Leaving my family in Ingham to continue my solo trip wasn’t easy. Even though these are relatives I hardly see, it felt safe and comforting to be with them. Luckily my next destination was the tranquil Magnetic Island, just a short ferry ride from Townsville, and the perfect location to transition from home comforts.
This post describes my very relaxed two nights on the island and the highlights of my stay. In general if I’m not doing something with a specific purpose in mind, I feel like I’m wasting time. This trip was good for me to chill, and remember the importance of resting mind and body.
A quiet hostel life
Something that has consistently surprised me so far is how quiet the hostels have been. I would have thought September was the perfect time to visit Queensland. The temperature peaks in the low thirties and the cooler nights make sleeping easy. Apparently though this is quiet season; some of the hostels I’ve stayed in have been so empty!
There are some benefits to this. I’ve loved having space to stretch out on the long bus journeys. However it can also exaggerate feelings of loneliness, because it is harder to meet people. I stayed in the Magnetic Island YHA, located on the other side of the island from the ferry terminal. This is a stunning location, only a three minute walk down the road from Horseshoe Bay.
This hostel is gorgeous and part of a reserve where you can cuddle koalas and see a colony of rock wallabies. Backpackers in their twenties are apparently more elusive here though. Luckily just as I was mentally preparing for a pretty lonely evening I saw a boy I met in Mission Beach. You often bump into people several times during your travels, and it’s great for forming better friendships.
Magnetic island for the walkers
If you love walking there are plenty of options. The most popular route closest to the YHA was Forts walk. This route takes you up to the ruins of an old fort complex which operated during World War II, and offers some stunning views. It is also where the largest population of wild koalas lives on the island.
I wanted to take the walking track through bushland across to Arcadia and Nelly Bay. I decided against it though thanks to the vegetation fires burning across much of the hillside. These were controlled fires operating to clear out the driest wood before fire season really starts up. I didn’t want to take my chances though.
One of my favourite things to do on Magnetic Island was wake up for the sunrise and potter along the beautiful beach at Horseshoe Bay. Early morning is also a good time to see the rock wallabies. There was a low window next to my bottom bunk, and I could sit in bed feeling warm and comfortable and watch them going about their lives.
Before I arrived in Magnetic Island I was unaware that around 2000 people lived there. The ferry across from Townsville is very regular, and there is a daily commute across to the mainland for school or work. Like any community they have their traditions and events which you might want to coincide your stay with.
Father’s Day festivities are big on the island. I arrived on the island the day after this event, which involved boat races, music and food stalls throughout the day. Another popular event is the Rotary Island Beer Can Regatta, which takes place every September during the Magnetic Island Sailing Race Week. Boats are made from beer cans and milk bottles, and it looks like an amazing day.
Eating on Magnetic Island
I was imagining cute little cafes and restaurants with fairy lights strung up in a picturesque setting next to the ocean. At Horseshoe bay, this is exactly what you get. Early Bird Cafe and Cafe Nourish are the two which appealed most to me. Cafe Nourish in particular had some amazing looking vegan treats and desserts.
In Nelly Bay Scallywags Cafe had a very cute shaded courtyard area and some delicious looking healthy meals. Most vegetarian options had potential to be made vegan. Along from Nelly Bay, the Arcadia Village Hotel offers up a tasty looking bistro menu. Plus if you’re looking for some after dinner entertainment they put on family friendly cane toad racing every Wednesday night.
There is a little corner shop at Horseshoe Bay, but it is very expensive. Eating out anywhere on Magnetic Island isn’t going to be cheap. The YHA had an amazing kitchen and self catering facilities. I recommend taking groceries with you on the ferry to the island. You can also stock up on essentials at the IGA in Nelly Bay, which offers slightly more reasonable prices and variety.
Learning to chill on Magnetic Island
I love to be active and on the go. When I have a moment to myself I immediately start to think about how I could use that time effectively. Being on an island in a quiet hostel was the first time I laid in a hammock for ten minutes, just reflecting on where I was. I definitely appreciated this time as I realised how tired I was beginning to feel.
If you are coming to Magnetic Island looking for a party, then Base Hostel in Nelly Bay may be more suited to you. I’ve heard it can turn into an all night party you can’t really escape from, particularly in high season. It might be a good option though if you’re after a more social atmosphere, especially since quiet season seems to be very quiet at the YHA!