|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – September 2005
Up high and down under--Tasmania's wildest hiking route.
Full immersion The 36-mile hike heads from Chinaman's Bay into the otherworldly outback. You'll go inland to Haunted Bay's majestic headlands, then beach-camp along the island's slim-Jim isthmus and swim in a quiet, sheltered lagoon, possibly near dolphins. Pushing north to Shoal Bay, you'll meander along five pristine beaches, walk through forests of white gum trees, and stand atop the windswept headlands of Point Lesueur before winding up in the former convict settlement of Darlington. Check out ancient sea creatures embedded in the Fossil Cliffs and aboriginal shell piles (called middens).
Wet and wild The 12- by 8-mile Maria is a Noah's Ark for exotic austral wildlife like the Forester kangaroo, Bennett's wallaby, and pademelon (think miniature kangaroo).
Logistics Qantas Airways (www.qantasusa.com) simplifies travel with its Aussie AirPass ($999; all prices USD), good for an L.A.-to-Sydney round-trip plus three domestic flights, including daily hops to Tasmania's capital, Hobart. The Maria Island Ferry ($19.50 round-trip) in Triabunna, 1.5 hours north of Hobart, has daily departures from September through April. Snag permits at the island's park office. In lieu of the $7.80-per-day fee, buy an 8-week, $23.50 holiday pass. While hiking, make primitive camps or take a designated site with limited facilities at Darlington, French's Farm, and Encampment Cove.
SeasonHike November through March, when daytime highs hover between 55° and 75°F. Thereafter, wet winter storms roll in off the Tasman Sea.
Pack Schlep all the basic gear, including extra water containers and protection against the austral ozone hole. Stock up on smoked fish and world-class cheeses at Hobart's Salamanca Market (Saturdays), and try Lark Distillery's Tasmanian Bush Liqueur, made from native mountain pepperberries.
Fuel and water Buy stove fuel in Hobart. Water sources can be sketchy; beyond tourist facilities and a reliable stream at Darlington, options are limited to ephemeral creeks and a few rainwater cisterns.
Luxuries Spend the last night in a bunkroom in the old Darlington penitentiary, complete with wood stove and hot shower ($17).
Extras On day 3, tackle the 1,965-foot dolerite columns of Bishop and Clerk Mountain for 360-degree views of the mainland and craggy Freycinet Peninsula. The 3-mile trail turns into a steep scree scramble over the final 500 feet.