Tasmania’s natural wonders are myriad, from pristine beaches and soaring mountains to dense bushland and bucolic countryside. The best way to get up close and personal with the views, the history and the cute and curious wildlife is to put one foot in front of the other and walk.

By Elspeth Callender

A plump young wombat grazing on the marsupial lawn is unbothered by the small group of onlooking hikers. Its tousled coat of summertime fur has distinctly blonde tips, bleached almost white by the strong Australian sun, like the hair of a dedicated, suntanned surfer.

A nearby herd of wallabies is jumpier than usual at the sight of humans, and a joey instinctively dives headfirst back into its mother’s pouch so only its gangly hind legs are visible. Surrounding this patch of open grassland is a forest of eucalypts and casuarinas from where wattle birds sweetly call and raucous kookaburras laugh (who knows at what or why).

Ancient dolerite peaks rise above the treetops, just begging to be climbed, and two sea eagles circle the rocky outcrops. In the other direction, a white sandy beach seems to stretch on forever, edging a calm bay of turquoise water where dolphins bask and play. Just a few miles away, across a small passage, is the mainland of Tasmania.

Forester kangaroos on Maria Island

Forester kangaroos near Darlington on Maria Island

Maria Island Walk

This is Maria Island (pronounced Mariah, as in Carey), a 45-square-mile island off the east coast of Australia’s island state of Tasmania. Essentially an island off an island off an island, Maria is considered by many to be the Noah’s Ark of Tasmania. Led by young local guides who know the place like the backs of their hands, the Maria Island Walk covers more than 20 miles on foot over four days.

Group of travelers on the Maria Island walk

A group on the Maria Island walk.

Wombats and wallabies are a common sight as are kangaroos, wedge-tailed eagles, swift parrots and native hens (known locally as “turbo chooks”). There is also a healthy population of Tasmanian devils on the island and, despite their name and propensity for vociferous nighttime screeching, the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial is no threat to humans.

Maria Island is now entirely designated as a national park without any permanent human residents. In the not-so-distant past, the island was home to the Oyster Bay nation community of Tasmanian Aboriginals who called it Toarra Marra Monah. Maria’s grimmest days were during the 1800s when it was used as a convict settlement.

View of Fossil Bay

The spectacular limestone cliffs of Fossil Bay, Maria Island.

Today, Cape Barren geese patrol the historic convict-era buildings of Darlington like reincarnated prison guards. Once you’ve signed up for the Maria Island Walk experience you’ll be collected from your central Hobart accommodation, such as the boutique hotel Moss, occupying a historic building on the waterfront at Salamanca Place, and driven to Triabunna for a private boat transfer across Mercury Passage for a barefoot beach landing.

Accommodation is two nights in glamping tents and one in a heritage homestead. Fresh gourmet meals are prepared daily by the guides. Hiking trails connect Darlington in the north with Haunted Bay in the south. The distinctive 148-foot Bishop and Clerk and 2333-foot Mt Maria are optional peaks to bag; exposed 300-million-year-old fossils can be seen in some of the island’s cliff faces.

In the colder months of June to August, Maria Island Walk offers a three-day winter hiking experience. Back across the water on the Tasmanian mainland there are plenty of other walks to keep you on your feet and surrounded by beauty. Essentially an island off an island off an island, Maria is considered by many to be the Noah’s Ark of Tasmania.

Glamping at Maria Island Walk’s Riedle Ba

Glamping at Maria Island Walk’s Riedle Bay standing camp.

Wukalina Walk

The moment you step foot on Australia’s southern heart-shaped island state you are in the cultural homeland of the palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) people. Here, Wukalina Walk is Tasmania’s first Aboriginal owned and operated guided walk and you are warmly invited to “takara waranta” – walk with us. This is a four-day experience in Tasmania’s north-east departing from Launceston.

Change Overnight, Australia’s first social enterprise hotel, is a short walk from the Aboriginal Elders Council of Tasmania meeting point or you can easily be collected from a range of other hotels. The 20-mile walk in Larapuna/Bay Of Fires And Wukalina (Mt William National Park) takes you to places well beyond superficial appreciation of the area’s pristine beaches and photogenic orange lichen. Hear creation stories, learn about cultural practices, try bush tucker, stay in award-winning architecturally designed sleeping pods, walk up to 10.5 miles a day and come away with genuine insights into palawa culture and their connection to country.

All meals are prepared using seasonal locally sourced Tasmanian produce, with Wukalina Walk running from September to April.

Three Capes Lodge Walk

The Tasman Peninsula has some of the world’s most dramatic geology. Its sheer sea cliffs, which in places stand hundreds of feet above the breaking waves of the Tasman Sea, are the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere. Seeing these, on a four-day/three night Three Capes Lodge Walk with Tasmanian Walking Company, will blow you away.

Looking out from Cape Pillar

Looking out from Cape Pillar on the Three Capes Lodge walk.

Setting off from Hobart you’ll be transferred to Port Arthur for a scenic boat cruise to Denmans Cove. From there, it’s less than a three-mile hike to the first lodge where dinner preparations will be underway and there will be wine to drink and more views to admire. The final two nights are in Cape Pillar Lodge, complete with bathtubs and a massage therapist.

You won’t need to carry more than a 20-pound daypack for this 30-mile guided walk in Tasman National Park. The longest day of hiking is 11 miles but it’s well worth the effort to be able to climb “the blade” at Cape Pillar. Keep an eye out for eagles and, on a still day, listen out for the seals on nearby Tasman Island barking as they splash around in rockpools. Trips run year-round.

Cradle Mountain Huts Walk

When the first nine walkers set off on Tasmania’s newly opened 40-mile Overland Truck in 1931, there was just a haphazard puzzle of rough hunting, mining and stock trails to follow. These days, Tasmania’s iconic multi-day track is still not for the faint-hearted but on the Cradle Mountain Huts Walk, with Tasmanian Walking Company, you’ll be comfortably accommodated and well fed.

Hikers going up Cradle Mountain

Walking towards Cradle Mountain at Marion’s Lookout on the Overland Track

From Launceston you’ll be transferred to Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, which is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. In the afternoon, after you’ve hauled yourself up the chain rope to an alpine plain above 3300 feet, you can celebrate that the steepest part of the trail is behind you.

Ahead are vast button grass plains where wombats love to wander, green rooms of ancient mossy cool-temperate rainforest, alpine lakes and icy waterfalls. Daily walking distances are up to 7.5-miles. There’s an optional hike up 5300-foot Mt Ossa for breathtaking views on clear days. Trips run October through to May.

Ahead are vast button grass plains where wombats love to wander, green rooms of ancient mossy cool-temperate rainforest, alpine lakes and icy waterfalls.

Tarkine Rainforest Experience

This 1737-square-mile area was named after one of three Palawa groups, the Tarkiner, who freely inhabited it before colonization. The Tarkine contains one of the largest unbroken stands of cool temperate rainforest in the Southern Hemisphere as well as eucalypt forest, tea tree forest, heathland, button grass plains and tannin-dark rivers.

Pieman River in Tarkine

The Pieman River deep in the heart of Tarkine.

Paddling the whyte river

Paddling the Whyte River near Corinna in the Tarkine.

Tarkine Trails will collect you from Launceston and deliver you within a mile of their standing camp, Tiger Ridge (named in memory of Tasmania’s extinct thylacine). From there you walk.

For four days, hiking no more than a few miles each day, you’ll explore the forest around you. You’ll feel the sponginess of the leaf littered ground beneath your feet as you learn all about this precious ecosystem, 1200 years in the making.

At your rustic-yet-comfortable base of Tiger Ridge, there’s a fireplace and a huge oak table in the longhouse to sit around and share stories, drink Tassie wine and enjoy freshly prepared meals. Safari-style tents are dotted throughout the surrounding forest. Once you hit the sheets, savor the Tarkine’s night time soundtrack: total silence.

Wineglass Bay as seen from Mt Amos

Wineglass Bay from Mt Amos on the Freycinet Experience Walk.

Freycinet Experience Walk

This four-day guided walk, on the traditional land of the Oyster Bay nation, takes you to the Hazards and Wineglass Bay where the tourists flock, but also into the quiet backblocks of Freycinet Peninsula in Freycinet National Park.

There are two long walking days and two easy days. On the hardest day you have the choice of an 8.5-mile coastal hike or a more challenging 10-mile trek up Mt Graham for epic views of the peninsula’s natural wonders. There will also be opportunities for fishing, swimming, bird spotting and animal viewing. If you’re lucky, you’ll see dolphins.

The Hazards from Coles Bay

A view of The Hazards from Coles Bay.

Friendly Beaches Lodge, only a few hundred feet back from a five-mile-long beach, will be your base for three nights. Called “the invisible lodge”, this walkers’ haven sits lightly in the environment, concealed until you’re close by. The main dining table is made from reclaimed timber and the owner’s art collection is displayed on the Tasmanian oak walls.

palm like pandani

The palm-like pandani is endemic to Tasmania

Hiking Essentials to pack

You’ll receive a detailed equipment list before any guided hike in Tasmania, but here are some pointers to remember before you set off:

Carry a full range of layers, from lightweight tank tops to a good parka, no matter what time of year you visit. Tasmanian outdoors people call cotton “cold death” because if it gets wet it stays wet in cool and cold conditions. Stick to merino wool and quick-dry sports synthetics.

Bring your swimsuit and a travel towel for spontaneous swims, though don’t be surprised if others – even guides – go skinny dipping (it’s very Tasmanian).

Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots you’re comfortable in. Cut toenails short before the hike. Use sports tape to manage blisters.

Carry a filtered water bottle, such as a LifeStraw Go Bottle, to replenish your drinking water at lakes and streams.

Bring a daypack suitable in size for your specific trip. A fanny pack won’t be adequate for any of them. Fun fact: if you call something a “fanny pack”, Tasmanians will blush or laugh as this has a very different meaning in Australia. You can, however, refer to your flipflops as “thongs” and nobody will bat an eyelid.

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