Notes From a Small (Magnetic) Island



So it’s 5 weeks since we first parked up the Landrover, pulled up the handbrake and finally took our belongings out the back.

5 weeks since we stopped the no-routine, no-timetable lifestyle and had to start setting our alarm clocks and getting a bit organised instead.

Yes, it’s 5 weeks since we first arrived and started our jobs as guesthouse managers here on Magnetic Island.

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Quick Recap

Radical Bay

For those not in the know, here’s a quick recap of how and why we got here.

In April 2016 we left our comfy home and lives in Noosa, Queensland and embarked on the trip of our dreams – the great budget 4wd around Australia.

When I use the word ‘great’ here however, it’s as a description of the fun we’ve had, rather than the scope of our budget, which, my friends, was anything other than great!

In fact, our budget was decidedly small – only $5000 AUD for us both to travel for a year+ in Australia. Anyone who has visited this expensive land Down Under will know that amount won’t get you very far and many people called us crazy, foolish and stupid.

But we had a dream and we knew we could do it with a little hard work and a little faith on our side.

And so that faith came to the test when, after 5 weeks of enjoying ourselves in some of the best places Queensland, Australia – including Carnarvon Gorge National Park, Agnes Waters, Yeppoon and Mackay –  it was time to start the hard work part and top up the funds.

Yes, after less than 2 months away and despite a lot of free camping and not much eating, most of our budget had dried up, so it was time to start looking for a job.


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First stop was Bowen, a town in Queensland just north of the Whitsundays.

Bowen is known as the farming capital of Australia, but unfortunately the season was late to start when we got there in early May and we were told there wouldn’t be much work for at least another month.

A little disheartened, but with our faith still strong, we continued to motor north to the city of Townsville where we had some visa stuff (medical checks) and car stuff (new tyres) to sort out.

What started as 2 boring days of jobs and life admin however, soon turned into 2 of the most fortuitous and exciting days of our journey so far, as we found, interviewed and landed the incredible job we’re doing now on Magnetic Island.

You can read the full story of how we got the position in the week 4 and week 5 diary posts of our 4wd trip exploits, but suffice to say, it was a great mix of Gumtree brilliance (one of my best tips for budget travel in Australia is to get on Gumtree!), quick thinking and good fortune!


And now we are here, 5 weeks deep and loving it  …

So where is here?


Magnetic Island


Magnetic Island is a tiny drop of paradise just off the tropical coast of Queensland in north-eastern Australia.

Anyone who has read my posts about my year on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua and my home of Jersey, CI, will know I love small island communities – it’s something in the water I guess!

At 52sqkm, and with a population of only 2000 people therefore, it seems Magnetic Island – or Maggie Island as it’s colloquially known – fits the bill perfectly.

Accessible only by a 20-minute ferry from the mainland, this is rural and remote living Australia-style.

Lives here run on a distinct island-time schedule and, apart from a few small shops and one bank, the amenities are pretty low – just how we like it!

A lot of Magnetic Island is designated National Park, in fact half of it is barely accessible due to its protected status.

As such, this place is a wildlife paradise with turtles laying their eggs on the beaches, wallabies hopping over the rocks, koalas clinging to the trees and hundreds of bird species enjoying the clear skies above us.

Even here at the guesthouse we have resident wild lorikeets (a small type of parrot), possums and kookaburras that often descend and enjoy time on the deck with us!

As such, Magnetic Island is an Aussie animal-spotters dream destination.

The island also has some great walking opportunities, diving and snorkelling possibilities and water sport activities.

For the more sedate visitor, there’s tons of different beaches to choose from or lookouts to stand at and take in the wonderful views.

Oh, and how could I forget, there’s also some great 4wd adventures to be had, especially over to West Point to see the sunset!


Work in Paradise


So when it comes to work, we really are pretty lucky to have landed a job here on Maggie!

When your office faces the beach and when you don’t ever have to wear shoes, you know you’ve got yourself a winner!

Add in the climate and the fact we don’t have bosses breathing down our neck (the owners live in Brisbane) it’s got to be said this is a pretty sweet spot!

On top of all this is the benefit that, generally, we are only dealing with happy, relaxed people all day long!

Those on holiday are always the best customers and with part of our job description given over to “customer engagement” (!) it’s great to chat and share stories with those from all over the world.

We also have an awesome international team of volunteers here at the guest house who help us out on a daily basis.

Working in exchange for accommodation, they are a brilliant brigade of backpackers that bring a life, soul and atmosphere to this place we all love.

Currently we have 3 Germans and a guy from the US volunteering with us.

They are soon to be joined by a Belgium/Brazilian couple, so then there will be 6!

It may seem like a lot, but G and I have been on the other side of volunteer programmes in the past, and we both know how great it is to have a few hands to the pump!

Having both worked for accommodation ourselves in different places around the world, we hopefully bring a unique perspective on how to create the best experience for these guys.

All of them want to stay longer beyond the 3 week period we initially agreed, so fingers crossed that means we’re doing something right!


Our Typical Day

Magnetic Island

So generally our working day on Magnetic Island begins at 7am, when we set up the guesthouse for the day – checking emails, putting out signs and generally tidying the place.

I try to get the paperwork down early in the morning, because once 8am hits, things can get pretty hectic.

Our volunteers generally start work at 8:30 and they are always busy cleaning the communal areas, as well as any rooms where guests are checking out.

We then also have check-ins to deal with, as well as enquiries, maintenance and all the laundry.

Add into the mix that fact that we also operate a car hire business out of the guest house and you can start to get an impression of the sort of craziness that sometimes goes on here!

In the mornings we have to get out all the cars, fuel them, clean and repair any that need work, as well as deal with bookings, rental enquiries and all the insurance paperwork.

Needless to say, our mornings go pretty quickly!

Normally the afternoons are quieter, but still there’s always check-ins, car rentals, enquiries and a heap of laundry to deal with.

We eventually close the office doors at 6pm – but even then we have to cash up and often deal with car call outs or pick up late night guests.

Between dinner and having some time for ourselves I can still be batting booking enquiries at 10pm at night.


The Hard Bit


So where, in all this, you might ask is our down time, our time off? Well, that’s the hard things about this job – there isn’t any.

Yes, folks we work 12 hours a day+, 7 days a week.

There is no such thing as a day off and living on the premises, as we do, our job is pretty much 24/7.

If we have noisy guests in the night, we have to deal with them, if we have ferry pick-ups at 6am, we have to collect them, if cars breakdown in the middle of the night, we have to drive and out to start them again.

We work relentlessly and we work hard, mostly because that is the sort of people we are.

We can’t do a half-hearted job, we have to give it our all.

And so, in our free or quiet time, we are continuously trying to make improvements in the place – we’ve done the gardens, we’ve fixed furniture, we’ve scrubbed, we’ve repaired and we’ve upgraded the place in the best ways we can.

And hopefully we’re seeing the results, as customer feedback continues to improve!

So I guess you could say the major downside to working paradise is that we don’t get to enjoy it all as much as we’d like!


The Future

Sunset West Point

But the future’s bright and our resolution for the next 5 weeks is to get out and enjoy the wonderful surrounds that little bit more.

From gorgeous beaches to stunning walks, we’ve only seen small snippets of the island during a snatched afternoon here and there.

We have 8 more weeks here  on Magnetic Island to enjoy as part of our 3 month contract before we hit the road again, so that’s just what we intend to do.

Here’s to getting the best from our island experience before the next adventure!

Stay tuned to see where life takes us next 🙂


4 thoughts on “Notes From a Small (Magnetic) Island

  1. Naomi says:

    it seems to me the enjoying the little time you have, goes pretty well. All I see is gorgeous beaches and sunsets, together! Hope you get a bit more free time to really enjoy it more!

    • Steph says:

      Thanks Naomi, yes we get out and about to see snippets, but never a full day. Will be nice to stay and holiday on the island for a day or 2 after we finish and not talk about check-ins at the beach or deal with bookings over dinner!

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