Palm Island (QLD) Day-Trippers or Overnighters?

Catweazle

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Joined
Jun 4, 2013
Posts
456
Who here has taken the SeaLink ferry or a Hinterland Aviation flight to Palm Island from Townsville?

Would you consider it an option for a day trip or even an overnight stop for the sake of seeing something different while exploring along the coast of QLD there?

I understand that safety used to be an issue, but not sure if it is the same anymore. There's a pub meal for lunch, one motel for overnight stays, a variety of flights throughout the day and nought much but a few Google Reviews out there suggesting a few local sights that could be worthy of seeing: lookouts, local water hole, nearby beaches or bays.

Any thoughts or suggestions welcome. I know nothing yet!
 
I saw it on the map, like most places I've ended up. 😆 Fully aware it is not Hayman Island, but still... can you explain your thoughts to help me gain an understanding here?
 
I saw it on the map, like most places I've ended up. 😆 Fully aware it is not Hayman Island, but still... can you explain your thoughts to help me gain an understanding here?
Finding somewhere else would be (very) prudent ;)

There are plenty of other places on the map where you could relax
 
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So, in the end... after much research and finding little out there at my disposal on the world wide web other than an odd blog post or some rather random looking Google Reviews of various equally random locations... I took your advice... and mulled it over... and then ended up going anyway!

Curiosity got the better of me. Thank you muchly for your appreciated comments nonetheless. I guess I figured that I'd just have to make my own mind up (lol).

However, I only had one free day to spare so didn't stay overnight night at the Palm Island Motel as I had initially been wondering about. That left a slight problem to overcome as there is only one daily return ferry from Townsville leaving little time in between.

Enter Hinterland Aviation: problem solved.

"Whatever you do," said the taxi driver en route to the airport shortly after 0700am, "don't take your eyes off your bag. It'll be nicked before you can say 'walkabout'."

I gulped. Great. Second thoughts flooded my brain; maybe this was a dumb idea after all. They said this was one of the most dangerous places in the world back in the early 2000s. They said it was more dangerous than a war zone. At least, that's what the headlines stated then. What was I thinking? This was supposed to be a 'petite fugue' away from the stress of school terms, due dates, marking, delinquent middle school students and crazy workloads.

I walked through a glass door to be greeted by the pilot who asked me to stand on the scales...

Hinterland Aviation is situated at the other end of TSV; that is, they share the same runway but operate out of their own airport hanger. I forgot to take photos but if you picture about eight plastic chairs, four aside, on which passengers await their fate, dead coughroaches in the toilets and a check-in counter about the size of your coffee table then that's not too far off it.

They run a good number of daily flights to and from Palm Island on their Cessna C208 Caravan – one of the work-horses of the sky in many parts of the world – as well as multiple flights across top-end QLD out of CNS. Not bad from a wee little tinpot airline.

My tummy groaned. I hadn't yet breakfasted.

As I began to wonder if there was time enough to make a mad dash back to Macca's – or even grab a coffee over at the main terminal – we were called to attention; myself, a paramedic, a family of two, three staff who were due back on the last flight of the day and one other lady. Eight pax in all. Did I mention the pilot?

Like a school excursion, they gave us a number which was our seating row.

There were stairs to board the plane. Luxury! Then a frumpy scramble, trying to avoid knocking your head on the roof, as you squirm like a worm down towards the front of the plane behind the pilot. He looked about 25. I waited patiently for him to pin up his P-plates but he must have forgotten.

We rolled around on the tarmac, warming up the engine as we moved forward, taxiing toward the runway. Bumpity-bump. Bumpity-bump. Squeakity-squeak! Bumpity-bump! Finally, we were off and away, slowly rising in altitude but staying mostly under the morning clouds for the duration of the flight.

The flight time is only 20 minutes but by the time you land – bumpity-bump with a wee squeal from the tyre beneath – you wonder if your legs will unbend to let you clamber out again. I'm about 6'3. Maybe you're only five foot nothing in which case you won't have a problem.

But when you disembark, the first thing that greets you is the teeming silence of nature.

Actually, it's not really silent at all. The flora and fauna of such tropical islands never ceases to amaze me, along with the singing of cicadas in the warmth of the day, and the chirping of geckos and the screaming of the birds. And the greenery – TSV and northern QLD is so green during the wet season, compared to the dusty dry summery paddocks we often get down here in western Victoria! And the water so blue!

The main township of Palm Island is a little over 2 – 3 kilometers from the airport, which I figured was quite walkable within the hour. Before long, however, a small car stopped and a retired school teacher peered at me through her glasses. Her passenger too, a shirtless elderly indigenous gentleman, peered across through her open window. They asked me if I had just come off the morning flight.

"Yes, I flew in this morning."

"Y'going to the shops?"

"That's right. I believe it's not too far to walk."

"Well, why don't y'hop in. I'm dropping my brother off here to do some shopping. You can come with us."

How sweet! So the dear old duo gave me a ten minute lift into town, winding through the hills, as they pointed out all the local sites including Casement Lookout, Mill Point, the local schools (they soon discovered that I'm a teacher too), post office, supermarket, Op-shop etc

And that was my first introduction to Palm Island.

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Long story short, as you can see from the few photographed snaps across this post, not everything is quite how the media paints things over the years.

Most of the news articles out there focus on the violent past; tension and conflict, debates about the Voice and people rising up against what they feel is a complete lack of support from the mainland, alcohol and agression, criminal activity and police custody. For sure, Palm Island's history has been such at times but that is only one part of the story. Like everywhere in this world, there are also beautiful people, kindly souls, strong families and a vibrant culture. It is a shame, rather, that there is little to be read out there on the internet that paints a more positive picture beyond the other challenges of life on the island.

Is it as good as Magnetic Island? Well, that's the wrong question to be asking, really.

Some say it is one of the most beautiful islands in the region... Perhaps it is unfortunate that it isn't currently kitted out for tourists as there are few amenities – the pub doesn't open till about 5:30pm so day-trippers can't get a decent meal and the post office had run out of envelopes after a busy Christmas season – but, like Anthony Bourdain said of Molokai, I'd say that its charm is the lack of tourists. If you do go, then go with an open mind and a listening ear, leave your entitled judgements at home, expect little and receive more than you could have wished for.

I left that same day on the 1400pm SeaLink ferry but yeah, I'd go again, and next time I'd stay for more than a day...
 

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Love your post.

Need to live this world not in fear of only media reports or negatives.

I’ve variously been told by well meaning people, Lonely Planet, various blogs, and media reports not to go to Namibia, South Africa (Soweto, Durban, East London, J’burg and others). Lesotho, South Korea (during MERS), Zambia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and a few others. I loved them all and did not feel really unsafe for a moment.

I think the sketchiest place I’ve ever visited was Manilla (followed by parts of Rio) but with the help of google maps and gps managed to get out of an awkward situation with a dodgy taxidriver.

Parts of King St Melbourne and Hindley St in Adelaide are no go zones for me after dark.
 
The media is definitely not the place to find out whether a place is really dangerous or not. Fortunately I learnt that reasonably early in life with a trip to PNG and the Solomons in December 1969. Stayed at a hostel in Koki when in Moresby. Caught the bus into town. by the second day I was known to all the locals as Im pella catchim bus. they would all come up and talk to me.
a few days later In Rabaul I joined all the local Europeans standing on the side lines of the local oval watching john Kaputin of the Mataungan association give a rousing speech. It was ended when the local police Inspector, an englishman , ended it by having the police march through the crowd whacking them on their heads.
The next day the SMH was reporting a riot in Rabaul with all Europeans boarding up their houses.

Kaputin by the way wasn't a bad fellow.

So good on you for going to Palm Island.
 
So, in the end... after much research and finding little out there at my disposal on the world wide web other than an odd blog post or some rather random looking Google Reviews of various equally random locations... I took your advice... and mulled it over... and then ended up going anyway!

Curiosity got the better of me. Thank you muchly for your appreciated comments nonetheless. I guess I figured that I'd just have to make my own mind up (lol).

However, I only had one free day to spare so didn't stay overnight night at the Palm Island Motel as I had initially been wondering about. That left a slight problem to overcome as there is only one daily return ferry from Townsville leaving little time in between.

Enter Hinterland Aviation: problem solved.

"Whatever you do," said the taxi driver en route to the airport shortly after 0700am, "don't take your eyes off your bag. It'll be nicked before you can say 'walkabout'."

I gulped. Great. Second thoughts flooded my brain; maybe this was a dumb idea after all. They said this was one of the most dangerous places in the world back in the early 2000s. They said it was more dangerous than a war zone. At least, that's what the headlines stated then. What was I thinking? This was supposed to be a 'petite fugue' away from the stress of school terms, due dates, marking, delinquent middle school students and crazy workloads.

I walked through a glass door to be greeted by the pilot who asked me to stand on the scales...

Hinterland Aviation is situated at the other end of TSV; that is, they share the same runway but operate out of their own airport hanger. I forgot to take photos but if you picture about eight plastic chairs, four aside, on which passengers await their fate, dead coughroaches in the toilets and a check-in counter about the size of your coffee table then that's not too far off it.

They run a good number of daily flights to and from Palm Island on their Cessna C208 Caravan – one of the work-horses of the sky in many parts of the world – as well as multiple flights across top-end QLD out of CNS. Not bad from a wee little tinpot airline.

My tummy groaned. I hadn't yet breakfasted.

As I began to wonder if there was time enough to make a mad dash back to Macca's – or even grab a coffee over at the main terminal – we were called to attention; myself, a paramedic, a family of two, three staff who were due back on the last flight of the day and one other lady. Eight pax in all. Did I mention the pilot?

Like a school excursion, they gave us a number which was our seating row.

There were stairs to board the plane. Luxury! Then a frumpy scramble, trying to avoid knocking your head on the roof, as you squirm like a worm down towards the front of the plane behind the pilot. He looked about 25. I waited patiently for him to pin up his P-plates but he must have forgotten.

We rolled around on the tarmac, warming up the engine as we moved forward, taxiing toward the runway. Bumpity-bump. Bumpity-bump. Squeakity-squeak! Bumpity-bump! Finally, we were off and away, slowly rising in altitude but staying mostly under the morning clouds for the duration of the flight.

The flight time is only 20 minutes but by the time you land – bumpity-bump with a wee squeal from the tyre beneath – you wonder if your legs will unbend to let you clamber out again. I'm about 6'3. Maybe you're only five foot nothing in which case you won't have a problem.

But when you disembark, the first thing that greets you is the teeming silence of nature.

Actually, it's not really silent at all. The flora and fauna of such tropical islands never ceases to amaze me, along with the singing of cicadas in the warmth of the day, and the chirping of geckos and the screaming of the birds. And the greenery – TSV and northern QLD is so green during the wet season, compared to the dusty dry summery paddocks we often get down here in western Victoria! And the water so blue!

The main township of Palm Island is a little over 2 – 3 kilometers from the airport, which I figured was quite walkable within the hour. Before long, however, a small car stopped and a retired school teacher peered at me through her glasses. Her passenger too, a shirtless elderly indigenous gentleman, peered across through her open window. They asked me if I had just come off the morning flight.

"Yes, I flew in this morning."

"Y'going to the shops?"

"That's right. I believe it's not too far to walk."

"Well, why don't y'hop in. I'm dropping my brother off here to do some shopping. You can come with us."

How sweet! So the dear old duo gave me a ten minute lift into town, winding through the hills, as they pointed out all the local sites including Casement Lookout, Mill Point, the local schools (they soon discovered that I'm a teacher too), post office, supermarket, Op-shop etc

And that was my first introduction to Palm Island.

View attachment 366474
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Long story short, as you can see from the few photographed snaps across this post, not everything is quite how the media paints things over the years.

Most of the news articles out there focus on the violent past; tension and conflict, debates about the Voice and people rising up against what they feel is a complete lack of support from the mainland, alcohol and agression, criminal activity and police custody. For sure, Palm Island's history has been such at times but that is only one part of the story. Like everywhere in this world, there are also beautiful people, kindly souls, strong families and a vibrant culture. It is a shame, rather, that there is little to be read out there on the internet that paints a more positive picture beyond the other challenges of life on the island.

Is it as good as Magnetic Island? Well, that's the wrong question to be asking, really.

Some say it is one of the most beautiful islands in the region... Perhaps it is unfortunate that it isn't currently kitted out for tourists as there are few amenities – the pub doesn't open till about 5:30pm so day-trippers can't get a decent meal and the post office had run out of envelopes after a busy Christmas season – but, like Anthony Bourdain said of Molokai, I'd say that its charm is the lack of tourists. If you do go, then go with an open mind and a listening ear, leave your entitled judgements at home, expect little and receive more than you could have wished for.

I left that same day on the 1400pm SeaLink ferry but yeah, I'd go again, and next time I'd stay for more than a day...
Beautiful review. I lived there as a teacher in the early 2000's. Didn't see many visitors from the mainland back then apart from the odd family member or friend who came to visit. Fun to read you still stood out like a sore thumb! We had a fantastic school community. Friday afternoons saw a queue of teachers boats at the ramp off for some R &R in some of the most pristine waters you will ever see. I still yearn for the beauty and isolation of a place like Palm. School holiday trips to the mainland were quite hectic after a term living on Island time. Glad you enjoyed your day trip! I still reminisce about my time on Palm quite often. Many stories to tell. Good bad and ugly like many places but I will never forget the beauty and the pace. North East Bay on the ocean side is where the rainforest meets the reef. It's the stuff dreams are made of. You should consider working there!
 

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