48 Hours on Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island, just off the coast of Townsville in Queensland, is simply Australia in a nutshell. The small picturesque island, relatively unknown to tourists before they visit Oz, is included in most East Coast tour packages, which is how we came across this little piece of heaven last month.

Me and my boyfriend were fortunate enough to spend a couple of nights in a hostel with its own private beach entrance, on the island. As I said, Magnetic Island perfectly sums up all that Australia has to offer. White sand, coral reefs just metres from the shore, wild koalas and hillside treks are just a handful of the splendours that await you once you arrive. The island is easily accessible from the Townsville ferry terminal, which takes about 20 minutes. However, it is now also featured on many tours that go along the East Coast, which usually include return ferry transfers as well as accommodation.

We stayed at Base X Backpackers, a popular hostel chain in the country. It’s certainly not the nicest hostel I’ve stayed in but it definitely isn’t the worst. It’s quite a ‘party hostel’, with its own bar and entertainment (however cringy it may be). However, the private beach entrance and stunning sunset views make up for anything that the hostel lacks. Plus, it has its own pool and small cafe, where you can get cheap, hearty, backpacker meals.

Our first day on Magnetic Island was mostly spent exploring the beaches and catching some afternoon sun. The highlight of the trip came the next day though, when we visited a ‘Koala Village’ in Bungalow Bay. Koalas are a key part of the Aussie experience, and this hostel/wildlife sanctuary offers you a close encounter with the cuddly creatures. Other Aussie animals such as baby crocs, turtles, parrots, and wallabies are also housed in the sanctuary, most of which you can handle too. The two-hour tour is finished off with a memorable photo of you and your new furry best friend…which believe me, you will struggle to let go of.

In terms of what else to do on the island, you need not look far. Open-top jeeps, or ‘Barbie cars’ as they are more commonly known, are available to rent from many points around the area, allowing you to travel in style to the various bays. However, cheap public transport will also get you there if driving isn’t really your thing. We spent most of our afternoon at Horseshoe Bay, which was honestly one of the prettiest places in Australia I visited. Not only were  the views insane, but there was barely anybody there too. There is something so magical about being virtually alone on a beautiful beach in the sun. However, if (for some insane reason) lounging on the beach isn’t your idea of fun, there is a ubundance of water sports and walking tracks around the island. The reefs are seriously only metres from the shore, so snorkelling or diving is easy and a lot simpler than trekking out to the Great Barrier Reef. The walking tacks offer sublime views from the tallest parts of Magnetic Island, amongst lush rainforest and (fingers crossed) a wild koala sighting or two.

Many people back home hadn’t heard of Magnetic Island when I mentioned that I was visiting there – heck, some people in my classes in Sydney even looked at me dumbfounded when asked if they had been there. For some reason, it’s just not as big as say Fraser Island or the Whitsundays. Don’t get me wrong, these places are beautiful too and definitely worth a visit, but they’re often a lot busier and just don’t have the same remote feel to them. Plus, Magnetic Island is so easily reached (Townsville even has an airport offering flights to/from major cities) it really still shocks me that this place isn’t on more bucket lists! Nevertheless, if you are ever over on the East Coast of Aussie (which I hope all of you are at some point in your lives), make sure to make it part of your itinerary.

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Newtown’s King Street

Forget the Opera House – Newtown’s King Street is Sydney’s ‘place to be’!

OK…so don’t actually forget the Opera House, I mean it would be silly to go all the way to Aussie and not check out their most famed attraction. However, once you’ve finished battling your way through the hordes of tourists and almost bleeding your pockets dry, hop onto a bus/train for little more than 20 minutes and head on down to Newtown.

When I was living in Sydney, I was luckily around a five minute walk from the glorious King Street of Newtown and all the delights it had to offer. For those familiar with London, the area has a kind of Shoreditch/Camden Market vibe. You can pick up all your groceries, alcohol, and toiletries, whilst also nipping into unique vintage shops and one of a kind eateries in between. In short, you can certainly find what you’re looking for on King Street.

A few of my favourite places in Sydney were along King Street – some independent, others more popular. It was handy to have all that in one place though, and not spend hours trawling around the city for various items. My favourite (and probably the place I spent the most money) has to be Doughnut Time. These small ‘fast-food’ doughnut stores are surely a gift from heaven. I’m not even going to try and list all the amazing flavours they do and the many I tried…although I will leave you with this thought – Nutella doughnut. Mmm.

Doughnut Time isn’t the only commercial food chain to have found a home on King Street. Other delights include Max Brenner Chocolate Bar and various Mexican and burger joints. However, the independently owned food establishments steal the show by a long shot. Every kind of Asian cuisine (and for less than half the price and double the authenticity then we’d get in the U.K.), bakeries, fish and chips, kebabs, pizzas, and even vegan/gluten free restaurants that offer a healthy alternative to eating out. However, my go-to place was a small café aptly titled ‘Juice and Pork Roll’…because they really do only sell juice, and various types of roll. The juices are made fresh in front of you in any flavour combination you like. My personal favourite is watermelon and lychee, perfect for a hot, sticky Sydney day. The rolls are also personalized to order, and are certainly a bargain for your money considering the amount of meat, salad, and veggies they pack in there. Cheap, guilt-free, and never a queue – what more can you ask for in a ‘restaurant’?

Although I’ve focused rather a lot on the food of King Street (I may have been hungry at the time of writing this) you can’t ignore the abundance of independent fashion and boutique shops that filled the gaps between the eateries. As this area of Sydney is just so trendy and hipster, the charity shops are filled with exciting finds at a fraction of their retail price. The vintage shops are also reasonably priced too, especially where there is a sale. Other stores include shoe stores, art supplies, a really cute second-hand bookstore, and an Asian-inspired store that does the best rugs and teapots…if you have enough room in your case that is!

So, if you’re ever lucky enough to visit the bustling city that is Sydney, be sure to take a visit to King Street and Newtown in general. It’s not on many tourist’s radars but it really should be – especially if you’re a budget traveller like myself! Central Sydney can become tiresome and repetitive, so it’s nice to escape the harbour area and the various shopping malls to witness the true quirkiness of the city and what makes it unique. P.S. if you do get bored of shopping/eating (how could you??), happy hour in most of the bars is usually from around 5-7!