November 1st 2005
And Now For Some Island Knowledge . . .
About 2500 people live on Maggie. Many work in town and you will probably bump in to a few familiar faces while here. Islanders are usually very friendly but they have had some experiences with schoolies giving them a hard time in the past. Many Islanders are quite elderly while many others are ordinary hard-working people who, like anybody, can get upset by loud music and young people getting too noisy on the streets late at night. Maggie is actually a pretty tolerant place but nobody likes being woken in the night especially if they have to get up early for work!
Islanders are also very proud that Magnetic is such a beautiful place and get pretty peeved when they see it misused. We know it's only a few who do that kind of thing but impressions count and it's the great majority of schoolies who are considerate of the Island and Islanders that shouldn't be lumped together with the botherers.
What schoolies will find are plenty of locals happy to help with directions or just have a yarn, especially when they are relaxing too.
Emergency - Heeeelp!!:
For all emergencies call 000. Magnetic Island is serviced by an excellent ambulance, fire and health service. A new, joint, ambulance and fire station in Nelly Bay was opened just recently and the Island also includes three private medical practices, one of which is also housed in the clinic at the Magnetic Island Health Centre. Another, the Magnetic Island Medical Centre is just up the road from the Clinic near the Nelly Bay Shops while there is now another at the corner of Horseshoe Bay rd and Pacific DRive in Horseshoe Bay.
Helicopter evacuations to Townsville General Hospital are also possible in more extreme emergencies. Maggie also has 4 full-time police officers, located either on the roads patrolling or at the Police Station on Granite Street, Picnic Bay. Their number is 47 785 270.
A narrow section of road on MI
Roads - Stick to 'em!:
Much of the Island's roads are notoriously narrow and leave a fair bit to be desired. The Radical Bay track is the worst and we really cannot recommend it to any non four-wheel-driver with a respect for their axles and differentials - at least beyond Arthur Bay.
The West Point track is a beautiful drive and a great walk too with a real off-the-beaten-track feel to it but it can be a bit daunting or simply impassable after heavy rain. Along it you will come across "whoa-boys". These are mounds of dirt across the road which direct water off the road and help the bush maintain its natural watercourses. They should be handled slowly which is the best way to enjoy this drive anyway because you never know what creature may be crossing nearby. The crossing at Ned Lee's Creek can become submerged at the top of a high tide. It is worth checking for depth and if you do decide to cross it's a good idea to carefully wash the underside of your vehicle with fresh water later on as the salt water is very corrosive. Bird life out here is great too but be careful at West Point as it is very easy to get bogged in the sand and permanent resident "Scoop" Hooper, has lots more relaxing things to do on his holiday than drag you out.
The maximum speed limit for any part of MI is 60 KPH. Wildlife are however knocked over with distressing regularity on the Island and it is important to be especially aware of this just after sunset and into the night when animals are on the move - out looking for their tucker.
A common sight on Magnetic during the holidays is the number of people out walking on the streets, often seen in groups wandering side by side across the road. It seems people think they are on holidays from road sense as well. With our narrow roads this practice is risky, especially on the hills where bends are frequent and drivers have little or no space to manoeuver.
National Parks - Our natural treasure!:
Magnetic Island is within the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and over half the Island is National Park. Some important rules follow. Domestic animals: dogs are permitted (on a leash only) on Horseshoe, Alma, Nelly, Rocky and Picnic Bay beaches. They are not allowed in the National Park. Camping is not permitted in the National Park (there are camping facilities at Bungalow Bay in Horseshoe Bay) . Fires are prohibited without a permit.
Its well worth having a close look at the detailed map showing all the various fishing zones around Magnetic by visiting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authorities' map (click here) Its a large file so give it a while to load but you will see all the zones and a table explaining what you can do in each just by zooming in.
Snakes - No you didn't tread on a hose!:
The island has its fair share of these fascinating and sometimes dangerous reptiles but unlike the mainland, the aggressive and deadly browns and tiapans are in very short supply. Officially they are not found here but there are a few Islanders who say otherwise. They are certainly not to be particularly worried about but there is a common snake here that is deadly and has rather strange habits. It is the death adder, a usually short and plumpish slitherer coming in a wide variety of coloured bands. It can be identified by the short narrow section at the end of its tail and its generally laid-back disposition. Sometimes called "deaf" adders they are superbly camouflaged in leaf litter and can lie placidly without apparently hearing you walking towards them. They will even allow people to unwittingly step right over them. What can happen is that the second, third or last member of a bushwalking group will be struck at after the others have passed that way. They are also active at night-time, so don't forget a torch. If you see a death adder, do not under any circumstances be fooled into thinking it is too placid to bite. When the death adder decides to strike, it is lightening fast and extremely venomous. There are quite a few other snakes but most are fairly shy. The most commonly seen snakes are non venomous tree snakes and pythons which are also very graceful to watch. Remember - more people are bitten trying to kill a snake than just walking into their path, remember snakes are native animals and are therefore protected. If you have a problem snake, ring the National Parks Rangers (on 47 785 378) and they should be able to assist you on what action to take.
Sea Stingers - Nothing funny about this!:
Definitely to be avoided. Sea wasp or box jellyfish stings are, according to those who have survived them, incredibly painful and very often life threatening. Stings from other smaller jellies such as the irukandji can also lead to serious medical outcomes so it is better to stick to the stinger enclosures (located at Horseshoe and Picnic Bays) any day than risk it in open water at this time of year. Sometimes irukandji are even found inside the stinger enclosure as they are very small. The enclosures are however closely monitored by lifeguards who will close the net when irukandji are detected. To avoid the risk we recommend a lycra suit (commonly available for hire) to minimise the risk. They are also great for stopping sunbun!
Sun Protection - Don't do a lobster!:
Often the easiest way of spotting a visitor is by their lobster complexion. In these days of holes in the ozone one really has to wonder if it is all that smart to swan about in the extreme north Queensland ultra violet rays with a fashionably shaved head and no sunscreen or hat. It isn't just the increased risk of skin cancer but a matter of how tolerant you are to pain. Hats especially are useful in protecting the face and lowering damaging glare to the eyes. Lycra swim suits not only minimise sea wasp stings but are handy sun protection too.
Mobiles - What was that you said?!:
Many visitors are delighted to learn they have a foolproof excuse for being unreachable on MI. Our rugged hills make mush of mobile phone signals so keep this in mind if you are keen to be reached. A common sight is that of people standing on or near one of our eastern side beaches chatting on their mobiles for that is where the signal is least affected.
Burning off in the National Park last winter
Fires - Sorry, just too risky!:
Everyone loves a beach fire but with an on-shore breeze they can get easily out of control and can blow sparks well back into the dry foreshore vegetation. Right now the Island is at its driest for years and no fires can be lit on Magnetic without a permit. Although burning off occurred during winter the effect of a bushfire right now would still be quite devastating, especially on native animals which have a greatly reduced amount food to eat with the drought conditions and large areas of burnt out vegetation in the National Park not yet recovered from the winter burning off.
Bush walks - It's just around the next bend!
The Island has a range of great walking tracks to many scenic and romantic locations. The Forts walk is the most popular and takes about an hour to walk in and out. This is also where you are most likely to see koalas. The views from on top of the Forts are really something and a lot of people take the walk to watch the sunset. It's cooler then and the sunset might just be a stunner. Luckily there is a full-moon on Nov 20 so if it's a clear night it is pretty easy to walk back down the track in the moonlight.
Another, longer, but terrific walk, is between Nelly Bay and Arcadia. It starts at the end of Mandalay Ave and includes some pretty steep sections through the vine thicket areas along the upper reaches of Gustav Creek. This walk has superb views of Horseshoe Bay especially and also passes through a wide range of landscapes form rainforest to open grass and woodland where lots of grass trees can be seen. The Arcadia end has a path which will take you to some of the stunning rocky outcrops above Arcadia with great views down onto Alma and Geoffrey Bay.
Another great track is to West Point. Lots of backpackers make this trek and even though its pretty long - about 16kms (return) it is mostly flat and easy walking. The views up to the hills above Bolger Bay are superb and it has a real off the beaten track feel to it. There are a great range of birds to see and the koalas are fairly often spotted too. But remember, this is a hot walk and there are no shops to get a drink. You are going to need to take provisions, especially plenty of water!
Bush Bashing - The bush can bash back!
If you want to wander off exploring the bush away from the tracks, be warned. More than a few people have gotten lost and in pretty desperate states. The geography of the Island is very deceptive and there are lots more steep, rough hills than first appear. Even experienced bushwalkers have found it tough going as the country is also incredibly rough. If you really have to take this step be sure to tell the rangers at Picnic Bay where you are going and get some advice. Their office is at the end of Granite Street near the Golf Course or ph: 47 785 378.
Animals - Not just the party variety!
They are very cute and pretty plentiful but if you want to feed them then it's important to be aware that some foods can harm them even though our furry and feathery friends may tuck in with a gusto at the time. For example, bread should not be fed to wildlife at all, they will eat it but its yeast content leads to serious dietary problems. It is common for people to want to offer the resident possum or curlew scraps from their restaurant meal but many human foods, such as sausages, cooked meat with sauces and spices, salads with dressings, potato chips, processed food, pizza, dairy foods, salami, snack bars etc will cause nutritional deficiency diseases. Acceptable foods for curlews include raw lean meat cut in small cubes, lean pet mince, small strips of raw fish. Possums can eat carrots, apples, bananas, paw-paw, pears and rockmelon. Rock Wobblies or wallabies, as some call them, can be fed carrots, wild parrot mix with cracked corn, sweet potato and apples. (An excellent pamphlet titled Native wildlife: To Feed or Not to Feed is available from the Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service at Picnic Bay)
Probably the most distinctive sound you will hear on Magnetic and one that you might always remember years later as the sound of Maggie. Its the crazy, mad but haunting call of the Bush Stone Curlew. These amuzing and bizarre birds with extra skinny legs were once common throughout Australia but thanks to cats, foxes and habitat loss, are now almost extinct in southern Australia. Magnetic Island is one of their great refuges - though by the way some people drive you'd hardly think that. For some fascinating and practical info about curlews visit our special section dedicated to them (click here)