And my Australian adventure continued! If you have been following along, it began with camping for six days at the Woodford Folk Festival and then heading to Airlie Beach for a little sailing adventure in the Whitsundays. When we got to the hotel after the sailing tour, we had to sit down and figure out just what we going to do for the next four days until I flew back to Toronto. We had originally thought that we would rent a car and drive down the coast back to Brisbane with a stop at Fraser Island. After reading more about it, we thought that Fraser Island is something that you don’t want to rush and to do it right, you need to full out camp there for a few days. Since we didn’t have that much time and we had just spent six days already camping, we thought we should do something else. I am a big fan of nature and since Australia is the grandmaster country of the most interesting animals, I wanted to do something where we could see more of them. When driving around, it’s not hard to see kangaroos in the fields and cockatoos are flying around everywhere but I wanted to see more. When we were sailing, a few people had mentioned going to Magnetic Island. An island sounded like another adventure to me and after a little research in my trusty Lonely Planet Guide, I learned that the largest population of wild koalas live on Magnetic Island. With this information, I was sold! Within an hour, we had decided the plan: rent a car, drive up to Townsville, take a ferry and spend two nights on Magnetic Island. We would then drive back to Airlie Beach and fly back to Brissy. Game on.
The drive to Townsville was a pretty one. We drove through Bowen which is home to the Big Mango. They love Big Things in Australia – scattered across the country are about 150 sculptures of them. The last time that I was in Oz, I saw the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour and the Big Pineapple in Woombye so it was nice to continue on the fruit theme. My favourite part of it may have been the matching trailer located behind it which I can only assume is someone’s dwelling.
To get to Magnetic Island, you have to drive to Townsville and catch a ferry from there. There are two ferries that frequently go to the Island: a passenger and a vehicle ferry. Magnetic Island has a great bus system so we had originally thought that it would be more economical to park the rental car and take the passenger ferry and then bus it around the Island. When we factored in the cost for parking the car and the bus tickets for three days, it ended up being cheaper for us to take the car ($174 AU). If there had been a fourth person, however, it would have been less expensive to take the passenger ferry. When you drive your car over, it includes three people and there is an additional charge for more people. Why? Quien sabes!
Ferries are always fun. You park the car and head up to the top deck for the view. The water was pretty choppy and it was super windy so there was no way that I was tempted to get a beer that was offered on the middle deck. Hello potential motion sickness!
Magnetic Island is small and full of hills. There are four towns on the island and they are all super quaint. The largest of them seemed to be Horseshoe Bay on the North side of the island. This was where the nicest restaurants were and also the most tourists. Both ferries bring you into Nelly Bay. There is a big grocery store right here which is super convenient. We picked up some groceries and stopped at the Thirsty Camel for some Townsville beers. The hotel that we chose was in Picnic Bay which is the town on the southernmost part of the island and isn’t too far from the ferry (well nothing is really far from anything here – there is one main road that carries you from Picnic Bay to Horseshoe Bay).
The hotel that we chose to stay at was the Tropical Palms. We found it by searching on Google but later realised that it was also listed in the Lonely Planet Guide. The owners Michele and Dave were super sweet, as was their dog that hung out near the reception. The hotel had a great garden with a BBQ and large table which were available for anyone to use plus a salt water pool. Our room had a kitchenette plus a double and single bed. It was perfect for us.
Since we arrived late in the day, options for going out for dinner were limited (although I think they are probably always limited!). Dave recommended the R&R Bistro at the Picnic Bay Hotel. The food was great and the beer was cold so we liked it. We ended up eating dinner here again the following night. It was so lovely and quiet here in Picnic Bay. At night the Kookaburras laughed away and in the mornings, you would hear the cockatoos.
I loved the curlews that were everywhere in Picnic Bay. There was also a great beach here that had a stinger net so you didn’t have to worry about swimming with a stinger suit here.
The majority of the Island is designated as the Magnetic Island Nation Park so there are a bunch of hikes that you can do here. This was January in Australia and it was hot and dry, and hot, so we just chose to do the hike that would give us the most potential to see a koala in the wild. The trail was called the Forts Walk and it took you to an old fort before looping back around. It is about four kilometres so took about an hour and a half. The views were awesome.
We had our eyes constantly looking for koalas and totally went off track a couple of times to try to find them but those guys were hidden too well for us. The closest we came to seeing one is some dried up turds. 🙂 Dave later told us that he had a guest at the hotel who stayed for five days. He was determined to see a koala in the wild and everyday he spent on that trail. He didn’t see one until his final day when he was lucky enough to see five. Apparently perseverance pays.
I was really wanting fish & chips for lunch and we were told that there was a spot in Horseshoe Bay so we headed that way. Horseshoe Bay has a cute strip of restaurants and shops along the water and the beach there has a stinger net. We got our fish & chips and ate at the beach and it was lovely. There we also ran into some of the other people who were on our sailing trip and immediately felt like the adults of the crew with our car and hotel (as opposed to their hostels and bikes).
I was pretty determined to see a koala since we were in their environment and since we did not have days to hang out in the woods to find them, we headed to Bungalow Bay where they have an animal sanctuary. There are accommodations at Bungalow Bay and they also have a volunteer program where you can help out with things there to have a cheaper stay. We did the Wildlife Tour which cost $20 AU. It included a guided tour through the park and let everyone handle the animals. I’m not a super fan of people handling animals to be honest but it was still a good tour to see them up close.
The coolest animals there was definitely the koalas, as well as the wombat and echidna. Australia, you have cool creatures.
Yes, I look pretty dirty in these photos. We had just hiked for a couple of hours in the heat! I can’t help it. 🙂
We were on the last tour of the day at Bungalow Bay which is apparently the best tour to be on because the end of it coincides with the time that they feed the Rainbow Lorikeets. These beauties are basically my most favourite bird ever. When I was in Australia two years ago, I saw one briefly as it flew by the car. It was just a smear of rainbow and I almost didn’t believe that I had actually seen it. To then experience tons of them together like this was incredible. When I showed Josh a photo of them, he described the Rainbow Lorikeet perfectly: a bird that only a seven year old would dream up. I went a little nuts photographing them and while doing so, they would land on me, which was the beginning of one of my newest favourite things: Selfies with Wildlife.
Samples of Selfies with Wildlife.
Dave had told us that if we wanted to see a gorgeous sunset, that we should drive to the western part of the island. To get there, you drive past Picnic Bay, past the golf course and then the road basically turns into a dirt track. From there you drive until it stops at a gorgeous sandy beach. There were a few other people there fishing and just hanging out. We watched the sun set and then drove back in the dark while tons of flying foxes flew above.
Before leaving Magnetic Island the next day, we had one more animal to see: the Rock Wallaby. There is a spot in Arcadia where you can see them, mostly because people bring food for them there. Rock Wallabies are super cute and are simliar to kangaroos. They are both marsupials so they have pouches for their babies. There was one female with a wee one in hers and it was one of the most adorable things that I have ever seen.
I was also able to get a Selfie with Wildlife here with the wallaby. That makes two for my collection.
After hanging with the wallabies, we caught the ferry back to Townsville and wandered around there to have lunch. It seemed to be a bit of a rundown town, one that was probably hopping back in the day but now, not so much. I love to photograph places like this so I did not mind.
The drive back to Airlie Beach was pretty magical. There was this field of Magpie Geese. I also saw a few Emus which was super cool. The funniest spy was seeing a camel in a field with some cows. For that one, we just had to stop to take a proper photo. I mean, a camel, in a field. Love it.
During the drive, we also saw the most magical rainbow. Dayle is a huge fan of rainbows so she was loving it. We followed this one all the way to Airlie Beach where it seemed to end in the bay, making one of the most picturesque things ever.
Cane toads are a big thing in Australia. They are big and ugly and are considered an invasive species. I did not see any live ones but I did see this road-kill version. Look at how big it was!
Our flight from Proserpine was leaving the following morning so we got a room again at the Whitsunday Terraces. Funny enough, they gave us the exact same room that we had stayed in three nights prior. We celebrated another great adventure with this bottle of bubbly from Koomooloo Vineyard. Naturally the label caught my eye – the skull treehouse was gorgeous!
Leaving for the airport made me a little sad. I wanted to see more wildlife because I knew that the next day would be spent in Brisbane and then I would be heading home. We drove the car to the airport and when we got out, this beautiful Blue-winged Kookaburra was on a lampost. He allowed me to photograph him from all angles. Below is a recording of the Laughing Kookaburras that we heard at night from the hotel on Magentic Island. Whenever you heard “jungle” sounds in movies or tv shows, they are typically actually kookaburra calls.
No trip to Australia is complete without some Vegemite. I picked this up for Josh and we actually kind of love eating it in the morning on toast.