Fossil Cliffs Maria Island: Everything You Need To Know

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Maria Island, off Tasmania’s East Coast, is a fabulous place to explore and discover. Maria Island is all national park with an interesting history and without towns, roads and cars. It’s a wonderful thing in this world especially when it’s so easy to reach on a quick ferry from Triabunna, about an hour from Hobart.

It’s easy to decide to come to Maria Island but then the next choice is to work out what you will spend your time visiting. Since you will need to walk or cycle everywhere you want to go on Maria Island, you should make sure you pick the best spots to make the most of your time.

Fossil Cliffs Maria Island
Exploring the Fossil Cliffs

On our recent visit with our three kids aged 4-10, we decided to visit the Fossil Cliffs. Located an easy walk from Darlington, the main settlement on the island and where the ferry arrives, we partly chose it due to ease of access and partly because it sounded very cool!

Below, you can read everything you need (and want) to know about the Fossil Cliffs Maria Island including what they are, what you will find when you visit them and how to get here.

Let’s start!

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Fossil Cliffs Maria Island

Fossil Cliffs Maria Island
Fossil Cliffs entry point

The Fossil Cliffs are named after the many fossils that are contained in the cliffs and stones here. The cliffs contain many fossils that were under the sea around 300 million years ago including clams, scallop shells, sea fans, corals and sea lilies.

The fossils are easy to see within the rocks and cliffs and the richness of them here is one of the best examples of these types of fossils anywhere in the world. The sedimentary rocks which result from this are rich in lime and were mined at one point for cement. In fact, the silos that you see when you hop off the ferry are from this time period.

Fossil Cliffs Maria Island fossils
One of many rocks filled with fossils

They are fun to explore. There is a flat area at the middle level of the cliffs where there are many rocks and fossils to find and study. It’s easy to get up close with the fossils and you can visit here at any time, unlike the Painted Cliffs which need to be visited at low tide.

With an 8 year old who is absolutely fascinated by fossils, this area was perfect for him and also our 10 year old who recently studied them at school.

Views from the Fossil Cliffs Maria Island
Views from the Fossil Cliffs

There’s also dramatic scenery down the cliffs to the water and out to other parts of the island. It’s a great spot.

Maria Island Fossil Cliffs Location

Fossil Cliffs Maria Island map
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Fossil Cliffs circuit Maria Island
Fossil Cliffs circuit starting point near where you get off the ferry

The Fossil Cliffs are located to the north east of Darlington, where you arrive on the island. It’s a short walk of 20-30 minutes to get to the cliffs.

The path directly from the ferry is relatively flat apart from the first section and easy to see. It takes you past an old cemetery as well as a landing strip.

Fossil Cliffs circuit Maria Island landing strip
Walking past the landing strip
Fossil Cliffs circuit Maria Island wallabies
Wallabies on the way to Fossil Cliffs

On this first part of the walk, we saw many, many wallabies. Amazing! As well as many birds.

Once you get to the cliff, it is a steep walk down but this is very short. It would no doubt normally be very easy but as we visited after a lot of rainfall, this was very muddy.

Fossil Cliffs Maria Island
Walking down to the Fossil Cliffs

Once you are at the cliffs itself, it’s flat and easy to explore as above.

After you visit, you can walk back the more direct route or do what we did and take the rest of the Fossil Cliffs circuit which is clearly signposted.

Fossil Cliffs circuit Maria Island
The entry to Fossils Cliffs and the steeper path afterwards

This starts by running along the coast line on a relatively steep path before heading back down again. At the top, we saw a few wombats which were amazing.

Fossil Cliffs circuit Maria Island
Fossil Cliffs circuit – looking back towards the Fossil Cliffs when walking up the hill
Fossil Cliffs circuit Maria Island wombats

After heading back down, there is a gravel path back to Darlington going past some old buildings on the way. Part of the main path was flooded when we did this thanks to torrential rain the day before so we had to backtrack a little and take a different path which also had a lot of huge puddles.

Fossil Cliffs circuit Maria Island
The path back inland from the coast
Fossil Cliffs circuit way back to Darlington
Fossil Cliffs circuit: way back to Darlington – wet when we visited

If you want to have a picnic, there is a bench seat near when you walk down to the cliffs (pictured towards the top of this article) and also on the highest part after walking up the hill which is where we stopped for great views while we ate.

I recommend good shoes. I didn’t have any with me and had a nasty slip thanks to the muddy and wet conditions.

Despite the signs saying this is a 2.5 hour circuit, I think you could easily do it in an hour. You can cycle this track but the uphill won’t be fun – we saw the cyclists walking their bikes up.

Final Words

Darlington Maria Island
First views of Darlington from the Fossil Cliffs circuit

We very much enjoyed visiting the Fossil Cliffs and spent just over two hours all up between the walk, exploring the cliffs and eating lunch. It’s a nice easy walk for a family but anyone will enjoy it. Our four year old walked the whole thing himself.

The Fossil Cliffs themselves are very interesting and it’s easy to see the layers in them that have formed.

This route is also a great chance to spot wildlife and we saw quite a few wombats at the top of the cliffs as well as many wallabies on our walk there. So much fun!

The benches in this area also make it a great picnic spot.

I highly recommend a visit to the Fossil Cliffs when you are on Maria Island.

We hope you found this review of the Fossil Cliffs Maria Island useful. If you are planning to visit Maria Island, read about the ferry here.  You can also find our review of the best accommodation near Maria Island here as well as guide to Maria Island accommodation here.

Looking for more information for your trip? Find our full East Coast travel guide here.

By Shan Hutchinson

Shan grew up in Tasmania, moved away and then came back with her family twenty years later. She loves re-discovering her home state and sharing it with you here.