Located off the east coast of Tasmania, Maria Island (pronounced Mariah) is a natural wildlife sanctuary of sweeping bays, pristine beaches and dramatic cliffs.
Dominated by the towering twin peaks of Bishop and Clerk, the island has become a popular destination for hikers and cyclists keen to experience the spectacular trails for which this rocky dot off Triabunna has become famous.
While many visit during the summer, others prefer winter, when the island is virtually deserted and brisk weather adds a new dimension to the stunning scenery.
Walkers can take challenging hikes or gentle strolls observing the wildlife from wombats to an insurance population of Tasmanian devils. Eleven of
the state’s 12 endemic species can be seen, including the endangered forty-spotted pardalote and the rare Cape Barren goose.
Ancient creatures immortalised in rock can be seen at Fossil Cliffs while the beautifully patterned sandstone Painted Cliffs at Hopground Beach are a photographer’s mecca. Peaceful beaches and shorelines contain a wealth of fascinating tidal-zone marine life.
Winter accommodation includes historic Bernacchi House in the World Heritage former convict settlement of Darlington, where a roaring log fire will chase away the winter chills and delicious meals with matching wines round off a bracing day. The house, dating back to 1880 when it was home to Italian settler and pioneer Diego Bernacchi, has been beautifully restored.
Winter escapes from June to August provide three-day/two- night experiences at Bernacchi House with guided walks leaving and returning to the house daily.
“Visiting in winter is just as beautiful as other seasons, especially with the luxury of staying at Bernacchi House each evening, with walkers greeted by candlelit dinners and open fires on their return,” said The Maria Island Walk downer Ian Johnstone.
For hardier souls there is always accommodation at the Penitentiary, which originally housed convicts from 1830.
Today it provides basic bunkhouse-style accommodation in nine rooms with six beds and one room with 14 beds. Each room has bunk beds with covered mattresses, wood-fired stove for heating and a table and seats. There is no power, running water or lighting and guests need to bring their own camping gear (bedding and pots and pans), food and lighting. There are also campgrounds on the island.
If you go...
The Maria Island Walk Winter Escapes have varying departure dates and cost $1490 per person, which includes return transfers from Hobart to Triabunna, the cruise across the waters of Mercury Passage to the island, gourmet food and wine, experienced guides, national park entry fees, accommodation and use of waterproof jackets and day packs. The Maria Island Walk, (03) 6234-2999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost per six-bed room in the Penitentiary is $44 per room for up to two adults and $10 per additional adult or $5 per additional child. Cost for a 14-bed room starts at $88 for up to four adults. Family group rate $50 for two adults and four children (child 5-17). There are special backpacker rates. Bookings (03) 6256-4772. Visitors will also need to pay national park entry fees and for the ferry ride, and ensure the boat is available on chosen dates – (03) 6256-4772, encountermaria.com.au
This article first appeared on www.thesenior.com.au