Tourism Australia & Virtuoso
The last time I was able to make use of my hiking boots was in Uganda, 2015, but I dusted them off after being invited to explore Hobart and hike Maria Island with Tourism Australia and Virtuoso.
There’s a lot of talk out there about how different it is to travel these days but as long as you wore a face mask and had your documentation on hand there were no delays at border check points. The service whilst onboard with Qantas was still fantastic and it felt great to be up in the air again.
The Islington Hotel, a Virtuoso property, is a boutique hotel located just outside the Hobart city centre with 11 luxury rooms all featuring views of the immaculate gardens. Many vantage points around the hotel also feature views of Mount Wellington in the distance.
After meeting some fellow travellers we ventured into the city to explore the renowned Salamanca Markets. The market sells locally made or grown produce and although the apples looked a little dodgy they tasted amazing, so too did the chocolate, the gin, the vodka and the whiskey (although the taste buds were getting a little foggy).
Our afternoon was set aside to explore Mona Museum starting with the Mona Ferry where we were seated in the fancy Posh Pit, located downstairs at the front of the catamaran. Drinks and canapés are complimentary as the boat makes its way up the river for 25 mins to the museum. Note that the ferry isn’t suitable for all ages as there are 99 steps at the end of the journey with no accessible options, but you can always get to Mona by car or public transport.
After a quick but fabulous tour of some of the artwork in Mona we were then luckily enough to do a private tour and wine tasting at Moorilla Estate Winery. The vineyard is the original resident of the land Mona is built on.
Pre-dinner drinks at The Source Restaurant which has fabulous views over the outdoor area of Mona and offers a magnificent lunch dining option. We did the slow walk back to the museum preparing ourselves for our experience at Faro Bar & Restaurant. The 5 course menu was magnificent, the band totally bizarre and the light exhibitions still have me thinking (I still think I was in a scene from Willy Wonka).
Maria Island 4 day Walk
After a scrumptious breakfast at the Islington Hotel, the Maria Island Walk bus collected our group for the pre-walk briefing. We repacked our belongings into the bags provided as this will be a ported walk and set up our day packs with supplies. After all belongings were sorted, we drove out to Triabunna and boarded the exclusive boat to cross the Mercury Passage en route to Shoal Bay on Maria Island.
Our challenge for the day was to jump off the boat into the pristine water (so clear it reminded me of the Maldives except for the temperature!) and not get wet! Lunch was eaten under the shade of the local coolabah trees and then we made our way across the isthmus to Riedle Beach, located on the ocean side of the island to find our camp for the night. Casuarina Beach camp had bush showers (2 mins of hot water) composting toilets and comfy beds. Dining was in a communal hut, unlimited tea & coffee and filtered water. Our afternoon walk was to Haunted Bay, a 12 km walk that included a lot of uphill, it felt never ending, but the view at the end was magnificent plus I knew what goes up must come down. Back at camp hot water was ready for showers plus cheese, biscuits, wine and beer were served on the deck prior to dinner. Dinner was amazing and not at all the camp-style fare I was expecting; fresh bruschetta with goats cheese, scallop risotto and berries with fresh cream.
An early start for day 2, we enjoyed a fresh hot breakfast before heading off for the 14 km walk on mostly flat grounds and firm sandy beaches. We walked back across the isthmus and strolled along 5 fabulous beaches, stopping for morning tea at Frenchs Farm. Then heading slightly inland we saw wombats and kangaroos and a snake sunning itself on the path. Lunch was eaten at Point Lesueur where the convict cells can be still seen and a beautiful view of the ocean. We arrived at White Gums camp late afternoon, some of the group ventured into the ocean for a swim, but I opted to relax and enjoy the local wine before dinner. Another exceptional 3 course meal was prepared for us and we played card games whilst a huntsman spider was evicted from the tent before bed.
Today’s hike came with options that were deliberated over breakfast, either a hike up Mount Maris or ‘Bishops & Clerk’. Whilst two of the group went for the hike up Mount Maris, the remainder of the group opted for Bishops & Clerk. We walked past Hopgrounds Beach and stopped at the Painted Cliffs, continuing on we headed up the hill towards Bishop & Clerk, stopping at Skipping Ridge for lunch. The excitement of Bernacchi House, the beautifully renovated 1880’s heritage house with showers and full-size beds, had everyone moving quickly downhill on the return leg. Drinks, cheese and biscuits were served on the front deck overlooking Darlington. Our farewell dinner was served in the formal dining room whilst recounting the last few days and savouring the comforts of the stunning Bernacchi House.
Our last morning was a “pick your own walk”, I decided to do the fossil cliff circuit walk which took in the magnificent view over the water to Freycinet and through to the fascinating Darlington township, which has undergone many changes since European settlement in the 1800s. Maria Island has been, among other things, a setting for convict stations, a stronghold for the varied enterprises of Italian entrepreneur Diego Bernacchi and a base for the National Portland Cement Company. Our farewell lunch was served overlooking Darlington. The boat collected us from the Darlington Pier back to Triabunna, where we repacked our suitcases & boarded the bus back to Hobart. I was dropped off at the airport ready to meet my flight back to Melbourne.
I am not known for my trekking/walking holiday choices however I absolutely loved this trip. The scenery and wildlife was amazing and I loved meeting some fabulous people. Hobart has some amazing hotels and restaurants and the Salamanca market is great for a stroll, and Mona is a place you will never forget.