Sunday, July 6, 2014

Magnetic Island {And "Holidaying" With Kids}

Horseshoe Bay Magnetic Island
Image Courtesy of Craig Slaney Photography
As winter wraps her arms around us and squeezes tight it's hard not to be drawn to thoughts of warmer climates.  

Don't get me wrong, I actually quite like winter.  

I love jumpers and scarves and now that I have my fab jean + boot combo going I'm happy as a clam, whatever the weather.  

I also recently purchased the best rain coat ever to make rainy weather water off a ducks back (almost literally), so I'm pretty much nailing winter, so far.  

But still.  I can't help but think of sunny beach-bound, pool-side days.  Just the thought of them warms my frosty toes.

Alma Bay (top) & West Point Beaches Magnetic Island
Images Courtesy of Craig Slaney Photography
The last holiday we had was to Magnetic Island off the coast of Townsville in Queensland.  Have you been?  It's pretty speccy.  I can highly recommend it.  As a family holiday it has heaps of low key fun to offer.

It was interesting for us, heading back to Maggie after such a sabbatical.  It's my third time there, but my first in over ten years, and my first as a Mum travelling with kids.

Anyone who has 'holidayed' with their progeny well knows it's not so much a holiday as an exercise in relocation.

I remember the old days, when a holiday meant pleasing yourself and really relaxing. How I took them for granted. How little appreciation I had for the luxury of reading by the pool in the middle of the day.  How little I knew of the hard core nature of holiday parenting.  

If you have never holidayed with children, I think Claire Dunphy (played by Julie Bowen) from Modern Family summed it up best when she said "I'm a stay at home Mom travelling with my kids.  This is not a holiday, it's a business trip."

Look, I don't want to complain, because really?  How much complaining can you do about going on holiday to a tropical island.  You know?  But still.  Kids.

Holidaying as a family means essentially picking up your life and moving it to a warmer, prettier location.  So you're in paradise, it's true but you still have to feed, bath, entertain the little 'uns.  And if they're my little 'uns?  Well they're still waking up at 5am. Every. Single. Day.  Their bodyclocks don't understand the concept of holiday sleep ins.  

So for me that means the prospect of drinking cocktails in hollowed out coconuts with paper umbrellas from midday takes a back seat to barbies on the deck at 5pm. 

Hey, no worries.  Who said I can't turn lemons into lemonade?  About two days into our trip I realised that since the kids were up before the sun that meant we could be at the beach for spectacular sunrises every day.  

And that in itself was pretty magical.  

Arcadia (top left) & Alma Bay Beaches Magnetic Island
Images by One Small LIfe
And having a pristine FNQ beach to ourselves as the sun came up?  Well that beats lunchtime cocktails and afternoon naps hands down.  Okay, well maybe not hands down, but I'm making the best of it here, okay?

Holidaying with youngsters is hard work, way, way harder work than adult only holidays.  Which are not like work at all, if you're doing it right.  But taking the kids on holidays is rewarding.  Really rewarding.  They make you do stuff.  They make you not lazy.  They make you build memories and have fun and experience everything.  

They also make you make them three meals a day, apply sunscreen unendingly and did I mention getting up before the sun?  But one day they'll move out, and there'll be plenty of time for sleeping in and reading the paper then.  If papers still exists by then.  Which they actually may not, but I digress.

Horseshoe Bay (top left & bottom) & Picnic Bay Magnetic Island
Images Courtesy of Craig Slaney Photography
The name Magnetic Island conjures up the image of luxury five star resorts and fancy schmancy restaurants, but in actual fact Magnetic Island, (or Maggie as the locals call it) is not like that at all.  It's far more relaxed, unrefined and real.  

More than half of the Island is protected National Park and there are many beaches that can only be reached by sea or foot.  Many more that can only be reached by 4WD.  It's not at all resort-y.  There are apartments and low rise hotels and lots and lots of holiday rentals - it is a tropical island after all.  But it's not a 5-star riches-britches kind of holiday.

It's more about casual, family style holidays.  Lazy days on the beach.  Scuffing around in your shorts and thongs (flip-flops for our international readers).  BBQ's & beer.

That relaxed laid back nature of Magnetic Island remains absolutely the same.  Still a lot has changed in the decade since I was last there. Not really for better or worse from my outsiders perspective.  Just different.

Ten years ago the place was a-buzz.  There were youth hostels over flowing with European backpackers drinking beer, working on their tans and hiring mini mokes to cruise around the island.  There was tonnes of night life.  

More Bird Life than Night Life Magnetic Island
Images Courtesy of Craig Slaney Photography
This time there was none of that.  We speculated that this may be due to the high value of the Australian dollar.  Maggie's not exactly the cheap as chips holiday it once was if you're travelling on the Euro.  

And the Island has clearly suffered because of that.  I'm sure the locals feel it.  There is definitely less "atmosphere", one moke hire shop has gone bust.  And VERY sadly for us so has the legendary fresh seafood shop Bannisters.  Gone.  

Picnic Bay is no longer the bustling port it used to be, since the ferry now lands at the Nelly Bay Marina.  And while there is a really decent water front pub and a gorgeous historic pier to walk along or fish off, the sad arcade with many closed shop fronts adds a somewhat depressing vibe.

But this lack of atmosphere also means a lack of crowds and when you're talking about lazy days at the beach this is most definitely a good thing.

It also means quieter nights, which if you're looking for nightlife is a bit of a downer, but travelling as a family with small kids this suited us.  We were more about early dinners at the RSL than anything involving loud music and lots of alcohol.

There's plenty of fun stuff to do on Maggie.  I did a very picturesque kayak tour that took me to a secluded beach I couldn't have gotten to any other way.

Because really if you're going to Magnetic Island it is all about the beaches.  And they are amazing.  They really are.  Just make sure you time your holiday to avoid stinger season, because unless you like swimming in your grandmas pantyhose they make the water unswimmable for about half the year.

Yep, all in all Magnetic Island makes for a great family holiday.  Perfectly low key and just the right balance of activities and relaxation, if the kids let you get any that is.

Have you been to Magnetic Island? Where is your favourite holiday destination?

Listen to Madonna Holiday


  1. You know I've lived in Queensland all my life and never visited Magnetic Island! Isn't that crazy?! It looks so beautiful Kate. I know what you mean about holidaying with kids - it's just so completely different and yes it does have some advantages. We took all three of ours around Europe for two months and people thought we were mad but it was the best trip to Europe I've ever had. Seeing things through the eyes of children is a wondrous thing... xx

    1. You gotta get there Deb, it's so relaxed and gorgeous.

      I'd love to do a big trip with the kids, maybe chuck them in a van and head off around Australia for six months or something.


  2. That sounds great! Magnetic Island is on our to-do list in the next few years (holidaying with kids, meeting up with friends with kid...).

    1. Definitely do it Alissa - it's fab, great, kiddie friendly beaches and I reckon the perfect place for a joint family holiday. I'd love to get there with a couple of other families with kids myself actually, that would be just ideal.

  3. Oh, this would suit out family to a T!

    1. Yes Kelly it's a perfect family holiday. I know I complained a lot about the kids in this post, but that was just because travelling with kids for the first time, it came as quite a shock how hard I had to work! lol. I'll know better next time and be mentally prepared! It really is a super relaxed family environment. And lots of fun.