Maria Island mixes beautiful landscape and wildlife with a rich history. Maria Island runs 20 kilometers by 13 kilometers, with the entire land-mass designated a National Park, and does not have a sizeable settlement – only park ranges reside on the island.
The island is located off the East coast of Tasmania, and is a break from the hustle and bustle – as the island has no automobiles or shops.
Visitors must remember to procure food supplies and clothing prior to arriving on the island.
Maria Island was named by Abel Tasman, who sighted it from the sea in 1642, and named it after the governor of Batavia’s wife, Maria Van Diemen. Aboriginal people were living on the island when a crew landed in 1789. In the early 1800s, Maria Island was used as a penal settlement, though it was never a very good one and closed after less than a decade – many convicts escaped!, and convicts called the island “the place of ease.” The island was also a whaling and sealing post.
The island used to have a pleasure resort when Darlington was known as San Diego, with a grand hotel, coffee palace, and vineyard. In the early 1900s the island had several hundred residents and a handful of hotels, though they had all failed by the Great Depression.
Maria Island has been used as a place to protect endangered species. Indeed, some species have even been introduced to the island to protect them from extinction.
Animals on the island include: pademelons, kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, geese, and Tasmanian native-hens. The island is known for its rare forty spotted pardalote.
Marine mammals ply the surrounding waters – including seals, dolphins, and whales.
Activities (Nature and Wildlife Interest)
Visitors to the island spend their time biking along deserted roads (there are no automobiles on the island), hiking the many walking trails, and bird-watching. The island is a quiet respite for nature lovers.
- Bicycling: Many of the islands roads are bicycle-friendly, making mountain biking a great way to explore the island.
- Walking: Several walks are popular on the island, including the Darlington Township Walk (explores the ruins and buildings near Darlington), the Reservoir Circuit (introduces hikers to the island’s wildlife), or the Bishop and Clerk (traverses multiple ecosystems on the way to the summit 620 meters above sea level). Other walks lead visitors to the island’s cliffs (sandstone Painted Cliffs, and limestone Fossil Cliffs) and beaches. Some visitors even undertake the Maria Island Walks, which is a four-day guided walk.
- Bird-watching: Bird-watching is extremely popular on Maria Island, and is one of the best bird-watching sites in Tasmania. Of Tasmania’s 12 endemic species (species that live nowhere else but Tasmania), 11 can be found on Maria Island. One of the world’s rarest geese inhabits the island – the Cape Barren goose.
Scuba diving is also popular, particularly within the marine reserve off the island’s northern shore.
The only accommodation on the island is at the old Penitentiary at Darlington, which has nine dorm rooms that each accommodates six people in bunk beds, and one additional room that can accommodate 14 people.
The Penitentiary has no electricity. Visitors must bring food, lighting, bedding, and cooking equipment (including a gas stove). Firewood is stored 150 meters from the building and is available for use – for cooking and heating needs. A toilet block is located near the Penitentiary, as is a shower block with gas-powered hot showers. The Penitentiary also offers a BBQ area.
Other than the old Penitentiary, camping is the only option on Maria Island. Camping is free of charge at both camp sites. Campers are encouraged to bring portable cooking stoves; only at Encampment Cove are campfires permitted.
There is a large camping area that straddles Bernacchi’s Creek, with water available from a storage tank and a number of fireplaces.
A second camping area is located at French’s Farm (11km from Darlington) and Encampment Cove (13km from Darlington). Rainwater harvesters provide the limited water available at this camping site.
Maria Island is easily accessible by ferry, which runs from Triabunna to the jetty at Darlington on the island, and covers about 16 kilometers. To reach Triabunna from Hobart, take the A3 to Sorell, continuing to Orford (1.5 hours). To reach Triabunna from Launceston, take the A1 south to Campbell Town, then take the B34 to Swansea, and then the A3 (2.5 hours).