Cycle Tasmania, Mountain Bike Ride, Maria Island
A virtual wildlife bike safari on an island that has served as something of a Noah’s Ark. You’re almost guaranteed to see wombats, Forester kangaroos, Bennett’s wallabies and Cape Barren geese as you wheel through clearings between long stretches of bush. South of the ride described here, tracks continue across the isthmus and to Haunted Bay at the island’s southern edge, though they also become far more sandy.
A ride in two halves: A rocky, undulating track across the lower slopes of Mt Maria to Frenchs Farm, then a flatter, smoother return near to the rugged coast. Mountain bike essential.
Maria Island is vehicle-free (except for the occasional ranger’s car on the coast track). You might find some walkers on the tracks between Darlington and the Painted and Fossil Cliffs, but few venture beyond these two landmarks.
The Maria Island Ferry runs from Triabunna to Darlington, with Tassielink coaches between Hobart and Swansea stopping in Triabunna.
Food and Drink
Maria Island has no services, so bring all food and drink onto the island with you.
If you have the time and energy, park your bikes and hike up the Mt Maria walking track to reach the island’s highest point (711 metres). The view of the isthmus is spectacular from here.
Anchored offshore from Orford and Triabunna, Maria Island is entirely national park, and one of the few of Tasmania’s parks to actively encourage cyclists (though bikes are restricted to vehicle tracks and cannot be ridden on walking tracks and beaches) - bike hire is even available through the ranger station.
From the jetty the ride begins through Darlington, a township created as a convict station in 1825 (the Commissariat Store near the jetty is the island’s oldest building). At the end of the 19th century it became the unusual empire for Diego Bernacchi, an entrepreneur who built a cement factory, planted vines and spun together a silk industry. For a time he even marketed the island as the ‘Riviera of Australia’. Today, invariably, you’ll find the cleared grounds being grazed by Cape Barren geese. They can be stroppy birds but their honk is worse than their bite.
The ride turns in through a lovely stand of dry forest to pass the Oast House, which was variously used as a hops store, winery and abattoir. Beyond here the ride turns onto the bumpy, rocky Inland Track, which creeps slowly up the lower slopes of Mt Maria - you should notice a distinct difference in the vegetation on the dry north-facing slopes and the damp, mossy south- facing slopes. The Inland Track undulates consistently almost all the way to Frenchs Farm, the ride’s turnaround point. The old shearing shed last saw shearers in the 1950s, but there’s still fleece strewn about the floor. It’s worth wandering about the lawns because there’s often a wombat or two bustling about.
The return track runs close to the coast though it’s rarely in view until you round the lagoon-like mouth of Four Mile Creek. From here to the Painted Cliffs the road hugs the rocky shore, where the wombats at its edges can seem almost as numerous as the sheoaks. The Painted Cliffs are Maria Island’s standout feature, with the sandstone splashed in psychedelic patterns; allow plenty of time to explore. Rolling through the macrocarpas back into Darlington there’s a good final loop out to the Fossil Cliffs, where millions of shells form the high, grey cliffs, which look out across the sea to the peaks of Freycinet Peninsula. To the east stand the dolerite quills of Bishop and Clerk.
25.606 km / 15.911 mi
534 m / 1,752 ft
534 m / 1,751 ft
163 m / 535 ft