Things to do Magnetic Island

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.

Just recently I was lucky to be invited to one of the most dreamy islands in the world by Tourism and Events Queensland and Townsville Enterprise.

Things to do Magnetic Island

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.

Things to do Magnetic Island
Dappled early morning light as we walk through the trees to the old military camp on the Forts Walk, guided by Ranger Jo … some fabulous information boards along the way.

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.

Things to do Magnetic Island
The views along the walk as you climb higher are beautiful and at the top you’ll see a wonderful vista of Horseshoe Bay.

“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.

Things to do Magnetic Island

“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.

Things to do Magnetic IslandThe 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.

Magnetic Island things to do
Clockwise from left: A photo of how things once were, a gun placement, ammunition store, oundation slabs from the women’s quarters.

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

The Koalas

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!

Things to do Magnetic Island, Koala

“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.

Things to do Magnetic Island
Signage along the way is interesting and informative. Look out for birds and in season look out for bright yellow Kapok trees.

“Did you know the Kapok tree produces great big cotton balls which are actually seed pods,  used as pillow stuffers?” Jo asks us.

Military Fortications

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.

You might also like: Magnetic Island : Looking for a dream holiday destination, on Lifestyle Fifty

8 Fast Facts

  1. Don’t Forget: Water, Comfortable Shoes and Sun Cream.
  2. Look out for Ospreys, wedge tailed eagles, hawks, falcons, kites and white bellied sea eagles.
  3. 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.
  4. The Forts Walk track starts near the Radical Bay turnoff.
  5. The walk is 2.8km and about 1.5 hours return.
  6. The going is along ungraded road which winds it’s way along a ridge.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
Things to do Magnetic Island
On another day I was lucky to be able to walk along a shorter walking trail to Hawkings Point. I started at Picnic Bay (top left) and climbed 600m to a lookout with the most incredible views of the island.

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

My fellow travellers were Sam from Travelling King and Nicole from Bitten By the Travel Bug – check out their wonderful travel blogs if you have time, won’t you?

Shout out this week to: Weekend Travel Inspiration and Noel Morata Travel Photo Discover

Why not share with us in the comments … Where in the world is your favourite walk?

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  1. There’s no better way to explore an area than on foot, and this walk, Jo – looks glorious!
    And how wonderful to kind a snoozing koala in the wild –
    Magnet Island looks a winner 🙂

  2. Walking is definitely the best way to immerse yourself in the natural surrounds of a place. Seeing native animals in their natural habitat is very rewarding too. I loved this post and Magnetic Island will be another place to put on the bucket list.

  3. I’m glad it’s going on your bucket list Kathy – and luckily you are closer than I 🙂

  4. Thanks Linda … and yes, it’s definitely a place I’d like to return to. Can see you there on a kayak, or walking up to the Forts 😉

  5. Hi, Jo
    Sounds like a magic place. I’ll make sure I always read your posts before a go anywhere – a sort of Trip Advisor.

  6. Glad to see you had a lovely day on Maggie, Jo. I just love seeing the Koalas on the Fort Track and they are so close to the ground too. There are beautiful views on the walk too. Makes me feel like jumping a ferry!

  7. And you are so lucky that you can just ‘jump on the ferry’ Jan! Thanks for popping by 🙂

  8. Haha Denise! I’m not sure about a sort of Trip Advisor, but thank you! Yes, it’s a magic place for lots of reasons.

  9. Oh I loved Maggie! I spend only 2.5 days there but had a lot of fun and especially the hikes were great. I also did the Forts Walk and one other but I don’t remember the name.

  10. Delightful, thanks for climbing the hills to give us these marvellous views. I do like Townsville and went a couple of times as a backpacker but never made it over to the island, what a shame. Aren’t the blues deep and magnificent.

    I’ve just done a favourite walk, a bush track at the back of my house, and I saw an echidna, first time ever int he 6 years we’ve been in this house. Marvellous. How fab that you saw koalas and that they are thriving.

  11. Really wishing I had taken this walk, it looks beautiful!!

    It’s amazing the history of Magnetic Island. It’s something I’m definitely interested in exploring further on a return trip, but I was so impressed with the animals we saw. Koalas, wallabies, and even a crazy guy chasing us with a snake!

  12. Yes, so much Australian wildlife in a short time – the snake encounter? Hilarious, hey! I also didn’t realise how much history there was.

  13. The views, the blues and the bushwalks – yep, amazing and something you’ll have to do one day Seana. Wow, an echidna at the back of your house, fantastic 🙂

  14. As long as you remembered the experience, Stef! That’s the main thing 🙂 Yes, you can do a lot in 2.5 days on Maggie 🙂

  15. Wow, this looks like a wonderful place to enjoy nature and discover some of the wildlife, gorgeous

  16. Maggie offers nature and wildlife in spades, Noel. Thanks for reading 🙂

  17. Johanna, Next time I’m in Australia I would love to hike Magnetic Island. It all sounds so captivating and beautiful! Thanks for linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration.

  18. I definitely agree with you about walking being a fun and interesting way to get some exercise, and it can be good for relaxation too. Magnetic Island looks like a great place for hiking with those beautiful views, koalas and historic forts, and the water looks absolutely heavenly for swimming!

    BTW I’m surprised I never knew Townsville was bombed in WWII, always thought it was only Darwin and Broome.

  19. Hi Bonny, thanks for reading, and yes it’s a great reasonably easy hiking spot with lots of swimming spots. Me neither, I didn’t realise about Townsville – live and learn (especially by travelling) hey!

  20. Any post that starts off with the author confessing that they’ve given up their gym membership is one for me! First and foremost, congratulations on taking that step to an even more fulfilling life! No gym membership combined with a trip to Queensland to check out this amazing walk and these glorious creatures is a recipe for a happy life.

  21. Great story. Just one issue – cement is wet. Concrete is the hard stuff.

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