As soon as we got off the Ferry at Nelly Bay, our accommodation was right there waiting for us. We stayed at Mantra Bright Point for 6 nights. Its home to modern self-contained apartments that are pretty much brand new. We stayed in a two bedroom apartment that overlooked the ocean. If we stay again, we will stay there again because it was so beautiful and perfect for us, but if you travel around the island you can find various places to stay, including lots of houses to rent. We dropped the bags and started for explore the four pools and leisure centre. We were lucky that we had a pool just below the apartment, so we got changed and spent a lazy afternoon enjoying to pool to ourselves.
The next day we headed off on the bus to the Forts walk. Australia panicked a little bit during the WW2, and thought Japan might attack. So they built a fort, with guns and a signal base, just in case. A lot of it is just concrete foundations, but don’t be fooled. Koalas are best seen when you go off the main track to see these foundations. We spotted one in his tree, and took the obligatory photos. I made some random noises, hoping to hit upon the right one for a mating koala. Something worked. He opened his eyes, and looked at us. Little were we to know that we would see another koala, seemingly tumbling down through the trees on the hill (I saw a grey blur) and then he came walking along right where we were and then jumped on a tree, climbed it, and started chewing the cud, or just the leaves. The Forts walk was a fantastic 4km return walk that took us to the historic fortifications and infrastructure, ending with stellar 360 degree views to the Palm Island Group in the north and Bowling Green Bay National Park in the south. A lot of walking later, we made it to Florence Bay. The water was nice and we snorkelled out to the reef just off the beach, and saw a stingray amongst other fish and colour-changing coral. The beach was very wild and rugged, with rocky cliffs and boulders enclosing the bay, with palm trees and fig trees edging the beach itself. Back on the bus we headed back to the apartment.
After a quick breakfast we heading down to the passenger ferry and toured Townsville. During the Second World War, Townsville was Australia’s most important air base, and Castle Hill, the highest point in Townsville, served as a lookout. During the war, the Americans contemplated leveling Castle Hill and using the rock to create a direct route to Magnetic Island.
Fortunately it didn’t happen, and the hill, which is only one metre shy of being classified a mountain, affords spectacular views. There are a number of walking tracks that take more or less 40 minutes to reach the top, and judging by the power walkers marching up the side, it’s clearly a local favorite. Castle Hill was our first stop before it got too hot.
There were plenty of locals strolling along the Strand foreshore, a 2km seaside promenade winding from the army museum to Memorial Park. It’s a pleasant sunset walk, particularly while enjoying an artisanal ice-cream from Juliette’s. We headed to the museum and looked into the local history. Just beyond the Strand is Jupiter’s Casino. We took a walk over for a little look. We headed back to the strand for lunch at Longboards Bar and Grill. We then headed back towards the city centre to Townsville’s Flinders Street for a long line of boutiques for Kim, then onto Dinner at Courtyard in City Lane.
The next day we did an amazing Aussie bush breakfast at Bungalow Bay Koala Village with the animals, but the breakfast books up fast so you need to ring ahead to secure your spot. The local cuisine on offer consists of lamb encrusted in outback spices, local fish, sausages, egg and bacon, pancakes and fruit, toast cooked over the fire and all the usual breakfast beverages.
The next day was a sleep in and had an early morning swim in the pool. We then headed down to Arcadia village, which has the island’s main concentration of shops, eateries and accommodation. Its main beach, Geoffrey Bay, has a reef at its southern end. By far its prettiest beach is Alma Bay cove, with huge boulders tumbling into the sea. We took a dip and chilled with almost all the beach to ourselves.
Late afternoon we headed down to Geoffrey Bay around where we found dozens of rock wallabies. We were lucky enough to see a few baby wallabies still in their Mother’s pouches. We brought apples just in case we spotted some, but just as we arrived and started handed some out, more and more arrived. Kim sat down and a few came right up to her and she was patting them while feeding them. She loved the experience and we did it a couple more times before we left.
Take a trip to Picnic Bay. Since the ferry terminal was relocated to Nelly Bay, Picnic Bay has resembled a ghost town. Shopfronts were abandoned as businesses suffered from the decreased tourist traffic. But that curious, elegant bird, the curlew, has made it its own, and the twinkling night views of Townsville are magical.
Activities in the area include swimming in the beach’s stinger enclosure (November to May) or hitting balls around the nine-hole golf course at the Magnetic Island Country Club . West is Cockle Bay , site of the HMS City of Adelaide wreck, followed by West Point with its sunsets and secluded beach. East round the coast is Rocky Bay , where a short, steep walk leads down to a beautiful sheltered beach.