Top Tips for Visiting Magnetic Island
Every so often when travelling you will come across a place that you fall in love with. It may not be the best or prettiest, most historical or significant place you have visited but despite all that something clicks in you and you form a bond with that location.
It's inevitable for any traveller. One of these instances occurred for British travellers Jack Boad and his girlfriend Hayley when they visited Magnetic Island in Queensland, Australia.
Now, to put this claim into perspective you should first know that in the weeks leading up to visiting Magnetic Island I had passed through Fraser Island and the Whitsunday Islands. Both Fraser Island and the Whitsunday Islands are incredibly stunning and beautiful locations. Both are filled with rich history and tales from the old days and both are ranked higher on most lists of 'places to see' in Australia than Magnetic Island. So why, for me, did Magnetic Island put the icing on my east coast cake?
Many people had told me how great Magnetic Island is. Saying that it had amazing history , nice beaches, good trails, amazing wildlife, conservations and importantly, a good place to sleep
For anyone who has read my last articles it will be abundantly clear that I love animals and I love to unravel the history of the places I visit. Being a supporter of conservation and taking any opportunity I get to educate myself further on animals, pouncing on it like a lion chasing a wounded gazelle; Magnetic Island needed visiting.
You see, Magnetic Island is home to a rather special hostel: the Bungalow Bay Koala Village. This hostel is run by the YHA (Youth Hostel Association) and it has its very own animal sanctuary, the Koala Village, built right into the back of it. Right? On top of that my girlfriend and travelling partner Hayley wants to study animals and eventually work in conservation herself. The decision was a no brainer.
We took an early ferry from Townsville to Magnetic Island and once there caught the bus to Horseshoe Bay. The bus will cost you $1.90 for a single to the hostel. A little tip - there is an IGA at the ferry terminal so get some food there before you head to the hostel if you have time. The hostel, as great as it is, and I'll come to that in a minute, only has a few local shops. Any backpacker will tell you that local shops = more expensive. You can buy dinner at the bar but they only sell pizza. It's good pizza please don't get me wrong but you can't eat pizza everyday and still hope to carry your backpack.
Once at the hostel we are shown to our room. It is a very nice A-frame 6 bed dorm room with an ensuite: very modern, plenty of plug sockets and a comfortable bed. The hostel has a bar, kitchen area, internet facilities, laundry facilities, relaxing pool area, campsite and an animal sanctuary. Did I mention the sanctuary? I didn't? OK well heres the scoop then.
The sanctuary runs three tours a day. The morning tour, an afternoon tour and an early evening tour. Another little tip: do the early evening tour because straight after at 4:30pm they take you to the small bridge that separates the bar area and the camping area and you can feed about 100 Lorikeets some wet bread. Not to be missed.
Hayley and I couldn't contain ourselves to wait until the next day to do our tour so we booked onto the early evening tour the same day we arrived. The tour lasts for 2 hours and this the run down of all we did in that time:
- Cuddled a Koala called Pebbles and had my photo taken with her (extra $15 - worth it).
- Held a python.
- Stroked an echidna.
- Had a bearded dragon put on my head.
- Got to feed some turtles some fish by hand (bit of a lucky one).
- Played hide and seek with a wombat.
- Stroked a white cockatoo.
- Had a romantic little kiss with a red tailed black cockatoo (he takes a seed from your lips).
- Held a salt water crocodile and watched it get fed.
- After the tour - popped out and fed the Lorikeets
All that plus a wealth of information and eduction on the animals for $22 (not including the Koala cuddle).
You would be forgiven for assuming the animal interactions and sightings would stop there but you would be wrong. The location of the hostel is ripe with wildlife just pottering about the friendly grounds. Possums, wallabies, wild birds, lizards and all sorts come in and out of the grounds at will. Another tip (this article is full of them) - don't take your eyes off your food when a possum is around. You have been warned.
You don't need to stay in the hostel the whole time to get some great one on one time with some native wildlife either. Head down to Arcadia and take a walk to the rock face near the small jetty. Here you can find an abundance of rock wallabies that are very eager to let you part with any food or water you have. Another tip, though this one is more of a life tip than a practical one: try not to feed the wallabies if you can help it. They have been reportedly developing an un-natural diet and do face illness and potentially death if they don't get enough of the food humans give them. If you must feed them: give them water - there are not many great sources around there and this is actually really helpful for their survival. If you must give them food, give them sweet potato or carrot. But mostly give them water.
We had a great bit of luck when we visited the wallabies and actually found a mum with her little joey still in the pouch. We sat with her for about 30 minutes giving her all the water her and her baby could take from us and the overwhelming feeling of doing something good was worth going thirsty for.
It's not however all animals, animals, animals on Magnetic Island. There are some lovely beaches to visit. Especially at Picnic Bay and Horseshoe Bay. There are several trails to follow that take you around the peaks of the island giving you the chance to spot Koalas. I did not see any but the dead eucalyptus tress strongly suggest some are around.
We only had time to do one trail: the Fort Trail. It is definitely worth doing. The trail itself will take around 3 hours if you are going at a comfortable pace. Another top tip coming at you: do the walk around 4/4:30 as it is beginning to cool down and the walk is quite steep. Also take plenty of water because even thought the day is cooling off the sun is still out and it is still physically demanding and hot. The end of this trail will take you in a loop around some of the WWII forts and gun placements that were in use to defend Australia from the potential invasion threat the Japanese were constantly issuing.
Another thing myself and Hayley did was hire a car to take us around the Island. We hired one of the Topless Cars hire cars and they are pretty much exactly as the name suggests. Oh, and bright pink mostly. It will set you back about $90 for the day but you can get around a lot easier than you can waiting and paying for the bus each time you want to get around. It is not a big island, only 12km of stuff worth seeing, but the car does make this a much easier feat.
We spent three days on Magnetic Island and it was a pure pleasure. I wish I could have spent a little longer. Maybe even moved into The Bungalow Bay Koala Village and lived with the wombats but alas, as with every trip; you have to go at some point. But as with life... You can always go back.
By Jack Boad