We’re ascending Mount Maria (710m) on the return leg of our three day Maria Island bushwalk – but it can also be done as a day walk from Darlington. (From Darlington it’s a 16km return trip to the top of Mount Maria and back – or 8km return from the Inland Track). The Mount Maria Track branches off the Inland Track, initially ascending through open eucalypt forest. As the forest was regularly burnt in the early farming days of Maria Island, it has resulted in minimal undergrowth – and low plant diversity.
After a few kilometres there is a change from dolerite to siltstone in the underlying rock, caused by a major fault millions of years ago that lifted the eastern side of the island. There are now white peppermint (which grows only on dolerite soils) and more shrubby undergrowth plants, including pink mountain berry, silver banksia and pink heath. A small creek flows down the mountain, which is the start of Four Mile Creek. It’s not always flowing, despite every other creek being bone dry, but this one had a trickle of water and we could refill our water bottles.
Finally there are the scree and boulder fields… It was a result of water freezing, expanding and shattering one of the upright dolemite columns 20,000 years ago, leaving a trail of rock debris down the mountain. Marked by yellow arrows and orange poles, it’s fairly easy walking up the scree – at least on a dry day!
After the first scree slope, there’s an unexpected oasis of green – a short section of forest consisting of Oyster Bay pine, richea, and banksia.
Then it’s back to more boulders, which are now larger and at times require hands and feet to climb.
We’re not far from the summit (711m asl and the highest point on Maria Island), marked by a large trig point and offering sweeping views in most directions… it’s also surprisingly windy at the top, which we’ve been protected from on the way up (and perhaps because of the wind, the often cloud-covered peak is clear).
You can clearly see the narrow isthmus separating the north and south parts of Maria Island to the south, where we walked the previous day. Beyond Maria Island is the Tasman Peninsula, with some of its high cliffs just visible.
To the west is Darlingon (you can just see the jetty) and the Wielangta Forest Reserve on the mainland.
And to the north is Mount Pedder, with its radio tower on the summit, and in the far distance is Schouten Island and Freycinet Peninsula (which are not really recognisable).
We admire the view for a while – it would have been a great lunch spot just below the summit (where it’s protected from the wind), but we left all our food in the overnight backpacks!
Once we re-join the Inland Track it’s only another four kilometres or so back to Darlington, and it’s pretty much all downhill, crossing Counsel Creek on the way to the coast.
0.0km Darlington (Ranger Station / PWS office) 0.6km Junction with Oast House Track (alternate route) 4.0km Junction with Mount Maria Track 8.0km Mt Maria summit 16.0km Darlington (Ranger Station / PWS office)