Picnic Bay Esplanade: an European cultural landscape
The Picnic Bay esplanade offers unobstructed views to Hawkings Point, Cleveland Bay and across to the city of Townsville.
The rocky headland of Hawkings Point is the signature of Magnetic Island. Hoop pines (Araucaria cunninghamii) are nestled among the giant granite boulders with the sea lapping at their feet. These hoop pines are remnants of rainforest flora that was once more widespread. Today the hoop pines persist due to their isolation and protection from fire, afforded by the granite boulders.
The place where you stand was the site of the first European settlement. The mouth of Butler's creek (named after the family who first lived here), is mangrove fringed and would have provided resources for the early settlers, including mud crabs, oysters, shellfish and other seafood. Upstream fresh water would have been seasonally available.
The European settlers planted many of the trees you see. These trees include the tamarind (Tamarindus indica), date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), mango (Mangifera indica), Burdekin plum (Pleiogynium timorense) and banyan figs (Ficus bengalhensis). Much of the North Queensland coast has similar plantings and highlights the way Europeans manipulated and enhanced their landscape to fashion a European cultural landscape.
A fringing reef protects the Picnic Bay coast. During low tide you may see a pair of sooty oyster catchers (Haematopus fuliginosus) using their iridescent red-orange beak to search and extract shellfish and crustaceans from off the outer reef flat.
While out on the outer reef flat, it is not unusual to see black-tip reef shark, dugongs, stingrays and turtles feeding off the various foods offered by the reef.
The wreck of the George Rennie, sunk as a breakwater for an earlier Picnic Bay jetty, bears testimony to the Island's early maritime history.
Stop long enough and you will see birds of prey perched high in the hoop pines or, often, on the exposed wreck, gaining a vantage point to secure a fresh seafood meal.
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