The next hostel I’m going to review is the Base hostel on Magnetic Island. I stayed at two Base hostels during my time in Australia, and they seem to be present pretty much everywhere you find backpackers.
After a week spent in Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands, I decided to head to Magnetic Island for a few days. I had very little idea of what to expect, which seemed to be a recurring pattern on my travels. I’d only heard a few things about the place really, mainly that there were plenty of jobs on the island (false), and that there was plenty of beautiful scenery and hiking trails (true).
Off the back of these recommendations, I booked a four night stay at the Base hostel (one of only two hostels on the island apparently). Sadly, it seemed a couple of days too long – a problem I discussed in a previous post.
Having got the ferry over from Townsville which took around 20 minutes and cost a cool $34 for a return ticket, I was greeted by a sign at the terminal which basically said: “Get the left bus for Base, and the right bus for the other hostel”. Simple enough.
The bus seemed to take the long route around the island, which took about 15 minutes. On the way, I was shocked at how little there seemed to be. I think we passed a school, a load of houses and a supermarket on the 15 minute journey. For this reason, it’s pretty hard to judge the location of the Base hostel. In other words, there doesn’t really seem to be much to be close to. We did, however, have a small, overpriced convenience store and bottle shop about a ten minute walk away, and a larger, more reasonably priced supermarket about a 20 minute walk away. The hostel was also directly on the beach front, which is always nice.
It’s important to point out just how small Magnetic Island is. Me and a couple of roommates pretty much walked from one side of the island to the other one day (and got the bus back – it’s not THAT small), which only took us a couple of hours including a few stops for a dip in some of the islands lovely coves.
I quickly discovered that you kind of know what you’re getting with a Base hostel. They’re big, well kitted out and are popular for a reason. There’s always a bar and plenty of socialising areas which make them the ideal choice for solo travellers. The downside to this, as I mentioned with my review of the hostel I stayed in Brisbane, is that you can’t bring your own booze on-site and are forced to pay over the odds for the bar. We did, however, buy a few bottles from the shop and sit on the beach with them as the sun went down.
There was a swimming pool which was an absolute sun trap as well as a place to rent snorkelling and diving equipment, which I thought was pretty cool if that’s your sort of thing. I also made good use of the hammocks when they were free and fell asleep quite a few times only to be rudely awoken by the local birds (of the avian variety sadly) or the noises coming from the often cramped nearby kitchen.
One thing I was very disappointed with however, was my room. I had initially paid for a bed in an eight-bed dorm, and upon arrival was told that I’d been upgraded to a six-bedder. After my upgrade in Airlie Beach, I was starting to think I was on something of a roll. However, when I actually got to my room I found it was less a “room”, and more a storage unit that you see at shipyards.
Now I’m not too much of a snob, and as long as I can sleep and feel my belongings are safe I don’t really care about the appearance of a room. However, in the mucky portakabin I’d been assigned there were two plug sockets between six people, the world’s loudest squeaking beds and a rattling fan. Not the most convenient when you’re trying to get some shut-eye.
This was the first hostel I stayed at which didn’t have free WiFi, which was a bit of a pain and most certainly a first world problem. I think it cost $4 for 24 hours, which isn’t extortionate but can be an inconvenience on a backpacker budget.
One of the main perks of a Base hostel is that there’s always something going on to get people socialising. There are nights run by the hostel such as “Boozy Bingo”, “Bar Wars” and many other puntastic events with good prizes. With there being very few drinking establishments on Magnetic Island (I can only really remember a couple), it’s obviously a really big deal to make sure the hostel has a good atmosphere.
Bar Wars in particular is a good laugh, as you get into teams and compete in a series of challenges against others. I happened to turn up late and got dragged into a game which involved getting stark-bollock naked and lying down on the floor to see which team could make the biggest naked line. The team I joined happened to win this game, and I can’t help but feel I played an integral part with my 5ft7 frame.
Base Magnetic Island also puts on regular “full moon parties” on the beach in front of the hostel based on the ones in Thailand, but unfortunately I wasn’t around for one.
From what I gather, Base hostels on the whole tend to be on the pricey side. Add to that the fact that this particular hostel was one of only two on the island then you’re going to find yourself paying a little more than you’d like. I think I paid around $28 for my eight bed dorm (before the upgrade) which as you can tell, I wasn’t exactly impressed with. Coupled with the expensive bar, you have quite a dear stay here. Perhaps another reason to only do a night or two.
Overall I’d recommend a stay on Magnetic Island for two nights. There is a lot of walking to do and it can be a nice chill out place to gather your thoughts. The fact there are only two hostels on the island means you might have no choice but to stay at Base, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good place to meet people and relax in a picturesque location, but not exactly anything to write home about.
Oh by the way, the other hostel has a koala sanctuary…so maybe let that influence your decision!