Day 1 - Unwind...
Once your ferry sails from Townsville’s sleepy port and Magnetic Island begins to enter your vision in the distance you need to gear yourself up – what awaits you on this tranquil island is two or three days of doing, as the Spanish say, ‘nada’. To anybody else that means nothing. This tropical island has sandy bays at every corner, each with beaches to soak up the suns and fringing reefs to snorkel in.
As most of ‘Maggie Islands’ hostels are located in bays you never have to go far to unwind. Each of the bays are quite accommodating and have restaurants, shops and other amenities to make your hassle free.
There’s quite a bit to do here, but your first day should encompass nothing else other than plain old relaxing. If you travel north to Maggie from Airlie Beach you may be worn out from 3 days sailing around the Whitsundays, and but if your last stop was Mission Beach and Cairns your bones will be aching from all the scuba diving and whiter-water rafting. Employ this time to nothing other than chilling.
Day 2 - Moke around Maggie
It is only Maggie Island’s eastern coast which is accessible to travellers (unless you have yourself a 4-wheel drive vehicle). Various companies around the island specialise in Moke Hire, and if you, or anybody else is in possession of a full, clean driving licence, rent one for the day. You could spend the day walking between the entry points to the walks, but it could prove to be very tiring after a while. Mokes aren’t that expensive and renting one for the day is a good investment.
Whether you drive or walk to them, you can do nothing else but relish the fact that there are over 25km of walking tracks weaving their way through Magnetic Island’s national parks, many of them sprinkled with lookouts back to the mainland. One of its best walks is known as the Forts Walk. Starting at Radical Bay, it was christened this as it was here that soldiers perched themselves when on the lookout for enemies during World War I. Not only is there some of the island’s best lookouts here, but if you are lucky enough you will catch a glimpse of the many koalas and wallabies which inhabit the trees around.
Even though this is a lethargic vibe on Magnetic Island, if you have a bee in your bonnet and you want to see what the island offers the night owl leave the keys of your moke behind you and take a stroll down to either Horseshoe Bay or Picnic Bay. This is where the island’s hotspots can be found.
Day 3 - A spot of snorkellling
Thanks to its location in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, the island is seasoned with some superb snorkelling spots. Of all these, the reef which fringes Florence Bay shines brightest of all. If you don’t have your own snorkelling gear, you’ll find somewhere to rent it without too much hassle.
If you make it to the bays but don’t fancy getting your feet (and a bit more) wet, all of these island’s bays have beaches to soak up Maggie Island’s sunshine. Picnic Bay, Nelly Bay and Horseshoe Bay are just three which rim the east coast.
For a bird’s eye view of the island try and make your way up the 497 metres to the peak of Mt Cook. While there is no set walking track to its peak, around Horseshoe Bay and other areas of the island you will see signposts directing you to the best walking tracks leading up to it.
Day 4 - On a mission
Upon return to Townsville, as there is little to do here, you should pick the best seat possible on the next bus to Mission Beach. There is no real town centre, and travellers tend to stay put in their accommodation, but you’ll have no problems finding things to do during the day.
Just 4km from the beach is Dunk Island where some of Northern Queensland’s densest rainforest can be found, along with some of the best walking tracks.
Back on dry land, the beach itself has unique orange sand, and if the sun is shining you can chill out for a few hours for some sunbathing. Various tour companies operate horseback tours, but if adrenalin is more your thing, Mission Beach is one of the best places in Australia to do a skydive.
Day 5 - Queensland's most northerly city
Cairns is similar to Airlie Beach in many ways, yet completely different to it in others. This city is a party city. Staying in can be quite challenging. Queensland’s most northerly city is also bursting with tour operators specialising in day trips and 3 day/2 night excursions out to the outer reef.
Rather than hopping on to the first boat leaving for the reef, take a day to get to know the city. You’ll find that it doesn’t take long to warm to Cairns and you’ll slip into its mode without much difficulty.
Along The Esplanade there is a wide open green full of trees to laze under, or those not in the shade if you want to top up your tan. Rollerbladers whiz up and down all day long, along with joggers and those strolling with their dogs or youngsters.
If you plan on doing a dive, or even snorkelling when you are in Cairns, as day trips depart very early in the morning you’re better off steering clear of Cairns’ bars and nightclubs as they go on very late and are full of backpackers partying hard! Otherwise join them!
Day 6 - Where the reef is most vibrant
While you can embark on trips out to the Great Barrier Reef in various spots such as Airlie Beach and Magnetic Island, the outer reef at Cairns is where it is most vibrant. With ‘Deep Sea Diver’s Den’ you can explore two reef locations in one day and enjoy the friendly and professional service that Sea Quest ADV is famous for. Its dive locations on the outer edge of The Great Barrier Reef offer outstanding underwater visibility, superb coral formations and abundant, colourful marine life.
Famous underwater environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau was most impressed with the dive locations and reef care. Today, as part of its contribution to reef research and education, Sea Quest ADV donates a proportion of every fare to Marine Parks.
The Woolshed is arguably the best known backpacker bar in the whole of Australia and is heaving with backpackers partying hard and drinking harder! Be prepared to climb the tables to get down – everybody here does it!
Day 7 - Final port of call
Just 45 minutes north of Cairns is Port Douglas. Like Magnetic Island, its best feature is its laid back atmosphere. The beach here is perfect for relaxing during the day while there are some restaurants and bars which provide the entertainment at night.
Marina Mirage, a retail complex located right on the waterfront, has some restaurants and bars which boast an extremely privileged location and a beer here while watching the boats come in from their day tours is very enjoyable.