A short ferry ride from Tasmania’s east coast will bring you to the wild and rugged Maria Island. Discover some of Tasmania’s most pristine untouched landscapes, immerse yourself in the rich convict history and meet some of the island’s adorable wildlife.
Taking a day trip to Maria Island was a huge highlight of our 10-day Tasmania road trip and based on our experience, I can highly recommend adding this place to your Tassie bucket list! Whether you plan to visit on a day trip from Hobart or include this as a stop on your travels around Tasmania, Maria Island National Park is a gem you absolutely shouldn’t miss.
With endless possibilities of wildlife encounters, unique natural scenery and beautiful beaches, spending the day on Maria Island is an experience that you’ll never forget! The best part about visiting Maria Island is that it’s never very busy. We spent most of our day feeling like we had the island to ourselves.
This detailed guide has everything you need to plan the perfect Maria Island day trip. Read on to discover how to get there, the best day tour from Hobart and all the main highlights that you can’t miss on the island.
Table of Contents
Maria Island Day Trip Guide
How to get to Maria Island
Travelling to Maria Island from the mainland requires catching a 30 minute ferry ride from Triabunna. Ferries depart from the Triabunna Ferry Terminal at several time slots throughout the day. The ferry schedule changes depending on the season so be sure to check the updated departure times when planning your day trip.
As no cars are allowed on the island, the ferry takes foot passengers only. You can leave your car in the free parking lot at the ferry terminal for the full day. If you are taking a day trip to Maria Island from Hobart, allow 1.5 hours to drive to the ferry terminal.
Booking your return tickets to Maria Island can be done online in advance from the Encounter Maria Island ferry website. If you don’t already have a National Parks Pass for Tasmania, you’ll need to purchase one in order to visit the island. This can be included as a one-off with the purchase of your ferry ticket or you can visit the National Parks website here.
Getting Around Maria Island
The best way to see the highlights of Maria Island on a day trip is by renting a bike. You can either bring your own bike across on the ferry for an extra $10 or you can rent one when you get to the island for $33.
You can reserve a bike when booking your ferry ticket and collect it from the bike rental shop when you arrive on the island. This is what we did when visiting Maria Island and found it to be the perfect way to explore the island and see the main highlights listed below.
Day Trip to Maria Island from Hobart – Full Day Tour
Discover the beauty and native wildlife of Maria Island on this highly rated full day trip from Hobart. The tour includes a 4 hour scenic boat cruise, a guided walk around the Darlington convict settlement, a chance to see the island’s wildlife such as wombats, kangaroos, fur seals, dolphins, whales and more!
You’ll also get snacks, lunch and the chance to spend some free time exploring the island. Option to include pickup from your Hobart accommodation if needed. Find more info about tour prices and availability here.
Where to Stay for Your Maria Island Day Trip
The best place to base yourself to reach Maria Island is in the small town of Triabunna. If you’re planning a full day trip to Maria Island, you’ll want to catch the early morning ferry. This is much easier to do if you wake up near the ferry terminal.
Triabunna Caravan Park – Ideal for those camping or on caravan trips, this holiday park offers a choice of cabins or campsites. It’s an easy walk to the ferry terminal making it convenient for your day trip.
Triabunna Barracks – This beautiful accommodation is set in a historic building and includes a delicious breakfast. With comfortable rooms and a great location, you can’t go wrong with this choice.
Tips for Visiting Maria Island
- If you don’t plan to see the island on an organised tour, you will need to pack a lunch and snacks for the day. The island is pretty remote and there are no restaurants, cafes or shops. Make sure to bring everything required for the full day on the island, this includes a water bottle (drinking water can be found at Darlington campground).
- Don’t forget to pack warm/waterproof clothing as the weather can be unpredictable. When we visited Maria Island in March we saw all four seasons in a single day. If you visit during summer, you should also bring a swim suit, towel, sunscreen and snorkelling gear. The beaches are gorgeous on the island offering the perfect chance to cool off while cycling.
- You won’t be able to charge your phone or any electronics while on the island so it’s worth bringing a portable battery pack just in case. If you’re like us and end up filling up your camera roll with wombats all day, this will come in handy!
- Everything that you bring with you must come back on the ferry, you’ll also need to bring a rubbish bag on your day trip.
Can You Stay On Maria Island For More Than One Day?
There are many great things to do on Maria Island, staying longer than a day will make it easier to explore more of the island. There are a few great camping spots and one basic accommodation for those who wish to stay overnight. Find more info about planning your stay on Maria Island here.
Maria Island Accommodation
- Darlington Campground – Located near the ferry terminal at the Darlington settlement, see info about prices and bookings here.
- French’s Farm – Free camping a 3 hour walk from the ferry terminal. Ideal for those who want a more off-the-beaten-path experience.
- Encampment Cove – Another awesome free camping spot located near old convict ruins. Nice views and lots of potential wildlife sightings.
- Maria Island Penitentiary – A basic bunk-bed style accommodation in the Darlington settlement offering a unique opportunity to spend the night in a historic convict site. Find info about booking your stay here.
More Things to do on Maria Island
In addition to the day trip itinerary below, here are a few more Maria Island attractions that can be seen on longer stays.
- Hike Mount Maria – A challenging 6-8 hour hike that requires rock scrambling to reach the summit of the tallest peak on Maria Island. This hike is best for clear weather as the view from the top is pretty spectacular.
- Bishop and Clerk Hike – The more popular and scenic hike on Maria Island, reaching the top of the Bishop and Clerk pinnacles can be done in under 5 hours. Following a path along the clifftops, the hike becomes increasingly more difficult as you approach the summit. The panoramic view from the top makes it all worthwhile.
- Explore McRaes Isthmus – The skinny section of land that connects the upper and lower halves of the island is a great place to explore. There are some beautiful beaches to swim at that you will likely have all to yourself seeing as it’s harder to reach this part of the island. You can ride your bike just passed French’s Farm until the track turns to sand. Park your bike there and walk for a few kms to reach the isthmus.
- Take a scenic flight – Departing from Cambridge on the mainland, this 3-hr scenic flight is the best way to experience the beauty of Tasmania’s east coast. Not only do you get to fly over Maria Island, but this flight also includes a trip to the spectacular Wineglass Bay. The plane also lands on Maria Island for a guided walking tour and picnic lunch. See prices and availability here.
Maria Island Day Trip Itinerary – How to Spend the Perfect Day on Maria Island
Discover Maria Island’s Convict History
Maria Island’s history dates back over 40,000 years when Aboriginal people first called the island home. Once European explorers first discovered it in the 1600s, things slowly began to change.
In 1825, the first convicts arrived on the island and were held in the Darlington penal settlement. Maria Island originally held prisoners who reoffended whilst already in the colony and were sentenced to hard labour. By 1832 the settlement had to shut down due to frequent escape attempts and all convicts were moved to other locations including Port Arthur on the mainland.
Nowadays you can explore the fascinating World Heritage Convict Sites on Maria Island by visiting the Darlington Probation Station. You’ll find this complex of buildings right after arriving on the island.
The first building you will come across is the “Commissariat Store” which is actually the oldest building on Maria Island. It is now home to the island’s visitor centre where you’ll find informative displays for visitors to learn about the history. This is a great place to gain some insight into Maria Island before beginning your day of adventures.
There are a few other spots on the island to see convict ruins such as Encampment Cove, located on the island’s southwest corner. This is easy to reach if you’re planning to cycle around the island on your day trip.
See the Painted Cliffs
The most popular thing to see on Maria Island is the incredibly unique and impressive Painted Cliffs. Over the years, a combination of wind and wave erosion has resulted in the most beautiful and vibrant patterns on these limestone cliffs.
Getting to the Painted Cliffs is easy to do by following the signs from the Darlington Settlement. If you’re cycling around the island, this should be your first stop and it’s only a 10 minute ride away. If you plan to explore some of the island by foot, it will be a 30 minute walk to get there.
The best time of day to see the Painted Cliffs is when the tide is low, otherwise it can be tricky to walk here as the tide comes right up to the base of the cliffs. As you can see in the photo below, we actually visited during high tide. If you feel comfortable walking on the lower ledge of the cliffs then you can still explore them and take photos.
If you arrive first thing in the morning and the tide is quite high, just return to the Painted Cliffs on your way back to the settlement at the end of the day. This is such an impressive natural landmark that makes for the most unique photo opportunities!
Hit The Beach
Depending on the season that you visit, you’ll want to hop in for a refreshing swim at one of the island’s beaches. Maria Island is home to some exceptionally beautiful beaches with white sand and brilliant blue water.
Once you finish up at the Painted Cliffs, hop back on the bike and continue your explorations further. An easy cycle along the path will bring you to the next stop on your Maria Island day trip itinerary, Four Mile Beach. We came across many beaches on our travels around the island and this one stood out as one of the prettiest!
The inviting water of Four Mile Beach provides the perfect chance to cool off during your island adventures. Make sure to bring your snorkelling gear if you plan to go swimming.
Maria Island is part of a protected marine reserve meaning this is a great place to spot a diverse range of sea life. Other popular snorkelling locations are near the Painted Cliffs and around the Darlington Bay.
Even if it isn’t summer when you visit, Four Mile Beach is worthy of a stop to admire the pristine scenery. Park your bike and enjoy a stroll along the squeaky white sand.
As you cycle around Maria Island, it’s only a matter of time until you come across the island’s cutest residents. The best part of anyone’s day trip to Maria Island is getting close to these adorable wombats who don’t seem to be phased by humans.
As you venture around the island, you’re likely to come across wombats, wallabies, kangaroos, pademelons, possums, many species of birds and if you’re really lucky a Tasmanian devil!
In the 1960’s, a number of endangered Tasmanian animals were introduced to the island for conservation purposes. Free of predators and cars, these animal populations have thrived making Maria Island one of the best places in Tasmania for guaranteed wildlife sightings. The island soon became known as the “Noah’s Ark of Tasmania.”
In more recent years, a healthy group of Tasmanian devils were released onto the island in the hopes that they would continue to breed. Over the years, this has been a successful program resulting in a disease-free population of devils.
Tasmanian devils on the mainland are affected by a form of contagious facial cancer which sadly makes them an endangered species. The healthy devils on Maria Island ensures the future survival of the species.
The best chance to spot a Tasmanian devil would be at night. Keep your eyes peeled for devils if you’re planning to camp on the island overnight.
As you continue on your Maria Island day trip, the next place you’ll want to stop is the Wombat’s Paradise. This is where you’ll have a good chance of seeing groups of wombats grazing in the field.
Another great spot for wombat sightings is at French’s Farm. We spent quite a lot of time there taking infinite photos and videos while watching the wombats run around the grass. You can get close to them but it’s important not to touch or feed them!
A short cycle south of French’s Farm will bring you to yet another historic convict site that once made up the Long Point Probation Station. This is where you’ll find the island’s original convict cells which are now in a state of disrepair. You can still explore the ruins and read various signposts to learn about the history.
Encampment Cove is also an excellent place to camp surrounded by pristine nature. There is a free wilderness campground located on the waterfront. This is the perfect spot to pitch a tent if you are planning to stay for a night on Maria Island. There are composting toilets here as well as a limited supply of drinking water on hand.
Find more information about spending the night at Encampment Cove here.
If you still have time left on your busy day trip schedule, the Fossil Cliffs are definitely worth checking out. Begin the 45 minute cycle back to Darlington Settlement from Encampment Cove.
The Fossil Cliffs are located on Maria Island’s northern coast. From the Darlington Settlement, follow the 4.5km loop which brings you to the the Fossil Cliffs and then back to Darlington. This shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes (one way) if you’re cycling however there are some steep sections which may require walking your bike.
The scenery along the path is pretty spectacular featuring stunning coastal views and dramatic cliff drops. Once you arrive at the Fossil Cliffs, park your bike and make your way down the hill.
Marvel at the 300 year old fossils embedded in the limestone rocks, they are some of the best preserved fossils in Tasmania. You’ll find all kinds of fossils here such as shells, scallops, corals, and clams. Read the informative displays to learn more about this fascinating ancient history.
We hope that you have found our guide useful when planning your own Maria Island day trip. For an off-the-beaten path adventure that will leave a lasting impression, we can’t recommend this place enough! We think it deserves a spot on everyone’s Tasmania itinerary.
If you’ve followed our itinerary, don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on this incredible island in the comments below. Planning a trip to Tasmania? Be sure to check more of our detailed travel guides to help you plan the perfect trip!
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