Guests on The Maria Island Walk have the chance to hike well, eat well, dream and savour the cultural and natural history of a rare, beautiful place.

Story By Mark Muller

Maria Island sits like a green jewel in the azure seas off Tasmania’s south-east coast. It is small – 20 kilometres in length from north to south and about 13km from west to east at its widest. A narrow isthmus joins its northern and southern parts and, from its highest point at Mount Maria’s 711-metre crown to the folds and bays of its coast it is a beautiful, bountiful and serene place to spend time. Its human history stretches back thousands of years through the Tyreddeme people and it has in more recent times been home to whalers, convicts, farmers, fishers, dreamers, and has become beloved of those who value relative isolation and natural charms.

Ian Johnstone is one such person. “The natural beauty is certainly part of what attracted me to it in the first place,” says Ian, a former engineer who established The Maria Island Walk. This four-day guided excursion takes no more than eight guests at a time to some of the island’s most stunning places. Two semi-permanent bush camps and one tastefully renovated cottage in the old town of Darlington mark the night stops of the walk. The days are spent ambling, exploring, eating and sharing in the rich experiences on offer. Since 2003 the walk’s reputation for its exceptional locale, top-notch guides, beautiful food and celebration of the cultural and natural history of the island have cemented its place among the great walks of Tasmania and garnered it a suite of honours and awards.

Maria Island was declared a national park in 1972. It is endowed with a diverse range of flora and fauna, including 11 of Tasmania’s 12 endemic bird species. Throughout the years other animals have been introduced for the sake of their own protection – Tasmanian devils, forester kangaroos, wombats and Cape Barren geese to name a few. From the prickly bottlebrush, pink swamp heath and slender honey-myrtle of the wet heathlands to the blue gum, stringy-barks and peppermint gums of the forested areas, to the Oyster Bay pine, daisy brush and mountain pepper to be found on the islands peaks, it is a natural wonderland.

This story excerpt is from Issue #78

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sept 2011