Thursday, 30 April 2015

TOD Tour, Day 79 - Magnetic Island & Kissing Point Fort

Magnetic Island Rock Wallaby
Another first today.

Having considered the best way o approach a visit to Magnetic Island, we opted for a return walk on ferry ticket - leaving the car in Townsville - and a hop on, hop off tour with Magnetic Island Tours. The bus tour had been recommended by fellow travellers but the video on their website sold us.

It was an inspired choice.

We travelled over to the island at 9:30am, on a beautiful, sunny north Queensland day, with
enough clouds to give the sky some photographic interest. Its only a short ferry ride - twenty five minutes - so the conditions weren't a consideration. The parking at the terminal was a little annoying. Didn't mid paying for it but it would have been good if that was mentioned on the booking information, along with the fact that payment had to be made in cash. Small point but worthy of mention.

We were met at the ferry terminal by Col, the driver of our hop on, hop off bus tour and chairman of the Magnetic Island Tourist Association.

The next three and a half hours were fantastic because of the simplicity of the tour and the off the grid places Col took us to, all the time full of local stories and anecdotes. Stories of the night a metre of rain fell and part of the mountain side came sliding down into Nelly Bay. Especially the human stories, like the establishment of the fort above Horseshoe Bay during the first few years of the 1940's, largely done by hand, including the toting of gun barrels and bags of cement up more than three hundred hand hewn granite steps.

We walked through a short patch of rain forest near the original one room school in Horseshoe Bay and were immersed in Tiger Blue butterflies. There must have been two hundred of them fluttering about us at times.

Col is a interesting fellow. He has a high level knowledge of birds but a willingness to share it, not show it off. It was the anecdotes we soaked up with zeal.

There are other tours on Magnetic Island. They go to all the well known highlights. We went there too, but it was the small spots that even the locals don't know about which captured our imagination.

We ended our tour at a small aquarium where Col introduced us to local reef fish, with a good knowledge of each and the other creatures who live on the reefs. The star of the show was the giant clam, the largest mollusc in the history of the world. Nothing bigger exists in the fossil record. This particular clam was grown from sperm and eggs and is one of more than thirty hand reared by a local marine biologist.

After returning to Townsville via the ferry, we stopped along The Strand for lunch. The current version of the Strand was redesigned in 1999 after a cyclone devastated the foreshore and the initial changes cost three tiers of government $35 million. It is a series of parkland and activities for families.

At the northern end of Strand, the Jezzine Barracks sit high on Kissing Point. There has been a military presence at this spot since the mid 1880's but much of it had been removed or buried before a redevelopment of the area in 2009. Some of the area remains under the control of the Australian Defence Force still but much of it was handed back to the Townsville City Council. An military museum has been established on the site and the old fort area has been repatriated. An excellent lookout walk has been placed across the sea side of the fort, with interpretative displays explaining key moments in Townsville's military history, including and excellent timeline of the Battle of the Coral Sea.

The walkways extend down to a walkway which goes around to Rowes Bay. Along the path are some outstanding sculptures which exemplify the culture of the original people of this area, known to them as Garabarra.

After our walk, we retired to the cafe at the Rock Pool, an outstanding public swimming space, man made, to provide safe swimming for the public, free from sharks, crocs and stingers.

This is certainly a well designed public space.

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