Magnetic Island walks: Nelly Bay to Arcadia and the Forts junction

The walking tracks

Magnetic Island walking track
Easy walking through the wattles

The walking track through the hills between Nelly Bay and Arcadia, with its extensions to the Sphinx Lookout and the Forts walk carpark, is longer than most and I hadn’t found an opportunity to explore it until last weekend. The weather was gorgeous and the landscape was at its best.

It isn’t possible to see all of these tracks without repeating at least one section (see map) and I walked from Arcadia to Nelly Bay, with the side trip to the Sphinx, on Saturday and from Arcadia to the Forts walk junction on Sunday.

Magnetic Island
Alma Bay from the Sphinx Lookout

The track climbs steadily from Arcadia and, after the detour to the Sphinx Lookout (which offers wonderful views over Alma Bay), swings around to the left, still climbing, until it presents another view down to the coast – unexpectedly on the right of the track rather than the left. It took me a moment to realise I was now on the northern side of the hill behind Arcadia and was looking down on Horseshoe Bay.

Magnetic Island
Horseshoe Bay from the Nelly Bay track

From that point onwards the track runs parallel to the beach far below before turning left again and quite steeply down hill to Nelly Bay. None of it is particularly hard walking, although the Nelly Bay end is a little rougher than the rest.

The section between the Forts carpark and the track junction above Arcadia is mostly smooth and quite level walking through open vegetation, as in my top photo. Anyone in search of an easy walk which will still show them the interior of the island should start at the carpark and finish at Arcadia, eliminating nearly all of the climbing; the Sphinx detour could be included in this walk.

To see as much as possible in one trip, on the other hand, I would start at the Forts junction, walk to the Sphinx, backtrack to the Nelly-Arcadia-Forts T-junction and continue on to Nelly Bay; all I would miss would be the climb up from Arcadia to the Sphinx turn-off.

Magnetic Island
Hillside with wattles, boulders and hoop pines


walking track
A natural carpet

The wattles were blooming as I had never seen them before, and a long-time resident of the Island agreed with me that they were exceptionally good. There are (at least) four species and they were all flowering together; fallen blossom was caught in spiderwebs and grasses, and carpeted the ground. Normally this much blossom would attract a similar abundance of nectar feeders but I didn’t see great numbers of insects or birds feeding on it and Birds In Backyards doesn’t list wattles among the best food sources for any of the nectarivores.

Nevertheless I enjoyed the company of birds throughout my walks. Raucous flights of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and one bigger flock of galahs flew overhead; I heard Friarbirds constantly and saw them occasionally; Currawongs and raptors were occasionally sighted in the distance; and smaller birds were active in the trees. Like the friarbirds they were more often heard than seen but I saw three Sunbirds (from the Sphinx Lookout), several Leaden Flycatchers, and some honeyeaters.

Female Leaden Flycatcher

I didn’t see any snakes at all although one hiker I met said she had seen one or two. By far the most abundant reptiles were little skinks, sunning themselves on the track, tree trunks or boulders. I noticed two distinctly different colorations, copper-headed and copper-bodied (I think the latter is a Rainbow Skink, Carlia sp.), but there were probably more.

I only saw one larger, differently patterned lizard, another skink. Going by Wilson’s field guide, it is a Striped Skink in the genus Ctenotus – but there are 43 of them in Queensland and the one which looks most like mine, C. rosarium, is known only from the White Mountains – Aramac region, so I’m not going hazard a guess at species.

Striped skink
magnetic island walks
Did I mention the wattle?

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