Empty beaches, dolerite columns and wildlife everywhere you look. Take it all in on this four-day walk.
The first thing to do before setting off on the Maria Island Walk is downsize. “Get rid of the weight on your backs,” says Sharna, a guide who has spent seven years showcasing the 115.5-square-kilometre island off the east coast of Tasmania. “I wear these clothes every day. It’s okay to smell like we’ve been on a bushwalk.”
The four-day tour – billed as “one of the world’s great walks” by its operator, Wild Bush Luxury – will see us traversing spectacular cliffs and coastlines, back roads and beaches. We’re just a 30-minute boat ride from the township of Triabunna (and 85 kilometres north of Hobart) but for the first two days, we see only a handful of people. “We’re on island time,” says Sharna, “so slow down.”
The walk on Maria Island (wukaluwikiwayna), which can range from four kilometres a day to almost 17, begins with an Acknowledgement of Country and a grounding exercise under the shade of an old Casuarina tree on the first day. I feel the needles from the tree tickle my feet and listen to the hypnotic back and forth of the ocean.
“You’re here for the next four days to be in nature and take a break from your everyday life,” says our second guide, Louis, who tells our group of seven what to expect, from a “five beaches day” to a “mountains day” and other challenging additions for those who want to push themselves. “What I love about this walk,” adds Sharna, “is that it’s accessible for all levels of fitness.”
Accessible and supremely comfortable. The final night is spent at historic Bernacchi House – circa 1880 and part of the island’s World Heritagelisted convict settlement – but for the first two nights, we’re sleeping at two different campsites. Although this is a national park, Wild Bush Luxury has secured a special permit to create semi-permanent tents that are open to guests from October to April.
Each site, which has five double tents (with beds!), blends seamlessly into its environment. The toilets are of the drop variety (but totally inoffensive), rainwater is collected and composting is commonplace.
Guides carry fresh produce in – about 20 kilograms each – and do all the cooking. Dinner might include local ash brie, risotto with scallops and asparagus and a “messy meringue” with berries. It’s all washed down with world-class Tassie wine, from Bream Creek Riesling to Cape Bernier Pinot Noir.
Not that anyone overdoes it in the drinks department. We want to appreciate the wilderness that the island is famous for. We skitter across the whitest of sand and marvel at the colours of the lichen – red and orange, green and black – that covers the pink granite in the west. I delight in watching a native potoroo scamper at my feet and an echidna roll into a ball before me.
The highlight for many is the steep walk (and boulder scramble) to get to the jagged, dolerite columns of Bishop and Clerk, the most popular peaks on the trail. But there is as much pleasure to be found by walking 10 clicks in a day and stopping to watch wallabies nibble grass, while a wombat shepherds her baby across the field.
On the final day, we set out in near darkness, our only company the first pink streaks in the sky and scores of pademelons, wombats and Cape Barren geese. And then, at the top of the hill, the vista that’s worth the sweat – a mob of kangaroos backlit by the iridescent sunrise and looking out over the marine nature reserve below. Sure, we may smell a bit but this is the wild life.
Image credit: Dirk Bischoff