“You have to go to the Wombat Island”, urged a friend upon hearing we were planning a trip to Tasmania, and in all honesty I didn’t need require much further convincing.
The week before last was spent road tripping up the east coast of Tassie with my partner and a couple of friends, from Hobart to Launceston via Wineglass Bay, Coles Bay, and Bay of Fires, with the unquestionable highlight being the couple of days we spent on Maria Island. It’s an isolated and wild place bordered by stunning coastline and beautiful beaches, and you can barely walk a few steps in any direction without with bumping in to one of the locals – pademelons, wallabies, kangaroos, Cape Barren geese, pygmy-possums, native hens, and Tasmanian Devils roam free across the island. But my camera lens only had eyes for one marsupial.
Maria has remained virtually unchanged since its 19th century convict settlement days, with old cottages, crumbling ruins, farm buildings, a cemetery, shearing sheds and stock yards dotted across the island. Access is via ferry from Triabunna on the mainland, and unless you’re part of an organised group, accommodation is either camping or in the old Penitentiary. We opted to go convict-style in the Pen, and as it’s BYO everything, we hit up Hobart’s Farm Gate Market pre-departure to stock up on gourmet provisions. As one would expect from an ex-prison, the Pen is bare-bones affair consisting of a couple of bunks, a table, and a fire place, but it’s perfectly comfortable and has a family of Tassie Devils living beneath it to boot. Here’s one of them chilling out as the sunsets over the Pen.
On our first afternoon we took advantage of the low tides and rode bicycles to the Painted Cliffs, about 4km from the main settlement of Darlington. Stunning in both colour and formation, the cliffs are particularly spectacular at sunset (and the journey there particularly ace when you’re accompanied by some beach-going wombats as you cycle along).
Early on our second morning we took on Mt Biship and Clerk, an ambitious trek requiring hearty cardio-vascular fitness, some brute strength, and a fine tolerance of heights. The path takes you from sea level along stunning coast-hugging paths, through Blue Gum-dense bushland, up a rocky screen via a vertically zig-zagging path, and to a final rock-hop and scramble to the summit, where you’re hit with genuinely breathtaking views of the twin dolerite Bishop and Clerk columns falling dramatically to the sea below.
Visit Maria Island Ferry for information on ferry timetables and tickets.
Info on booking campsites and rooms in the Pen can be found on the Tasmanian National Parks website