Painted Cliffs on Maria Island - Location, Hike, & Camping Guide

Painted Cliffs on Maria Island - Location, Hike, & Camping Guide

Australia
Australia

When Is the Best Time

The Painted Cliffs on Maria Island are still underrated and a hidden gem. Maria Island was declared a National Park more than 50 years ago (1971) and is not accessible by car. Proper planning and ferry booking are essential for this truly magical adventure. I will give you all the needed information, what to consider, ferry booking details, camping, what kind of wildlife you may spot, plus the exact location and a map to find the Painted Cliffs.

A visitor standing on the Painted Cliffs
There was no soul in sight when we visited the Painted Cliffs

Most visitors come for a few hours, but I highly recommend staying here for one or two nights. When the daytrippers have left the island, even more wildlife appears. Maria Island is a paradise for birding and spotting wildlife. We spent an entire month in Tasmania, and our whole trip was planned around this unique island and the Painted Cliffs. 

Best Time and Daytime for the Painted Cliffs

The Painted Cliffs at low tide with a blue sky and sunshine
The afternoon sunlight is the best time, but it has to be low tide.

The Painted Cliffs are accessible within two hours on either side of low tide and are most vivid in the afternoon sunlight. Therefore, less than ten days each month are perfect for a good shot. Typically, summer is the busiest time of the year but it has more daylight hours.

A colourful pattern of the Painted Cliffs
The fragile sandstone is ever-changing by weathering and the mighty sea.

To dodge the crowds visit the island between September and November or in April and May or stay overnight. We spent two nights on Maria Island on the campground in November, and we loved every second despite the cold day and night temperatures. Before you venture out, check the tides: Tides Maria Island.

What is left of the Painted Cliffs from the distance
The Painted Cliffs from the distance - they already disappeared to the right, eroded by the sea.

How to Get to Maria Island - Ferry Details

Darlington Harbour and Ferry on Maria Island
The Darlington Bay and Jetty with the visitor centre where you get your permit.

Maria Island is situated in the east off the coast of Tasmania, Triabunna. The ferry is going from Triabunna to Darlington, Maria Island. It’s a 30 minutes ferry ride from Triabunna to Darlington. Darlington was a convicted settlement established in 1832 and is a World Heritage Site today.

A wombat feeding on Maria Island
Another highlight is the wildlife in abundance on Maria Island.

Maria Island is popular, and the ferry is frequently fully booked in summer. Therefore the ferry boat rides increased. Maria Island is big, about 20 km long and 13 km wide, and difficult to explore on foot only- It’s a big advantage to visit the island by bike as we did.

A man on a bike in nature on a path on Maria Island
We explored the entire island by bike, which was the best decision.

For renting, it has to be booked together with the ferry ticket. It’s a bit pricey, $ 33 for adults and $ 20 for children for each bike for one day, $ 25 for two and more days and utterly worth it, IMO. Check the ferry timetable and return fares. The ferry ticket and bike cost a little fortune, but it is worth especially if you stay overnight.

A man carrying two bags and water to the Maria Island Ferry
Our luggage includes a tent and sleeping bags for two nights.

The ferry return fares increased, and an additional National Park fee is requested. The ferry ticket includes only one bag of up to 7 kg. If you want to stay on the island, you have to pay an additional fee for the rest of your luggage. The fee per person is $ 10.50 for the first item and $ 5.25 for each additional one. The transport fee is $ 10 each if you bring your own bike. National Park Pass holders get a discount of $ 5 p.p. National Park holiday pass September-April: The ferry is going up to five times daily, depending on demands and bookings.

  • May-August (Winter): The ferry is going up to three times daily on five days but depending on the demand. 

Where to Stay in Triabunna the Day Before

A cabin close to the harbour to get to Maria Island
Big chaos in our cabin - preparing our luggage for Maria Island.

There are few opportunities to spend the night before to get the early morning ferry, and I recommend the first ferry in the morning to get the most out of your stay. We chose the Triabunna Cabin and Caravan Park. The lovely owners were attentive; the cabin was well equipped, perfect for a couple of nights. It is perfectly located if you like to visit Maria Island for a day. It is less than a 10 minutes walk to get to the ferry.

Avoiding Crowds

Painted Cliffs with a blue sky and perfect sun light on it in the afternoon
We had the breathtaking Painted Cliffs for an entire hour for ourselves.

The ferry service has been offered more often since April 2017. Due to t popularity and more ferry rides, the jetty on Maria Island was restored in 2019. Even more day trippers are coming to Maria Island now. During summer, several hundred visitors come to the island each week, which will increase this summer 2022/23 after the long and challenging time for all of us with Covid19.

A woman standing between the Painted Cliffs
Me at our first visit during my first travel project.

Winter, early spring and late fall are the best time to avoid the crowds. When the ferry leaves the island in the afternoon, it becomes more tranquil and peaceful if you stay here. If the ferry doesn't serve Maria Island in winter, that's the quietest time. During these days, only a few people are on Maria Island. This is what we did to enjoy the exceptional beauty of Maria Island. Maria Island Map

Weather Maria Island

A woman sitting on a rock in the Painted Cliffs
Bring several layers for Maria Island, especially in the winter

Maria Island has a mild climate without freezing temperatures in winter. The average summer day temperature is around 21°C/ 70°F and can top 30°C / 86°F. The driest month is January, although rain showers frequently occur throughout the year. November is one of the wettest months, and we experienced rain but also wonderful sunshine. 

An orange plant in bloom
The fascinating flora on Maria Island.

May and October are colder but also worth a try. Night temperatures in winter and spring are below 10°C/50°F, and several layers are essential. The nights were chilly during our first stay in November, with 6°C/43°F. However, it is not a big deal with the right sleeping gear.

A wombat mom and her young one.
More about the wildlife below.

My 2 Top Tour Recommendations

1 Maria Island and Wineglass Bay

An old and big eucalyptus tree and a hiker in front of the tree.
Explore the beauty and discover some 400 years old trees.

Are you limited in time, but you don't want to miss Maria Island and the Wineglass Bay of Freycinet National Park? This three-hour tour with excellent views from the plane plus time on Maria Island may be the solution for you. Three hours tour by plane and on foot

2 Maria Island Cruise, Guided Walk, and Lunch

A white beach and the Emerald green and blue sea on Maria Island
One of the beautiful beaches on Maria Island.

The second option is a cruise to experience more of Maria Island in a short time, like the white beaches and the crystal clear sea. The advantage is you do not depend on the busy ferry ride. Scenic cruise with time on Maria Island - duration one day

These are my recommended tours via GetYourGuide with 24 hours in the advance cancellation policy. Thx for booking via my website! With your support, I am able to provide all information first-hand. Tour prices are at no extra cost!

Best Months to Visit

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Location and Tips

Tasmania, Maria Island
Australia
Australia

The Painted Cliffs are famous for their beautiful patterned sandstone rocks and colours resulting from groundwater percolating which occurred millions of years ago. The Painted Cliffs are fragile and change continually by waves and weathering.

One of the honeycomb pattern at the Painted Cliffs
Erosion changes the Painted Cliffs continuously.

One of the cliff tops recently collapsed at the end of the Painted Cliffs. Seaspray also has a negative impact on forming crystals of salt, which affects the honeycomb patterns. 

Rocks on the floor with the famous Painted Cliffs pattern.
The Painted Cliffs won't be around forever; they are evanescent.

Where Are the Painted Cliffs

The Painted Cliffs sharp at low tide easy accessible
You can see the marks of the sea from high tide.

It is a 5.4 km return walk from Darlington harbour to the Painted Cliffs along the Coast Road. It’s more a gravel road than a trail and is used by 4 WDs from the National Park rangers therefore easy to get here by bike. Hiking Map Locus Map

A railing leading to the beach and a path to the Painted Cliffs
At high tide, the Painted Cliffs are separated from the beach

The Painted Cliffs can be visited on a day trip. However, before you venture out, check the tide times if the Painted Cliffs are accessible during your visit to avoid disappointment. We decided to be on the safe side and spent two nights on the Darlington campground of Maria Island.

A visitor is walking above the sea bed at low tide.
The Painted Cliffs are just around the corner at low tide.

The length of Maria Island is about 20 km and wide 13 km. You can get from the north to the south and back by bike in one day. The reason is that we rented them for our stay and we loved it.  

Two bikes leaning at the Painted Cliffs sign
We left the bikes at the sign and walked from here.

The name of the island was given in 1642 by Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer after Maria van Diemen, the wife of Anthony van Diemen, governor of the Dutch East Indies in the capital Batavia. These days, it is known as Indonesian.

Hiking on Maria Island

Information Board Hiking trails Maria Island
You can easily spend a week here. Hiking Trails Map high resolution

 Three of the 60 great short walks of Tasmania are located on Maria Island. Some of these trails include points of historical interest. Link 60 short walks

A hiker woman on higher elevation with hills and
Me, on the trail to the Fossil Cliffs and Bishop and Clerk.

We spotted lots of different birds, kangaroos, wombats, and pademelons during our hikes.

Accommodation Maria Island

The ranger station and a visitor in front with heavy luggage
The ranger station where you have to check in first.

Basic bunk accommodation at the old Penitentiary with nine rooms for six visitors in each room and one for 14, a shared bathroom, and a kitchen is available. Usually, it is fully booked. Room booking up to six months in advance. Booking Penitentiary National Park website and check out what you have to bring, like bedding.

Camping Maria Island

A camper enjoying his meal in front of his tent on Maria Island
You have to be self-sufficient, bring everything for your stay - no shops are available.

The ferry ticket includes a permit for camping, but an additional fee has to be paid. There aren't any showers on Maria Island, just the sea.

A camper is preparing coffee in the morning
A good day starts with a coffee 😄

The campground is 15 min. by foot from the jetty located. First, you need to go to the ranger station to get your camping permit and check in for a small fee. The campground provides a cooking area and restrooms.

A sunset on Maria Island
The sunset and beach next to the campground.

The campground and Penitentiary are without electricity. You must bring all the food, water, and cooking utensils. You have to be self-sufficient! No bookings are required. More information here

Wildlife on Maria Island

A pademelon on Maria Island
A pademelon in the thick bush.

The entire island is a natural wildlife sanctuary and National Park, and wildlife appears in abundance, especially in the late afternoon and at night.

A group of kangaroos grazing.
The kangaroos came out when the day visitors left Maria Island.

We spotted wombats, kangaroos, wallabies, and even the Tasmanian devil. A healthy Tasmanian devil population was introduced to Maria Island for their protection.

The nocturnal Tasmanian devil in our campground.
A devil in the camp kitchen - Please don't leave food or trash open!

Due to facial tumour disease, the devils are critically endangered. These devils were raised at the Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary close to Cradle Mountain.

A orange bird at the coast

Also, birding is excellent on Maria Island, and the Cape Barren Goose was introduced to the island.

The introduced Cape Barren goose on Maria Island.
Cape Barren Goose - the rarest goose.

Plenty of hiking trails in a beautiful settings are available.

Bishop and Clerk - a hiker on the summit with the Tasman Sea in the back
Bishop and Clerk is a strenuous but fantastic hike to explore Maria Island.

I highly recommend staying on Maria Island for a couple of nights. Don't miss the Fossil Cliffs and the breathtaking views from Bishop and Clerk

Climate Change

Information board of the Marine Reserve.

Maria Island is also a Marine Reserve with the highest marine life diversity and an awesome diving spot. However, the waters in the east have warmed by 2°C, and the immense kelp forest of up to 30 m in height is on an alarming decline.

I took all pictures of Maria Island and the Painted Cliffs. If you wish to use any of my photos, contact me. 

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Created by
Micha Herber-Bleich
Micha Herber-Bleich
I am always open, curious about new…