When you're bounding full-speed through bushland on a beautiful, shining horse, you don't really have time to stop and think about how lucky you are. You're on one of Queensland's most colourful islands where the ocean is as bright as the sky ... but then reality hits: you've only got 24 hours to soak it all in.
It's experiences like bareback ocean horse riding that make Magnetic Island, well, a magnet, for the adventure- and relaxation-seekers alike.
The island's proximity to the North Queensland tourism hub of Townsville means it's the perfect candidate for even the quickest of getaways. Here's how to make the most of an overnight trip to Maggie.
Farewell the mainland and step aboard your Sealink ferry. The passage is only 20 minutes – just enough time to make like a Queenslander and down a XXXX Gold. Before you've even had time to Instaload your view, you've arrived.
When deciding where to stay, it's hard to look past Peppers on Blue. Seriously, it really is hard to look past it ... it's right there on the waterfront as you step off the ferry.
Peppers is a winning option for anyone with an aversion to hauling luggage around or catching transfer buses when you're meant to be enjoying your stay on a tropical island. Drop your bags and head across the car park to pick up your sweet set of wheels.
Cars are, like, so last season on the island. Grab the keys to a topless moke from MI Wheels and feel the summery air wash over you as you discover hidden bays, inlets and stretches of beach. Check out the cafes and bars along Pacific Drive and maybe steal a few moments in one of the perfectly located hammocks there.
Head to Horseshoe Bay Ranch for your ocean horse riding experience. With super cool leaders by your side, you'll journey through breathtaking bush before the path opens out on to a secluded bay and the warm tropical waters lap at your legs as you glide through the shimmering surf on horseback.
As the sun sets on a scenic day, it's time to feed the rock wallabies. Cruise to Arcadia Jetty to get nice and close to the furry locals. They'll eat melon and apple right from your hand and, if you're lucky, you might even spot a little joey popping out of a pouch to say hello!
Enjoy a twilight swim in Peppers On Blue's waterside pool, then devour a well-earned dinner. For us, the allure of the Peppers dining experience was all too tempting. We sipped al fresco cocktails on the boardwalk and enjoyed meals made fresh with local produce.
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Head to Bungalow Bay Koala Village for a champagne breakfast. Now, I'm the kind of person who is likely to enjoy any activity that has the word 'champagne' in it, but trust me, this is no ordinary champagne outing.
Here, you'll share your breakfast with friendly birds, spiky lizards and baby crocodiles. Bushman Tony will show you how to feed the animals and probably encourage you to sample a little 'bush tucker'.
“Try it,” he said, arm outstretched, holding a live, wriggling mealworm. “Umm ... I’m pretty sure that’s not part of the breakfast I ordered,” I said. But he insists. It’s part of the bush experience.
I later tried to impress the locals with my heroic tale of bravery. “Yeah? So what” they said. Apparently eating a mealworm is not as outrageous as I'd thought. "They’re high in protein," they said.
Tony’s animal education didn't stop there. We later found ourselves wrapped in a muscly snake named Zeena. I screamed like a One Direction fan but, truth be told, I’m thankful to Tony for taking me out of my comfort zone. A holiday where your heart races has to be a good thing.
Time to take a hike! The Magnetic Island Forts Walk is the most popular on the island. Koala spotting is a must (tip: don't just look in the trees – look on the ground for stick arrows left by other tourists).
From the top of the trail you can take in 360-degree ocean views and climb the forts, built during WWII when the area was used as a lookout for enemy ships.
Cherish your last moments on the island before handing back your moke keys. If you feel sad about leaving, just remember: that's what the XXXX on the ferry is for.