Far North Queensland Adventures – Part 1……. rain, rain, rain in Townsville

In 2021 when very little travel was possible and certainly nothing international, we’d planned a Winter getaway to Far North Queensland for some sun, warmth and snorkelling. The big kids were all excited for some travel and snorkelling – they got the snorkelling bug on our 2019 Vanuatu trip! Miss Zinnia was just excited about the prospect of planes and going to ‘the island’ (Magnetic Island).

Unfortunately, the ACT went into lockdown 3 days before we were meant to depart on our trip……. there were many tears from the kids but we rescheduled it for a couple of weeks later. It was only another 5 day ‘snap-lockdown’. Nope, the week passed and we were still in lockdown, so we rescheduled for October and Soren’s birthday, cases were low, it was looking good. Alas, the lockdown dragged on and state borders remained shut.

Eventually things were starting to open up again but we’d already rescheduled the trip a few times. Rather than heading north in the heat of Summer and cyclone season, we pushed it out to May 2022. Canberra is cold by then, and some warm weather would be appealing. There were also less cyclones and stingers (or so we planned!).

Up, up and away…..

It was a rather long wait for this trip but we had managed some getaways to the Snowy Mountains and Melbourne in the intervening months. Eventually the time arrived. It was 4.30am on a freezing Monday morning, the 9th of May, as we headed to the airport for our 6am flight to Brisbane.

The kids were excited and the flight went smoothly and quickly (well it was fairly bumpy with the terrible Brisbane weather but no other dramas). A bit more food and coffee in the lounge and we were in the air to Townsville. The kids (and adults) became rather weary and all kids managed to nap at some point…….

Hello Townsville….

Like the rain in Brisbane it was rather wet in Townsville, but we’d arrived and picked up our car by 11am. Way too early for hotel check-in, so it was off for an explore and some food.

There was a break in the weather so it was pizza and fish and chips on The Strand and enjoying the warm weather, no jumpers needed here!

Fully of carbohydrates, we headed off for an explore, while waiting for our apartment to be ready for check in. Unfortunately it was a rather short time before it began to pour with rain, and all the coats and umbrellas were buried in the suitcases……

So it was back to the car and off to a supermarket for supplies and afternoon tea before check in.

Once we got to our apartment it turns out it was indeed massive and the kids quickly made themselves at home. With it pouring outside it was afternoon naps and iView while the adults unpacked and sorted out food.

We had fabulous views of the rolling storms and mist on Castle Hill but at least it was warm enough to enjoy our dinner outside watching the rain!

Despite the fact that it was quite wet and we were all exhausted, the light was fabulous and we all needed some outside time, so we grabbed our coats and I insisted on heading out for an explore.

Our apartment hotel was right by the port area so we checked out the boats and lovely still water. The kids found plenty of puddles to step in despite me asking them not to!

We headed into the city area and found a phone box. The kids were confused by this mystical thing! There was a time before mobiles but they don’t believe us!!! Anto demonstrated that it did actually work to call my mobile.

As the rain poured down and the sun (what sun?) began to set we checked out the cool bridge lights, the cloudy glow and plenty more boats…..

It was well and truly pouring with rain but the kids were having a wonderful time and it was a great time for taking photos, so who cares about wet feet!

We wandered all along the river and Soren wanted to check out the Townsville sign, which was missing a bit of glow, even without the kids climbing all over it (which of course they did!)…….

Tuesday 10 May…… more rainy adventures

Despite another day of rather wet weather (ok torrential rain) forecast, we weren’t going to let it dampen our spirits. Our first adventure for the day was a trip up Castle Hill. We could see the giant rock from our apartment, and when the cloud and mist around it had briefly cleared we thought we should quickly jump in the car and head up. With better weather forecast we would have enjoyed the hike, but the kids would have been a bit whiney in the rain….

We passed a few wet looking joggers, walkers and soaked cyclists, as we drove up to the peak. At the top it was already looking dicey as the cloud rolled in, but we headed up the stairs to see what we might actually be able to see!

Well you could almost see the ocean and Magnetic Island, but alas here came the storm!

In about 30 seconds were were soaked! It was windy and rainy and the kids faces said it all……

With not much else to be seen other than a lot of cloud and wet, it was back in the car and a drive down, thankful we weren’t on road bikes like some of the people we passed!

Luckily the aircon dried us out pretty quickly and it was onto our next stop for the day. A visit to Riverway lagoons, for a wander and possibly a swim. As we got there it was raining and there was an aqua aerobics class being held in the pool area. With a rooster supervising! Not what we were expecting but rather hilarious 🙂

We decide to take a wander along the boardwalk area next to the river to check out the trees and waterlilies. Bits of the boardwalk were being upgraded which meant a few detours, but it was still scenic.

Astrid was quite a fan of the paperbark trees and Soren was keen to check out the waterlilies and water orchids with me. The lagoon has turtles and we were on the lookout for the little creatures. We did spot their bubbles several times, but alas a noisy 3 year old was probably discouraging them from surfacing!

After a good wander down to the overflow, and back, the kids were keen for a swim but it was raining and the locals had told us the pool was way too cold (probably by North Queensland standards but possibly ok for us Southerners). The kids were talked into heading back for a play in the water park on The Strand instead. So we bid farewell to the lagoons and jumped in the car, again a bit wet, for the drive back.

Alas, our normally careful research had let us down and we’d failed to check the water play area was actually open! We arrived to find it not operating, we hadn’t realised they close it every Tuesday for cleaning. Not something we thought to check for a public space……. The kids were not happy with us, but given it was now raining again we again negotiated and agreed to a swim back at the apartment.

Despite our warnings it quickly became apparent that the pool was way too cold for even the most determined children! Soren wasn’t going to let us be right, even after he pretty much turned blue! Even Astrid used to cold pools for squad training, declined to swim. No sunshine and mild temperatures had left the unheated pool rather chilly.

The kids quickly agreed that warm showers, lunch and naps was a better plan. There might have been the promise of ice cream later on……

On our previous days adventures we’d spotted a nearby ice cream shop. For once the kids were in luck and the Tuesday special was cheap sundaes, so a wander down and it was sundaes for all! Despite a few fails on the activities for the day, and the lack of the cooperation with the weather, it was a pretty good afternoon!

A good couple of hundred millimetre downpour in the afternoon and we decided to head to the local shopping centre to stock up on food for Magnetic Island. The rain was so bad we couldn’t even face walking, with our coats, on the 500m to dinner so opted for the car and a nice warm Indian meal!

Wednesday 11 May – Magnetic Island bound……. and yet more rain!

After some rather impressive downpours overnight we awoke to only a little bit of rain in the morning. Unfortunately quite a lot of rain was still predicted so we’d planned on an indoor activity before our lunch time ferry across to Maggie.

After packing up the apartment, and somehow fitting everything – and an awful lot of food, into the car, we checked out and walked the 100m down to the Maritime Museum. Soren had voted to visit there over the other indoor activities on offer, since you-know, boats! Initially we weren’t sure it was under-cover enough as there were several buildings, but with it not currently pouring we decided to give it a go.

The big kids got their quiz and treasure hunt papers and set about finding all the answers. Zinnia was just happy to look at boats and fire hydrants……..

Dressing up as a pirate or ships captain was also pretty fun. Then they discovered the VR goggles and the Titanic simulation game. Soren is obsessed with the Titanic so was more than happy.

The museum is a series of interconnecting buildings along the waterfront. It of course started raining again but there were plenty of umbrellas provided to get us between buildings and it wasn’t cold, so it wasn’t a real problem.

After we’d checked out most of the exhibits, we had to drag Soren away from the various simulations so we could all get some lunch before our ferry trip….

After another torrential downpour before, during and after, a quick cafe lunch (the rain coats were getting a workout) we headed to the car for the drive to the ferry terminal. It was about 200m from our hotel apartment but at least the car had kept us dry trooping around for the day. Zinnia was beyond excited to finally be going ‘to the island’. Nine months is a long time to wait when you are a toddler…….

Anto and Astrid, who are both prone to travel sickness, were less thrilled with the prospect of a rough crossing. We were all just keen to get over to Maggie for hopefully some relaxing and the predicted improving weather.

On-board and given the very strong winds and rain we headed inside to the cafe area. We’d long since given up on taking our coats off for even a few minutes, as it inevitably would start pouring again. The announcements made it pretty clear it was likely to be a rather rough crossing, but it was only 40 minutes so how bad could it get? Having witnessed Anto on dive boats in rough weather, and a certain Spirit of Tasmania crossing that resulted in lots of vomit, I wasn’t convinced……

I’m not particularly prone to sea-sickness and Soren was also looking ok, so we headed out to the back deck to watch our departure from Townsville…..

It was briefly not raining, although horrendously windy. With the swell the trucks parked on the car deck were rocking so far back and forth that you could go from touching them to them being 5m away. It was rather disconcerting!

Despite the overcast conditions it was still fun watching us motor out and towards Magnetic Island. The back of the boat was being trailed by birds, who were swirling overhead in the winds, following us along!

Normally you can easily see all the way over to Maggie, but today we could barely see all the cranes as we zipped past……

Anto and Zinnia were opting to stay inside out of the wind and spray, but Astrid headed out with Soren and I to rock and roll on the back deck. Looking for our first glimpses of the island.

It was pretty stormy and there was quite the swell keeping us bouncing around. We lost sight of Townsville (now covered in rain cloud) and soon could spot a very cloud shrouded Magnetic Island. Not exactly a tropical paradise (yet!).

We didn’t quite get blown off the back deck and as the ferry pulled into the Magnetic Island dock, we returned to the car, thankfully all vomit free, ready to head to our island home for 6 days of fun.

A quick pick up of the keys for our Magnetic Island house and it was off to explore.

We had rebooked this trip so many times that we’d lost track of the different accommodation we’d booked each time. When we pushed the trip out by several months we had new options to consider and had ended up booking a stand alone house in Nelly Bay, with it’s own pool. We figured a good option with loud kids and easier for hanging out at the pool!

We were pretty happy with our choice and the kids negotiated who was sleeping where. The pool looked pretty nice and we were hoping for some sunny days to lay around reading while the kids swam away…….

The rain had well and truly set-in for the afternoon. So after some unpacking we thought we should head out for an explore on foot. Rain coats were on again (they were definitely getting a good work out!) and we decided to take a scenic walk between our house, along the Nelly Bay beach and down to the marina.

It definitely resembled tropical storm rather than tropical paradise, but we spotted the snorkel trail beacons and plenty of places we might want to swim when the weather improved.

Up in FNQb we were a long way from home and also a long way from many of our other favourite European cities. The weather (aside from the pleasant temperature at least) was feeling more Europe in winter than tropical paradise, but we held out hope for the next few days…….

After a good wander of several kilometres and plenty more puddles and wet shoes, it was back to our island house for dinner and making plans for the next few days. There were many walks, koalas, rock wallabies and snorkelling on the agenda. The only problem was would the weather cooperate?

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