Maria Island is noted as a great place to bike and hike so I just had to go there, but within an hour of arriving I found that the place was abundant with wildlife, such as wombats, wallabies, kangaroos and the very recently introduced Tasmanian Devil, so in search of the devil I went.
Getting to Maria Island
Prior to arriving on Maria Island I decided to take a short cut from Tasman Peninsula to Triabunna, the ferry terminal for Maria Island. The short cut went over the top the mountains and through state forest instead of following a busy highway. I prefer these kinds of short cuts. Sure there was a climb up some steep hills on dirt roads but what part of Tasmania doesn’t have steep hills.
I split the trip into 2 days with an overnight stop at the rest area in the middle of the state forest, it had water tanks, shelter, BBQs and a toilet. All that the traveling cyclist wants. I was surprised this place wasn’t packed with cycle tourists but most seem to prefer the highway. I had a visit from one of the rangers just after I arrived, he said it was no problem to camp there, it wasn’t marked as a camp site.
After the great nights sleep I lumbered into Triabunna. I had more than enough time to rest and stock up with food for Maria Island. There were no shops on the Island. While waiting for the Ferry I met Oliver, a British cyclist. He was also heading to Maria Island. We teamed up and on arrival on the Island late in the afternoon we headed to a remote, quiet campground at the far end of the Island called Encampment Cove. It took 1 1/2 hours to get there, mainly because there were so many stops for wombats, kangaroos and wallabies. But we made it around sunset, made a campfire and cooked dinner.
Cycling Maria Island
The following day started with me taking a solo ride around to Point Lesueur. I visited the old convict cells that have fallen into disrepair. The weather was calm with not a breath of wind, great for cycling. After about 45 minutes I returned to camp and set off again towards McRaies Isthmus which is a narrow strip of sandy land that separates the north and south of the Island.
It was a sandy ride on the track and I had to get off and push on too many occasions so when I reached the half way point I took the track to Riedle Bay and cycled on the rock hard sand next to the ocean, dodging the incoming waves as they pounded the beach. I rode all the way to the end and found an unfortunate dead Seal. I could cycle no further. My way was bluffed out by imposing rocks that made it impossible to cycle, I though about hiking further around the headland but decided against it.
I returned from where I came. Instead of cycling back on the sandy track I went to the other side of the Isthmus to the sheltered Shoal Bay. I cycled back along this beach and made it almost back to the camp before having to push the bike a short distance back onto the main track. Much better than pushing most of the way along the sandy main track.
After lunch at the Encampment Bay Campsite, Oliver and I decided to head back to the main camp area, Darlington. Instead of taking the main flat trail we decided on the hilly inland trail, for no other reason than, why not! There were hills, some of which involved pushing the fully loaded touring bike. It was pleasant, well, right up until I got my second flat tyre on one of the downhill sections. My fault for running very low pressure in the tyre to make the ride smooth on rough roads. On another section I was close to running over a Tiger Snake. It could have been interesting to see the reaction of both myself and the snake to that unfortunate situation. There were heaps of teenage schoolkids at Darlinton Campsite so we headed a little bit out of the settlement and away from the them to camp.
Maria Island is increasingly being known as a good spot to view Tasmanian Devils. We went on a night ride on most of the trails around Darlington. Apparently, this seems to be the area where most sightings are taking place. After about 1 hour we both saw a plethora of possums, wallabies, wombats and kangaroos until a black shape about the size of a small dog ran past one of the houses and away from our lamps. Surely it was a Tassie Devil. We were not 100% sure. I would like to claim it as a sighting……..yep, I’m going to claim it as a sighting of a wild Tasmanian Devil.
Hiking on Maria Island
The following morning Oliver and I went our separate ways, Oliver on the ferry off the Island and I hiking up to the top of one of the mountains on the Island, known as Bishop and Clerk. At 630m it promised to be a bit of a climb. When I set of via the Fossil Cliffs I was alone and thought I would have the climb to myself until 2 groups of about 25 teenage school kids came to view. Damn.
I picked up the pace and raced to the top, covered in sweat in an effort to enjoy the top by myself. It took me only 1 hour 30 minutes to ascend. I was 45 minutes alone before the wind and cloud arrived and I descended only to see the school kids still climbing up. My return to the bottom signaled the end of my journey, except there was one thing missing, seeing the Tassie Devil in the wild, so I stayed another night.
I spent the afternoon resting on a headland alone. It looked out over the Mercury Passage to the mainland. As it neared sunset I cycled around Darlington and up to a high point near the Fossil Cliffs. I hoped for a spectacular sunset, it didn’t happen. It was dark by now so I cruised downhill towards my camp, still hoping to see another Tasmanian Devil but not tonight.
At 4am I was woken by the loud noises. Howling gale force winds and a tent on the verge of collapse. A storm had hit Maria Island. My exposed campsite looking out over the water meant that I was not sheltered from its fury. I got out of the tent and re-pegged it more securely. The 50-60km/h winds and rain stinging my body. My now more secure tent provided me with a bit of comfort and in a matter of minutes I was back sleeping, but not for long as it was time to leave the Island by the ferry which departed at 10.30am.
Maria Island Stats
Maria Island exceeded my expectation, just like everywhere else in Tasmania so far, so worth the visit.
Tasman Peninsula to State Forest Camp = 69km
State Forest Camp to Encampment Bay (Maria Island) = 62km
Encampment Bay to Darlington (Maria Island) = 35km
Around Darlington (Maria Island) = 10km bike, 6km hike.