There were worse places to be a convict than Maria Island, off Tasmania’s east coast, but it’s far more fun to visit voluntarily. You need to combine bike riding with walking to explore the island’s fascinating history and geology in any depth. And the high point of island walks, for many visitors, is climbing Bishop & Clerk.
A ferry ride across Mercury Passage, often escorted by dolphins, lands you on Maria Island jetty. A short up-road walk from there brings you to Darlington, the convict settlement that became the headquarters of Italian entrepreneur Diego Bernacchi’s vineyards, cement works and silk-growing business. Booking a bed in the penitentiary dormitory is an inexpensive accommodation option for several days’ stay.
Rising 630m behind the settlement, Bishop & Clerk gets its name from a perceived resemblance to a bishop and his clerk. It’s a likeness few can see, either from the sheer Fossil Cliffs at the mountain’s base or from its summit, reached after scaling a steep scree slope and scrambling around and up rocks.
You’ll probably arrive breathless but your effort pays off with panoramic views of cliffs, coast and ocean. Plus the opportunity for a posed photograph that will scare the pants of your Mum.