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Here it is – the ultimate Magnetic Island travel guide, including the top things to do on Magnetic Island and how to get around.
It’s about time I put together this Magnetic Island travel guide, am I right? Now, as a Queensland resident and traveller, I know a lot of national and international visitors love to visit our east coast. And why not? It has fantastic beaches, lush rainforests and authentic outback towns. Just do me a favour – don’t skip Townsville and head straight for Cairns, because you will miss out on a tropical North Queensland gem: Magnetic Island, Queensland.
My parents moved to the island from our hometown of Townsville in 2011 and I am pretty damn glad they did (good work, parents). Here’s my local Magnetic Island travel guide, featuring the best things to do and all the important info.
Here are the best places to visit on Magnetic Island to take the prettiest photos
Getting to Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island is situated eight kilometres off the coast of Townsville (or a 25-minute ferry ride away). The only way to get to Maggie is via Sealink’s Magnetic Island ferry service or Magnetic Island Ferries’ barge service (just to make it confusing). Both vessels make frequent trips daily. It just depends on whether you want to bring your own car over to the island.
How do I get to Magnetic Island from the airport?
You can get a taxi to the ferry terminal or my recommendation, Townsville Shuttle Services. An affordable option that meets every plane and is run by locals.
Can you take a car from Townsville to Magnetic Island?
You can take a car on the barge (Magnetic Island Ferries) to get it from Townsville to Magnetic Island.
What is the fastest ferry to Magnetic Island?
Sealink is the fastest ferry to the island and Nelly Bay Harbour, getting you there in about 25 minutes.
Getting around Magnetic Island
So now you’re on the island, there are a few different transport avenues you can choose to get around. For budget travellers, there’s the public bus, which visits the four main bays on the island regularly. This will get you everywhere you need to go.
Your other choice is hiring a scooter, which many visitors seem to choose. Just be careful as the island is all rocky hills. Finally, if you didn’t bring a car over on the barge, there’s car hire on Magnetic Island. If you’re looking for Magnetic Island car hire, I personally love these Barbie-inspired topless vehicles. I am pretty sure Magnetic Island is the only place you can find these awesome cars. Aren’t they just the cutest?
How do you get around Magnetic Island without a car?
By public bus or taxi.
Can you get a taxi on Magnetic Island?
Where to stay on Magnetic Island
For my fellow solo and budget travellers, there are two hostels on Magnetic Island: Selina Magnetic Island and Nomads. I’d choose Selina purely because it’s located in Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island. Otherwise, if you have some cash to splash, you can’t go wrong with Peppers Blue on Blue. It’s got big apartments, a lovely pool and it’s conveniently located next to the ferry terminal.
For more Queensland inspiration, here are the best places to visit to see the Great Barrier Reef
The best things to do on Magnetic Island
Now, I have an upcoming post detailing the best things to do on Magnetic Island and my favourite Magnetic Island attractions. But here’s a brief glimpse of the best Magnetic Island tourist attractions.
70% of the island is Magnetic Island National Park, which equals a lot of nature for visitors to enjoy. The most popular trail is The Forts Walk, which is a 90-minute return trip and the best place to see Northern Australia’s largest population of koalas in the wild. At your destination, you can discover some World War II artefacts including an observation tower, command post and gun emplacements. There are also stellar views over the Coral Sea.
Other walking trails on Maggie Island include Hawkings Point Lookout and from bay to bay, by the water and over the hills. Visit this site for all the best bushwalks and you can pick up an information sheet once you arrive on the island.
2. Check out the best Magnetic Island beaches
23 beautiful bays make up Magnetic Island. But let’s talk about the best beaches on Magnetic Island. My favourite is Horseshoe Bay, which is where my parents live. Plus, it’s my preferred sunset spot. It’s the place to go for markets on a Sunday, watersports and drinks by the water any day. Then there is Radical Bay, West Point, Balding Bay, Arthur Bay and Florence Bay. But keep in mind that Radical Bay Road is only accessible by foot nowadays. Their seclusion ensures they remain pristine and beautiful. Geoffrey Bay and Alma Bay are popular for swimming and snorkelling – you’re in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park here, after all.
Following around the corner is Nelly Bay, where you will find the ferry terminal and most of the important amenities, including grocery stores and the post office. Finally, you will encounter Picnic Bay. Here there is also a pub by the seaside and a stinger net. Stinger who? Yeah, because Magnetic Island is in the tropics, our waters get inhabited by these killer pests called stingers from October to March. I personally would recommend visiting either Horseshoe or Picnic Bays during these months where there are stinger nets to swim inside. Otherwise, you have to wear a stinger suit, a.k.a neck-to-toe lycra.
3. Eat delicious food
There are some great places to eat on Maggie. Along the Horseshoe Bay foreshore, there is the Latin restaurant, Noodies that does amazing nachos and if you buy a jug of cocktails you get a free sombrero. SOS Stuffed on Seafood has the best fish and chips, while The Arcadia Hotel has daily specials you may want to check out for a budget meal during your stay. Otherwise, there are two excellent Italian spots in Picnic Bay.
4. See the cutest Aussie animals
I think the best of the best of Magnetic Island is the great wildlife. No doubt you may spot a kangaroo or ten if you happen to walk down a residential street in any of the bays. Geoffrey Bay and the Nelly Bay helipad are the places to see and hand-feed the rock wallabies. They will happily eat bird feed or vegetables like carrots out of your hand. And did I mention, koalas? This photo just makes my heart swell. I was so lucky to capture this moment in the wild.
Magnetic Island day trip itinerary
If you only have one day on Magnetic Island, this is my recommended Magnetic Island trip itinerary. Firstly, I’d recommend hopping on the public bus and doing some bay hopping. You could start with coffee and a swim at Picnic Bay, then stop at Alma Bay (say hi to the rock wallabies), before hopping over the hill and spending the afternoon at Horseshoe Bay.
Alternatively, do it the opposite way. Start with the Forts Walk and then relax on the beach at Horseshoe Bay before visiting Alma Bay.
Magnetic Island travel guide – FAQs
Okay, let’s deep-dive into the most important part of this guide to Magnetic Island – all your burning FAQs.
What is the best area of Magnetic Island to stay in?
The best area to stay in Magnetic Island is Nelly Bay if you want to be close to shops, groceries and restaurants. Plus, it’s home to the Nelly Bay Ferry Terminal. If you want to stay on the beach, I’d recommend Horseshoe Bay.
Magnetic Island guide complete!
Well, I hope this Magnetic Island travel guide helps you plan your own trip. There are plenty of things to do on Magnetic Island or you can have a very relaxing vacation in Queensland’s own tropical paradise. Happy Magnetic Island holidays!
If you’re looking for Magnetic Island tourist information, there isn’t a designated Magnetic Island Information Centre. But the team at the Nelly Bay Ferry Terminal do have pamphlets available and there’s an information centre in Townsville’s CBD if you need more information.
P.S. Here are some other great destinations in Australia for solo travellers.