Here it is – my guide to the best of Magnetic Island, including the top things to do on Magnetic Island and how to get around.
Updated April 2019
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 don’t skip Townsville up north and head straight for Cairns, because you will miss out on a gem: Magnetic Island.
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’s guide to Maggie, featuring the best things to do on Magnetic Island and other important info.
Getting to Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island is situated eight kilometres off the coast of Townsville. 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 do frequents trips daily. It just depends on whether you want to bring your own car over to the island.
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 a lot of 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, you can hire one on Magnetic Island. 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?
Where to stay on Magnetic Island
For my fellow solo and budget travellers, there are two hostels on Magnetic Island: Bungalow Bay YHA and Base Backpackers. I’d choose Bungalow Bay purely because it’s located in Horseshoe Bay. 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
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 include 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 of the bays
There are 23 bays that make up Magnetic Island. My favourite is Horseshoe Bay, which is where my parents live. It’s the place to go for markets on a Sunday, watersports and drinks by the water any day. Then there is Radical, West Point, Arthur and Florence Bays, which are only accessible by four wheel drive. But their seclusion ensures they remain pristine and beautiful. Geoffrey and Alma Bays 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 November 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. Bikini Tree Cafe specialises in wood fired pizzas, while The Arcadia Hotel next door 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 is the place 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.
The best of Magnetic Island
Well, I hope this post helps you plan your own trip to Maggie. There are plenty of things to do on Magnetic Island, or you can have a very relaxing vacation in Queensland’s own tropical paradise.