A Travellerspoint blog

Marching across Maggie

Forts, dusty tracks and beautiful bays


And so we’re on the move again, looking back on a magnificent stay. Yesterday we ventured out to the famous Magnetic Island, a stones throw from Townsville. We caught the passenger ferry across, a quick and painless twenty minute journey, although a little bit pricy. It was absolutely glorious weather so we decided to walk to the forts on the central hill of the island. The first few kilometres were a breeze and the pathway wound around the hills offering stunning views across the island. As the sun got higher in the sky and the hills steepened, the walk became harder and our poor flip flops struggled to cope with the ascent. We were determined to get to the top of the fort even in the face of such warnings as you see below. They might have discouraged others wearing thongs but not us hardy souls.


Seven, sweaty, tiresome kilometres from our starting point we were victorious. Down to the last half a litre of water between the two of us we had to take some drastic rationing measures but the fort and its surroundings were worth it. The ruins themselves were fantastic to see but even more than that offer the most incredible views. We’ve never seen a more beautiful island in all our lives.


We rewarded ourselves with a quick lunch and looked for money for the return bus journey, feeling like our legs needed a rest. It was at that point we realised we had no cash between us and so began the long walk back. We took the road this time though and with a burst of energy, did it in just under an hour. Not far from the ferry terminal was Alma bay, a wonderful secluded beach enclosed by rocky outcrops. Rach launched into sunbathing mode whilst Alex took a swim and climbed on the rocks. There were only around five other people in the bay and it felt like our own personal beach.


We soaked up the rays for as long as we could before catching the ferry back. Sadly we had to say our goodbyes to Rob but soon perked up as we moved on to our next couchsurfing destination; Sabine and family. We shared a fantastic dinner with them and stayed up late with Sabine and Neil, chatting over a bottle of wine. They were a fantastic couple to get to know and we wish we could have stayed longer.

Today was a much more casual day spent lounging in the sun on the Strand before catching our train onwards to Airlie Beach. Whitsundays here we come!

Rex’s rules of the road

  • When planning a hill trek on Maggie island make sure you take money for the return trip on the bus or expect a long tiring walk. Singles start at $3.20.
  • When couchsurfing have good manners, offer to help with dinner or wash up etc.

Posted by rexontheroad 17:17 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Touring Townsville

Couching it, chicken wings and a goat track


Ouch! We’re now sat in Rob’s flat wishing we’d put on mossie repellent. After the bite free zone that is Melbourne we’d forgotten how much they loved us. Rob, by the way, is our first couch surfing host and an absolute legend. Couch surfing is a concept where people have a space to spare for people in their house and so offer it to travellers for free. Based on trust and reviews it seems to be mostly people who have been travelling and are returning favours and people who want to go travelling and are building up some karma points. We’ve decided to do it as it seems like a great idea and a great way to save money. Still it was nerve wracking calling Rob yesterday for the first time but no worries as after calling to say the we’d arrived he came and picked us up from the station! The views from his balcony are amazing and his flat is pretty awesome too. We had our own guest bedroom and double bed – bliss after shared dorms. He and his housemate’s girlfriend, Sabrina, helped us settle in and introduced us to the delights of Blue Mountain State over an amazing pork roast. Felt like being back home chilling with some beers!

This morning Sabrina offered to be our guide for the day and drove us to the Strand for lunch. The Strand is Townsville’s beachfront walkway lined with palm trees and water parks. She took us to an amazing restaurant called Longboards. It was built on a small rocky outcrop, protruding from the bay about halfway along. The food was amazing but especially the buffalo chicken wings – imagine heaven in your mouth as your eyes take in the stunning beach scene. The Strand is also a great place to go for stroll which we did, only stopping to top up our bellies on some scrumptuous ice cream.


Next on the trail was Castle Hill, a hill plonked right in the middle of Townsville. There is a road leading to the top but we went for the more adventurous option and went up the goat track. It was a steep track but worth the climb for its beauty. As we neared the top we realised Caste Hill is something of a misnomer- no castle! There was however incredible views stretching across the bay and inland. We watched the sunset and as night fell headed back down the road. Unfortunately this was when the mozzies descended and due to the aforementioned lack of insect repellent we were attacked left, right and centre. Hopefully we’ll remember tomorrow for Magnetic Island!


Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Remember that there are biting insects year round in the North of Oz, and worse in the summer too!
  • If you want to taste some amazing buffalo wings and you happen to stop by Townsville head to Longboards on the Strand.
  • Check out Castle Hill for some great views and ask a local about the legend of the saint.

Posted by rexontheroad 19:45 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Catching rays in Cairns

Swimming, sunbathing and some pretty flowers


We’re currently on the train chugging our way down the coast to Townsville feeling highly relaxed after a brilliant few days in Cairns. After all the hard work in Melbourne it finally feels like a holiday!

After the scuba diving on the reef (Good grief, it's the Reef) we’ve had a lazy couple of days trying to kick start our tans as we both look a bit ghost like at the moment. We’ve been chilling out by the side of the lagoon which is amazing. As there is no real beach in Cairns, more of a mudflat, the city decided to make its own. It’s a cross between an infinity pool and a beach and looks out over the bay. It is a beautiful place to spend the day soaking up the sun.


The hostel swimming pool at the Nomads Serpent was also a nice place to relax, although the sun-loungers were a little worse for wear! We choose to be boring and just paddle but there were nets for both pool and beach volleyball. The hostel was a great place to stay in general with a chilled out atmosphere, and best of all free meals with a $5 drink. The meals weren’t too shabby either, both tasty and filling – what more can you ask for after a busy days relaxing?

It wasn’t all sitting around for us though as we did have a short trip to the Flecker Botanic Gardens and the rainforest boardwalk. The rainforest boardwalk was stunning and very informative as well. You will need about three sets of eyes to do this walk though as, with your gaze attracted toward the heavens, collisions are all too easy. Rach discovered this when she stopped to take a picture and Alex tanked straight into the back of her! The gardens themselves we didn’t find as impressive. What we thought would take at least half an hour to get around just the perimeter only took twenty minutes to see it in its entirety. It is still worth a look though as it is a very tranquil spot.


We’ve loved staying in Cairns and it was a sad walk lugging our backpacks to the train station. We had decided on trains to explore the East coast as it was the cheapest mode of transport and relatively simple. We bought our East Coast Discovery Rail Passes through Queensland Rail for $450.45 each. It means that we can hop and off at any point on the journey down the coast but sadly in one direction only and is valid for six months although we’re only travelling for one month in OZ. We probably should have looked up the timetables before setting out though as it turns out that there is only five trains a week from Cairns to Brisbane. Luckily we aren’t on too tight a schedule and so can plan around this but we wouldn’t recommend trains if you are tight for time as fitting in the sightseeing around the train timetable might prove challenging.

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Cairns was great although be surprised if you actually meet anyone born there. The centre is very much tourist central with expats and backpackers young and old.
  • If Cairns is your first stop you can plan the rest of your journey in Oz (or even in other countries) in one of the seemingly unlimited number of travel agents.
  • Remember – you are on holiday. Cairns is a great place to relax as well as do activities, and the Lagoon is a great place to chill.

Posted by rexontheroad 20:54 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Good grief, it’s the Reef

Whales, turtles, coral and colour


We had a pretty early start this morning although most of our dorm was up before us leaving for various trips or further travels. We grabbed some toast from the hostel before waiting for our pickup to get us to the boat. Once aboard we had to sign a waiver saying that we knew we could die; a positive thought in the morning for Alex, a quick way to get rid of Rach! We loaded up on a second breakfast of bacon and egg sarnies and fruit before heading off to the first dive site. This was brilliant until Rach’s seasickness kicked in and meant that she spent a lot of the hour journey to the reef wishing she could throw herself overboard.

Luckily to distract her from her misery the boat was given an escort of humpback whales and dolphins! The pod of three whales, including a calf, followed the boat for at least twenty minutes and it was an amazing experience. They were truly majestic as they slowly appeared above the surface before slipping down once more with a flick of the tail. They even did a couple of rolls and waved their fins at us. They were so close that we could've reached out and touched them had the boat had a viewing platform off the back.


Because of those pesky whales we arrived slightly behind schedule at the first reef we were due to visit that day. We had booked to do an introductory dive, Alex’s first ever, and so after a brief safety talk we were kitted out and dumped out the back of the boat. Our group of four was taken down by a leader who went through all the procedures as we went to the reef floor. For those who have never done it, as Alex can attest, it is one of the strangest feelings having to put so much thought into breathing, but amazing too.


Alex was then allowed to swim off whereas Rach was stuck being pulled along as she kept drifting toward the surface due to some incorrect weights. In terms of coral the reef was not as beautifully coloured as we had thought but the fish were plentiful both in number and the astonishing array of colours that they came in. We had a great time and got to swim with a green sea turtle and put our hands in a giant clam and before we knew it, it was time to return the surface. We loved it so much that we headed back out with our flippers and snorkel to view the reef from above until the boat left.

The boat crew laid on a sumptuous feast for lunch, or at least it appeared that way to our hungry eyes. We had barely finished shovelling down our second plate each when we reached our second dive point. Due to being poor we decided not to do a second scuba dive, instead opting to snorkel. As it was low tide by this point it barely mattered and the reef could once again be seen in all its glory. The fish were even more colourful and varied and we got to swim between looming reef walls. It was like entering another world.


All too soon it was time to head home. It was an absolutely brilliant day and both of us would do it again in a heartbeat.

Rex’s rules of the road

  • When booking tours always have a look around and see what’s best and what discounts can be gotten where.
  • If there is any fear you’ll get seasick take a tablet before you go, especially if it’s a windy day.
  • Do scuba diving, it is completely worth it, although if it’s not your thing snorkelling is still an incredible way to see the reef up close, even better at low tide.
  • Reef Experience offered a great package and although we can offer no comparisons, they treated us really well, the group was small and the dives and the cooking superb. You can see Rach's review of it here.

Posted by rexontheroad 20:42 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Calling at Cairns

Long night and sunny afternoon delight


And so the backpacking begins! Yesterday was a hectic (to say the least) dash to the finish, to squeeze in the packing around a billion other last-minute jobs that had to be done. Just to name a few we had to dash to the Vicroads car centre to return Yvonne’s numberplates in order to get our registration refunded, run to Southlands shopping centre to pay money in and get rebates from Medicare, as well as doing some desperate last ditch washing. The packing itself took hours; we’d forgotten how much you have to cram into a rucksack! Because of all this and a million other things we ended up crawling into bed at half three in the morning, only to get up again at five to get to the airport.

The flight up to Cairns itself was sweet, bar the child that didn’t stop crying the entire three hours, that Alex luckily missed out on as he crashed as soon as his head hit the back rest. He’s too old for these late nights now! Stepping off the plane was like stepping on to a tropical island, with palms waving in the gentle sunny breeze. Finally off came our beloved jumpers and scarves!

After checking in to our hostel, the Nomads Serpent, and a quick change into more appropriate clothing, we wandered down the esplanade to check out the city centre. The walk was gorgeous and it was interesting to see how many activities take place up and down this strip. Not only is there the lagoon and many children’s play areas but there’s exercise stations and many classes going on. When we reached the city centre, something of a misnomer, we walked down a few streets and realised that was it. We found a total of one museum, one art gallery, a park and a McDonalds... and that was about it. There was however at least twenty, if not more, tour agencies advertising everything from trips to the Great Barrier Reef to Cape Tribulation. Cairns it seems is a great place to visit things from, not so much a place to spend a lot of time.


This turned out to our advantage though as scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef is something both of us have been looking forward to so we’ve booked a trip for tomorrow with Reef Experience, exciting!!!

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • If you’ve bought a car in Australia and you don’t use up your full year of registration you can claim a refund but only if you hand in your plates.
  • If you have the time, start planning out what you need to do a week before you leave, especially if you’ve been in one place for a long time.
  • Planes can be a quicker and sometimes cheaper option to get between Australia’s extremities. Webjet is a great place to compare flight prices.
  • Although Cairns is technically a city, don’t expect a looming metropolis.

Posted by rexontheroad 18:28 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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