Tracks & Trails

Painted Cliffs
Tracks & Trails | bushwalking | hiking | national parks | Maria Island | Tasmania

Painted Cliffs

An absolute must do

by Susie Baber  |  3 March 2022

Maria Island | 4.3km return | easy

Painted cliffs is an easy walk from Darlington along a well formed road and an absolute must do for any trip to Maria Island. It is only about a half hours walk to the cliffs but you could take half a day depending on how much time you would like to spend exploring the sights along the way. National Parks has it graded as 3 but the only part that is even slightly challenging is walking around the rock platform at the end.

Heading south from the town you will past Darlington campsite, cross a small bridge and follow the road past the site of the Commandant’s Residence and Ruby Hunt’s house.

In the early 1900’s Ruby Hunt was the communications centre of the day. She operated a pedal-powered wireless, which at the time was the only communication link from Maria Island to the mainland, sending weather information to Hobart. Ruby also hung a lantern in her cottage window at night to guide the ship that collected and delivered mail for the island.

The views back over Darlington Bay and the old town are worth stopping for a minute to admire. Watch out for wombats in this area, we saw two little furry guys having lunch amongst the bracken when we walked back through here.

Just over the crest of the hill there is a bench to rest on while you gaze at the view over Hopground Beach and the turquoise waters, toward the Painted Cliffs at the southern end. From the bottom of the hill the road continues through the bush, next to the sand, or you can do as we did and detour along the shore.

At the south end of Hopground Beach you can see the beginnings of the colourful sandstone cliffs, but for the best views you will need to navigate the rock platform around the point. It is only safe to walk around the cliffs either two hours before or after low tide, and with calm seas, so check the tides before you go. However, if the tides and weather align you are in for a treat.

The Painted cliffs get their name from the spectacular swirls and streaks of colour running along their face. The beautiful colours in the rocks are caused by ground water seeping down through layers of iron oxide above and staining the soft sandstone. Wind, rain and waves have eroded the rock into swirls, cutting out holes and notches in the cliff face. The continuous action of the sea has carved out a concave ledge undercutting the cliff top, and sea spray hitting the rock face has dried, forming crystals of salt that create honeycomb patterns in the rock face.

Explore the rock pools next to the cliffs to discover an array of brightly coloured anemones and relax on the beach before you head back to Darlington.

Just back from the beach is Howells Cottage, former home of a farming family who came to Maria Island early in the 1900s and were among the last permanent residents to leave the Island before it became a National Park in 1972. The inside of the cottage is lined with wood from old packing cases and then covered with newspapers before being wallpapered. You can still read some of the newspaper articles lining the walls.

You can walk back to Darlington the same way you came or turn the walk into a loop by returning inland via Oast House. An oast house is a kiln used for the drying of hops. This area was developed into hop fields during the first convict period (hence the beach’s name Hopgrounds!) and the oast house was built some years later during the second convict period, making it one of the oldest in Australia. You can still see the remnants of the original large brick drying towers with floors of ventilating bricks.

Painted Cliffs is one of Tasmania’s 60 great short walks. For more short walk inspiration click here.

Good to Know

  • During busy time book your ferry ticket
  • You will need a Tasmania National Parks pass to visit the island
  • There is no food or drink available on the island so pack everything you are going to need for your stay
  • There are no cars on Maria Island so if walking isn’t your thing consider hiring a bike to get around
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