“Meet me where the sky touches the sea” – Jennifer Donnelly
*A TWO-PART EAST COAST ISLAND SPECIAL*
As we travelled Australia’s east coast, it became clear that some of the best days out are a short ferry ride away to nearby islands. Enjoying an island day out doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming option. In this 2-Part Special, read about the wildlife you can experience so close to large cities, a cost-saving itinerary for your day out and our preferred place to stay back on the mainland.
Our first pick was North Stradbroke Island which you can read about in Part 1 of Island Inspiration. Now, it’s time for Part 2:
Magnetic Island, Australia
Magnetic Island offers WW2 history, the possibility of seeing koalas in the wild and multiple swimming beaches. This month, we also want to share with you this east coast treasure, locally known as ‘Maggie.’
Maggie is located 20 minutes from the Breakwater Terminal in Townsville and a return ticket with the bus for the island included costs $33. We also paid $7.50 for a day of parking on the mainland so all in this is a great value for money option, when compared to putting a vehicle on the ferry. The bus service runs every hour so plan your day out and what you want to see. If you are travelling in a small group or family, it may be more cost effective to hire one of the popular roofless cars that you will see everywhere on Maggie … not to mention great fun! There are also many hostels and hotels for spending a few days here, but as a price-conscious couple, we recommend a day trip. We felt this was the right amount of time for what we wanted to enjoy and it suited our budget for Magnetic Island perfectly.
Start your day by taking the bus up to Horseshoe Bay Road which gives you an idea of the size and feel of Magnetic Island. Here, we recommend you complete Forts Walk, a 4km return track that includes WW2 sites used as lookouts and for storage of weapons. The coastal views from high above the trees make for ideal photo and rest stops. When doing a walk like this, bear in mind Tropical North Queensland gets extremely humid in summer and the weather is not suitable for everyone. Carry lots of water, walk with hats and find shade often for small rests.
The real beauty of this walk is that Maggie is home to one of the largest populations of wild koalas in Australia, making it the best spot to catch a glimpse of these beautiful animals in their natural habitat. Keep your eyes open in the eucalyptus trees as the koalas are often sleeping and are easily missed if you walk too fast. We spotted two sleeping koalas thanks to the assistance of some locals and were able to get really close without startling them for some invaluable photos that do not include fencing or cages. If you want to see koalas whilst in Australia, what better way could there be to do it.
After your walk, catch the bus down to Alma Bay for a cooling swim and a spot of lunch. We think this is a great picnic location and we enjoyed watching many families enjoy it in the same way. There are trees for shade, a great climbing frame for children and lifeguards on duty to help everyone swim safely. You will probably need a good rest after that walk, especially if you do it in the middle of summer like us. This is one of those days out where we packed our picnic in the Hummus Bucket. It was easy to carry, easy to prepare and a super cheap lunch option for our day out. You can read more cost-effective and healthy food travelling tips here.
Head back down to Picnic Bay where you can choose to find a beach to relax on or enjoy the Hawkings Point Track before catching the ferry back to the mainland. We had also planned to enjoy a self-guided snorkel along Nelly Bay. Unfortunately, after carting stinger suits and snorkelling gear along the beach in the hot sun, we failed to find the white buoys we were looking for in order to begin our snorkel. Instead, the only bouys we could see were yellow, which were shark bait lines! We decided to just get geared up and go in a little way from the shore to see what we could see. Before we’d left the sand, lots of very large jellyfish were all around us from just ankle deep and as one after the other washed up on the shore, we decided that for the first time on our trip, we were too frightened to go in the sea. So, we wouldn’t personally recommend the self-guided snorkel because sadly we never found it and we couldn’t see anyone else doing it either.
Things often don’t go to plan whilst travelling, and in these moments, it’s best to find something to laugh about, fast! We decided to have some fun dancing in the stinger suits we’d paid to rent, before returning them to the hire shop.
WHERE TO STAY
We recommend staying in Townsville the night before your day out in order to make the most of the island. We chose Town and Country Caravan Park with a salt water pool and basic, but ample and clean, facilities. At $30 for a powered site, it was the most reasonable city-stay we had along the east coast. Our host was super helpful with our late arrival from Maggie and we loved having the pool to enjoy first thing in the morning after sleeping in a very hot camper.
Magnetic Island is popular for many things, especially amongst backpackers, with its many hostels and nightlife. It is also popular with Australian families who come to enjoy the school holidays with the many beaches and spots to swim. We enjoyed Maggie as a day trip and feel its best feature is its koala population. Seeing this Australian icon in its natural habitat was so much more rewarding than seeing these beautiful animals in cages. If you are passing through or staying in Townsville, head out to Magnetic Island for a day of beach fun and furry cuteness.
If you enjoyed reading Part 2 of Island Inspiration, please like and share it with others so they can enjoy reading it too.
If now you need more, check out the other Australian Travel Diaries.