Home to the palawa people of lutruwita (Tasmania) for tens of thousands of years, wukaluwikiwayna is the island's name in palawa kani, the language of the palawa. It is the most special and sacred place to the original custodians and we acknowledge the time the palawa lived on lutruwita's East Coast as the Oyster Bay puthikwilayti clan. During the French voyage of Nicholas Baudin in 1802, the famous French explorers came to the island to rest and survey the area over many days. The French crew famously documented their encounter with the puthikwilayti people on wukaluwikiwayna.
Many visitors to Maria Island often wonder how to pronounce the island's name correctly. The island is currently pronounced Ma-rye-ah Island, but was previously named Ma-ree-ah Island. Many of Tasmania's landmarks have Dutch and French origins and over time have been mis-translated to their current pronunciations. Maria Island was recorded by one of the great explorers in Australia's history. In 1642, a Dutch explorer by the name of Abel Tasman (commonly mispronounced Aye-Ball Taz-man but should be pronounced Ah-Ball Tass-man) led a voyage from Holland under the direction of his employer, Anthony van Diemen, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. Setting sail from Mauritius, Abel Tasman successfully navigated across the top of the Southern Ocean, landing on the south western tip of New Holland (Australia) and then down the west coast of Tasmania, which he named after the Dutch Governor-General, he called it Van Diemen's Land. Abel Tasman continued to sail around the southern tip of Van Diemen's Land and up the east coast, where he named Maria's Island after Anthony van Diemen's wife, who's name was pronounced Ma-ree-ah.
As Abel Tasman sailed past the peninsula above Maria's Island, he looked through the gap of Wineglass Bay and believed the landform was a series of large islands, much like Maria Island to the South. Sailing past from a distance he named them the Schouten Islands. This is another common mispronunciation as the island to the south of the Freycinet Peninsula is locally called Shoot-en Island. In Dutch, this island would be pronounced Shh-kout-en Island.
The remarkable voyage of Abel Tasman would see the great explorer make an important decision above the Schouten Islands. If they had continued sailing north back to their home port of Batavia (now Jakarta), effectively ending their voyage across the bottom of the world, they would have sailed up the east coast of New Holland, discovering it for the first time for the Dutch in 1642. Instead, the explorer and crew decided to keep exploring the uncharted southern oceans and turned ninety degrees to the east and sailed across the now Tasman Sea onto New Zealand. After charter the west coast of New Zealand, the expedition successfully returned to Batavia and theypublished the maps.
Maria Island is Tasmania's only island National Park. It is a very special place that is rich with convict and early settler history, famous for its distinctive geological formations and the accessibility to Tasmania's native flora and fauna. In fact Maria Island has been used as a sanctuary for Tasmanian Wildlife with the introductions of wombats, cape barren geese and forester kangaroos (aka eastern grey kangaroos) in the 1960's and more recently Tasmanian Devils in 2012. Maria Island is fast becoming known as the best place in the world to see wombats, kangaroos and devils in the wildlife.
Maria's convict heritage is UNESCO World Heritage listed and pre-dates the establishment of the Port Arthur penal settlement by 5 years (est in 1825) and now represents the best in-tact convict probation station in Australia. The convict settlement at Darlington is the main location for visitor engagement on the island as Darlington represents three significant era's of island occupation between 1825 and 1930. Not only was the island home to Convicts, whalers and sealers in 1825, but Maria Island was also home to wine and silk production in 1880 and a large cement works facility in the1920s, all developed by a resourceful and gifted Italian entrepreneur. Maria Island ultimately became a sanctuary for threatened wildlife and a National Park in the early 1970s. It is a place of immense beauty, unique habitats and is home to Tasmania's most iconic animals. Visitors explore the island to disconnect from ordinary life and immerse themselves into Maria's isolated natural landscapes.
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