The next day we drove to Townsville, a city in a northeastern corner of Queensland, arrived late and got wifi working for free downtown which allowed us to book a hotel. The owners/managers were very chatty and informative and gave us the low-down on Magnetic island, which we wanted to visit. That night, we had a wonderful dinner at an unpretentious indian restaurant and started planning our next day. Sun was finally in the forecast so we were looking forward to our one day-trip to the island.
We woke up and yes the sun was shining! We barely made the 8:45am ferry and had to run to buy our tickets. Since taking our car on the island was cost-prohibitive, we booked a car last minute from the ferry. The ferry to Magnetic island only took 20 minutes and the rental car lady was there waiting for us at the dock when we arrived.Above: off cruising the island in our little suzuki
Magnetic island is also known as Maggie. Over half of the island is a national park and has one of the largest concentration of wild koalas in Australia, hence our desire to visit this jewel. We were set on seeing koalas in their natural habitat in the wild and not in a zoo or so-called sanctuary!Above: koala signs everywhere on the island
First order of the day was to stop by where the rock wallabies hung out. They were a cute bunch sunning themselves on the rocks. We had heard of a popular hike called the “Forts” that had several scenic lookouts and a good chance to spot koalas, or so we had read. So that was our next stop for the day. The name “The Forts” is due to the fact that in 1942 Townsville became a major military base and a forts complex was built on Magnetic island to spot planes. We saw remnants of the military base and it was a nice hike but unfortunately, we saw no koalas….a lot of people like us looking for them though. But those buggers sleep during the day and are very hard to spot.Above and below: scenic lookouts from our hikeDisappointed, we then headed to Radical Bay, a road only for 4X4 vehicles, and picked up a nice couple from Slovenia that was walking the road. They were grateful for the ride as it would have been quite a hike! They headed to a nearby beach and we had lunch on Radical bay but didn’t think about going in as the water was very murky and cold from the last few days of rain. We also noticed a dead turtle in the bay we had stopped at before, so it wasn’t super inviting. Horseshoe bay was our next destination but it wasn’t terribly attractive either from a beach perspective so we decided to hike the wetlands. As we were looking for a place to park we ran into a tour group that had just emerged from the forest. Disappointed we hadn’t seen koalas yet, we asked them if they had spotted any (Sylvie thought the tour guide would know where to find any). The main tour guide then came forward and was kind enough to show us on our map exactly where to see a mom koala and baby. We were estactic! They also tipped us off on the butterflies walk they had just taken. Thankful and excited we drove off to the koala spot and after a bit of searching, James finally located the baby and then mom koala in the Eucalyptus trees. The youngster was awake and adorable. Mom was in a nearby tree sleeping hard. After taking many many pictures, we backtracked to do the butterfly walk in the forest. Again, it was terrific. There must have been hundreds of butterflies! We also finally took our wetland hike which was scenic but only produced a few birds. Below: kookaburraWe finished our day on the island by driving to the furthest West point and had a little bit of fun with our 4-wheel drive. It was pretty tame though. We had hoped for a more challenging road but not that our cheapy Suzuki could have handled it anyway.Above: playing with our little Suzuki, below: West point Above and below: common birds of Magnetic island We looked for koalas some more but did not find any so we decided to return the car and got on the 6pm ferry back to Townsville. It was a full day and we enjoyed the island very much, especially seeing the koalas.