There are two major hostels on the island: Base Magnetic and Bungalow Bay. (I found out later that there is a third.) One of these is a koala refuge. One has full moon parties. My preference, obviously, would have been to be with the koalas, but I ended up only being able to find a room at Base Magnetic. Base is what I imagine spring break in Florida is like or a hostel in the Caribbean. Neither of those are things that I ever wanted to experience. Staying at Base made me doubt my ability to achieve my second goal in coming to Maggy: some coastal quiet. Fortunately for me, the hostel is right on the beach and my bed was far from the bar so I was able to find some quiet and meet other people who were more interested in the beach and the mountains than drinking by the pool. I had to take several early morning work calls, giving me a chance to see the breathtaking sunrise. In the evenings, I could eat dinner under a Bismarck palm, my favorite of all palm trees, and fall asleep early enough to avoid the craziness.
In my search for quiet, I was also pleased to find additional wildlife. On my last day on Maggy, I wandered over to Horseshoe Bay, getting sunburnt reading a fabulous and terrifying book on the beach, and then finding Rock Wallabies in Arcadia! I hope the biologists will forgive me for saying this, but wallabies are basically mini-kangaroos. The ones on the island are scarily friendly, probably because for years they have been eating out of humans’ hands, literally. The government seems to have given up trying to prevent tourists from feeding them as their signs say, “please don’t feed the wallabies, but if you’re going to feed them, please feed them appropriate food, such as…” Trying to get away from the humans feeding them and the negative impact I knew that was having, I found a few hunkered down into the rocks lazing about. They are quite cute, especially when they jump.
After spending three days sunbathing, swimming, and hiking on the island, however, I’m still not quite sure I understand it. Maggy Island seems to be in the middle of an identity crisis, which I suppose makes some sense since its name never matched reality. When Captain Cook, the first European to reach eastern Australia, stumbled upon the island, his compass stopped working correctly, suggesting that the island had some control over the magnetic field and leading him to name the island Magnetical Island. The magnetic powers of the island proved nonexistent, but the name stuck.
In the present day, it can’t seem to decide if it’s its own place or an extension of Townsville; and if it’s a tiny island hamlet or a prominent tourist destination. Maggy Island is only 25 minutes by ferry from Townsville and is, according to the Wikipedia page, a suburb of Townsville. Half the administrative buildings on the island even say Townsville. Yet, it clearly has an isolated, small island vibe, with streets like Mango Parkway and a bus that takes an hour to cross the island because its route looks like a canvasser’s map, finding the best way to go by every house on every street. There are no large obnoxious hotels and three of the four towns have mainly empty or rundown store fronts. There are only two grocery stores, both with limited options and one with ant-infested bread. But, with only 1,500 permanent residents and 6,000 beds for tourists, tourism is clearly the main industry. Horseshoe Bay, the largest town on the island with a small, but full, boardwalk of shops and cafes, attracts shoppers and boat renters. The national park next door and the koala refuge in town calls the hikers and adventures. The rest of the island calls the sunbathers and partiers. All of these activities are possible and enjoyable, and most tourists seem to dabble in each of them. In many ways, it reminds me of Anna Maria Island in Florida (if you got rid of half the people on AMI and closed half the shops) or a Caribbean Island (although I haven’t been to the Caribbean so this is a guess). For now, this land of minimal amenities for tourists, faded signs, expensive food, and lots of natural beauty seems to make it a popular vacation spot. Despite this, it’s unclear if Maggy is prospering and most of the houses and accommodation on the island are for sale, posing the question: What will Maggy look like if developers get their claws into?
I’m not an island or spring break type of girl, but I enjoyed my time here and, assuming it doesn’t become more developed, I think it’s worth a short visit for anyone interested in wildlife and beaches.