We hit the road early the next day because we had quite a few kms to go until we reached Townsville for Magnetic Island. Joanne’s boyfriend lived in Townsville and we parked our camper at his house and then walked to the ferry terminal to get the boat over to Magnetic Island. We had originally wanted to our van over to the island but it was over $100 for the ferry ticket alone plus a camping permit etc, so we just decided to go on foot.
One of my mum’s friends had told me about Magnetic Island before I left for this trip and she had told me it was one of her favourite places in Australia and a must see. I can totally understand why she called it paradise as it had some stunningly beautiful beaches and hikes.
We’d booked a couple of nights at the Base Hostel on Magnetic Island. The hostel was HUGE and was essentially just made of loads of beach huts along the beach that they’d stuffed with as many bunk beds as they could find. When we walked in our 6-bed dorm, we were greeted with the stench of smelly boys, socks and unwashed clothes. It seemed that some of the people in our dorm had been staying there for a VERY long time. The room was absolutely tiny and barely had enough room for 6 bunk beds let alone everyone’s luggage, and it only had ONE plug socket for the entire room. After being in Asia and getting used to having your own lamp and plug for your bunk, the facilities were incredibly basic and the hostel was very overpriced. We got out of the room pretty damp quick and walked to the nearest supermarket and bottle shop. We bought some food to make fish tacos and sat on the beach having a beer whilst the sun went down.
The hostel’s kitchen facilities were a bit of a joke. It looked promising when we walked in as there were 16 hobs, but quickly found out only about 5 of them actually worked. The hostel was very poorly maintained and I’d recommend staying elsewhere on Magnetic Island in the future.
We met two English guys from our dorm and they’d just come from working on a zucchini farm and were blowing off some steam as they’d just been fired. The guys told us how they’d never worked so hard in their lives and never in such terrible conditions… The farm owner was this awful woman who’d scream abuse at them all day long. One of the boys actually seemed quite traumatised by the way she treated him. They’d been working on the farm to do the 3 months of required farm work to secure their 2nd year visa when they were fired! To rub salt in the wound the bitchy farm owner only signed them for 18 days of farm work instead of the 80 or so that they’d worked.Naturally they were rather pissed off with the situation and were annoyed that there was no governing body that they could complain to. Apparently from next year the Australian government is going to automatically issue 2 year working holiday visas to stop backpacker exploitation on farms. The boys told us how they were forced to pay $200 in rent a week to live in a 16-bed cockroach infested corrugated iron shed. When they initially applied for the job, the farm owner had told them there was free wifi, TV room, free food, clean showers and kitchen… it was all a lie. One of the boys told us how he had to walk 15 minutes up a hill to get ONE bar of mobile reception, let alone an internet connection. They were completely cut off from the world in the bush.
The next morning we woke up early to do some exploring! You could hire these Barbie cars for the day to drive around the island but they were incredibly expensive, so we just decided to get the bus and walk on foot instead. We were only wearing flip flops and had to walk down a huge hill on rocky terrain for about 15 minutes to get to this beach that was meant to be a fantastic spot for snorkelling. We put on our silly stinger suits (to protect us against the dangerous box jelly fish) and ran straight into the water to spot some cool stuff. We spent a good half an hour snorkelling but it wasn’t spectacular and we soon realised that we were covered in this funny grey/black oil, so we decided to get out.
Magnetic Island wasn’t turning out to be the paradise that I’d imagined.
Later that evening we hung out in the hostel’s and the island’s only bar (apparently) and it was full of lots of random drunk old Australian men drinking in the bar all night. They were getting very rowdy and picking fights with people all the time. It seemed that the bar attracted more locals than people actually staying at the hostel.
All in all Magnetic Island wasn’t as amazing or as beautiful as I’d imagined. I guess after being in the paradisiac islands of Thailand and Indonesia, it didn’t exactly wow me. It was a cute little island but nothing to write home about! We were excited to get back to the mainland and head on our way.