A Return to Nature, Day 1 – Maria Island, Tasmania

We’ve called Tasmania home for eight years now, and while we’ve done well to explore many of of its amazing nooks and crannies, there are a few that remain outstanding. Namely (and in no particular order!):

  • Maria Island;
  • Bay of Fires; and
  • The Pieman River

To be honest, it hasn’t been a lack of desire that’s prevented us from visiting these places, but more so a lack of camping gear. It’s taken us a couple of years, but over the Christmas period we finally bought the last couple of items that completed our collection (a gear list can be found below, for anyone that way inclined).

Choosing between the three locations was difficult! The first one we ruled out though was the Pieman River. A little bit too far to go, and possibly without quite so much to do in the one location compared to the other two.

So then it was down to Maria Island (pronounced Mar-eye-ya for those non-natives out there!) vs Bay of Fires.

Both are easily accessible from Hobart, both offered incredibly beautiful scenery, but the one thing that Maria offered that Bay of Fires could never match…??

Hot showers!!

As it was our first camping expedition in about 10 years we wanted to ease into the experience. Some people like to dive into the water at the beach to acclimatise to the water temperature, but not me! Call it soft, call me weak, I don’t care. I prefer the ‘gradual and excruciatingly slow immersion’ technique that makes Karen oh-so-frustrated every time we go swimming! And so it is with camping as well.

I can see the new Tourism Tasmania slogan now:

“Maria Island – Tasmania’s gateway drug to camping!”

It’s got a nice ring to it…

It’s true though! Maria Island is that perfect halfway house between car camping and full on overnight camping out in the middle of the boonies.

Getting There

The most popular way of getting to the island is to drive up to Triabunna from Hobart (about an hour’s drive) and take the 30-40min ferry ride across to Darlington on the northern tip of the island. Costing $35 return for an adult on either of two companies that provide the service (Maria Island Ferry or East Coast Cruises), it’s pretty reasonable in my opinion and is a great bogan deterrent!

Here’s the thing though, you can’t take your car across! So basically you have to take everything across with you that you’re going to need for the duration of your stay. This includes:

  • food (there are NO shops on the island);
  • water (there are tanks of rainwater on the island, but while fairly safe for drinking it doesn’t taste the best);
  • camping gear (unless you choose to stay in the more expensive penitentiary cabins);
  • chairs (there are 6-seater tables/chairs scattered around the camp site for eating at, but they’re pretty uncomfortable);
  • cooking gear (not essential though, as the communal kitchen does have gas BBQs and burners available for gold coin donation); and
  • cutlery/crockery.

Now for those wanting to spend 3 or 4 days on the island this would normally pose a pretty big problem due to the sheer volume of stuff you need to take across, but the good thing about Maria Island is that the ferry lets you take over an eski and anything else you can carry (within reason). Then, when you get to the island the National Parks people have a selection of large trolleys into which you can load all your gear and you (or your wife!) then pull it over to the camp ground!

Those planning to visit Maria Island should be aware that you need a valid National Parks Pass, and you also need to pay the modest camping fee for the number of nights you wish to stay ($13 per night for two people). Other fees, including those for the cabins, can be found here.

The other really cool option is to either take your own bike across on the ferry (for a fee), or you can hire a bike through either the ferry company or through National Parks once you get to the island (both cost $20 per day). We arranged for a couple of bikes to be brought across the next day (Saturday) and it ended up being a great decision!

The Experience – Day 1

All I can say is that Maria Island is incredible!! We were spoilt for choice when it came to planning our first day. Should we explore the old township of Darlington and the numerous old buildings left standing from the 1800s and early 1900s?  Do we indulge in a spot of wildlife watching from the comfort of our canvas chairs with a glass of wine in hand? Or perhaps we could stroll the dirt road to the north or south of Darlington, exploring the beaches and cliffs along the coastline?

In the end we decided to pack ourselves a gourmet picnic and wander down to Hopground Beach, the location of the famous (kind of…depends who you talk to…) painted cliffs. Only taking half an hour or so, we found ourselves a prime spot up on the sand dunes from which we could watch the world slowly drift by, all while sipping on a cold white wine and grazing on antipasto!

With the sun beating down and the temperature rising, the turquoise water looked very inviting…until we walked in! It was freezing! Strolling through the shallows was enough for us in the end.

On the way back to camp we stopped by one of the numerous old buildings located on the island. In this case it was Howell’s Cottage, dating from the early 1900s. The interior of this old building was simply stunning, consisting of old packing crates covered with newspapers and wallpaper. Over time the wallpaper has peeled away exposing the newspaper underneath, making for some fascinating reading! The late afternoon light added to the experience, with golden beams piercing through the cracks in the walls and windows to highlight the rich colours and motifs on the walls.

Slowly making our way back, we cooked up a storm for dinner, washing it down with no less than another couple of bottles of wine…something I was to severely regret the following morning! As were the mozzies…but that’s a story for the next instalment!

Click here for Day 2…

The Ferry - Triabunna, Tasmania

The Ferry – Triabunna, Tasmania

My Little Packhorse - Maria Island, Tasmania

My Little Packhorse – Maria Island, Tasmania

Setting up Camp - Maria Island, Tasmania

Setting up Camp – Maria Island, Tasmania

Hopground Beach (and Cape Barren Goose) - Maria Island, Tasmania

Hopground Beach (and Cape Barren Goose) – Maria Island, Tasmania

Howell's Cottage - Maria Island, Tasmania

Howell’s Cottage – Maria Island, Tasmania

Howell's Walls - Maria Island, Tasmania

Howell’s Walls – Maria Island, Tasmania

Darlington at Sunset - Maria Island, Tasmania

Darlington at Sunset – Maria Island, Tasmania

The Gear

When I choose to camp, I use:

  • Tent – Wilderness Equipment, First Arrow
  • Sleeping Mat – Exped, SynMat Ultralight (UL) 7
  • Sleeping Bag – Latitude 500
  • Stove – MSR Wind Pro II
  • Backpack – MacPac Cascade