Far North Queensland Adventures – Part 2…… Magnetic Island sun, snorkelling and cute creatures

If you caught up on the first part of our FNQ adventures, our couple of days in Townsville you would know about our non-stop rain, storms and the excessive use of rain coats! We did have plenty of fun and got some pretty awesome pictures, so all was not lost.

Thursday 12 May…… sun, almost!

While we’d arrived over to our Magnetic Island house during yet more torrential rain, the forecast for our first full day on Maggie was a little better. Of course we were treated to huge downpours overnight and awoke to very cloudy skies, but that didn’t stop the kids from jumping in the pool post-breakfast.

The water wasn’t quite as toasty as we liked it due to a lack of sun for the solar heating, but it was decidedly warmer than the Townsville pool! We soon realised we were being spied on…… our very own garden rock wallaby who had come to investigate all the noise from the kids 🙂

The resident wallaby was quite a fan of the kids leaving rock wallaby friendly snacks out for him/her too!

With a swim and wallaby sighting ticked off the list for the morning, we thought we’d do some exploring between the predicted rains. The weather was definitely not ideal for snorkelling so we decided to do some exploring by car and then the Forts Walk in the afternoon, as it was a relatively cool day and good conditions for hiking.

Horseshoe Bay

We headed off in the car for the drive over to Horseshoe Bay for a bit of an explore. It was currently not raining, and we almost caught a few glimpses of blue sky. Despite being the end of stinger season, the stinger nets were still out, which was going to be a problem for snorkelling as the stinger nets do not cover the snorkel sites. We promised the kids we’d get a swim and snorkel eventually and went off to find a cafe for lunch.

In the usual tropical style, it went from sunny to a torrential downpour with no warning! We ducked into a nearby cafe for lunch as it didn’t take long for the rain to subside. But not before we’d been soaked again….

After filling our tummies with hot food to power us on the Forts hike, we had a wander along the beach again, and negotiated that there would be swimming again later!

The Forts Walk…. with lots of koalas!

Northern Australia’s largest colony of wild koalas live on Magnetic Island. The Forts Walk is known for wildlife, spectacular rocky coves and historic military sites and sweeping views of the coast and Coral Sea.

With a break in the rain we drove the short distance from Horshoe Bay to the carpark at the start of the walk. This walk is known to get busy but being mid-week, rainy and out of tourist season we weren’t too worried about crowds!

The return walk is a little over 4km (and depends on which tracks you take to wind your way up to the different forts) but does include a reasonable amount of elevation. We set out with Zinnia walking but with the ergo with us in case she got tired. We also took plenty of water as although it was only in the mid-20s it was rather humid!

It wasn’t long before we started getting glimpses of the beautiful Coral Sea. It was back to looking turquoise today, rather than grey!

There was plenty of water, puddles and mud on the track but the wide trails made for fairly easy walking, even for toddlers.

It wasn’t long before we spied our first koala! The motto for this walk is ‘look up’ and we’d tried to convince Zinnia you had to go into ‘koala mode’ and be quiet so as not to scare them. To be fair, the koalas were mostly sleeping and ignoring everyone. Walkers would let each other know where they had spotted koalas so it was easy to find them.

Our first couple of koalas lazily ingored us, sleeping away the day…..

As we wound our way up the trail it wasn’t long before we spotted our next koala…..

This one was quite low down and happy for a chat. Zinnia was stoked to see koalas up close! As were we all, really. We had found a couple of koalas in a short space so had plenty of koala gazing!

Between koala viewing it was Soren and Anto heaven as we checked out the best preserved WWII fortification on the eastern seaboard. The Magnetic Island Forts Walk is a reminder of just how close Australia came to being invaded. The walk includes The Forts gun emplacements which are still intact and offers interpretive signage along the way, providing a great insight into the significance of the area.

As we wound our way up, we spied the fort up on the rocky escarpment.

There were some spectacular rock formations and giant rocks lining the trail…..

As we reached the top of the trail the views were spectacular, especially with the stormy skies!

The kids were having a wonderful time bounding up and down the trails and huge steps like mountain goats. Some parts were a little narrow to squeeze through with a Zinnia on Anto’s back!

She’d walked most of the trail but was finding some of the bigger steps a little tricky.

Up at the first fort and there was a ladder to climb. Always fun with a toddler on your back. We did get some good views of the incoming storm too…

There are a few different trails to follow around between the tops of the hills and the forts, and we wound around all of them for some views. It was off to fort number 2, and yes more ladders!

Given the stormy skies we were counting ourselves lucky we’d been dry on the whole walk so far!

Down those ladders and off on some steep bush trails as we headed back down to see how many koalas we could find on the return journey.

Great rocks and great views and we hadn’t managed to get wet yet!

Back to the flatter sections and Zinnia was happy to run along and spot more koalas, and we found a few more on the way down (ok some of them were the same ones as the way up, but she didn’t care!)……

It was wonderful seeing so many koalas. I’ve never seen this many in the wild before. It was rather special.

It started raining the last 10 minutes or so of the walk so we’d time it rather well. The people heading up looked like they were about to get soaked! The whole Forts hike covered 4.35km, with 180m of elevation and was about 1 hour 50 minutes for us with a toddler and stopping for lots of photos. Our actual moving time was only 1 hour 15 minutes. A very fun and pleasant walk!

Alma Bay

We jumped into the car and drove back down towards Nelly Bay but stopping at Alma Bay on the way for a bit of an explore.

By now it was well and truly stormy again and the sea wasn’t looking all that inviting for a swim……

The kids were fascinated by the emergency vinegar for jelly fish stings. Something we were hoping we wouldn’t need to use!

Geoffrey Bay

By the time we made it back to the car it had stopped raining again so we popped around the corner to explore Geoffrey Bay, and happened upon the rock wallaby colony. We’d been planning to visit here, but had forgotten this is where they hang out. We pretty quickly remembered as we saw them hanging out on the road and beside the road, and pretty much everywhere!

The little critters are perfectly camouflaged with the surrounding rocks, so it’s always a case of spot the wallaby as you’d catch sight of one or they’d move suddenly.

Between watching the wallabies we were admiring the fog and storms surrounding the island…..

Blue sky one minute, fog and stormy clouds the next 🙂

The rock wallabies were everywhere and they are certainly fairly tame though, used to the many tourists…..

With another storm approaching we had to convince the kids we’d come back again another day and see the wallabies, and next time bring some of the special wallaby pellets.

An older couple had arrived just as we were leaving, and had wallaby food with them, and kindly shared it with the kids. This sealed the deal for getting to come back another day!

Picnic Bay

To round out our day of exploring, we drove back through Nelly Bay, where our house was, and over the hill to Picnic Bay. Spying along the way some walks we’d like to do.

By the time we got to Picnic Bay it was sunny again. Unfortunately it was late afternoon, so not much was open, so we had a quick wander around and checked out the very picturesque jetty. The kids also spied the stinger net swimming area and figured they’d have a good shot of coming back here another day as it was only a couple of kilometres from our house!

Back to the house and we rounded out a fun day with a swim and BBQ on the deck.

The BBQ was refusing to light, seemingly because it came equipped with a little fur sticking out of it. Anto noticed as he took the lid off there was some additional wildlife on board. Sure enough a possum had snuck inside and his butt was blocking the BBQ from igniting! He didn’t seem keen on leaving either……

Friday 13 May – sunshine and snorkelling!

While the weather on Thursday was significantly better than earlier in the week, it still rained dozens of times. The forecast for the coming days had been constantly changing and our hopes of sunshine for the rest of the trip were looking dashed. We awoke on Friday to glorious sunshine though and decided to take advantage with a post-breakfast walk into Nelly Bay.

We headed to Scallywags cafe and Zinnia was impressed with all things pirate while we enjoyed coffees and smoothies in the tropical warmth!

On the walk back to the house we stopped past some local shops and picked up some maps for the snorkel trails. We then walked back via the dive shop to enquire about the stinger situation.

The dive shop confirmed there were a few stingers still around. The nets were due to be removed within a week or two but we decided to play it safe and get some stinger suits. They were happy to hire them to us but given they were selling them off for the end of the season we ended up being able to buy them at the same cost. So we now all had new gear! The downside, more gear to transport home and store with our every growing collection of dive and snorkel gear! Anto was so excited by this…….

The kids, however, were very excited by the prospect of finally hitting some snorkelling for the afternoon. They wore off a bit more energy with a swim and lunch out on the deck. In the glorious sunshine!

Arthur Bay

The dive shop had recommended we try the secluded but beautiful Arthur Bay for the afternoon snorkelling. The poor weather had meant the water visibility had been terrible, but they said due to it’s position, Arthur Bay should clear first.

The only downside is that you don’t have any car access to the Bay, it’s an approximately 1km hike in, on steep gravel. Undeterred, we packed all the gear into a couple of backpacks and headed off in the car, parking at the car park at the start of the Forts walk. The same place we’d been 24 hours earlier.

This time we headed down a different trail, and it was slightly challenging walking on steep in parts gravel in thongs! There was almost 70m descent going from the start of the trail to the bay……. a good effort on the legs as we trooped with gear and in thongs. There was plenty of water, both in the waterfalls beside the track and flooding of the trail. This made the thongs a good call!

We eventually arrived at the sandy beach and over the dunes and spied Arthur Bay. It was indeed rather pretty!

The access issues meant there weren’t many people around at all. A few other snorkelers and a couple of people swimming in the shallows. The use of stinger suits was about 50/50 (this appeared to be the case for our whole trip) but we decided to play it safe…… so after the kids ran around in the beautiful sand, it was suits and snorkels on!

Soren and Astrid headed out with Anto to see what they could see. A suited up Zinnia and I played around in the shallows seeing if any fish might come in for a closer look.

The big two have definitely improved their snorkelling and swimming strength since our last snorkelling adventure in Vanuatu in 2019, and had no issues venturing all over the bay with Anto. Miss Zinnia wasn’t quite up to snorkelling yet so watched wistfully from the shallows with me as we paddled around.

The beautiful colour of the water didn’t show the poor visibility. There were indeed beautiful fish and corals, they were just hard to see. Nonetheless we spent a good couple of hours snorkelling and the adults taking it in turns with big kids before Soren and Zinnia were both too cold and needed to get out.

We packed up the gear and decided to walk back up in our stinger suits due to the level of sand the kids had managed to accumulate! Anto and I had our dive boots on which were way easier to walk in than thongs although it was like walking with a moving puddle of water in your shoes 🙂 The kids made it back up the hill slowly and we were pleased to see the car, now mostly dry but rather sandy!

We stopped past Arcadia on the way back to the house checking out the setting sun!

We’d managed a whole day without rain!!!! With dinner back at the house we were treated to a lovely sunset from our balcony. The kids declared it another fabulous day……

Saturday 14 May….. more snorkelling adventures

With some successful snorkelling the day before we decided to try another spot, post-breakfast. The Nelly Bay snorkel trail was on the agenda. It started not too far from our house, but with all the gear we drove down to this one!

We suited up and were ready to head out to the snorkel trail bouys.

Miss Zinnia was very keen to give snorkelling a go so we had a plan. We added an extra layer of bouancy with a shortie wetsuit, wrapped the inflated safety sausage around her and floated her out so we could get her to look at the fish with her goggles (she couldn’t quite manage the snorkel but was happy to put her face in to watch the fish).

The visibility was just OK. Not wonderful but plenty of fish and corals. The tide was rather high making the bommies difficult to see for the kids with the average viz. So we trundled around for half an hour and then headed back in ready for some food. The kids loved the buoys though and navigated between them well!

Lunch and warming up was on the agenda, and the balcony did just the trick!

Off to Arcadia…..

The plan for the afternoon was a walk from Nelly Bay to Arcadia. We set out from the port area and up over the hill towards Arcadia. We’ve driven this route back and forwards quite a few times now, and the views are pretty spectacular, and it looked like the path running beside the road would offer even better views.

Sure enough, the trudge up the hill was worth the effort……

Soren shouted out that he had spotted a ray! We doubted him but sure enough we saw a ray circling in the shallows and then a few more. Very well-spotted by Soren and a real treat.

As we reached Aracadia the kids were keen to run along the path. All of a sudden we heard the very distinctive (and loud) screech of black cockatoos! We get yellow-tailed black cockatoos flying over our house in Canberra, regularly but these were red-tailed black cockatoos.

They were also very un-fussed about us being near them and we got plenty of close-up views!

Zinnia was impersonating a black cockatoo!

We made it to the Arcadia general store and purchased a few ice creams for hot children (and some wallaby food for another wallaby visit).

We were all a bit sweaty but the sugar from the icecreams gave the kids a burst of energy and they pretty much ran back, and even stopped for some mid-trail exercises and another chat to the black cockatoos.

It was a hot walk back up the hill but the views were again good, the tide had come in a great deal in the time we’d been in Arcadia and the water was a beautiful colour…..

The total walk was just over 4km with a moving time of an hour. A lovely afternoon stroll 🙂

Bungalow Bay

Our last adventure for the day was a trip to the butterfly forest. At the back of the Bungalow Bay and near the old Magnetic Island schoolhouse is a butterfly forest walk.

We’d been keen to do this and the butteflies are supposed to be active in the late afternoon. Unfortunately we were a few weeks too early and we only spotted one butterfly at a distance, we did however find some cool mushrooms some giant wallabies and an awful lot of mosquitoes found us!

As we headed back to the car, slapping at mozzies but rather tired, we decided to call it a day and head back to Nelly Bay and our house for a swim and dinner. Another pretty good day and definitely no rain!

Up next, our last few days in Magnetic Island and more snorkelling and wild life, and yes, even sunshine!

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