The geology of Maria Island is of great interest as it contains features from many geological ages. The Triassic sandstones of the Painted Cliffs is one such feature. Although this sort of rock formation is not uncommon, it is rare in a natural situation for it to be so extensively and beautifully exposed. The wonderful patterns are caused by ground water percolating down through the already formed sandstone and leaving traces of iron oxides, which have stained the rock formation. This probably occurred millions of years ago in a monsoonal climate. More recently, sea spray hitting the rock face has dried, forming crystals of salt. These crystals cause the rock to weather in the honeycomb patterns that you see.
Image thanks to: Tourism Tasmania & George Apostolidis
Maria Island is a natural wildlife sanctuary and off-shore retreat with historic ruins, sweeping bay...
Image thanks to: Tourism Tasmania and Rob Burnett

Painted Cliffs Track

A Must-See on Maria Island


Painted Cliffs Track

Location: Maria Island
Length: 2 kilometres
Grade: 2 (suitable for most along a flat gravel road and beach)
Distance from: Hobart - 85 km, Launceston - 268 km, Devonport - 187 km

Salvador Dali could not have painted a more surreal scene. The painted cliffs are like roaring fire frozen in time. Groundwater rich in iron has filtered through the sandstone at the end of Hopground Beach to stain streaks of orange, red and purple into the cliff. And the Tasman Sea has carved out a concave ledge to give it a mesmerizing look. One of the most popular attractions on Maria Island, the painted cliffs are a must-see. But you'll have to time your visit right.

The cliff is only exposed for two hours before and after low tide. You'll also need low tide to coincide with the afternoon sun when the cliffs dazzle at their most brilliant. Plus, the weather has to cooperate. All told, you might have 10 good days a month for a visit and picture. You can check the coming and going of the tides online.

Getting There

The painted cliffs are on Maria Island, which is a National Park in the Tasman Sea. Many who visit the east coast summer town of Orford pop out to the island for a visit. You can catch a morning ferry from the east coast town of Triabunna just north of Orford. The ferry docks at Darlington on Maria Island. Luckily, you'll find the well-signposted trailhead right near the docking area.

The drive from Hobart to Triabunna takes about an hour and 10 minutes over 85 kilometres. Launceston is a 187-kilometre drive which takes about 2 hours and 22 minutes. Devonport is 268 kilometres to the northwest and the drive takes a little more than 3 hours.

The Trail

Find the signs to Hopground Beach and the Painted Cliffs at the docking area in Darlington on Maria Island. The trail begins by heading south on a gravel road that gently inclines along the coast. After a few kilometres, you'll come to Hopground Beach. The Painted Cliffs are at the end of the beach. If you manage to time your visit right, you'll be there with a crowd.


Always keep an eye on the ocean at the cliffs. A surge, swell or large wave could potentially be dangerous.

There are few amentities on Maria Island. It is a good idea to pack food and water to bring with you from the mainland.

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