Last updated on 10th March 2020
Possessing an Extraordinary Power to Attract
Travelling along the east coast of Australia is comparably easier because there are Greyhound buses to hop on and off. It is a very good service but unfortunately a little bit expensive. A 30 day hop-on-hop-off ticket costs 399 AUD. Alternatively, there are trains and several airports along the coastline, also another bus service called Premier. I went for a single bus ticket from Cairns to Townsville for 63$ and from there I took the ferry to Magnetic Island (online price 30$ return).
Magnetic Island got its name from Captain Cook who thought that the island had some impact on his compass. But maybe it was just the power of attraction that he felt. Magnetic Island is a very small but mountainous island. Hiking around it would take no more than two days. The island has itself established as a popular holiday destination with many hotels and several resorts in operation. Hence there are all sorts of activities going on so that one can easily spend two weeks here without getting bored: There are 23 palm-fringed beaches, one more beautiful than the other, a national park half the size of the island, koalas and rock wallabies to observe, birds to watch and feed, and more than 24km of hiking trails all over the island. The island is famous for the topless Barbie cars, for beautiful snorkelling and diving spots with two wrecks close by. One can go horseback riding, cycling, jet skiing and so on. Certainly, everything has its price, except maybe the hiking.
I stayed in Arcadia at Geoffrey Bay which is a nice beach, conveniently located not far from the ferry jetty. On my first day, I bought a day ticket for the local bus that connects all settlements on the island. Yes, there is public transport and it works very well. The bus drivers are more than happy to help the tourists. The service is just not very frequent: one bus per hour.
I decided to do the Forts Track, a short hike of 1,5h up the hills to some remains of a fort from WWII, one of them being a lookout that can be climbed. It was very hot and humid, hence I found it not easy to hike uphill in the bright hot sunshine. But it was worth the effort: From the top one has a wonderful view over the island, its beaches and the ocean. Along the way, I was lucky to spot one small koala sleeping in a branch fork of a gum tree.
Back at the road, I took the bus to go to Horseshoe Bay. This beach has a stinger net so that people can go for a swim without wearing stinger suits. I thought I will refresh myself after that sweaty hike. I jumped into the ocean and noticed with disgust how hot the water was: As hot as the air! I had jumped into a huge bathtub. Even further out the water was very warm, as warm as the hot springs in Indonesia. I left, uncomfortably sweating still, for the swimming pool of my hostel.
In the evening I took the bus to the other end of the island, Picnic Bay. The point has a wonderful long jetty which is popular for watching the sunset. But I did not join the crowd on the jetty. Instead, I headed for the Picnic Bay lookout, a tip that my hostel manager had given to me. A short walk along the road away from the jetty leads to a crossing where a closed road leads up the hill towards a water tank. The road is closed only for cars but not people. I climbed onto the top of some big boulders and had that wonderful view just for myself. I was looking at Cockle Bay, which is a really picturesque piece of earth with trees in the water in front of a small sandy beach. Not far from it, half sunken in the ocean, there is the famous wreck of the SS Adelaide.
The next morning I joined three tourists who had rented a car for one day and were happy to share with me – car and fuel costs. We ended up being four people in a 4×4 Suzuki jeep with no roof, very old and rusty but fun to drive. We went all the way to the forest walk again, and down to Arthur Beach for snorkelling. A wonderful place, hardly any people here and the water is not too warm for a swim. But the snorkelling here did not offer much to see in terms of coral or fish but I was lucky to encounter a big turtle.
For lunch, we stopped at Horseshoe Bay for fish and chips. From there we went all the way back and further to Picnic Bay and climbed up to Hawking’s Point Lookout. That is a spectacular view and worth the climb, not difficult though, it’s not more than 15 min one way. It has a grand view in all directions, over the bay and the ocean, towards Townsville and the mountains of the island. It is a perfect spot for watching the sunset as well.
We continued to Cockle Bay to see the wreck of the SS Adelaide. And we could see it in the distance but it is really far out and it is hard to figure out any details. We chose the gravel road through the National Park to Westpoint and after about 7km we reached another beautiful, huge and empty beach. On our way along the road we saw a lot of rubbish dump places in the woods and also some private properties, and I was wondering how that could be ok in a National Park? We finished the day by visiting the rock wallabies once more, next to our hostel. It was a perfect day with loads of fun driving around.
On my last day, before I headed off to the ferry and then the Greyhound bus to Arlie Beach, I went snorkelling. Recommended as one of the best snorkelling spots is Geoffrey Bay in front of Arcadia, where my hostel was. Right at front of the rocks, where we find the rock wallabies in the evening, starts a snorkelling trail in form of yellow numbered floats that guide along the reef and to the wreck.
It is really worth going and so much better than Arthur Bay, it has a nice reef and on this calm day I could see an amazing array of fish species. And especially around the Moltke wreck which is wonderfully overgrown with corals and full of life. It is truly a beautiful spot that should not be missed.