Tuesday, 29 October 2013

TRAVEL: Townsville and Magnetic Island

TRAVEL POST: Townsville + a day trip to Magnetic Island

I liked Townsville a lot more than I thought I would. Not many others actually stayed in Townsville, most backpackers just use it as a platform to get to Magnetic Island.

I took a Greyhound from Cairns, we passed through Mission Beach and I felt a little pang in my heart because I genuinely loved my time there, but I resisted the urge to get off the coach there. We also passed through Tully & its giant gumboot (aka wellington boot) - see below.

 Above: our bench at MB <3
Above: the huge gum boot at Tully!

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It was a nightmare journey - our coach pulled in to a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere, we were all told to get off because the coach had broken down. Then about 20mins later we were told to get back on. We were all pretty suss on this because nothing had been done to fix the coach, but it was really hot outside so we got back on the coach. We were running really late but we still had to go into a depot and switch drivers before we got to Townsville. We arrived over an hour late but, luckily for me, the hostel I had booked into had sent a mini bus to pick me up and the driver had very patiently waited.
The hostel was very nice - second only to Absolute at Mission Beach, in my opinion.

Castle Hill: 
Straight away I was transfixed by the huge hill/almost mountain that sits over the town like a noble King. I put my bag down on my bunk bed and went back out to climb the hill - it is a great climb, I did get a bit sweaty though! Best time to go would be late afternoon because it has cooled down a bit and you get to watch the sunset!
 Above: the starting view
 Above: me, before
Above: me, after

It was a great place to go - its free, there are loads of locals and tourists up there - I spotted fellow backpackers with bottles of beer and fitness-crazy mums hell-bent on pushing their pram full of kids up the steep hill, it was insane! The views over Townsville and Magnetic Island were so great that I knew I would come back up again another day!
I took about a hundred photos, here are just a few:

Above: the sun going down on Townsville CBD

Above: I was stunned when I reached the top of the Goat track walk that I did up the hill - I emerged from trees and rock to find a tarmac road. You follow this road up for the last few metres to the top, at the top I was astounded to find a carpark!! I couldn't believe how many people drove up... The view is so much better if you have really earned it, when you climb to the top its a far better sense of achievement than simply driving.

Townsville architecture and esplanade:
I adored some of the old buildings I found here in Townsville. I spent a whole day walking around - I did 3 heritage trails (one of them was awful I ended up in a dodgy part of town that was all industrial buildings and train tracks) and walked the length of the esplanade and back. Needless to say that I did not do the hill climb again that day.
 Above: palm tree lined streets
 Above: the old railway station
 Above: found a lovely old Queenslander pub and some cherry blossom!
Above: Castle hill looking over the town
 Above: some nice independent shops/cafes on one of the main streets
 Above: the art gallery
 Above: a nice look restaurant located in an old brewary/town clock house/post office

Above: the harbour

Anzac Memorial park / The Strand (esplanade):
And so I moved on, out of the city streets and across to the esplanade. There was a peaceful memorial park which led onto the esplanade. I walked the entire length of the esplanade and then back again.
At the far end of the esplanade I found a lagoon. It is nowhere near the standards of the Cairns, Airlie Beach and Brisbane lagoons but I did like that it used water direct from the ocean (or at least, I assumed this as the water was murky and had bits of seaweed/algae floating around).

 Above: I took this photo on my camera, I love this picture it makes me think of a picture-perfect postcard
 Above: the Strand is extremely popular, it has a kids water park
 Above: Townsville is in the jellyfish danger zone and a nice touch is that along the esplanade there are boxes containing vinegar, should you get a sting. I don't know how effective this would be if you got stung by a box jellyfish though.....
Above: there are many cute little piers dotted around the esplanade

Townsville has an art gallery - sadly I did not make it inside as there were so many options to choose from for my last day in Townsville (the next day was being spent on Magnetic, and the day after that I left).
There is an Aboriginal Culture centre, a maritime museum, aquariam (reef museum) and the Museum of Tropical Queensland - I chose to go to the latter. I only chose one of these due to time and financial restraints.
The Museum of Tropical Queensland was a really nice way to spend a morning/afternoon. You could get your ticket and go in and out all day as you pleased.

Above: I didn't take many photos in the museum even though photography was allowed (I think...). I loved the huge model of the HMS Pandora and found the mystery surrounding it very interesting.

Magnetic Island:

My friends stayed a couple of nights on Magnetic before I arrived in Townsville but I decided to go just for the day. I got a ferry over and bought an all day bus pass - I did a lot of walking that day I think about 10-12km in total, but some of the small townships were quite far from each other so the buses came in very handy. There are many different walking tracks on the island, one of my favourites was the one around an old fortress.
Sadly, it was an overcast day. I could see that Magnetic Island was extremely beautiful but I was a little disappointed I couldn't get to see it in full effect, as the sun didn't shine at all.

 Above: the view of Townsville from Magnetic

My friends went to Magnetic before I did and when I met up with them in Townsville before my day trip they showed me on a map where to find some wild rock wallabies that love being fed! There is a news agents nearby that sells bags of wallaby food. The bus stop is the one before the stop for The Forts trail - the bus drivers are all very friendly and used to tourists so they will be able to help you out.
The wallabies took a couple of minutes to come down from the rocks before they trusted me, but after that they were all over me - they climbed up into my lap, they allowed me to stroke their backs, I even attracted one that had a young joey in her pouch.
I ran out of wallaby pellets and fed them my banana too - that is true kindness ;)

Above: the gorgeous wallabies!! PLEASE GO FEED THEM! I love them :')

The Forts walk:
I caught the bus from the wallabies to do the forts walk. I started to feel glad it was overcast because on a hot sunny day all that walking around would leave you feeling pretty hot and bothered!
On the bus I saw a German guy I was kind of friends with from my hostel in Townsville, he was heading to the Koala/wildlife park associated with one of the backpacker hostels on the island. A Belgian guy got off the bus with me and we ended up doing the walk together and chatting as best we could in his broken English (I have so much respect for people who can have a conversation in a language that is not their first).
The Forts walk was 4km return with amazing views over the beautiful Magnetic coast. There were loads of koalas too! Sadly the first one we saw was dead, but we did see 2 more that were alive and well.

Above: someone spotted a koala a few meters off the walking track and very kindly hung around to let other walkers know

 Above: Magnetic has an amazing coast line, it manages to be both rugged and pretty
Above: me at the Forts look out

There was just a bit of time before it went dark to make it up to the top of the island, to Horseshoe bay. It was lovely, with little shops and cafes as well as a beautiful beach

Townsville and Magnetic island were both gorgeous, there was plenty to see & do, plus the people that I met (both local and backpackers) were all so friendly and chilled :)

Next... Airlie Beach and the stunning Whitsundays!

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