Maria Island in Tasmania has the lot: history, wilderness, personality and a few civilized surprises up its sleeve. Bev Malzard walked the walk
Going camping and bushwalking in wild places has been a little off my radar in the past few years. The thought of sleeping on the ground and being pushed to accomplish so many km a day was not going to happen now.
Then I heard about the Maria Island Walk in Tasmania and thought, just maybe, my mind and body could do this without too many complaints.
After a night in Hobart after flying in from Sydney I was packed and ready to roll next morning.
I was picked up and taken to the office to add an anorak to my traveling backpack (packs and gear are provided if you don’t have one).
Two guides and two couples and I set off for an 88km drive north east of Hobart to Triabunna. From there we hopped on our private vessel for a trip to the island.
We motored through sparkling waters of the Mercury Passage to the isthmus of Maria Island, and went ashore skipping through crystal clear water and then padded across the fine, white sand of Shoal Bay.
We had on the shore lunch and took in the serenity and beauty of the bay.
A hop and a skip across the narrowest part of the isthmus and we arrived at our ‘wilderness camp’, Casuarina Beach Camp. The Maria Island Walk company is the recipient of many tourism awards and when I saw the camp I understood why.
Discreet habitats of twin huts with canvas roofs sheltered boxes with mattresses on top for beds (comfy too) and sleeping bags to pull on over our supplied silk sheets, were waiting for the weary.
There was a large ‘dining hut’, and an outside deck for meals. Tucked away along a track covered by a boardwalk to protect the undergrowth was an eco- friendly compostable toilet and a room for a ‘bush bath’ – water has to be carried in so we used it sparingly.
So far from anywhere
We split up and the others went to Haunted Bay and I went off for a three hour (return) walk to abandoned and neglected Robey’s farm with one of the guides (we came across three snakes on this walk). Seeing the remains of farms I can but wonder how anyone survived the bush here. So far from anyone or anywhere – and that’s just on the island!
That night our two wonderful young men had conjured a three course gourmet meal out of the air! They carried much of it in as there is no refrigerator or electricity – but the gas barbecue and jets produced a memorable meal. Think Tassie goat’s cheese tarts, Tassie scallops in risotto and strawberries and cream! I kid you not.
After sleeping like a log I awakened to the birds beginning their morning conversation and a soft, scented breeze wafting through the forest. Smoked salmon and eggs for brekkie and we began a 13km walk along five beautiful beaches where I spied a gaggle of Barren Geese. The waters either side of the isthmus are all shades of blue and mirror calm today. Marshland that fed tribes for centuries are decorated with black swans gliding along. We stopped by Frenchman’s Farm for more recent history and then inspected crumbling convict ruins. The evidence of convict habitation here is evocative and fascinating.
The buildings invite curiosity
White Gums camp looms as I begin to think it’s time to stop walking. But can’t sit still when there’s a glorious sunset happening at the top of the cliff nearby.
Another gourmet dinner served with fine wines that left me happy but bewildered – how do these guys do it?
Day three and we are walking at a brisk pace as the landscape changes. We head towards Darlington, the only settlement on the island – permanent population – a couple of rangers. The interesting buildings here invite curiosity. The various buildings are in reasonable state, thanks to their heritage listings and have a couple of ghosts lingering.
We enter the front door of a charming cottage, once the home of Diego Bernacchi, an entrepreneur who made his fortune twice on this tiny outpost. A wonderful bed beckons, so does the hot shower and the anticipation of the last supper was exciting. My walking companions did the right thing and took off to climb Mount Maria (711m) and (apparently) the easier Bishop and Clerk bluff (I wouldn’t know).
I just kicked back, put my feet up and pondered the joy of bushwalking and the power of choice. Choosing to sit in the sun on a verandah on this stunning island national park on my last afternoon was what being footloose and fancy free is all about.
Getting there: Maria Island is a short boat ride from Triabunna, on Tasmania east coast.
Being there: Four day trips leave Hobart between mid-October and April, priced from $2100 per person (includes transport from Hobart, park fees, twin-share accommodation, al fabulous meals and wine, guides and gear if you need it.)
Contributed by Bev Malzard | Editor of Get Up and Go Magazine.