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A Moveable Feast’s Kate Stevenson takes on the Maria Island Walk and a new adventure

MML

Sometimes we surprise ourselves  – we have an idea of who we are, what we enjoy, and what we don’t,  and then it all goes and gets tipped upside down.

I’d tell you I’m not really a camper, but then I’ve had some wonderful camping experiences the last few years, and some much better glamping ones. I’d tell you I’m not a hiker, but then my favourite holiday in memory was a seven-day trip walking from hotel to hotel across the Pyrenees. I adored it.

So when I was offered the chance to do the four-day Maria Island Walk, I jumped at it. This seemed the perfect combination of my favourite holiday elements ? beaches, walking and food. Oh, and wine. Perfect.

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This is not roughing it ? this is a luxury, gourmet experience that left me with the overwhelming impression that ‘you will not want for anything’. The Maria Island Walk is an awarded eco-tourism experience ? these guys even do your thinking for you, starting with an extensive packing list that it is worth sticking to, you will be carrying each item on your back.

But once you are packed ? you won’t have to think about anything else. Sunscreen? They’ve got it. Day packs? Yep. Snacks for the walk? Done.  Head torch? Sorted.

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Maria Island itself was something of a mystery to me ? but across four days walking we learned more of its fascinating history. From convict days, to the time of thriving industry courtesy of a visionary named Bernacchi. All this filters through as you traverse the island bushland, cliffs and beaches. Young, informed guides passionately impart the history, geology, flora and fauna of the island.

Arrival seemed too simple ? and it probably was. Just over an hour in a minivan to the port of Triabunna, then a private boat ride to Shoal Bay and a quick 15-minute or so walk to our camp in the middle of the picturesque isthmus. ‘Camp’ hardly seemed accurate. A sturdy, permanent construction enveloped by the surrounding bracken fern. Boardwalks traverse the scrub to hut-like ‘tents’ and a seriously impressive dining hut with deck. So we’re done for the day? Not quite. Our first bushwalk lay ahead ? a four-hour return journey to the stunning Haunted Bay.

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The wildlife spotting starts immediately ? this journey garners us an echidna, a potaroo, and an animal I had no idea even existed: a pademelon. This is all an addendum to the stunning granite boulders that punctuate Haunted Bay, accessible only via what was described to us as a ‘goat track’, a steep descent but infinitely worth it. It’s all colours on this sunny Tasmanian day ? deep blue sea, lighter clear sky, deep green tree cover on the opposing headland and stunning yellow and orange lichen on the granite cliffs.

No opportunity to swim here, it’s too big a drop to the water below, but we do when we return to Riedel Bay. It’s only about 22 degrees, but it was a big walk, and the sun is shining ? so it’s a deep breath, and a plunge into the pristine Tasmanian waters.

That Maria Island Walk mantra of ‘you will not want for anything’ is perhaps best illustrated when it comes to sustenance. Before dinner, we sit on the deck in the middle of the bracken and enjoy Tasmanian cheeses and accompaniments, with local beer, white or red wine. It’s a nice start.

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We move into the dining hut for the more formal meal ? a starter of bruschetta with sun ripened tomatoes, olive tapenade, and Tasmanian goat cheese. Main is a gorgeous scallop risotto, and we finish with a summer berry pudding. The food is cooked perfectly by our two young female guides, and we quickly decide that the company is up to scratch too ? we’re with a great bunch of people, the maximum ten guests. You’re unlikely to have late nights here, the air is fresh, the walking is tiring, and the wine doesn’t take long to take effect ? just remember your head torch to find your way back to your tent.

They’re not exactly early mornings ? we’re invited to have coffee and cereal at 7am if we choose, a cooked breakfast is presented at 7.30am ? the first morning it’s scrambled eggs with fresh sourdough toast , and it’s good.

The nice thing is that because the guides need a bit of time to pack up, it’s a leisurely pace in the mornings, we don’t have to be ready for the day’s walk until 9.30am.

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Day two is a long one, a five-beach walk that involves detours to an historic farmhouse, and a convict camp.  The sand is hard, thankfully, but those beaches are deceptively long ? lucky we stop for morning tea and lunch to rest what are becoming weary legs.

Lunch is a cracker, enjoyed under a tree next to a sleeping wombat (seriously) ? it’s a smoked chicken breast salad with cherry tomatoes, crispy snowpeas, potato, feta and a lovely dressing. See ?’you will not want for anything’.

Beach day wraps at around 4.30pm when we wander into camp two ? another nestled among the bracken fern, this one just behind the charming four mile beach. It’s another evening of fine food, great local wine, and a heavy sleep.

Day three starts simply enough, an easy walk along a four wheel drive track, with stops at the striking fossil cliffs and another historic homestead, then arrival at the welcoming Bernacchi House ? definitely not a campsite.

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It’s not a long rest, though, our group have all agreed to do the same afternoon hike (we had two choices), a pretty serious hike up to the dolomite columns atop Bishop and Clerk. It’s not for the faint-hearted, and to be honest I didn’t think I would necessary make it all the way to the top, but I did, and it was worth the feeling of achievement ? and the breathtaking views.

What I love, though, is that there is no pressure to do anything ? we could have tried the harder peak of Mt Maria, we could have read a book back at the house, or lounged around at the pretty Darlington beach. There are no rules.

The day three dinner in a period dining room with another delicious three courses and more Tasmanian wine was certainly the most entertaining ? we walkers had shared some great scenery, some tough tracks, and a lot of laughs, so the stories and laughs continue well into the night. We’ve got an easy day tomorrow, free to explore historic Darlington and a lunch before the ferry back ? so there’s no rush to bed.

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My fellow walkers, all older than me, probably put me to shame when it came to fitness on this trip, they clearly were more regular walkers ? but for me there was still such a great sense of pride and enjoyment in spending three days completing challenging hikes leaving my devices in my bag, and taking in the history and beauty of this unique island.

So if you need some time out, and don’t mind a bit of a challenge (but enjoy life’s comforts too) ? give The Maria Island Walk a go, you might just surprise yourself.

**Kate travelled courtesy of The Maria Island Walk – http://www.mariaislandwalk.com.au/

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