Hiking Bishop and Clerk Maria Island: an epic day-walk to the summit of towering dolerite columns on Maria Island’s northern coast.

Maria Island is widely known as one of Tasmania’s best wildlife sanctuaries. But, did you know it’s also an incredible hiking and bushwalking destination?

On Maria Island’s northern coastline is a series of prominent dolerite columns overlooking the Tasman Sea. These columns got their name due to their resemblance of a hat-wearing bishop beside a clergyman. Hikers can summit these towering columns for incredible views over Maria Island.

In this post, I’ll document my experience hiking Bishop and Clerk on Maria Island. My aim is to provide you with up-to-date, useful information with inspiring photography to motivate you to tackle the climb. Also, if you’re looking for more things to do on Maria Island, then don’t miss my comprehensive Maria Island travel guide.

Where is the Bishop and Clerk Track on Maria Island

Walkers can access the Bishop and Clerk track via Darlington on Maria Island. I’ll assume that you are already aware of how to get here so I’ll skip those details. Otherwise, you’ll need to book a ferry before planning your trip.

Departing from Darlington, visitors will need to either walk or ride a bike west towards the Fossil Cliffs. Once you reach the fork at the towering bluff, you’ll undoubtedly see the Bishop and Clerk pinnacles along the jagged coast to the right. This is where the Bishop and Clerk Track begins on Maria Island.

I climbed the Bishop and Clerk pinnacles as part of my self-guided 3-day walk around Maria. For those interested in an incredible multi-day hike, consider following my route.

Hiking the Bishop and Clerk Track

Hiking Distance: 11KM return to Darlington via Fossil Cliffs
Duration: 3-5 hours
Elevation: 630M elevation gain
Difficulty: Moderate (TasParks Grade 4)

The Bishop and Clerk Track is a fairly well-maintained track that winds along the steep, jagged coast towards the dolerite cape. While not technical, there is a little bit of scrambling required to reach the top. However, if you take your time and pick the right conditions, the summit is accessible by most.

BISHOP AND CLERK DOLERITE COLUMNS

First Section: Open Grasslands

The walk begins on cleared grasslands along the vertigo-inducing cliffs. This section is very beautiful and you’re almost guaranteed to spot a wombat, wallaby or kangaroo here.

This first section is completely exposed. So, if there is a fierce northerly, you’re going to know about it.

MARIA ISLAND SUNSET
WOMBAT ON MARIA ISLAND

Eucalypt Forest

After climbing the rolling cliffside, the track is quickly engulfed by a dense forest. The start of the track in the forest leading to the Bishop and Clerk pinnacles is very wide and again, absolutely full of wildlife.

I was fortunate enough not to see any other walkers on my afternoon hike. As a result, I was able to spot dozens of different marsupial and bird species on this section.

Continuing on, the track climbs another couple of kilometres on an ever-narrowing track through the dense woodlands. As the altitude increases, you’ll notice more rocky ground and the emergence of boulders in the forest.

BISHOP AND CLERK FOREST TRACK
BISHOP AND CLERK TRACK

Crossing the Boulder Field

Suddenly and without warning, the Bishop and Clerk track opens to reveal a large exposed boulder field. You will notice orange, reflective arrows marking the best route through this section.

It seems that Tasmanian Parks have manipulated this field to create an easier track. In all honesty, this section is a breeze and you’ll have no problem traversing it.

After clearing the field, the track enters the forest once again. This time, the boulders are much larger and there are some sections where you will need to scramble over them.

BISHOP AND CLERK BOULDER FIELD
Boulder field on the Bishop and Clerk track

Scrambling to the Bishop and Clerk Summit

The final push to the summit involves a bit of scrambling and light boulder climbing. It’s not too difficult since again, there are orange markers indicating the best and safest way to reach the top.

I’d say that the most difficult section is a large boulder climb just before the summit. You’ll know what I mean when you reach it as the smooth surface doesn’t offer much in terms of holds. However, if you look up, you’ll notice a couple of cracks where you can get a good grip and pull yourself up.

I know that it might sound a little intimidating, especially for people not used to scrambling. Don’t worry though, if you take your time, you’ll be fine.

BISHOP COLUMN MARIA ISLAND
First view of the pinnacles on the ascent

View from Bishop and Clerk on Maria Island

After climbing to the top, I was blown away by the incredible views on offer. The vantage point from the summit is great since it allows for a perfect frame of the pinnacles overlooking Maria Island. All of a sudden, the towering cliffs from the beginning of the hike look minuscule in the distance.

NARIA ISLAND COASTLINE

If you look to the north, you’ll see the Freycinet Peninsula, with Mount Graham and Mount Freycinet peaks dominant on the horizon.

BISHOP AND CLERK MARIA ISLAND

All in all, I spent over an hour photographing and admiring this unique vantage point. Scattered sun showers painted vibrant sunbursts and rainbows on the rugged island ridges. In fact, I would have probably spent a bit more time up here if it wasn’t for the persistent bullets of wind that would rip over the peak.

BISHOP AND CLERK DOLERITE COLUMNS
BISHOP AND CLERK DOLERITE COLUMNS HIKING ON MARIA ISLAND TASMANIA

Returning to Darlington

Returning to Darlington means traversing the same route that you took on the way up. I felt energized by the awesome view so decided to run down the mountain with my backpack, reaching the fork in less than an hour.

From the fork where the Bishop and Clerk track begins, walkers usually loop back around the northern coastline, passing the Fossil Cliffs and the Maria Island air strip on the way. This saves having to repeat the same section twice and you’ll get to see more of the Island.

BISHOP AND CLERK HIKE
MARIA ISLAND TASMANIA, VAN JOURNAL WEEK 4

More Tassie Adventure and Travel Inspiration

If you enjoyed this hiking guide to Bishop and Clerk Maria Island, then make sure to check out some of my other articles. I’ve written extensively on loads of different things to do in Tasmania, with loads more great photos to inspire your trip.

Also, if you make it to the top, let myself and other readers know by leaving a comment below.

BISHOP AND CLERK MARIA ISLAND, HIKING

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