Tasmania’s Great Eastern Drive by bike – Part 1

Day 1 – Hobart to Maria Island (18.5 km/11 miles cycling)
Upon recommendation by some cyclists, I decided to catch a bus from Hobart to the town of Orford as the road is narrow and winding, and being my first day I thought this was wise. With the front wheel removed, my bike and luggage was stored in the bus trailer and off we went 79 km/49 miles north.

Off I go!

After faffing around fitting my wheel and loading up my bike again when I disembarked the bus, I went all of 500 m before ceasing for a coffee and cake – it’s got to be done!
6.5 km/4 miles up the road was Triabunna, the jumping-off point for Maria Island National Park. Myself, two lads – Obie (Canadian) and Dan (Tasmanian) – and our bikes were the only ones on board the ferry. We soon made friends and teamed up to explore the island together.

About to board the Maria Island ferry

The skipper of the ferry told me a few stories about previous famous passengers, including British actor Martin Clunes who was filming a series about Australian islands here recently.
Maria Island is a place bursting with gorgeous bays, spectacular cliffs, myriad wildlife, rewarding walks, historic ruins and serene camping spots. Darlington, near the jetty, is ‘the most representative and intact example of a probation station in Australia’. Due to there being no vehicles or shops on the island, it really feels like you are at one with nature.

View towards Darlington

Myself and my newly-made friends cycled from the far-north of the island where the ferry landed, along the rocky, sandy roads to Encampment Cove, a quiet camping area 12 km/8 miles south.
The “roads” were a little challenging for my hybrid bike. A mountain bike is more suited, but I managed, just.

On the way to camp

En route we stopped at the magnificent Painted Cliffs and also spotted a few wombats. They’re so cute!
There was limited facilities at Encampment Cove, but sufficient for our needs – a long-drop toilet and a rainwater tank. All rubbish was to be taken away and luxuries such as electric and showers were nowhere to be seen.
Tasmanian Devils shyly scouting around the campsite was a magical end to a magical day. My partner Dave and I had also been together for a year on this day which made it even more special.

Sunset from Encampment Cove

Day 2 – Maria Island (26 km/16 miles cycling, 12 km/8 miles walking)
After a refreshing dip in the sea Obie, Dan and I cycled back to the 19th century convict settlement of Darlington, on to the Fossil Cliffs and then to the start of the Bishop and Clerk track.

From the road up to Darlington


At the Fossil Cliffs – before ascending to the summit of Bishop and Clerk in the distance

We climbed to 599 m for fantastic cliff-top and ocean views. The walk started off with a steady uphill and ended with a rock scramble over a field of boulders.

Up at Bishop and Clerk

In the evening I was offered to sample some fresh abalone by a lovely Aussie man who had been diving for it that day. It was delicious – thinly sliced and fried in butter, salt and pepper – I’m not the biggest fan of seafood but it was really good.
Day 3 – Maria Island (12 km/8 miles cycling, 7 km/4.5 miles walking)
Another cool ocean swim was had first thing, before we cycled (and eventually pushed our bikes as the track was ridiculously sandy) to the start of the Mount Maria track. The tramp started off fairly boring and hemmed in, but it was great nearing the end – boulder hopping and scrambling over massive rocks was called for – I loved it!

On the boulder-hop up Mount Maria

The views from Mount Maria (711 m) were breathtaking. Well worth the sweat!

Atop Mount Maria

In the evening we welcomed a Taiwanese girl to our gang, watched the sunset and enjoyed a camp fire, courtesy of our little fire-starter Obie.
Day 4 – Maria Island to Triabunna (12 km/8 miles cycling)
We all packed up to leave the camp at varying times, and caught the ferry back to Triabunna. I devoured some tasty fish and chips from the fish van and got chatting to an old Aussie bloke. I was in two minds whether to hit the road north to my next destination (35 km/21 miles away in headwind) or camp there. He inquired about camping behind the pub next door and after learning it was only a $1 charity donation to camp there my mind was made up… Being in no rush and having no time frame is so liberating. I feel so fortunate and free. Amazing.

Maria Island views

The kind Australian man put $2 in front of me and told me to use it to camp there. The lady in the fish van also charged my powerbank for me. How nice can people be?!
Pepe, a fellow tour-cyclist from Chile pulled in that evening. We soon became friends and swapped details in case our paths crossed later on up the coast, which indeed they did.
More excitement to come in the next installment!…

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