck
Our six hours on the island went by quickly and it was soon time to return to the jetty for the trip home. Little did we know what a special boat ride it was to be. We were lucky enough to see an extremely rare sighting of a huge pod of dolphins hunting a school of fish on the return journey. We spent 15 minutes circling this unbelievable display of nature… a magnificent way to finish an awesome day.
Think Tasmania now has lots more photos of Maria Island to share via Facebook, and we definitely plan to return again one day. We’re pretty embarrassed it took so long for us to visit in the first place, actually. Triabunna (the township base of Maria Island Ferry) is just 85kms from Hobart, and the journey can be undertaken in a single day if time is short.
Of course, the national park offers lots to explore during a longer stay if you like camping. There’s so much more to discover on Maria Island than we can possibly share in a single article. Besides the convict story, there’s also Aboriginal history and that of sealers and whalers. Bush-walkers can experience longer hikes than those covered in a single day too.
And wildlife… we haven’t even touched on that topic here either. Tasmanian Devils for example, have recently been released on the island in a program to help save them from extinction. Regardless of your interests, this is one trip everyone should do. Just don’t wait as long as we did.
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