Don’t know about you, but gyms aren’t for me. I’ve just cancelled my membership (again) because I couldn’t justify the money and I didn’t use it enough.
For me, the best way to keep fit is to walk, and in Australia we are blessed with some amazing walks with incredible scenery.
Magnetic Island. A great place for walking
Magnetic Island consists of two-thirds National Park with around 25 kilometres of walking trails linking the island’s 23 beaches and bays. So it’s not unreasonable to add it to my Great Walks of the World list.
We met up with Ranger Jo Petersen from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services to embark on the Forts Walk, considered the premier walking track on the island. It starts near the Radical Bay turnoff and the 2.8kms return ramble takes about 1.5 hours to complete.
Setting off before the sun rose high was a good plan, and one that I’d advise future walkers to think about, because although it’s a relatively easy walk with incredible views and old forts to seek shade in, you are climbing upwards for half the walk.
“We are pretty much assured of seeing Koalas in the wild,” Jo said as we started off, “So keep your eyes peeled.”
I am a little excited because previously I’ve only seen Koalas in captivity and this will be a life time first for me.
In Western Australia (where I live) we see kangaroos everywhere we look and don’t look on the roads and in the fields south of Perth.
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But Koalas … now that’s a different story!
The Forts Walk
At the beginning of the walk there’s a great information board with a map showing links to other walking opportunities.
“You can literally, choose your own adventure, from here, ” Jo says. “It’s easy to get to the pub in Horseshoe Bay for a beer and lunch and then walk on to Bungalow Bay for instance if you’d like to.”
As the track winds up the hill we catch glimpses of secluded bays and sparkling sea through the Eucalyptus Woodland and Iron Barks.
The walk is mostly along decomposed granite track built by hand 70 years ago by the army. Since then it’s been upgraded and re built by armoring and dry stone pitching but no concrete at all has been used in its rehabilitation. The craftsmanship of the iconic track really adds to the natural feature of the walk.
Hugh Ward, now 98 years old, was the original road engineer and came back to help with the refurbishment of the road.
Not many people know that Townsville was bombed during WW2 and it was deemed necessary to build a Fort Complex on Magnetic Island to protect the mainland from attack.
“It’s not just about going for a walk on Magnetic Island. You’re actually in a National Park with great facilities and in that respect it’s quite unique and different to other National Parks,” says Jo
Koalas have made their home on the island since 1932 when 18 animals were introduced from Bowen to protect them from mainland threats. Now there are 800 koalas on the island and 80% of the vegetation supports the koala population.
“You’ll find them resting on the eucalpyt branches in the morning and chewing on leaves in the late afternoon. This isn’t just another tropical palm filled island,” laughs Jo.
Journey through time
The Forts Walk takes you on a journey. A journey with wonderful views, an array of fauna and flora and a trek through military history too.
“Watch out for other things too,” says Jo. “Like green ant nests the size of footballs.”
We’re not in a rainforest, we are in the dry tropics and because the area only gets 1 metre of rain on average, the trees don’t grow to be enormous.
Yay, we find one!
“There’s a koala up there, just on the right,” remarks another hiker as he passes us.
A Kookaburra calls and a kapok tree casts a bright yellow flush across the landscape. At this point I can’t help by being a little seduced by the Magnetic Island sight and sound spell, and I gaze at the Koala having a snooze in the crook of a tree.
“Did you know the Kapok tree produces great big cotton balls which are actually seed pods, used as pillow stuffers?” Jo asks us.
As we climb the hill we come to an old camp site which was used during WW2. Back then, Townsville had just been bombed and coastal fortifications were needed. This is apparently one of the best preserved along the Queensland Coast.
This part of the walk is quiet now, but all those years ago the camp we have come upon would have bustled with about 100 people. Parts of the fortifications are camouflaged with fake rock, only the tell-tale wire netting give some away.
All the building materials for the camp, the forts and the ammunition stores were carried up the hill on hastily built tracks. It was a big feat of engineering to get the concrete and infrastructure up here. The men were apparently “Built like brick shit houses!”
At the top
The Command Post offers a panoramic 300 degree view of the area and the Coral Sea. Here you’ll also find military detail – there’s even a morse code machine. You’ll find WW2 artefacts, and listen to an audio presentation of personal stories from the time.
Listening to the personal stories about WW2 on Magnetic Island was inspiring and filled me with nostalgia. Afterwards I needed space alone for quiet contemplation, just to remember what people went through in the War.
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8 Fast Facts
- Don’t Forget: Water, Comfortable Shoes and Sun Cream.
- Look out for Ospreys, wedge tailed eagles, hawks, falcons, kites and white bellied sea eagles.
- The Forts Walk is home to one of the best preserved WWII fortifications on the eastern seaboard. They serve as a reminder as to how close Australia came to being invaded during WWII.
- The Forts Walk track starts near the Radical Bay turnoff.
- The walk is 2.8km and about 1.5 hours return.
- The going is along ungraded road which winds it’s way along a ridge.
- You’ll be rewarded with great views over Arthur and Florence Bays as you climb, and at the top you can see Horseshoe Bay Lagoon and way across to Palm Island and Orpheus Island.
- For history buffs, the walk includes sightings of old gun and ammunition emplacements, an old Observation tower, and a Command Post with 300 degree views of the island and surrounds.
My trip to Magnetic Island was courtesy of Tourism Queensland and Townsville Enterprise. If you’re on Instagram then you might want to follow along @townsvillenorthqueensland and look for the Hashtag #TownsvilleShines. If you’re on Twitter then look for @TownsvilleAus, and Facebook: Visit Townsville, Australia. I stayed at Peppers Blue on Blue … follow on Instagram and Twitter via @PeppersHotels and #PeppersBlueonBlue
Why not share with us in the comments … Where in the world is your favourite walk?