The Maria Island Walk Tasmanian Experience

Join us for three unforgettable days on Maria Island.

We have developed an exclusive experience for Tasmanians while they can’t travel further afield. Explore the northern end of Maria Island with our experienced local guides for an opportunity to climb spectacular peaks, encounter an abundance of wildlife and experience some of the highlights of the island in comfort. You’ll stay in Bernacchi House, a beautifully restored heritage home in the convict settlement of Darlington which is exclusively used by guests of The Maria Island Walk. At the end of the day, relax in front of the wood fire with a glass of Tasmanian wine and let your guide prepare you a sumptuous three course meal showcasing local Tasmanian produce.

Take the opportunity to enjoy Maria Island in style for the heavily discounted locals price of $999 per person. This offer is exclusively available for the local Tasmanian market for a limited time. While the borders are closed, why not take advantage and explore your own backyard?

Includes:

  • Two friendly, knowledgable and passionate guides
  • Two nights comfortable, twin-share accommodation at the beautifully restored Bernacchi House in Darlington
  • All meals and drinks, including restaurant quality meals prepared with gourmet Tasmanian produce and matched with fine Tasmanian wines and local beers
  • Ferry crossing from Triabunna to Maria Island
  • Use of gear including day packs and waterproof jackets
  • National Parks entry fees
  • A maximum of eight guests per group to ensure personalised and safe service

For more information, please see our information sheet, contact us at 03 6234 2999 or email us at bookings@mariaislandwalk.com.au.

You can also check availability and book online.

For the full The Maria Island Walk experience, our four day walk is also open for booking from October to April. Please visit our website for more information.

 

Our Top Hiking Essentials

There is nothing quite as healthy for both body and mind as going for a long hike. But to get the most out of the experience and not be distracted by discomfort or worry, it pays to follow the Scout’s motto and be prepared! The first thing to consider is the weather, and if you are hiking in a place like Tasmania, that can be a massive variable. Have a good look at the forecast for the area you plan to explore and the duration of your trip, and then pack accordingly- always being ready for conditions to be a bit worse than predicted. But hiking isn’t just about survival, it’s also about enjoyment, and below you will find a few items that may not be considered essential survival equipment but are things we reach for every trip.

Footwear

Consider the terrain you will be walking through and personal preferences. A good pair of lightweight waterproof hiking boots are a great all-rounder you can take almost anywhere, but sometimes trail runners can be a great choice too. Consider your socks as well; a set of merino or merino blend socks will go a long way in reducing your risk of developing blisters. If heading out on a multi-day hike, having a lightweight pair of sandals or sneakers to slip your feet into at the end of the day is always pleasant.

Hiking boots

Clothing

Natural layers are the best option. In cold wintery conditions, having a merino thermal layer against your skin goes a long way in raising your comfort level and hence morale. A long-sleeved shirt for sunny conditions can also be essential. Personally, we love a silk shirt in summer. A sunhat and comfy beanie for chilly conditions are also a must. When hiking in Tasmania, particularly in the colder months or in the mountains, having a synthetic pile jacket that will retain its thermal qualities when wet is a great idea – one usually gets most chilled when sitting around camp or stopping for snacks, and being able to throw a thick warm jacket on makes a big difference.

Rain Protection

It rains a lot in some parts of Tasmania. This means it is essential to be ready for wet conditions. Not only do you need to be able to keep yourself dry, you also need to be able to keep all your gear dry, including valuable and vulnerable electronics! Invest in a good quality Gore-Tex or similar rain jacket and lightweight overpants. If venturing into the mountains, considering also taking waterproof gloves or mittens. Have both a cover for you backpack and have everything inside it in lightweight dry bags. Make sure you can waterproof your camera, phone, and any other electronics you might have. Camping stores stock an array of creative options to achieve this.

Entertainment

There can be a lot of down time when hiking, particularly in bad weather on multi-day hikes. Come prepared for this and you’ll never be bored outdoors again! Books can be heavy but e-readers aren’t, and you can stock up on titles before heading out. We always take earphones and have some great music as well as some podcasts and audio books saved on our phones for engaging content on track. A pack of cards (and the rules of a few fun games!) can provide hours of entertainment with a small group.

Delicious Food

Take lots of snacks you know you’ll enjoy! Make sure you bring enough food for your hike. Nobody wants to carry unnecessary weight in their bag, but being hungry is far more miserable! Snacking often also keeps your energy levels up and makes your trip more enjoyable. Muesli bars, nuts and fruit are great snacking options… and it always pays off to have a stash of chocolate!

Other Essentials

Don’t forget to bring appropriate maps of the area you are exploring, plus a headtorch, first aid supplies and a pocket knife.

If this all seems a bit overwhelming, why not book onto a guided hike where the planning is taken care of and most of your gear is supplied? Heading out on a multi-day guided walk such as The Maria Island Walk can give you a taste of what is involved and lets you work out your own system and discover what works for you. We will also provide a gear list so that you know exactly what you need to bring. For more information, call 03 6234 2999 or email bookings@mariaislandwalk.com.au. Alternatively, book online.

 

8 Things to do in Tasmania

Tasmania is a small island, but it is incredibly varied. Every year more and more exciting options open up for the traveller, and it is possible to return again and again and keep on discovering new hidden corners of the state. Below are some of our favourites.

1.Go on a self-guided driving tour.

Bring your car over from the mainland or hire one down here for the ultimate freedom to explore. Head up the East Coast for a week to experience beautiful white beaches and hidden coves, as well as some of the best vineyards in the State. Or why not pack up the car and head for the wild West Coast with its dense forests, plunging valleys and quartzite mountains? Here is wilderness and remoteness on a scale seldom experienced.

2. Go on an adventure cruise.

Get up close and personal with seal colonies and some of the tallest sea cliffs in the world on a cruise around Bruny Island or the Tasman Peninsula. Great for the whole family, this will be a day trip you will never forget. If you find yourself on the West Coast, and visit to Strahan wouldn’t be complete without heading up the Gordon River for a day to experience the still, dark waters of Macquarie Harbour and learn about the Huon Pine story and the fascinating convict history of Tasmania

3. Visit a distillery or vineyard.

With literally hundreds to choose from and situated in every corner of the State, some of our favourites include Springvale Estate on the East Coast which also has a great restaurant, Shene Distillery outside Hobart, Willies Smith’s Apple Shed in the Huon Valley, and Every Man and His Dog in the Coal Valley.

MONA Museum Hobart

Image: www.hobartandbeyond.com.au

4. Head out to MONA.

Can you really say you have visited Hobart if you haven’t been out to this world-famous museum? Splash out and get tickets for the Posh Pit on the ferry from Hobart, set aside a whole day, and get lost in the whole bizarre experience. With the exhibits changing regularly and a huge maze of a complex to get lost in, it is easy to return to MONA again and again and still discover more oddities.

5. Embrace the foodie scene.

Why not get the most out of Tasmania’s excellent fresh produce and world class food with a dining experience? The Agrarian Kitchen not only serves amazing food, but you can also take a cooking course on their beautiful paddock-to-plate small farm located in the stunning Derwent Valley just half an hour from Hobart. With an ethos of simplicity and sustainability, the menu reflects seasonal changes and local produce.

The Maria Island Walk Wilderness Camps

6. Go on a multi-day guided hike.

To get the most out of Tasmania’s wilderness, you really need to immerse yourself in it for days at a time. And what better way to do this than by going “glamping?” With all the luxuries of good food, fine wine, and experienced guides to provide insight and take care of logistics, glamping is still a simple immersion in landscape that allows you to slow down and experience the place you are in without the distractions on civilisation. The Maria Island Walk offers that perfect mix of simplicity and comfort.

7. Stay at a boutique hotel.

Why not treat yourself to something special and spend a few days at a place like Saffire, located at the edge of the stunning Freycinet National Park, or Pumphouse Point, situated on the remote and breath-taking Lake St Clare? Surrounded by the landscapes and wilderness Tasmania is famous for, with world-class service and welcoming hospitality, it is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience.

Tasmanian devil at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

Image: Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

8. Visit a wildlife sanctuary.

The best way to get up close and personal with some of Tasmania’s unique animals whilst also contributing to conservation efforts is to visit a wildlife sanctuary such as Bonorong, located just outside Hobart. Here you will learn about the island’s unique fauna and the threats they face, as well as being able to see such iconic species such as the Tasmanian Devil and the Spotted Tail Quoll.

For more information about a four day guided walk, contact The Maria Island Walk on 03 6234 2999 or book online.

 

The Beautiful Flora of Tasmania

There are few places in the world that can boast the biological diversity we have in Tasmania. Once a part of the supercontinent of Gondwana, after its breakup our island state was lucky enough to maintain a similar climate for the past 70-odd million years, which means we have many “living fossil” species thriving in various ideal habitats. Tasmania’s complex terrain, diverse geology, its proximity to the mainland of Australia and yet its relative isolation as an island, all combine to give us a native flora that is staggering in both its diversity and its beauty. It is possible to stand in a rainforest that has species almost unchanged from when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and then, after less than an hour’s drive, be looking out through a dry eucalypt forest, one of the most recently evolved and fire adapted ecosystems on the planet.

The best way to appreciate Tasmania’s flora is by heading out for a hike in one of our beautiful National Parks. There you can lose yourself for hours in nature and find yourself constantly surprised by what you discover. The best time of year for wildflowers is November to mid-January, depending on the year, the location, and what you are hoping to find.

Pigface on the beach at Maria Island

Tasmanian Flora

As an introduction to Tasmanian flora, let’s start in the Tasmanian mountains and work our way down to sea level, pausing to admire seven distinctive Tasmanian plants along the way.

Richea scoparia. Scoparia.

One of the most spectacular wildflowers when in bloom, this low spikey shrub is ubiquitous with the Tasmanian High Country. Growing over the 900m elevation mark, this hardy plant thrives in our harsh winters. Forming extremely dense thickets, its short spikey leaves pierce clothing (and skin!) easily, creating a love/hate relationship with many bushwalkers. It makes up for this with a spectacular display of flowers in December and January. Flower spikes up to 12cm tall burst into bloom, the colours ranging from white to orange to pink and red. The petals completely enclose the stamens, and the plant relies on skinks (small lizards) and currawongs (a bird in the crow family) to chew through the petals and so cross-pollinate. There are few more spectacular displays than a huge swathe of scoparia in flower beside an alpine tarn, surrounded by dolerite mountains. Best place to see: Walls of Jerusalem National Park.

Isophysis tasmanica. Tasmanian Purplestar.

This beautiful and rarely-seen plant grows on mountainsides in the south and west. Growing in low alpine heathlands, the large purple flower is striking, made more so because it grows so remotely it is rarely seen by anyone other than dedicated bushwalkers. Best place to see: Southwest National Park.

Telopea truncata. Tasmanian Waratah.

This beautiful red flower is endemic to our island state and is much smaller and more fragile-looking than those found on the mainland. It flowers in November-December, and the flowers produce so much nectar it often literally overflows from the petals. It is a valuable food source for many birds, as well as the adorable pygmy possum. Best place to see: Cradle Mountain Lake St Clare National Park.

Pink Tasmanian Waratah plant

Eucryphia lucida. Leatherwood.

This beautiful rainforest tree is the source of our famous leatherwood honey. Flowering January-February, the large white flowers can be so dense the tree appears to be covered in blooms, the forest floor carpeted in fallen petals. The leatherwood is a great example of our unique Gondwanan heritage, as its closest relative grows in South America, another clue that these two continents were once joined together. Growing in cool temperate rainforest, this tree thrives in undisturbed valleys with high rainfall. Best place to see: Mt Field National Park, Hartz Mountain National Park.

Richea dracophylla. Dragonheath.

This beautifully-named plant grows in low alpine forests, particularly the cloudforests on the Tasman Peninsula and Maria Island. Remarkable for its long palm-like leaves, it erupts into flower from November until January, startling creamy white flower heads with reddish brown bracts pushing up from the crown of the plant. Best place to see: Tasman Peninsula National Park.

Orchids, e.g. Dipdium roseum. Pink Hyacinth Orchid.

There is nothing quite as thrilling, botanically speaking, as hunting for and then finding orchids. With habitat ranging from rainforest to coastal, the largest diversity of orchids are found in our dry sclerophyll forests along the East Coast. Orchids are so exciting because for most of the year, they are almost invisible. It is only when they flower that we notice them, and even then, they can be tiny and difficult to see. One of the largest, most vibrant and easy to spot is the Pink Hyacinth Orchid, flowering through December and January. Growing up to 90cm tall, the bright pink blooms stand out from the forest floor. Best place to see: Maria Island National Park.

 People walking in Tasmanian Blue Gum forests

Eucalyptus globulus. Tasmanian Blue Gum.

Not only is this gum our State Floral Emblem, it is also one of our most impressive eucalypts and has the largest and sweetest smelling flowers of our native gums. Growing up to 60m high and with a habitat ranging from sea-level to around 500m, the blue gum has large dropping leaves and a beautifully coloured and streaked bark. Highly prized for its quality timber and sold under the name “Tasmanian Oak,” many of the original blue gum forests have been felled, but the pockets that remain provide vital habitat for birds, particularly the Swift Parrot, as the flowers of the mature trees have a greater nutritional value than younger plantation trees. Maria Island has some of the biggest stands of old growth blue gum forest in Tasmania. Flowering in pockets from October until January, coastal blue gum forests provide spectacular walking. Best place to see: Maria Island National Park.

 

The guides on The Maria Island Walk are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about Tasmanian flora. For more information about a four day guided walk, contact The Maria Island Walk on 03 6234 2999 or book online.

 

 

Must See Tasmanian Wildlife

The breathtaking splendour of wild animals, and the joy of close-up encounters with them, draws people to isolated places all over the world.

Here in Australia we’re blessed with a suite of animals that are found nowhere else. Sadly, a number of these special animals have disappeared from mainland Australia – including Tasmanian devils and several quoll species. The good news is that these mainland-missing animals are still easily seen in Tasmania.

There are several places around Tasmania where you’re guaranteed to see special animals and birds, but arguably none better than Maria Island National Park.

My island home

Here’s the thing about islands.

If a landmass is sufficiently separate from other landmasses its plants and animals get to go their own way, biologically speaking.

Over time, a nudge here from natural selection and a prod there from human – or some other – intervention and, hey presto, you’ve got yourself an island with a whole lot of interesting critters.

And islands are of course surrounded by water, which can, depending on the location, increase one’s chance of seeing marine creatures.

What’s really special about Maria is that it’s an island off another island (Tasmania) off another island (mainland Australia). And a chain of events led to it being declared a wildlife reserve nearly 50 years ago.

Ark Maria

In 1962, the Tasmanian Animals and Birds Protection Board – forerunner of today’s Parks and Wildlife Service – recommended setting Maria aside as a reserve for endangered animals.

There’d been concerns for some years about the effects on native animals of population spread and land clearing for agriculture. The remarkable Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, hadn’t been seen in the wild for decades, and was feared extinct. By the later 1960s, hydro-electric developments helped focus these concerns into an organised conservation movement, and ultimately the world’s first green political party – the United Tasmania Group.

Throughout the 1960s, Maria Island’s agricultural properties were acquired and livestock removed. Starting in 1969, endangered species were introduced. The mammals included forester kangaroos, Bennett’s wallabies, wombats and brush-tailed possums. Birds included Cape Barren geese and Tasmanian native hens.

In 1971 Maria island was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary and it was proclaimed a national park in 1972. The associated Maria Island Marine Reserve, off the island’s north-east coast, was declared in 1991.

With a few exceptions, the island’s introduced birds and animals and its protected marine species have thrived.

Devilish times

In 2012, Maria’s ‘rock star’ introduced species arrived: a small, healthy population of endangered Tasmanian devils.

At times so widespread and prevalent in Tasmania that they were commonly seen as roadkill, devils had been in decline since 1996, when the transmissible cancer known as Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) was first identified. There are now two known strains of DFTD; they account for a third of all known transmissible cancers.

Maria’s devils were intended to breed and provide healthy, wild-born individuals for re-introduction to mainland Tasmania. At this, they’ve been outrageously successful.

In just a few years the devils bred up to a population of around 100. Scores of Maria-bred devils have been trapped and removed from the island to keep population numbers in check.

Where to see animals on Maria

In short: everywhere, and that’s the joy of the place. Even on the most-used island walk, between Darlington ferry wharf and the historic precinct, people see Cape Barren geese, native hens and wombats – the latter in broad daylight.

Here’s a brief list of the animals you’ll encounter on Maria, and the most likely places to see them.

Forester kangaroos

Foresters – known as grey kangaroos in mainland Australia – are commonly seen on the grasslands surrounding the landing strip and, often in the evening, just north of Darlington, near Bernacchis Creek.

Foresters were once common in agricultural areas of Tasmania but by the 1950s and ‘60s their former population had been reduced by more than 80%. Today they’re seen mainly at Mt William, Narawntapu and Maria Island national parks.

Wombats

Maria’s wombat population numbers in the thousands and they’re seen everywhere, including in the middle of the Darlington quadrangle, around the camping ground, and on the hillside around Ruby Hunt’s cottage. Wombats are mostly nocturnal but they’re always seen in daylight hours on Maria. Sometimes so many of them graze in the same area they almost appear to be a herd of small cows.

Recent research has confirmed that the common wombats introduced to Maria in the early 1970s are the subspecies Vombatus ursinus ursinus, which was once found throughout the Bass Strait islands but is now found only on Flinders Island. The subspecies Vombatus ursinus tasmaniensis is found on mainland Tasmania. Both are distinct from the Australian mainland common wombat, Vombatus ursinus hirsutus.

Tasmanian devils

Maria Island’s devil population boomed after the marsupials were introduced and, given that they’re opportunistic carrion-eaters, it’s not unusual to see them lurking around the Darlington precinct, especially near the barbecues in the camping area. A female named Nutella, released on the island in 2013, famously raised her young in a den under the Darlington Penitentiary verandah. They’ve also been seen in other parts of the island, and sometimes during the day

Maria’s devils are among the best studied in Australia and the distinctive carnivore traps used by researchers – a wide-diameter PVC pipe with trapdoor lid – can sometimes be seen in scrub just off tracks near Darlington, and in other locations.

Cape Barren geese

These large, handsome birds are a common sight on the lawns around Darlington and the nearby airstrip grasslands. Their distinctive grumpy honking is one of the island’s more common sounds.

Cape Barren geese are found right along the southern coast of Australia and the population is considered secure and stable. But in the 1950s their numbers were so low that biologists feared for the species’ survival.

Marine mammals

Common and bottle-nosed dolphins are regularly seen, sometimes in large pods, in the Mercury Passage, which separates Maria from mainland Tasmania. Long-finned pilot whales are also common in these waters, and unfortunately the whale most likely to strand on Maria’s beaches. Humpback whales can be seen in the Passage during early winter, on their northwards migration, and in late spring, when they’re on their way back to Antarctica.

There’s a large Australian fur seal haul-out at Ile des Phoques, about 20 km north of Maria Island, and seals are a common sight in waters along the Fossil Cliffs and in Fossil Bay, and from time to time in Darlington Bay.

Help from the guides

Experienced trekking guides, such as the Maria Island Walk’s, are an invaluable asset for wildlife- and bird spotting, especially when it comes to the more obscure species. Because they’re constantly sharing information with their fellow guides they’ll usually know where the forty-spotted pardalotes have been seen, and they’ll have you recognizing the difference between kelp and Pacific gulls in no time.

And bear in mind that you won’t need the help of guides to see many of Maria’s animals – in some parts of the island you’ll virtually be tripping over them!

 

Tasmanian Devil article in the Telegraph

David Whitley wrote a nice article about Tasmanian Devils:

“The Maria Island Walk – one of the Australian Wildlife Journeys signature experiences – spends four days on the island, staying in glamping cabins and indulging in fully prepared local produce meals. And it’s not just the Tasmanian devils on the wildlife front. Walks along the island’s white-sand beaches bring sightings with playful dolphins and swooping sea eagles, while venturing inland brings birdsong-filled forests, plus encounters with wombats and wallabies.”

read the whole article here

 

 

5 facts you probably didn’t know about wombats

Maria Island National Park is a wombat wonderland. The Common Wombat is the largest burrowing mammal in Australia and can be viewed all over the island…

How heavy is the common wombat?

Approximately 20kg. The Tasmanian wombat is not as large or bulky as the wombats on the mainland.

What shape are wombat scats (poop)?

Wombat scats are cube-shaped. Why? Because they have a very long digestion process. As their food matter spends such a long time in the intestine, the by-products take on the same shape and the wombat poop eventually comes out shaped in a cube. They often leave poop on top of rocks and logs as territorial markers or to attract a mate and because the poop is cube-shaped it won’t roll away.

How long do wombats graze for? 

They graze for between 3 to 8 hours a night during which time they may travel many kilometres. You can often see wombats on Maria Island grazing and basking in the sun during the daytime.

Why do wombat pouches face backwards, opening towards the mother’s rear rather than her head?

Wombats are extreme diggers. They dig burrows up to 20m long and more than 2m below the ground with connecting tunnels and entrances. The wombats backward pouch allows them to dig without kicking dirt into their pouch, where a joey may just be sleeping.

When do wombats breed?

Wombats breed any time of the year however mating often occurs during winter. 30 days after mating a wombat pinkie is born (furless and in it’s mothers pouch). The mother carries the wombat pinkie in her pouch for 6 months. Afterwards, the wombat joey stays with it’s mother until it’s around 18 months old.