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Month: July 2017

Magnetic Island: The Tropical Paradise

Magnetic Island: The Tropical Paradise

From Airlie Beach, we arrived at Townsville. Unfortunately, we had no time to discover this tropical town and instead caught the ferry straight to Magnetic Island. The island was supposedly named after Captain Cook’s compass broke when he passed by on his journey up the East Coast.

The short ferry trip brought us to Magnetic Island in the early evening. Having not eaten that day we were starving. We quickly made our way to the X-Base Hostel which was more like a tropical resort. The dorms were wooden huts on stilts just metres from the ocean. There was a huge bar area parallel to the beach as well as a pool. This was definitely my favourite hostel out of the ones we stayed in. After checking into the hostel we got talking to the other people in our room. There was a boy that I recognised from back home and it turns out we used to work together in Southampton, England and just so happened to be staying in the same hostel room on the other side of the World!

Magnetic Island HostelMagnetic Island Hostel
After a brief chat and catch up we walked to the shops before the hostel started serving food. That night we had pizza and enjoyed our free cocktails (which were more like juice than alcohol but you can’t turn down a freebie) and some happy hour drinks. Our first night on Magnetic Island was pretty dead as the full moon party was the previous night and everyone on the island seemed to be recovering.

Island Explorers

The next morning we hadn’t made any plans but decided to wake up early and enjoy our free breakfast while overlooking the beautiful ocean. We noticed one of our friends from Fraser Island and got talking to him. He mentioned an aquarium which he’d seen advertised as something to do on the island so we made plans to pay it a visit.

With no idea what to expect from this unknown aquarium, we started walking roughly in the right direction. We eventually reached the aquarium. Much to our disappointment it was better described as a few poorly maintained fish tanks in someone’s back garden with dead coral and a couple of sad looking fish.

Magnetic Island’s Koala Village

After that failure, we were determined to see some of the Island. We made our way to Bungalow Bay Koala Village which was home to a wildlife park. We paid a $29 entrance fee which gave us the chance to see lots of Australian native species and even hold some of them. For an extra $18 you can choose to hold a koala. Magnetic Island is the only island in Australia which has it’s own Wildlife park, giving you another excuse to check this place out.

In the wildlife park, we got to see and hold baby crocodiles, meet cockatoos and lizards and koalas. The highlight of the park was when a wild koala with a baby koala on her back climbed the trees into the park. Everyone lost interest in the park’s koalas and turned their attention and cameras to this proud mummy baby duo. There was also a huge spider which had made the wildlife park it’s permanent home.

Magnetic Island Wildlife ParkMagnetic Island Wildlife ParkMagnetic Island Wildlife ParkMagnetic Island Wildlife ParkMagnetic Island Wildlife Park

After meeting all the animals it was time for those who had paid extra to hug a koala and get their classic Australia pictures. From the wildlife park, we walked to the nearby beach – Horseshoe Bay. By now it was getting close to evening and our friends were on the Island waiting to meet up with us. After a short time on the beach, we got the bus back to the hostel.

Wine Time

That evening we were a group of six and all keen on having a few drinks. The bar staff announced that it was happy hour and bottles of wine were just $15. We decided to make the most of it and bought 3 bottles to start with. As the evening went on the bar staff kept announcing the end of happy hour, so we kept going up for a ‘final’ bottle. By the end of the night, our table was full of empty bottles of wine, we were all very drunk and playing drinking games on the beach. We eventually called it a night, the following morning we were supposed to be getting up early and renting 4×4’s to explore the West side of the island.

Bad Planning

Having planned to rent a 4×4 for days before reaching the island we excitedly woke up and went to book our car. The following day people had said that as long as you book before midday there would be no problem getting a 4×4. Unfortunately for us all of the cars were sold out by 9 am.  The receptionist suggested getting a bus pass instead which would only cost $7 each. Reluctantly we agreed and headed for the bus stop. We also got a big bag of carrots to feed the local rock wallabies near Geoffrey Bay which was the first stop on our Magnetic Island bus trip.

We arrived at Geoffrey Bay in the morning and walked the short journey to the smooth rocky home of the wild wallabies. The best time to see the wallabies is at sunset where they all come out in force for their dinner. However, we did manage to see quite a few peeping through the rocks. Including some babies in their mummy’s pouches!

The Forts Walk

Next on our bus trip was the Forts Walk. A hike which takes you high into the bush with incredible views. There is also the chance to spot koalas and see some fort remains from World War 2. We got our timing slightly wrong and ended up doing this 4km walk in the midday heat. However, we still managed to see 3 wild koalas and scramble our way onto the rocks to get some amazing views of the island. The forts were slightly less impressive than I expected but overall it was worth the hike. A personal highlight was spending almost 20 minutes clambering onto a big rock with an impressive view to try and get a group photo.

Magnetic Island Forts WalkMagnetic Island Forts WalkMagnetic Island Forts Walk

Palm Trees and Wallabies

Our next bus journey took us to Horseshoe Bay. We decided to spend some time here while waiting for dusk when we would try and befriend the Wallabies for the second time.  Whilst chilling on the beach I found a wonky palm tree and thought it would be fun to attempt climbing it. Somehow I managed to get the highest and am now considering a career in coconut collecting.

Magnetic Island Palm Tree
Eventually, the sun started to drop so we hopped on the bus back to Geoffrey Bay. Within minutes of arriving and opening the slightly warm bag of carrots, furry friends precariously approached us from all angles. We sat down, surrounded ourselves with carrots and waited as the wallabies hopped around us. This was definitely a highlight from my time in Magnetic Island, and it all it cost was the price of a bag of carrots and a bus ticket!

Magnetic Island WallabiesMagnetic Island WallabiesMagnetic Island Wallabies

Boozy Bingo

For our final night on Maggie Island, we joined in with the hostel’s game of boozy bingo. This follows the same rules as generic bingo but with the addition of drinking and doing challenges. We had decided to have a more chilled night so we didn’t end up doing too well. It was still a lot of fun and a good way to spend our last night on the island.

The next day we stayed in the hostel ready for our midday ferry. This docked at Townsville where our coach would take us to Mission Beach.

 

Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays

Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays

The two main tourist attractions when travelling up the East Coast are arguably Fraser Island and the Whitsundays. It was the Whitsundays which brought us to our next stop; Airlie Beach. Our coach arrived around 6 am after a long journey from Agnes Waters. We would be boarding our boat and starting our tour later that day. We went to check our backpacks into the hostel seeing as we had about 6 hours to kill before heading towards paradise. Our boat only allowed us to take a small bag for the 2 nights. We left our main bags in the hostel storage and kept our prepacked rucksacks with us ready to set sail. We found an outdoor bar to sit and watch the Olympics until the time came to start our adventure.

Whitehaven Beach has been voted the best beach in Australia as well as in the World. Therefore, it is definitely a destination for the bucket list. Known for its turquoise water and pristine white sand, Whitehaven Beach truly is paradise. The tour company which would be taking us around the 74 islands was called ‘Sailing Whitsundays‘. Our tour featured a 2-day, 2-night sailing trip where we would be sleeping on board the boat ‘Boomerang’. Despite there being so many tours to chose from we liked the sound of living onboard the boat. It was a proper sailing boat, where the guests could choose to help sail between stops. This also meant that it was a lot faster than some of the other boats and a lot of fun in the windy conditions.

Setting Sail

The weather for our tour wasn’t very good. With strong winds, grey skies and rain. However, due to the nature of the sailing boat, it added an entirely different experience. Instead of a gentle journey into the islands, we almost flew across the water. Hanging on to the railing tightly with our legs over the side of the boat as the other side travelled almost perpendicular to the water. As I looked over my shoulder I could see the ocean below me. Sea water sprayed up from the boat, drenching all of us more than the rain was. We were told by the Captain that it was the fastest he’d ever sailed the Boomerang before.

Our first stop was to a sheltered bay, by this time it was getting late so we stayed on the boat and got to know the other people on board. We had dinner and some goon before going to bed ready for our first full day exploring paradise. Our beds on the boat were very basic, more like a shelf. Every time I went to sit up I would hit my head on the ceiling which was only a few inches from my face when laid down. Also, it rained throughout the night and a small window next to the bed had been left open, covering us in rain and sea spray during the night.

Whitehaven Beach

The following morning we were woken up at 7 am, our breakfast already made and set up for us. After peanut butter and coffee I was ready to set sail and discover our first stop. Our first sail of the day would take us to Whitehaven Beach; the famous postcard-worthy beach of my dreams. As we skimmed across the ocean we saw our first glimpse of blue sky since setting sail from Airlie Beach.

We stopped just off the shore and got a motorboat to the Island. From here we had to go on a short bush walk to reach the popular viewpoint. On a clear day, this is the perfect spot to watch the crystal clear turquoise water constantly move and change shade. Unfortunately, our view wasn’t quite so spectacular, hindered by the layer of grey clouds blocking the sun. After getting our pictures and group shots we carried on down to the beach itself.

The sand is the purest you will ever find in the World. With 99% silicone content it was so soft and white, the only time sand from this beach was allowed to be taken was for the Hubble telescope. We marvelled at the setting, swimming in the sea while looking out for jellyfish, stingrays and lemon sharks. The crew on our boat also told us of the sand’s exfoliating qualities so some of us sat scrubbing ourselves with the sand on the edge of the water.

Whitsundays, Whitehaven Beach

Whitsundays, Whitehaven Beach

Snorkelling in the Whitsundays

After around an hour, we headed back to the boat. From here we moved on to another bay called the ‘fishbowl’. This was a popular spot for snorkelling with shallow healthy reefs boasting lots of colourful fish and coral. The Great Barrier Reef goes as far South as Bundaberg meaning this underwater ecosystem is part of the GBR. We spent about an hour chasing colourful fish, finding Nemo and admiring our first glimpse of one of the World’s natural wonders.

Then we got back on the boat for lunch; we definitely didn’t go hungry the whole time we were on the boat! After eating more than enough food we were given the option to either go in for a second snorkel or sail onto our next stop where we would be sleeping that night. Not wanting to get wet and cold for the second time we all decided to head to the next stop where we could make a dent on our 5 litre bags of goon. It turns out sailing, experiencing paradise and snorkelling is tiring – we were all in bed by 11 pm.

Whitsundays Snorkelling

Turtle Time

Another 7 am wake up and coffee set us up for our final morning in the Whitsundays. Before it was time to head back to the marina we were back in our snorkel masks and stinger suits. The bay we slept in happened to be a popular spot for turtles. So without even having to sail anywhere, we were in the perfect place to swim with these graceful creatures.

After an unsuccessful start, I noticed a green/brown shell in the distance. Breaking away from the rest of the group I slowly followed the turtle. It turns out they are really fast when swimming. Eventually, I caught up and floated just inches away from this wild animal. I quickly beckoned Sam over. Everyone else realised what was going on and the elusive turtle dived deeper than the visibility allowed us to see. A few more turtles were spotted but we never got as close to any of the others.

Leaving the Whitsundays

Early afternoon came and it was time for our final journey on board the Boomerang. On the way back we had one final lucky experience, a close-up humpback whale. As it was whale season we had been keeping an eye on the horizon looking for their telltale splash. It was as if the whale knew we were heading back and spent about 15 minutes following the boat and waving its huge fin at us. We eventually got back to the harbour marking the end of our tour of the Whitsundays. For the following few days, we had time to explore Airlie Beach.

Airlie Beach

The first thing we wanted to do when we got back was get checked into our hostel and have a shower. The boat only had a small shower which required sitting on the toilet and had a time limit of 2 minutes per person, we hadn’t showered since arriving in Airlie Beach. After washing ourselves and all of our clothes it was time to get ready for the Whitsundays after party. That night we were reunited with some of the people from our boat as well as loads of the people from our Fraser Island trip. We got through all the free drink on offer and watched some of the drinking games before walking down the main strip to see what else was happening. We ended up buying a cheap bottle of wine and smuggling it back to our dorm.

The following day we went out for breakfast with our friends before they boarded their boat to the Whitsundays. After saying our goodbyes and arranging to meet up in Magnetic Island we went off to explore some of the shops and things to do around Airlie.

We had decided to try and save money until we got to Magnetic Island, meaning all of the tourist trips were off the cards. This wasn’t much of a problem seeing as most of the water sports had been rescheduled due to the weather. We ended up spending the remainder of the day at a bar watching Usain Bolt do his 100m sprint on a big screen. We spent the evening back at the bar with more of the people from the Whitsundays trips and our Fraser Island trip.

When the Ground Shakes

The following day was uneventful, after lunch, we headed back to our dorm to get changed. While in the room we noticed the windows were rattling and the ground shaking. Everyone outside seemed to freeze where they were and all we could hear was a rumble. About a minute later everything went back to normal. It turns out we had experienced our first ever earthquake, which after a quick google I found out reached a magnitude of 5.8.

Our final night saw us back at the same bar before heading to the bottle-o for another cheap bottle of wine. The next morning it was time to go on up to Townsville and on the ferry to Magnetic Island.