The ultimate guide to visiting Maria Island Tasmania. A feature-rich list of things to do, places to see and attractions to visit. Plan your Maria Island trip with this useful guide based on my experience documenting and photographing this incredible island on the East Coast of Tasmania.
Have you ever visited an island off an island off an island? Maybe it’s those kind of lengths you need to go to these days to get a truly wild experience. Maria Island is just that. A living remnant of a once wild and untamed Australia.
In this travel guide, I will reveal the best things to do on Maria Island Tasmania. This post includes the best attractions, things to see and places to visit on this UNESCO World Heritage Listed marvel.
At the bottom of this post, I’ve also included a useful visitor’s guide to help you better plan your trip. This features everything you need to know about getting here and getting around, as well as tips and useful information for visiting Maria Island Tasmania!
- How to Get to Maria Island
- 16 Fun Things to do on Maria Island
- 1. Maria Island Cruise
- 2. Hike the Bishop and Clerk Track
- 3. Spot Wombats and Other Iconic Australian Wildlife
- 4. Get a Chance to See a Wild Tassie Devil
- 5. Learn About Maria Island’s Convict History at Darlington
- 6. See the Painted Cliffs
- 7. Fossick at Fossil Cliffs
- 8. Hike to the Summit of Mount Maria
- 9. See All the Maria Island Attractions by Bike
- 10. Swim at Darlington Bay
- 11. Camp at French’s Farm
- 12. See Convict Cells Near Encampment Cove
- 13. Explore Maria Island from Above on a Scenic Flight
- 14. Escape the Crowds at the Maria Island Isthmus
- 15. Spot Black Cockatoos Near Reidle Bay
- 16. See it all on the Maria Island Circuit
- Getting Around on Maria Island
- About the National Parks Pass
- Where to Sleep on Maria Island
- How Many Days Should I Spend on Maria Island?
- More Things to Know About Visiting Maria Island Tasmania
- FAQs About Visiting Maria Island Tasmania
- More Tasmania Travel & Adventure Guides
- More Photos from Maria Island Tasmania
By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.
How to Get to Maria Island
Since Maria Island doesn’t share a landbridge with Tasmania, you will need to book a ferry or a day trip to get here. Below I've provided a quick rundown of the best options for travelers in Hobart or Triabunna.
1. Maria Island Day Trip From Hobart
If you're staying in Hobart, your transport options are limited due to the distances required to get to the ferry terminal on Tasmania's east coast.
Luckily, there is one great organised tour option offering a day trip & cruise to Maria Island that you can book online.
This trip includes shuttle bus transport from various pickup points in Hobart, a 4-hour sightseeing cruise, and a couple of hours to wander around the island (including an optional guided walk of Darlington convict settlement).
2. Maria Island Ferry From Triabunna
Alternatively, travelers can also arrange their own transport and ferry to Maria Island via the Triabunna Ferry Terminal (Encounter Maria Island). This is a passenger-only ferry since there are no cars on the island.
Update 2023: There is now a very convenient and affordable shuttle bus service operating round trips from Hobart to Triabunna for under $40.
The Maria Island ferry departs a few times a day from Triabunna Ferry Terminal. The trip only takes around 30 minutes but you will need to check in at the Visitor Center in Triabunna 45 minutes before departure.
Travellers can only book return tickets and it’s best to book on their website in advance. Below are the updated ferry prices:
Concession: $42.00 (Australian Pension Card or Health Care Card)
Student: $32.00 (Australian Secondary Student)
Child: $32.00 (4 to 16 years)
Infant: Free (0 to 3 years)
Tickets include a 7-kilogram carry-on bag but you will need to pay an extra $10 for any larger backpacks. Bikes are also an additional $15 and kayaks are $25.
Travel tip: you can bring your bike if you’d prefer to ride around to some of the epic attractions on Maria Island for an additional $15, which is cheaper than renting one once you arrive.
16 Fun Things to do on Maria Island
Now that you know exactly how to get to Maria Island, let's dive into all the epic things to do once you arrive at this historic penal colony and abundant wildlife hotspot.
1. Maria Island Cruise
One of the best ways to explore this incredible UNESCO World Heritage Island is by booking a cruise from Triabunna.
These trips depart daily and include an educational guided tour of Maria Island National Park and the Ile Des Phoque Nature Reserve. This trip is good value for money since it'll cut your costs of the return ferry ticket, and include a guided walk of the historical buildings and visits the best spots for wildlife viewing.
2. Hike the Bishop and Clerk Track
After wildlife spotting, hiking is one of the best things to do on Maria Island. And, there's no better view on offer than the one at the top of the Bishop and Clerk pinnacles.
Departing from the Darlington area, hikers can reach the top of these awe-inspiring dolerite columns in less than a few hours. I think that the view from the top speaks for itself.
3. Spot Wombats and Other Iconic Australian Wildlife
Maria Island has been referred to "Noah's Ark in Australia". It truly is one of the best places in the country to see abundant native wildlife.
As soon as you hop off the ferry, you'll undoubtedly be greeted by a wallaby or wombat, often both. Other common sights include kangaroos, geese, ringtail possums, pademelons, potoroos as well as a wide range of snakes, lizards and frogs.
There are many short walks and tracks on the island that are great for wildlife-spotting, including Point Lesuer, the Painted Cliffs walk, the Haunted Bay Track and the Convict Cells Track.
4. Get a Chance to See a Wild Tassie Devil
You might also be surprised to hear that Maria Island offers one of the best chances in Tasmania to see the endangered Tassie Devil. While not native to the island, several, genetically selected devils were released here to thrive and breed without the risk of devil facial tumour disease.
However, spotting a Tasmanian Devil on Maria Island is far from guaranteed. I went looking every night and wasn't lucky enough to get a glimpse. I've been told though, that a few do come to visit French's Farm on an odd occasion.
5. Learn About Maria Island's Convict History at Darlington
Maria Island Tasmania has a long-standing convict and industrial history. In fact, Darlington itself is a remnant of a convict penal settlement from the last phase of convict management in Australia.
The Darlington Probation Station dates back to 1825 and is well-regarded as being one of the best-preserved structures in the country.
A walk through Darlington is one of the best things to do on Maria Island for those looking to learn more about Tasmania's colonial heritage.
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6. See the Painted Cliffs
The Painted Cliffs is another awesome coastal attraction and one of the best things to see on Maria Island for those looking to snap some unique photos. Located on Maria Island's western coast, these sandstone cliffs are known for their incredible patterns and unique colours.
Visitors to Maria can visit the Painted Cliffs by walking or riding 4.3 kilometres return (1-2 hours) from Darlington. The track to reach the cliffs are gentle and you'll spot many wild wombats grazing on the way.
The Painted Cliffs are located on the far end of Hopground Beach and best accessed during low tide. However, if you visit during high tide as I did, you can still reach the painted cliffs by following the high ground around and descending carefully to the water, following the worn and obvious tracks.
7. Fossick at Fossil Cliffs
Visitors to Maria Island who are interested in learning about its history, both ancient and modern, are encouraged to visit the Fossil Cliffs on Maria's northern coastline.
The track to the Fossil Cliffs follows the popular northern circuit loop, starting and ending at Darlington. This is an easy 1.5-2 hour circuit (4.5 KM), passing some of the best Maria Island attractions. Of course, riding a bike to the start of the short descent to the Fossil Cliffs is also possible.
The Fossil Cliffs circuit walks around a worn rock shelf containing thousands of 300-million-year-old fossils including clams, corals, scallops and sea fans.
The Fossil Cliffs are also a remnant of another Maria Island industrial endeavour. This section of the coastline is very lime-rich and consequently, hopeful entrepreneurs mined the cliffs around 1889, stripping back the rock to reveal the fossil-rich rock below.
8. Hike to the Summit of Mount Maria
Hikers would be stoked to find out that Maria Island is one of Tasmania's best islands for bushwalking. And, one of the most rewarding hikes is a summit of Mount Maria.
This Mount Maria walk is a fairly long track track that Tasmania Parks recommends at least 8 hours to complete. However, I'd say that a walk to the summit and back to Darlington is easily doable in less than 6. The entire walk is roughly 16 kilometres from Darlington return.
If you're considering doing a longer, multi-day hike around Maria Island, then a summit of Mount Maria is easily possible following several routes. I climbed Mount Maria on my 3-day walk around the island so make sure to check that article out too if you're interested in a self-guided route.
If you have any doubt, let me tell you that seeing the island from the summit of Mount Maria is easily one of the best things to do on Maria Island Tasmania!
The Ultimate Tasmania Travel Resource
Looking for more Tasmania travel guides & adventure inspiration? Below are my most comprehensive blog posts that will serve as a great free resource for your trip.
9. See All the Maria Island Attractions by Bike
Did you know that there are no cars on Maria Island? As a result, visitors who are looking to explore will either have to walk or rent a bike.
While I decided to walk around the island over three days, I'd say that the best way to explore Maria is to do it on two wheels. You can rent a bike when booking your ferry ticket, or check your own in on the boat too.
Having a bike on the island is great since all major tracks are bike-friendly, allowing visitors to get to all of the incredible Maria Island highlights much more quicker than on foot.
10. Swim at Darlington Bay
Tasmania is known to have some incredible beaches and world-class bays. If you're making a stop to Maria Island during the warmer months, then a swim at Darlington Bay is one of the best things to do!
The water is pristine and almost translucent. Darlington Bay is the most accessible swimming spot from the ferry, but other great locations include Hopground Beach (near the painted cliffs) and Shoal Bay (near the isthmus to the south).
Also, if you're keen on snorkelling or diving, Maria Island is well known for its great shipwrecks and beautiful kelp forests.
11. Camp at French's Farm
Most overnight visitors to Maria Island tend to camp at Darlington Campground or bunk at the old penitentiary. Honestly, I don't blame them— Darlington is close to the ferry, has fresh water and even showers!
But, for those who came to Maria Island to get off-the-beaten-path and explore, you're going to want to head down to French's Farm. The track follows the coastal route south known appropriately as the French's Farm Coastal route. Walkers can easily reach this campground in less than 3 hours and riders can do it in under an hour.
Frenchs Farm is a beautiful campsite with toilets, an old stone private residence and a historic shearing shed. There is plenty of flat ground to pitch a tent and best of all, it's free!
12. See Convict Cells Near Encampment Cove
History is around every corner on Maria Island. This is even true in the most hidden, tucked-away corners. Located on Point Lesuere in the southwest is another probation station where visitors can even see the old convict cells.
It's also possible to camp for free near this probation station at Encampment Cove.
13. Explore Maria Island from Above on a Scenic Flight
Are you ready for perhaps the most epic thing to do on Maria Island, and maybe even in Tasmania? This scenic flight is arguably one of the best things you can do on the coast. This trip is a whole-day adventure as you take a low-altitude flight over both Freycinet National Park and Maria Island.
The scenic flight is one of the best ways to truly see the island and you can even spot wildlife form above! Furthermore, the flight I'm recommending even lands at Maria Island airstrip and includes a short walking tour and picnic.
14. Escape the Crowds at the Maria Island Isthmus
The isthmus, known as McRaes Isthmus, is the skinny "neck" connecting the south and northern parts of Maria Island. You can ride here from Darlington, but the road approaching the isthmus gets a little sandy so it might be best to walk the rest of the way.
On a clear day, this is one of the best places to visit on Maria Island to get away and enjoy nature. You can swim on both white sand beaches and spot loads of birdlife.
15. Spot Black Cockatoos Near Reidle Bay
If you've stumbled upon this blog before, then you might know that I've spent quite a bit of time travelling around Australia. Let me tell you that I've never seen as many black cockatoos as I have at Reidle Bay near the McRaes Isthmus.
On a clear, Autumn afternoon, I think I counted over 30 in the span of half an hour walking the start of the Haunted Bay lookout track. They're a rare and iconic Australian bird species with lots of character!
16. See it all on the Maria Island Circuit
Okay, I've already mentioned this earlier in the article but in my opinion, the best thing to do on Maria Island is to strap up the boots and pack your backpack for an action-packed 3-day walk.
This is the best way to see all of the main attracitons and white-sand beaches on the entire island like Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, as well as the penal colony sites, historic buildings, and the best viewpoints.
This circuit covers all of the attractions and can be considered a great entry-level step into multi-day hiking in Tasmania. I've written a comprehensive guide that follows my route and how to do it self-guided so make sure to check it out if you're interested.
Getting Around on Maria Island
As I mentioned, there are no cars on Maria Island so you can't book your vehicle on the ferry. The only ways to get around are on bike or on your own two feet.
If you're basing yourself in Darlington, then I highly recommend renting or bringing a bike in order to explore all of the highlights.
About the National Parks Pass
Since Maria Island is considered a National Park, you will need to purchase a National Parks Pass to visit. You can buy these at any TasParks Visitor Centre or Tasmanian Parks online.
Current pass prices are:
- 24-hours: $41.20 per vehicle/$20.60 per person
- Holiday Passes – up to 2 months: $82.40 per vehicle/$41.20 per person
- Annual Pass all parks: $91.35 per vehicle (up to eight people)
If you intend on exploring more epic things to do in Tasmania, then I highly recommend getting the annual car pass as it offers the best value.
Where to Sleep on Maria Island
There are no hotels or guesthouses on Maria Island. As a result, your only option in terms of accommodation is to camp at one of the three campsites or bunk in the old penitentiary.
Below is a summary of all of the accommodation options on Maria Island.
Darlington Campsite: $7 per person (tent site)
- Cold showers (free) and hot showers ($2)
- Undercover, outdoor kitchen with BBQs
- Filtered drinking water
- Free fireplace with firewood
Frenchs Farm Campsite: Free (tent site)
- Composting toilets
- Tank water (need to filter) - consider getting a Grayl purifier bottle
- Barn to hide your food
Encampment Cove: Free (tent site)
- Composting toilets
- Tank water (need to filter)
Penitentiary Hut: $44 (2 people) + $10 for additional people
- Indoor bunks
- Drinking water
- Picnic facilities
Where to Stay Near Triabunna Before & After The Hike
Triabunna is the main town that you will need to head to before and after your hike on Maria Island. Below I've included some of the best places to stay near Triabunna to help you better plan your walk on the Maria Island circuit.
Right around the corner from Triabunna is this really well-rated studio hotel in Orford. It has two swimming pools, a private beach, a hot tub, a tennis court, and a basketball court. There's also an excellent restaurant and bar which is great after three days hiking the Maria Island Circuit!
This is the only place available to stay in the actual township of Triabunna. This caravan park offers campsites and cabins within walking distance of the ferry and close to shops.
How Many Days Should I Spend on Maria Island?
The question of how many days to spend here really depends on how much you would like to see. In my opinion, 3 days is the perfect amount of time to explore all of the highlights on Maria Island. However, you could also spend two days here if you rent a bike, since getting to all of the attractions will be quicker and easier than walking.
A day trip to Maria Island is also possible. However, this might feel a little bit rushed if you're doing it on your own. Instead, I'd recommend booking a guided walking tour instead to ensure you don't miss anything.
More Things to Know About Visiting Maria Island Tasmania
Armed with the information I've given you in this Maria Island guide, you should be ready and set to explore this epic Tassie gem. However, before you go, here are some more tips and quick things to know that might prove helpful for your visit.
- Leave no trace principal. -there are no bins and visitors need to take any rubbish back with them to Triabbuna (bins at the ferry terminal)
- No shops - bring all food and necessary items with you
- You can have a hot shower at Darlington Campsite for a $2 coin
- Stay at least 2 metres from wildlife to help keep them wild
- Try to plan your visit during good weather to make the most out of the experience
- Take the time to unplug. There is reception at Darlington but that's not why you came out here right?
FAQs About Visiting Maria Island Tasmania
Is there drinking water on Maria Island?
Yes there is fresh drinking water at the rainwater tanks in Darlington campgrounds, Frenchman's Farm, Encampment Cove and at the Darlington Penitentiary Accommodations.
Is it worth visiting?
If you enjoy off-the-beaten-path places and nature, then Maria Island is one of the best places to visit in Tasmania.
What animals can I see on Maria Island?
Due to its isolated position off the coast of Tasmania, Maria has become a refuge for many native wildlife species including Tasmanian Devils, Cape Barren Geese, Wombats, wallabies, forester kangaroos, potoroos, forty-spotted pardalote, and more. Speak to the wildlife service on the island for more information
How big is Maria Island?
The island spans 115.5 km², meaning you can explore most of the island in a day by bike. Allocate at least 2-3 days if walking around the island.
Are dogs allowed on Maria Island?
No. Maria Island is a National Park and dogs are not permitted.
More Tasmania Travel & Adventure Guides
I hope that you have enjoyed this comprehensive visitor's guide to Maria Island Tasmania. My goal is to have you leave my blog with a better understanding of more attractions and things to do on Maria Island.
But, before you go, why not check out some of my other Tasmanian travel guides below? I've written about and photographed loads of epic places around the island and I'm sure you'll find something you hadn't seen before!