Valentine’s Day at the Beach

Happy Valentine’s Day! As it’s #travelTuesday and Valentine’s Day, I thought I would combine the two and write a post dedicated to what my better half and I got up to, this time last year.

As you may or may not know, this time last year we were just beginning the Australian stint of our year abroad. By now, we would have been in the land down under for just under two weeks…yet we were still feeling the effects of the dreaded jet-lag! Hot days and heavy heads meant we’d just explored the city that I lived in, Sydney, so far. So, on Valentine’s Day, we took advantage of the Opal card travel-cap and went up to Nelson Bay, Port Stephens, for a wonderful couple of nights.

As mentioned, the Sunday travel-cap that Opal card have, meant that we travelled roughly 5 hours up New South Wales for just a couple of dollars! We went first to Newcastle (meant to be a train, but actually ended up being a bus replacement service), then got the bus to Nelson Bay. Yes, the journey was long (and hot), but boy it was worth it. Even on the way back to Sydney, the daily-cap Opal have meant our journey didn’t exceed around $15 – so cheap compared to UK transport fees!

Our accommodation, costing us £30 each for two nights, was a beautifully decorated one-bed ‘beach-house’, complete with Jacuzzi bathtub. It had its very own entrance leading down to the beach too. Perfect for a couple of nights of relaxation. In fact, we both admitted we could have definitely stayed there longer too.

Nelson Bay itself is a beautiful, relatively quiet place. Its main attraction is the beach and the nearby harbour, so there isn’t much to do beside lounging around and getting a tan…ideal for us anyway! However, a longer stay might have been slightly problematic without a car. The main centre has little to eat outside the realm of fatty fast-food, which is not really what you desire after a day spent in the sun, and not great for breakfast either. We managed to track down a very small (and very overpriced) supermarket, but that was around a 45 minute walk from our accommodation, so we could only go in the evening when it was cooler. Although, if you’ve got the money to rent a car, Nelson Bay would make a perfect week-long getaway from the hustle and bustle of nearby Sydney.

In all honesty, Nelson Bay was probably my most favourite place I visited during my time in Australia, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my boyfriend said the same thing too. Although we did little more than lay around on the beach and tan (read: burn), it was so peaceful and relaxing to get away from inner Sydney. Although, I did later realise how much I wasn’t a ‘big city girl’, so maybe this was simply a sign of things to come. As I sit at my desk this cold and rather dreary English February afternoon, I find myself wishing for the sound of waves, the feel of sand between my toes, and the heavy rays of sun beaming down on me…however cliché that may sound.

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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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