Walk Nelly Bay to Arcadia! Magnetic Island via Townsville, Queensland

Last Updated on March 18, 2019 by Red Nomad OZ

Horseshoe Bay from the Nelly Bay to Arcadia Track, Magnetic Island, Queensland
Horseshoe Bay from the Nelly Bay to Arcadia Track, Magnetic Island, Queensland

‘What goes up must come down,’ she twanged, immediately identifying a) her astonishing originality and b) her country of origin.

Magnetic Island from the mainland
Magnetic Island from the mainland

Suitably dressed for a dusty, rocky climb through clinging vines, a charred mountainside and tropical humidity in a white ‘resort’ dress and gold sandals, this gem fell from her pinkly glossed lips and dropped like pearls of wisdom before swine. The artfully abstracted way her be-ringed hand floated through the air, its great stone winking and flashing in the hot midday sun, immediately telegraphed a recent wedding.

How much longer they’d be together was less evident. His well worn hiker kit – ‘real’ hiking boots with thick socks, water backpack, old T-shirt, hat and pink zinc clearly spelled out more than one significant difference between them.

Horseshoe Bay from the 1st Lookout, Magnetic Island
Horseshoe Bay from the 1st Lookout, Magnetic Island

Several thousand kilometres into a winter road trip – and bailed up in Townsville with car trouble – we’d escaped to nearby Magnetic Island for a day of tropical R&R. But that’s the benefit of an Australian road trip – heading off the tourist trail for new experiences is so often the most rewarding part of the journey! As it proved for us on this fabulously perfect July day – winter, Tropical North Queensland style!!

On the steepest part of the Nelly Bay to Arcadia Walk track, Pilchard and I were now feeling the effects of setting out on a 6 km hike without food or water, our towel-laden backpacks weighing us down in the tropical humidity. It was all just a simple misunderstanding! Arriving on Magnetic Island, 8 km and 20 minutes by ferry from Townsville, we planned an action-packed schedule over morning tea at the terrific Nelly Bay bakery. As you do.

Pilchard's fine pic of Fan-tailed Cuckoo
Pilchard’s fine pic of Fan-tailed Cuckoo

The first leg of the Nelly Bay to Arcadia walk reached a lookout from which great views were promised. A 45 minute return trip, according to the brochure – and we’d see a new (to us) part of the island before returning for lunch then still have ample time for several other Magnetic Island activities before the evening ferry.

BUT … wandering along the road from the bakery to the trail head, then winding up more steeply through the rainforest to the vantage point took longer than anticipated. Every few steps was a new bird, flower or vista to admire and/or photograph. By the time we reached the overgrown lookout, we’d already been going the best part of an hour, so it was a cinch to continue up the track in quest of a better view.

We could always turn back, couldn’t we??

'Spot' the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo!  Magnetic Island, Queensland
‘Spot’ the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo!  Magnetic Island, Queensland

Winding ever upwards, the track grade quickly moved from ‘easy’ to – well, that depends on your point of view! And whether or not you’re a masochistic young fit person. Cue the flash of gold sandals as the honeymooners gained on us – nothing for it but to stop and admire the view move over and let them pass. Pausing only to ask how far to the nearest latte the bride trilled her words of ‘wisdom’ before disappearing behind her hiker husband with a swirl of white skirts.

Well, they WERE 20 years younger than us. At least. Probably.

But the honeymoon couple’s passing heralded a wildlife bonanza as a passing flock of Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (above) distracted me from uncharitable thoughts on maintaining white frock cleanliness. And as I neatly captured them – the ‘black dots’ cleverly shown in this rare ‘wildlife action’ shot – we reached the point of no return. The food and drink of Arcadia beckoned and we reluctantly abandoned fantasies of lunching at the Nelly Bay bakery.

The Nelly Bay to Arcadia Track, Magnetic Island
The Nelly Bay to Arcadia Track, Magnetic Island

A little further and the panorama over Magnetic Island’s magnificent Horseshoe Bay (first picture above) stretched out in front of us through the heat haze.


The track headed downhill from here, but several kilometres of walking remained and I started to fantasize about bottles of cold water. Actually, make that flagons. And plunging into the sea to sluice off the dirt and sweat after flinging off my non-white (but still grubby) clothing …

That’s the only explanation I have for missing the droppings on the ground. Because if, like Pilchard, I’d seen them, I would have looked above to identify who or what was responsible. Naturally. BUT happily, wanting to gloat over share his find with me, Pilchard pointed out the culprit.

Bottom view of Koala, Magnetic Island
Bottom view of Koala, Magnetic Island

Much easier to capture that elusive ‘wildlife action’ shot on this little critter.  I take no responsibility for the angle of this photo – take comfort that not many have looked up a wild koala’s bum at THIS close range!!

Apart from a further wildlife sighting – this time ‘overseas-tourist-hunting-for-the-hiking-track’ – the southern descent into the suburbs of Arcadia was uneventful. Except to say if this is suburbia, bring it on!!

Oh! And also the staggering views across the strait to the mainland – and Townsville!

I didn’t notice my audience until I’d come up for air – after lining up two drinks and inhaling one of the best fishburgers I’ve had the pleasure of from Arcadia’s Butler’s Pantry.

Bush Stone-curlew in natural foraging habitat
Bush Stone-curlew in natural foraging habitat

Once common as pets, Bush Stone-curlew is better known to Pilchard and I as ‘Shrieking (insert expletive here)’ for the astonishing cry it lets loose at unexpected moments. Usually in the middle of the night in what has become its 21st century natural habitat, the caravan park. Right under our bed end. But I digress … this one was just foraging for snacks. Tough luck, matey. Nothing heading your way today!

And that swim was on the cards after all with a bus ride down to Horseshoe Bay – the perfect finale to our Nelly Bay to Arcadia walk!

The mainland from the Nelly Bay to Arcadia walking trail, Magnetic Island, Queensland
The mainland from the Nelly Bay to Arcadia walking trail, Magnetic Island, Queensland

I got to do this while on an Aussie Road Trip.  But if you’re pressed for time, why not visit Townsville and Magnetic Island the FAST way with the best flights you can get?

Go on! You KNOW you want to!

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  1. @Kay – EVERYONE loves the koala, until they hear the male’s ROAR!!
    @Sivinden – Thank you! Plenty more to come, so stay tuned!!

  2. @Rajesh – It’s even better LIVE!
    @Arija – That’s how we knew it was there! Walking down a Magnetic Island street – and there it was!
    @PDP – Hahaha! Don’t know if I believe that!!! So how long DOES it take you to drink your cuppa?!
    @NatureFootstep – Thank you! The best way to remember is to bookmark the post and re-visit!!!
    @Indrani – Thanx! Come back anytime for MORE!!
    @Courtney – It’s easy when you’re somewhere as photogenic as this!
    @David Jr – Well, I won’t tell you the Aussie koala isn’t really a bear!! You heard it here first … But hell! Come anyway!!

  3. Interesting, looks like my kind of place to visit if I ever go to Australia’s Queensland. One of the things on my photography list would be to photograph a wild Koala Bear and I’m almost done with my bear pictures. Thanks again.

  4. HOLY SMOKES! You took some AMAZING pictures. I wish I could translate my eye to photos like you do. Marvelous! Thank you for making it possible for me to see Australia like this!

  5. I love your photos. I once had the pleasure of spending a few days in Townsville many years ago. I was there during a Pacific Island Festival and memories have stuck with me.

  6. I’ve found that one cup of tea = I’ve come to realise that one cup of tea = one of you posts Red, loved every word and laughed out loud a lot!! Right… on to the latest post above!

  7. You bagged a great shot of the elusive fantail cuckoo. I’ve been trying for one for years. Don’t you just love that falling, mournful trill?

  8. @diane b – well, now you know for yourself what others have said about me for years!!! The bus trip isn’t for the fainthearted either – our driver was a maniac!
    @Joyful – Thank you so much!! Townsville has always been overshadowed by Cairns – but we re-discovered it in 2011 and LOVE it!

  9. No water on that walk. You are crazy. Your shots make the island look beautiful. We were lazy and took a bus across the island but the views weren’t as spectacular as from the walk/hike. I love your quirky style of writing. You always have me chuckling.

  10. @Joan Elizabeth – Real beats fake anytime!! And the water thing hasn’t killed me yet …
    @Mary – Hahaha! I always moan about the effort – but I find it MUCH harder to be behind a desk!!
    @The Floating Clouds – It IS amazing! And the koala’s bum is just part of the experience!!
    @Diane – Oh, her? She just disappeared into the middle distance … no sign of them along the track – I’m guessing she was late for her latte!!
    @Mrs Tuna – Helping people die happy always been an ambition of mine!

  11. Black dots AND a koala’s bum?! I can’t wait for the next instalment. (Wherein, in addition to the promised fantastic toilet, you tell those of us waiting in breathless impatience what REALLY happens to the vision in white with the gold sandals . . .)

  12. What fabulous views! From the perspective of my arm chair, I must say it was worth your effort to capture them. Well done :-). Have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  13. Well this Koala is a step up from the big Koala in the previous post. I too have taken off on short walks that turn into long walks without water … vow I will never do it again but forget.

  14. I have a feeling that I enjoyed this hike at a much more relaxed pace than you did, but it was interesting nonetheless. I enjoyed your photos — even the one of the koala!

  15. @Mark – I believe you refer to Horseshoe Bay. Look out for a new Scenic Public Toilet post set there – it still looks AMAZING!
    @Beach Bum – Hahaha! Does she know of your feelings towards her?! If not, what’s it worth to you for me NOT to tell her??!!
    @MJWC – Thank you so much!! I aim to be as authentic as possible – nice to know I’ve succeeded (with you, at least)!!
    @ruma – Welcome, and thank you!
    @TMW Hickman – Well girlfriend, what do you think I did?!?!?! The one time I looked at my feet, I missed the koala!!!

  16. @Frank&Mary – Haha! I guess that makes me either a slow learner, or an eternal optimist!!!
    @Valerie – Thanx for dropping in! Look forward to your return!!
    @Windsmoke – the BSC was doing a marvellous impression of a very well fed bird … don’t let that lean physique fool you!!
    @George – Haha! Yeah, I bet you did!! But relaxed or no, the views and wildlife were SO worth it!
    @Dianne – Sleeping SO not a problem after that kind of workout!

  17. @Jane & Lance – I’m sure there’s a Dr Caligari lurking about somewhere … hard to see for the wildlife!! Given your self-confessed ‘difficulties’ with geography, Magnetic Island is on your OZ map up near the top right!! Work your way down Cape York to Townsville, and there you’ll find it!!
    @Kath – We still entertain those ‘drop out’ fantasies … maybe I’ll set up a honeymooners retreat??!!
    @Betty – Thanx!! This is what it’s like on the other side of the equator!!
    @NixBlog – Thanx to you too! It’s SO worth the trip from down south!
    @Emme – well, just call me a grumpy old woman …

  18. @River – I (and I’m guessing – you) wouldn’t be seen dead in a white frock of any sort!!! Am I right?!?!
    @FruitCake – HAhaha … my learning style more closely resembles the parabolic arc – mostly due to forgetting the lessons learned unless immediately reinforced!! As for whipping off ones frocks, there ARE full moon parties on MI – where I believe such activities are common …
    @Filip – Koalas in the wild are getting harder to see … we were lucky!!
    @Dina – I can’t imagine hiking without food or water either – when I’m being rational … If you ever hear a Bush Stone-curlew you’ll likely think someone’s being murdered!! Koala butts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be …!!!
    @Saucy Kod – Haha! Bummer to you too!! Here on my front porch it’s a pleasant 26 degrees C. You’re welcome!!

  19. I would have fallen down several times on that trail because I would have been so focused on all the birds that I wouldn’t have been looking at where I put my feet.

    It looks so beautiful out there!

  20. What beautiful pictures. They are stunning.

    You have got to be one of the most active bloggers I know. The pictures you show us sure don’t come from a post card. You have go to climb and walk and I bet sometimes crawl to get some of the shots you show us. I for one appreciate it very much.

  21. The Bush Stone Curlew looks like my sister-in-law and from what you explain about the god-awful noise it makes it probably sounds like her as well.

  22. Red I had an incredible holiday on Magnetic in 1978!!
    I bet it has changed so much. My favourite place was a wild bay with enormous boulders in the sand. I remember a giant billboard with a design for a new resort to be built there.
    I also have fond memories of the old wooden ferry from Townsville.

  23. Wow! that’s a long and steep trek but what an adventure and magnificent views – I’m sure you slept well that night.

  24. Bonza photos. Poor starving Bush Stone Curlew didn’t get a little snack. I bet you and Pilchard slept well after that hike :-).

  25. I never, ever believe “according to the brochure.”

    They usually leave things out…like “facing steep inclines.”

  26. you always provide us with such an interesting info, and i’m loving your photos more and more!

    those views are fantastic!

    big hugs!

  27. Terrific photos, excellent recall and yes, I do wonder on the recently married couples’ chances of longevity.

    Love Chunks and I did that walk a year or two before Sapphire existed. Bloody hard, very hot but oh so worth it. Gorgeous place and we briefly entertained ‘what if’ fantasies of living and working there.

  28. Hello Red:
    What an amazing place this is. Magnetic Island sounds like something out of Science Fiction but looks to be a wonderfully interesting place to visit, so varied in its landscape, flora and fauna.

    Now we have our map [thanks to your wonderful giveaway] we shall, without any delay, seek out the whereabouts of Magnetic Island so that we can travel virtually in your footsteps. As neither of us possesses a pair of hiking boots, then virtual exploration is probably how it will remain!!

  29. Red seeing your photos builds to my anticipation of arriving in Australia in 10 days! Your photos are fantastic, it looks an awesome day.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  30. Not sure what happened, but blogger decided to flip me out, while typing you.
    Loved the post – that’s a bummer of a picture – ha,ha
    couldn’t help that.
    Never, Never go on long hike without the essentials – you were lucky – do not do that again.
    I am thinking of your nice warm area and realizing it is -17 here today. Brrrrrrr

  31. enjoyed this! It bought back memories of my (late) hubby and my journey there way back in ’69. The ferry we saw bobbing in the waves in the late afternoon, strangely appeared to be getting smaller … and smaller. We’d actually missed the last ferry back to Townsville. I well remember that walk to whichever bay it was for the first ferry of the next morn’. What a long tropical rainfall night it was; mozzies included, feet up on the seat in the lean-to shelter. Ah, Magnetic Island; pretty place.

  32. I can’t imagine doing a long hike without food and water!

    Nice koala butt photo.

    The Bush Stone-curlew is very interesting looking.

  33. Gold sandals, koala plop, and maybe a steep learning curve.
    That view of Magnetic Island from the mainland makes me want to whip off my white dress and make a splash.

  34. @Rubye – Hahaha, great pun – that koala wasn’t moving for ANYONE, let alone an ageing photographer!! Thanx for the feedback – always great to know what y’all like best!
    @Carole – I was tempted to miss the ferry – and score a night on the island!! But only if I could’ve had the honeymoon suite!! We’ll stay there one day …
    @darlin – OMIGOD! You’ll probably be here during a heatwave!! You’ve got SOOOO much to look forward to …
    @Magsx2 – Yes, if that’s winter, bring it on!! It’s never too late to plan another trip north …
    @Andrew – AND … hiking in the bush AND the tropics is a whole ‘nother thing again!! I hope my opening line wasn’t rude!!

  35. Great photos. Hiking in the bush is one thing, but hiking in the tropics is another all together. Interesting about the Bush Stone-curlew and one of the best opening lines of your posts ever.

  36. Hi,
    A Magnificent post, you had me smiling from Winter north QLD style. 🙂

    It really is beautiful country up north, it’s been years since I have been to Townsville and surrounds. As usual more than great photos.
    Have a great weekend.

  37. This is incredible Red. The island is something else with its majestic views–captured so well by your camera. And even a Koala bum to boot. (no pun intended? :))
    As for those youngsters, they probably missed the Koala and the Cuckoo and the Cockatoos!
    This is one of my favorite posts.

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