Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Magnetic Island and the Missing Full Moon

After a few nights in Airlie Beach I moved on to Magnetic Island, known to people as Maggie. Magnetic Island is a World Heritage site that doesn't even bother advertising the fact, apart from a little sign at the ferry terminal. As the Oz Experience driver said when I asked her about this "They are a little free with the World Heritage title these days".

Magnetic is a pretty enough little island. The name comes from Captain Cook, as do many of the names along the east coast, who thought the island was interfering with his compass as he sailed past. No one has found that strange phenomenon since and the island is not magnetic.

Made mostly of granite the island was a major coastal fortress protecting the shipping access to Townsville during the World War II. I did the Fort Walk up to the remains of these fortifications which are now in a national park. The views from the top are pretty impressive and with an abundance of granite rocks for improvised defensive positions as well as the camouflaged official positions you can see how this little island could have become one of the famous battle grounds of the war had the Japanese ever managed to invade Australia. The national park is also full of wild koalas which can be seen just sitting trees while you walk along the paths. Of course being Australia it is also full of snakes, especially death adders and signs along the paths warn people to watch their step. As well as bush walking I went for a sea kayak.

The island itself is also pretty spaced out. There are around 2000 residents and they seem to be evenly scattered over the non park part of the island. There are little clusters of shops 10 to 15 minutes walk apart which makes it a little awkward for backpackers. A local bus service does exist but the buses are infrequent and some backpackers just hire little cars called mokes which look like toughened up golf buggies.

I don't know why I didn't like the place, but I didn't. Not that I disliked it, I just didn't like it. The hostel I was staying in was called Base and while it was beautifully situated right on the beach, surrounded by palm trees and with pretty good dorms and lockers in the dorms it just didn't catch my interest. Others will love Magnetic, I just didn't care at all about it. But it wasn't just me who didn't take to the place, most of the north bound backpackers I spoke to were unimpressed as well. I think we had seen places like Byron Bay, Fraser Island and Airlie Beach and just found Magnetic Island lacked anything special that we hadn't seen elsewhere. For the South bounders this was one of their first stops and they seemed to love it. So I guess its all matter of perspective. Personally I'd rather have spent 2 more nights in Airlie and then I would have headed to Magnetic Island for the Full Moon party. But then those that did that were even more disappointed than I was.

Once a month Base host a Full Moon party, obviously an attempt to create a party similar to that in Koh Phangan. I have not been to the one in Koh Phangan but those that had say it is one of the great parties of the world and the hype it gets made many of us look forward to the Full Moon party on Magnetic which while we expected it to be smaller we assumed, based on all the signs around travel agent windows in Airlie, that it would be a pretty cool night with thousands of people arriving from all around Queensland.

In the end the party lacked a few things. Firstly there was no beach. The real Full Moon party is on a beach on the island of Koh Phangan in Thailand. On Magnetic Island security guards prevented people from gaining access to the beach. This meant everyone was confined to the grounds of the hostel itself. Secondly it lacked thousands of people, there was supposed to be 2000 people but I think a more accurate estimate would have been 800 to 1000. If 2000 people had been squashed into the venue then no one would have been able to move, maybe that is why they closed off the beach. Thirdly no cheap alcohol. The hostel had a strictly enforced no bring your own policy with alcohol being confiscated from rooms and guards checking bottles and cans as people returned from their rooms. (I saw a guard checking peoples cans and friends of mine had their wine confiscated when they were in their rooms). The only alcohol that could be consumed had to be bought from the bar which made the night a little expensive for many backpackers but people still bought plenty of drink. Of course the hostel is entitled to make money but sometimes you can push backpackers a little too much. Finally and most importantly for a Full Moon party we were missing a Full Moon. The moon was still a couple of days from being full. The party seems to have just been organised for the closest Friday night. That did provide a few moments of drunken humour for those in attendance as they stared at the sky and realised it wasn't a full moon at all.

Am I glad I went to Magnetic? Well I guess I'd have been curious about the place if I hadn't gone so I'm glad I visited the place, but I do wish I had spent a couple more nights in Airlie Beach instead and just gone to Magnetic for one or at most two nights.


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dec's rambling?, precisely that, shallow, bitter rhetoric, wallowing in indulgent self pity laced with defeatist,idealistic mind wanderings. Dec's gotta get a grip on himself (though the post suggests a firm grip is already well in place.) Go back home to england you backpacking trash, magnetic island is the best in the world

Anonymous said...

dec, the pigdog got it right, Fuk off cause the island doesnt need your kind. ive worked in a bar for years on the island and its been the inspiration for thousands of backpackers, north or southbound.
sorry the free state of queensland doesnt quite match the thailand laws of piss ups on the beach, theres reasons we have laws you know. you let down the chance of other people who want to see the place and deter them from the best time of their lives......go away!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was also disappointed with my stay on Magnetic. Yes it was beautiful but htat is not enough. I found eating out etc expensive and did not find the local particularly friendly. I am not a backpacker and had a few bob in my pocket to spend but chose to hang on to it until I found somewhere that the local craftsmen wished to engage!
The problem is I think that what may once have been a great place to visit now relys on past accolade and does nothing to make new ones.
Oh Pig.....learn your geography...the guy who has this blog is not from England!

A Geriatric