Magnetic Island: The best wedding anniversary pressie ever!
By Brian Pickering and Kaye Browne
It’s funny how people perceive other people’s lives. Take for example the reaction when we messaged a few friends and family we were about to take a short break.
The replies were swift… “What! You’re going on a ‘holiday’?… But we thought you WERE already on holiday… a permanent one!!!”… accompanied by classic exasperation emojis. Very funny.
But despite being ‘on the road’ for the past three years in our 20ft New Age caravan, (and loving it!) sometimes you just need to take a break from the everyday routines we all endure whether travelling or in a house! Plus our imminent wedding anniversary was all the excuse we needed to ‘Getaway’.
As it happens, we feel very much at home here in Hervey Bay just north of Maryborough in Queensland so much so we’ve stayed here – with occasional trips north to Bundaberg and south to the Gold Coast and Brisbane to visit friends for some house-sitting – for just on two years.
Time flies when you’re having fun and we love the vibe of the place and have made many new friends – in fact, we’ve met and socialised more in ‘The Bay’ than we ever did living in Sydney for two decades.
Like everyone else, our travel plans were impacted when COVID-19 hit – but luckily working online means we can do what we do anywhere there’s enough Internet coverage. We now call ourselves ‘Slow-Mads’!
So why a road trip to Magnetic Island just off the coast from Townsville in far North Queensland?
Why not – especially as Brian’s parents used to holiday there when his father was stationed with the Navy during WWII in Townsville and the pair used to regularly have romantic weekends on ‘Maggie’ when he had days off.
It didn’t take long to decide it would be fun to visit the place they loved so much for our own wedding anniversary – especially as friends Col and Jenni regularly holiday there and raved about it.
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NEED ACCOMMODATION ON MAGNETIC ISLAND? VISIT BOOKING.COM
Fly or drive? Fly or drive?
In round figures, the cost to fly from Hervey Bay to Townsville (via Brisbane four hours south of Hervey Bay) is around $1,200 per person!! We reasoned flying would mean lots of airline departure lounges, buses, and taxis, and miss the changing scenery below.
Sure you might arrive the same day but what’s the rush?
So we made the decision to drive. Ok, so it’s roughly a 12–14-hour road trip, but the stopover points we planned in advance made it all well worthwhile.
It goes without saying Australia is a BIG place!… So it’s important to plan ahead.
The mantra… ‘Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance’ comes from our previous work in mainstream media, but it also means it’s worth the effort to spend some time planning which hopefully relieves you of any headaches and worries during your trip, knowing everything has been ‘locked in’.
With so many people now ‘hitting the road’ post-COVID lockdowns, it’s important to make sure you book ahead for accommodation that suits you!… unless of course you have a small camper-trailer and are happy to ‘free-camp’ along the way.
Kaye wanted to see some of the less well-known beach-side towns en route so some of the names mentioned below possibly won’t be at all familiar.
Each location has a separate link to the accommodation plus a short update of where we stayed and what we thought of each place.
Important safety factor!
While two people can usually share the driving, it’s always a good idea not to do much more than three to four hours a day in total, and less is even safer.
This is due to the ‘fatigue’ factor and we actually saw the results of several ‘prangs’ and even a large truck and trailer which had, unfortunately, slid off the road even though the road was dry at the time.
Plus driving can get pretty boring cos only the passenger gets to see left and right while the driver has to focus on the road ahead!.. That’s why we made this trip of about 1,200 k/ms (14.5hrs driving) over a four-day period.
We’ll have more detailed updates on each location down the track! Meantime with our ferry booked to the island on a Saturday, we left Hervey Bay on the Tuesday prior.
Hitting the road
Tues – From Hervey Bay 2hrs 42mins (226kms) to…
1. Miriam Vale Hotel
9 Blomfield St, Miriam Vale QLD 4677
We did a podcast with pictures a while back when we stayed at this lovely old hotel with heaps of history.
Check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TXcwCPW5CU
Originally, we ‘free-camped’ in our caravan out the back as we still had our little dog Chica. This time we stayed in a lovely self-contained cabin. Mitch the owner has upgraded and expanded the hotel over the past two years, and the food, staff, and amenities are excellent and the town – although very small – has a lot of charm and history.
NEED ACCOMMODATION AT MIRIAM VALE? VISIT BOOKING.COM
Wed – From Miriam Vale 2hrs 32mins (213kms) to…
2. Yeppoon Beachhouse
58 Farnborough Rd Yeppoon QLD 4703
This was a very pleasant surprise. We’ve never actually stayed in a backpackers hotel, our verdict? Excellent!
We could see the beach and hear the waves crashing overnight but best of all it was super clean, with the shared kitchens (one downstairs one upstairs) and facilities constantly monitored and cleaned by very friendly owners and staff who were amazingly helpful… Price for a single room with Queen size bed, etc (as opposed to a shared dormitory style) was very good too and while backpackers tend to be ‘party animals’ it was surprisingly quiet while we were there.
Yeppoon itself is another hidden jewel in our view.
NEED ACCOMMODATION AT YEPPOON? VISIT BOOKING.COM
Thurs – From Yeppoon 3hrs 43mins (340kms) to…
3. Sarina Beach Motel & Restaurant
44 Owen Jenkins Dr, Sarina Beach QLD 4737
Well, this is where we celebrated our Wedding Anniversary! – A LOVELY location right on the beach. Plus, they have an amazing restaurant – ‘The Palms’ – with excellent food, etc…
Sarina township itself is a bit ‘old/quaint’ about 10 minutes away from the beach where we stayed but friendly to tourists.
We liked Sarina Beach and its very comfortable bed #Unit 18 so much we re-booked for two nights on our way back south which is when we also managed to have a chat with the co-owner, Meaghan Thompson to find out what’s kept her, her husband and (now) five kids here for the past 14 years!
You can listen to the podcast or read a full transcript here: https://foodwinepetstravel.com/travel/169-podcast-the-serenity-of-sarina-beach-meaghan-thompson
NEED ACCOMMODATION AT SARINA? VISIT BOOKING.COM
Fri – From Sarina 4hrs 10mins (354kms) to…
4. Alva Beach Tourist Park (Ayr)
20-36 Braby St, Alva QLD 4807
This was our longest drive, with both of us sharing every hour and a half, and while not our favourite stopover, we were very impressed with the owners/caretakers of this park who were VERY accommodating, allowing us to upgrade from what we had originally booked online (old tiny cabin room only) to a really nice self-contained 2 bedroom ‘tiny-home’.
Best of all, they had been given boxes of fresh locally grown fruit and veg and generously invited us to help ourselves. A wonderful surprise and we’re still talking about the yummy vegetarian meal which resulted.
NEED ACCOMMODATION AT AYR? VISIT BOOKING.COM
Sat – From Alva/Ayr 1hr 19mins (103kms) to…
5. Ferry to Magnetic Island
An easy drive to Townsville where we eventually found the local Woolies and stocked up on some basic ‘goodies’ so we could avoid having to eat out for every meal every day. We’d been warned food and drinks are generally higher on the island because of transport costs – but we later discovered they’re not that bad.
There are several options to get to Maggie. Passengers can get a speedy catamaran which gets you there in 20 minutes. The car ferry takes about 40 minutes and although you can get out of your car and use the onboard café we chose to stay there, windows down enjoying the sea breeze!
Cost? – Well the advertised cost for a return trip WITH your own car is around $220.
However, booking through Defence Holidays NQ – http://www.defenceholidaysnq.com.au we were able to get a reasonable discount. They can also offer discounts on local accommodation bookings so worthwhile checking them out!
Sat – 1 pm ferry From Townsville to…
6. Island Leisure Resort
6 Kelly St Nelly Bay Magnetic Island
Just 1.5Km from the ferry wharf, and 100 metres from the water in Nelly Bay the resort has beautiful high-ceilinged self-contained rooms.
There’s a large swimming pool, barbecue area plus a family room for kids with a pool table, books, videos, and more, and also a laundry with coin-operated machines.
Island Leisure Resort is a great place recommended to us by our friends Col and Jenni we mentioned earlier who’ve stayed there several times after visiting family in Townsville.
It’s a popular option because we wanted seven to 10 days but could only get four days
So, Defence Holidays came to the rescue and helped us organise another location – Details below!….
NEED ACCOMMODATION ON MAGNETIC ISLAND? VISIT BOOKING.COM
7. Canopy Chalet 4
42 Yates St Nelly Bay Magnetic Island – just around the corner from our stay above!
This was another surprise – A very ‘eclectic’ design of about 12 cabins surrounding a large swimming pool but it was lovely, airy, and had everything you’d need for a great holiday and still within walking distance of the beach – well pretty much everywhere on the island is within walking distance!
It was also right next door to one of the many great restaurants on the island; ‘Thai Again’ which Col and Jenni had recommended – and they were right – the food was delicious. We also got to chatting with the couple sitting next to us – long-time locals who live on the island and as it turns out – we’d spotted their stall ‘Hooked On Maggie’ at the Sunday weekly markets at Horseshoe Bay.
What can you do on Magnetic Island?
In a word… PLENTY! – In fact, we wish we’d had more than 10 days there. Such an amazing vibe about it.
They say there are 23 beaches on Maggie some of which can only be reached by boat so we didn’t get to see them all this visit – but we gave it a red hot go.
There are snorkelling trails and beaches with gentle waves perfect for kids. The Backpackers Base hotel and accommodation was chockers with young foreigners making the most of the re-opened international borders.
One of the highlights of our visit was the Moulin Rogue show at the Stage Door Theatre Restaurant… we can vouch for the idea that it’s a ‘slice of Vegas in the tropics’!
Basically ‘Moulin Rogue’ is a tongue-in-cheek send-up of the classic ‘Moulin Rouge’ cabaret which started way back in 1889 in Paris, France but this performance relied on two key performers who are locals and they were brilliant, a great soundo, and some audience participation.
And the food was great too because when you book they ask if you have any dietary requirements – and they cater to everyone.
Again we got chatting with the couple next to us. (Their story another time).
You can read our full story here along with a video compilation of the night we went!
Now you might think… “WOW!… How much did all that cost and was it worth it?”
Well… cost is relative of course. You might go on an ocean cruise for a few days to a week and spend $8-10k! but after going through all our expenses – Fuel, food, accommodation, etc in round figures it was a little over $4,000.00 for our three-week holiday.
So was it worth it?… You bet! Will we do it again? Absolutely, but if we went back to Magnetic Island from Hervey Bay where we are now or (say from Brisbane or Bundaberg) for a short break, we would probably catch an overnight train and then rent a car in Townsville or on the island.
Estimated savings for the next visit would be about $400+ on fuel and several hundred in additional accommodation there and back.
Still, the sightseeing aspect of the drive was well worth it plus supporting local businesses, etc, and best of all, there are so many accommodation options in all price categories you do NOT need a caravan or camper trailer to do it, although if that’s your preference there are plenty of caravan parks and free-camps on the way.
Magnetic Island/Maggie?… We’ll be back!
NEED ACCOMMODATION ON MAGNETIC ISLAND? VISIT BOOKING.COM
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