BUTTERFLIES AND BOX WINE
Magnetic Island, or Maggie as some call it, was named after a belief that the large boulders strewn all over the island held magnetic properties. It is now still suited to the name due to its ‘pull’ on tourist to the island for a relaxing getaway. With numerous beautiful bays and beaches and both challenging and easy walks, it is no wander people are attracted to this timeless paradise.
Day 1 – Butterflies and Koalas
I arrive on ‘Maggie’ after a short commentated ferry ride from Townsville (I bought a discounted ticket on bookme.com for $24). I then followed the directions I found on a notice board at the Nelly Bay ferry terminal to Base Backpacker. During my journey up the east coast, I had heard that Base Backpackers was the place to be on Magnetic Island as it was the only backpackers directly on the beach. They were fully booked for some time and I needed to book some time in advance and this was one of the reasons I had stayed so long in Airlie Beach (see Recharge & Routines in Airlie Beach).
I arrived at Base Backpackers and could instantly see what all the fuss was about. The Backpackers was right on the beach with ocean views from all the dorm rooms. I arrived early and check-in was only at 1pm, so I happily got dressed into my bikini and “topped-up” my tan for the next 2 hours whilst researching my upcoming trip to Bali.
At 1pm, I checked into my 6-sleeper female dorm, had lunch and then inquired at the reception about nearby walking trails. There were trails all over the island and I was told that I could walk all the way from the hostel to the fort in just over an hour. Looking at the map I felt sceptical about this but decided give it a go anyway. I filled up my water bottle, put on my takkies (a.k.a sneakers) and headed out in the heat of the day – at 2:30 pm.
It took me close on an hour to get to the start of the walking trail trail and I nowknew that this was going to be a long walk – I should have brought more water. Entering the official start of the walking trail, I was instantly engulfed in shade, cooling the hot air. The path steepened as I headed up hill and there were tons or butterflies criss-crossing my path as I trekked between the trees. I continued along the pathway until I was back in the sweltering heat of the midday sun. I walked up and down with amazing views ahead for another hour or so. Massive outcrops of boulders littered the terrain, some with lime-green colourings. I spotted some beautiful birds hiding in the trees above me.
After walking a good 2.5 hours I arrived at the start of the walk to the old fort and I now desperately needed water as I had only brought 600 ml and finished it all some time ago. I crossed a road and spotted a lady sitting at a nearby bus stop. She greeted me so I asked her if she knew if there was any where to get water along the Forts Walk. She thought not, but offered me some of her water which she no longer needed. I accepted it gratefully and gulped most of it down before continuing.
I headed up the path to the Old Fort. I was in a hurry as I needed to beat the sunset as I didn’t bring a torch – I thought this would only take an hour. Not far up the path I spotted an “oasis in the sky” – a tap nearby the Magnetic island reservoir. I downed the half bottle of water that was kindly donated to me and refilled it with fresh island water.
The Oasis – Water!!!
I continued along the much wider and path that was nowhere near as steep as before; it was more like a dirt road than a walking trail. A small crowd of people were looking up into the treetops so I stopped to see what they were looking at. They had spotted some Koalas in the trees above. I stopped to take pictures.
Still in a bit of a hurry, I continued the hike to the fort with A, a guy from Essex that had also stopped to photograph the Koalas. It wasn’t long before we arrived at the fort, but the sun began to set meaning it was getting dark.
After exploring the Fort, the gun placements and enjoying the sunset from the elevated lookout points, we both headed back. We spotted another Koala on our return journey that made a terrifying sound – like a wild boar.
We made it back to the bus stop to realise that the bus to Picnic bar was in nearly an hour. A headed to Horseshoe Bay on foot while I waited for my bus. I didn’t like the idea of waiting here in the dark with all the mosquitoes for an entire hour, so I caught the next bus that was headed in the other direction and then later caught it back again and continued to Base.
I got back to Base at about 8pm (5.5 hours later) and after hours of walking I was exhausted and starving. I decided to take a shower before heading to the bar to grab food, but after my shower I got locked out of my room as my key didn’t work and when I went to reception to fix it I found out that there kitchen was already closed. I resorted to eating oats for dinner – very disappointing after a long day hiking.
Day 2 – Beaches and bays
I spent my second day on Maggie exploring the beautiful bays of the island, form Horeshoe Bay to Arthur Bay. My journey began with the 40 minute bus ride to Horseshoe Bay.
From here I headed off towards Balding Bay along with D and two other Germans from my hostel. It was already nearing noon and getting very hot. I had also decided to make use of the free snorkel-gear hire from the hostel and was now lugging around all snorkel equipment and a stinger suit for the entire trek.
We entered the start of the trail at a fast pace as I had to be done in time to catch a bus back to return my snorkel gear by 3pm. We hadn’t gone far along the steep track before bumping into another girl that was also sharing our dorm. We then all continued along the winding, challenging path to Balding Bay together. Nearing the kilometre mark, we followed the sign to Balding Bay. It was a tough 600 meters of rocky terrain in the sweltering heat and humidity before we finally reached the bottom. As the path opened to the view of the bay we all felt it was worth the slightly challenging trek. Massive boulders hugged the corners of the bay with beach sand and a wave-less ocean sandwiched between the gap.
We hung around for only a few moments before heading off again, I was on a tight schedule. We headed back up the steep path. I could feel the weariness in my legs form the previous day’s hike. The 600 meters backtrack up the path seemed a lot longer then it felt coming down. At the fork, we followed the sign to Radical Bay, 800 meters away. The track was a lot flatter and the incline remained fairly even for some time until we had to make a steep, uneasy decent to the beach. The path opened up to a dirt road and massive beds of windflowers growing out of the dry dirt. A few ‘Topless’ cars lined the beachfront. The ‘Topless Cars’ are a common way of getting around on the island and I was torn between renting a car or exploring the entire island on foot – I decided to go by foot of coarse.
After a brief moment admiring the bay, we continued along the dirt road toward Florence Bay. It was 1.2 kilometers along a dirt road, which was way easier to traverse, but meant that we had no shade for most of the way. The road was steep, but we it still wasn’t long before we arrived at a parking lot outside the bay.
After some handstands and cartwheels on the beach, I quickly got dressed into my Lycra stinger suit and headed into the choppy water for a quick snorkel. I had read about the dedicated snorkel trails marked using floating buoys and decided to follow one. I swam to a nearby buoy, which I assumed was the start of the trail. The visibility was very bad and the water was rough. It was kinda nice to be in the ocean for a change, but the water wasn’t even that refreshing as it was very warm.
I followed the trail from buoy to buoy for a short time before deciding to give up and swim to shore. I hardly had time to get dressed, let alone relax, before having to head off again. D had cut her foot on the rocks while on a walk and she and another German girl decided to head to the bathroom to see if they could find water. I had to leave them to ensure I didn’t miss the next bus as it was still 1.2 km away.
Snorkeling Florence Bay
Not far along the road, I came across the Arthur Bay lookout. I quickly veered off path to snap some shots of the beautiful bay below before continuing. The roadway was no longer a dirt road, but it was certainly steeper. I watched as some of the rental cars struggled to traverse the massive hill and I’m sure they were doing the same as I slowly trudged up the steep slope.
After the steep and tiring climb, I made it up to the bus stop with only a few minutes to spare before the bus arrived. Exhausted, sweaty and tired, I climbed onto the 240 bus back to Base Backpackers and arrived at exactly 3pm. I returned my snorkel gear and jumped straight into the refreshing, cool water of the pool to cool off. What a tiring day, but it made me realise how much I enjoyed the freedom in Australia of being able to hike alone or in a small group without being worried about crime – like in South Africa where you fear being robbed, mugged, or something worse.
After my swim I had a short nap nap before joining the group sunset hike to Hawking Point. The kilometre or so distance was at a fast pace to make sure we didn’t miss the sunset. We had a fairly big group of about 20 people, chatting as we trekked. We made it to the lookout just in time to enjoy the view. Out came the goon and we enjoyed a glass or two of Premium Box Wine – the best kind 😉
Clouds covered the setting sun – a little disappointing, but still beautiful none-the-less. We soon headed back to try get off the steep, treacherous trail before nightfall. Once we got back, all starving, we opted for a shower before returning for a group dinner. The Thai curry I had was very hot and a little runny as they had pre-mixed the rice with the curry, instead of serving it separately. We all chatted and shared stories of our best star-gazing experiences before heading to bed early.
Day 3 – Visiting the Rock Wallabies
Today was check-out day, so I woke up, packed my bags and put them in the luggage store. I wasn’t sure what to do today as I was feeling pretty exhausted, but I wasn’t ready to head back to Townsville yet.
In the late morning, I headed to Arcadia to explored the Area. I walked along the beachfront and then up Gabul Way, along the elevated walkway, stopping to enjoy the view of Bright Point and of Geoffrey Bay. I now realised how exhausted I was from the two continuous days of trekking and decided make my way back to Nelly Bay and then straight back to the hostel in the intermittent rain.
I still wanted to see the rock wallabies and I had heard that they only came out in the late afternoon, so I waited for 4 o’clock before catching the bus back to Acadia. I hopped off and headed along the headland to the Rock Wallabies.
I then quickly hurried back down the long stretch of road, in the drizzling rain, to catch the bus back to Base. I then quickly grabbed my bags and caught the returning bus to the ferry terminal where I caught the ferry back to Townsville (see Talk of the Townsville).
So, to summarise, my trip to Magnetic Island consisted mainly of trekking across the many walking tracks which criss-cross the little island and enjoying the beautiful bays and beaches. Many people rent cars to visit other parts of the island that are only accessible by 4X4s. There is also a bit of a party scene at Base Backpackers on the weekends, but it was a little quieter when I was there as it was during the week. There are also many cafes and restaurants to try out while on Maggie, but I also didn’t get the chance to do so.