From Cairns I traveled down the East Coast via Greyhound. My first stop along the way was Townsville. The bus leaves Cairns at multiple times during the day, I opted for the 8.15am departure which arrives in Townsville at approxinmately 2.15pm.
Townsville is a small town with not much going on but it has some cute cafes and you have the option to walk up Castle Hill for nice views of the town. The main reason most people stop here, is to get the ferry across to Magnetic Island (Maggie)...which is exactly why I stopped here too.
Once I arrived in Townsville I got a public bus to a stop near the hostel (although turns out they have a free shuttle pick up!). I stayed at Civic Guesthouse ($21 per night for a 7 bed female dorm), this was a clean and cozy hostel with good cooking facilities and free wifi in the lounge. I would stay here again and I would recommend it to a friend.
The next day I headed down to the ferry terminal (the hostel has a free shuttle to the ferry terminal at various times during the day). For my stay in Maggie I had pre-purchased a package for $145 which includes the Round Trip Ferry to Magnetic Island, 2 nights accommodation in a shared dorm at Bungalow Bay Koala Village, Koala Sanctuary guided tour (2 hours), welcome drink at the deck bar, snorkel gear hire, 30 mins WIFI and rock wallaby food.
The Ferry trip was pretty quick (about 30 mins) and once on the Island you will need to get a bus to the hostel (unless you are renting a car). It is worth baring in mind that a) you will need change for the bus and you get discount if you have a student card and b) the main shop on the island is located near the ferry terminal so if you need to stock up on food it is best to do so before you get on the bus or you will have to return here just to shop (like I did).
The Bungalow Bay Koala Village is one of the two most popular hostels on the Island (The other being Base). It is a really nice hostel with a real tropical feel. The dorms are located in individual wooden cabins with en-suit bathrooms. The kitchen facilities are not very good, you have to rent plates and cutlery and the kitchen is not very well equipped, but aside from this, my stay at the hostel was really enjoyable. There is a nice swimming-pool, a small bar and there are cute wallabies roaming around in the fields.
As previously mentioned, my package included a guided tour of the Koala Sanctuary and a cheesy 'Koala hugging picture'. The tour was fun, mainly because the tour guide was fairly entertaining and we got to look at, hold and learn about different animals.
Another fun (and free activity) is feeding the birds in the afternoon. The bird food is provided, all you have to do is hold your hands out and wait for a dozen colorful birds to land on you and have a feast. NOTE: you will be pooed on & I would recommend wearing something with long sleeves because the birds' claws are really sharp and I ended up with hundreds of scratches all over my arms.
On one of the days I ventured out for a nice walk, firstly down to the beach (10 minute walk from the hostel)
And then up the mountain via a track popular for spotting Koalas in the wild...I was lucky enough to see 3 along the way :)
Another amazing aspect of the walking track is the breathtaking views (breathtaking both because you have to get your ass up a hill and because what you see from the top is stunning!)
Another popular thing to do in Maggie is to rent a car to get around the island, especially the funky Barbie Cars. I skipped this to stay within budget but I can imagine it would have been fun to drive around in one of those, especially if you are with a group.
Maggie was fun and a few days on the island are enough, I returned to Townsville on the 3rd day and just relaxed.
Next stop, Airlie Beach and Whitsundays!!!!