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17th September 2007

After a mammoth 5000 kms (3100 miles) Motoring Holiday last year, June 2006, this year we drove the vette only 345kms (214 miles) down the coast from Cairns to Magnetic Island.

My wife declared that she wanted a ‘beach holiday’, I checked several beaches along the coast and finally decided on Magnetic Island as our destination.

After more searching I found the cheapest self contained accommodation on the Island at $89 per night and luckily our friends Barrie and Chris were on a yacht in the Marina there, waiting for good weather to head South. I got them to check the units out and Barrie sent some pics.

Here’s the view from the front door-

I asked the lady managing the units what condition they were in and she said they were old, but clean and tidy. She told me to imagine it would be like ‘staying with Nanna’ ! So from then on we called them ‘Nanna’s Units’.

I’ve sailed to Magnetic island a few times, but never driven there. It’s a rocky continental island just off the coast of Townsville. The tourist brochure describes it well –

About the Island

Magnetic Island, located 8km North-East of Townsville, is the ideal choice for families seeking a relaxing holiday. This large and beautiful World Heritage island is surrounded by sparkling blue waters with golden sandy beaches, coral gardens and an array of National Park walking tracks. Magnetic Island has twenty-two beaches and 24 kilometres of walking tracks winding their way through tropical bush. Just off shore is a diverse range of fringing reefs where you can discover an amazing array of marine life and soft and hard corals. With an average of 320 days of sunshine annually, Magnetic Island offers activities to enjoy at every imaginable tempo. From fast and furious water sports, to a relaxing swim in the clear waters of the Coral Sea. Then, as the sun sets, relax and enjoy the balmy, tropical island night.

Our Holiday

I have never crammed so much stuff into the vette! The rear was at least 150mm (6") lower than usual. I was really worried we’d break a spring on some of the bad bumps between Cairns and Townsville, but those springs must be tough !

Eventually everything was loaded into the cargo area, including 2 fold up chairs, pillows, food, cold drinks etc. I had to push hard to shut the hatch.

I made just enough room so that I could use the rear view mirror and finally we were ready to go.


We left Cairns on a sunny Monday, at 9.20am, 17th September 2007.

I always think that September and October have the best weather, here’s the view from the drivers seat passing through Innisfail. This sunny weather lasted the entire holiday.

Approaching the Cardwell ranges – halfway there.

Thanks to all the work I did on the vette last year, preparing it for the long trip to Brisbane, I had very little to do this time and we had an enjoyable drive down to Townsville, stopping at the frosty Mango for refreshments and arriving at the ferry terminal at 2pm.

Although the vette is low, it went onto the ferry easily.

The trip over to the Island took about 30 minutes. We felt that we were really on holiday and were a bit excited watching the Island grow steadily larger and knowing we would be driving onto it in a few minutes – looking for ‘Nanna’s’

Driving off the ferry was OK, I turned the wheels just after this photo so that I crossed the join between ramp and jetty on the diagonal.

After a short 5 minute drive we arrived at No 1 The Esplanade, Nelly Bay. Our unit was exactly as described and we began to consider extending our stay for more than the planned 5 days. It was very hot in the unit, 34C at 4.30pm, obviously no ceiling insulation and there was very little breeze that day but it had a small air conditioner which soon cooled the room down.

The units were exactly as described, obviously built in the 60’s and a bit worn – I had to screw the towel rail back on! But they were clean and tidy and the bed was comfortable.

The vette was parked right outside the front door

After unpacking everything, and removing the roof which stayed off until we left a week later, we drove over the mountain to Picnic Bay.

Here’s a video I made of that trip, holding the camera in one hand and steering with the other – (right click twice)



On Tuesday we spent most of the day at Picnic Bay, sitting on the grass under a huge Banyan tree.

The area used to be the busiest on the Island, because of the ferry terminal, but we discovered that the ferry no longer uses the pier and instead goes to the Nelly Bay harbour. Picnic bay was semi deserted and very peaceful. We had a swim and explored.


We re-visited Picnic bay several times, it was our favourite spot. Hear how calm and peaceful it was on this video –


On Wednesday we went Crocodile wrestling at the Koala Sanctuary – mine was a fierce brute

Mo soon had her’s under control!!

Next I tried snake charming

Mo found a new friend

and the Koala’s were wide awake

It was a good tour, and we learned that Male Koala’s Roar to proclaim their territory, something that we experienced ourselves a few days later.

As we were leaving we were all attacked by man eating Lorikeets, they were everywhere.

It was hot in the sun, so I bought myself a beachcomber hat at Horseshoe Bay – not sure if it’s a good look though


On Thursday we walked up to the lookout at Picnic Bay

It was a hot dry ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ type walk.

On the way up we had some spectacular views of other bays and the rest of the Island.

Magnetic island only has 10km (6 miles) of sealed roads, yet we managed to do nearly 200kms of roofless driving while there.

The Island is famous for it’s hire fleet of Mini Mokes, an ideal car for holidaying in the sun.

It was always funny parking the vette next to a Moke.

It was a relaxing holiday, we visited all the beaches, did some walking and sometimes stayed at Nanna’s enjoying the peace and view.

We decided to extend our stay and checkout on Monday

I heard a loud and interesting engine coming towards me, what a rumble!!!! it had to be something huge. Then around the headland came the Red Baron, a Biplane Seaplane, based at Horseshoe Bay and giving joy flights round the Island.

We discovered it spent the nights on a floating platform in the Marina at Nelly Bay. The plane was used in the ‘Phantom’ Movie filmed in North Queensland a few years ago.

I took some video of it a few days later at Horseshoe Bay.



On Saturday after spending the day back at Picnic Bay, we went for a late afternoon bush walk to ‘The Forts’, hoping to see some Koala’s in the wild. Once again, the brochure describes it well.

World War II Forts

If you enjoy bush walking, Magnetic Island has 36 km network of walking tracks that provide opportunities to see the wildlife in its natural environment and also enjoy the many spectacular views from several lookouts. One of the most popular walks on the island is the forts walk. This walk starts from the junction of Horseshoe Bay Road and Radical Bay Road, diverging from the start of the Arthur Bay road, is a track which takes you along a ridge behind the bays to “The Forts”. This 2 km walk takes you back in time to World War II, where a series of concrete gun emplacements and observation posts were built during World War II to protect Townsville in the event of a Japanese invasion. These posts offer panoramic views of the bays below and all the way from Townsville in the south over Cleveland Bay to Palm Island to the north over Horseshoe Bay and the Coral Sea. Looking east over Arthur and Florence Bays and the Coral Sea is Cape Cleveland and Bowling Green Bay National Park. There is a real chance of spotting a few Koalas in the trees, too. 4km or 1.5 hours return. Grade: moderate.

About halfway to the Forts we spotted two people staring up into a tree, and as we approached we saw a Koala and baby in the fork of a tree.

We crept up closer, they were just beginning to wake up, I took another picture in the fading light

Having seen heaps of Koala’s in captivity, it felt very special to see these two, in the wild. We discovered that some bushwalkers lay two sticks across each other on the track to help find these hard to spot sleepyheads and thanks to the crossed sticks we saw some more on the way back from the forts in the dusk.

Eventually we spotted the Forts, caught in the last rays of the setting sun –

Still a way to climb, but we made it just as the sun set.

As we began our climb down, we heard a roaring noise which at first sounded like either a distant chain saw or motorbike. After moving down a few more metres we realised the sound was much closer – it was a Male Koala calling out to claim his territory – this guy was Literally King of the Castle


On Sunday we went to Horseshoe bay for the markets, which had been advertised in the local paper, but they weren’t there, in some ways it was better to miss the crowds . We had a pleasant day on the beach, swimming, walking and sitting in the shade by the vette –

"Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits"

Nanna’s units were close to the new harbour and we found a colony of Rock Wallabies living there.


It’s amazing that they would choose to live hidden among the tumbled rocks of the harbour wall. On the fence was a notice letting people know what they eat and what they shouldn’t eat. We walked out and watched them several nights. I took some video of them including this Mother with Joey in the pouch, popping it’s head out to eat the food left for them.

The island has all the usual wildlife and is well known for it’s huge population of Curlews – these graceful birds make an awesome noise during the night that sound just like someone is being murdered!

One evening at Man Friday, an open air restaurant, a curlew paraded around the tables begging for food and making a sort of grumbling noise when he didn’t find any. We went back there a few nights later and the Curlew was joined by a hungry possum, scampering between tables.


My wife had the beach holiday she asked for, and highlights of the trip were driving around the twisty roads with the roof off, listening to the V8 rumble, sitting on the beach in the evening, the curlews, the perfect weather.

We loved Magnetic island, the locals were very friendly, it would be a great place to live. About the only disappointment I can think of is the Indian Curry night – those guys need to go back to cooking school!!

On Monday 24th September we boarded the Ferry at low tide, the ramp down to the ferry seemed steep, I wouldn’t have like to try and climb back up it in reverse, but luckily the vette went onto the ferry without grounding. We stopped in Townsville to have lunch at the new fish bar by the lagoon, then called in to see an old friend for a while. We moseyed back to Cairns arriving at dusk. An excellent ‘Motoring Holiday’ following in the fine tradition that my Dad started many years ago.

Would I go to magnetic island again? YOU BETCHA   – I’d go tomorrow!!

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