This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read the full disclosure policy here.
Here we go – ALL the best things to do on Magnetic Island from a local’s perspective. We’ve got my favourite Magnetic Island activities, free things to do and my recommendations for food and drink.
Ah, Magnetic Island. The place I call home when I’m not elsewhere. I can’t believe I’m only just getting around to writing this guide to the best things to do on Magnetic Island. But trust me, I’ve covered all bases. Whether you’re looking for free things, fun adventures or my favourite Magnetic Island restaurants, you’ll find it all below.
How to get to Magnetic Island
First things first. You’re going to need to take the Sealink ferry over to Magnetic Island. Now, I see people all the time accidentally showing up with tickets for Magnetic Island Ferries, which is not the passenger ferry but the barge for vehicles. People can walk on, it just takes double the time and is located across the water from Sealink. To get there from Sealink you need to take a taxi or go for a long walk.
How to get around on Magnetic Island
You can get around on Magnetic Island a few ways:
- Bring your car over on Magnetic Island Ferries.
- Use the public bus and taxis.
- Rent a scooter or car when you get to the island.
Best time to visit Magnetic Island
The best time to visit Magnetic Island is 100% during the dry season. If you want to go swimming, head there in the shoulder months of April/May and September/October for warm weather and minimal rainfall. But the most beautiful weather is from June to August. Low humidity and low rainfall = a happy Hayley. From November to approximately March, it’s the wet season and it is not fun. There are stingers in the ocean, high humidity and rainfall.
For more FAQs and helpful travel information, visit my Magnetic Island travel guide.
Top things to do on Magnetic Island
Let’s start with the best things to do in Magnetic Island – paid edition.
1. Maggie Discovery Tour
I haven’t personally done the Maggie Discovery Tour, but I’ve seen people enjoying their Magnetic Island tours. Plus, Aquascene Magnetic Island is run by a very nice local family. The five-hour tour takes you across the island and to two snorkelling locations. Along the way, you’ll enjoy morning tea in a secluded bay and learn everything there is to know about Maggie. If you only have a short amount of time on the island, it’s a great way to see the sights.
2. Go jet-skiing at Horseshoe Bay
I may be biased because they’re family friends, but if you want a thrill-seeking adventure, make your way to Magnetic Island Jet Ski Hire. If kayaks are a bit slow for you, this is the best alternative on the same beach.
3. Experience the Museum of Underwater Art
While Magnetic Island is on the Great Barrier Reef, you can do a day trip out to a central section of the Great Barrier Reef and experience the Museum of Underwater Art. It’s the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. This is the perfect day trip for snorkellers and divers alike as both can experience sections of the museum.
On John Brewer Reef, enjoy the vibrant coral and keep your eye out for reef fish and other marine life. This includes Maori wrasse, turtles and reef sharks.
4. Go kayaking at Horseshoe Bay
During the worldwide event that shall not be named, my parents and I finally ticked kayaking off our Maggie bucket list. You can rent one on the Horseshoe Bay waterfront and spend an hour exploring the bay’s rocky edges and secret beaches. Keep your eye out for sea turtles and whales if you’re visiting during migration season.
5. Check out the events at Arcadia Hotel
Arcadia Hotel has events basically every night of the week. This includes cane toad races on Wednesday (I wish I was lying…), trivia on Thursday nights and a Sunday roast with a side of bingo.
6. Go to the Stage Door
This is one of the most unique things to do on Magnetic Island. Every Friday and Saturday night, two locals take the stage at the Stage Door Theatre Restaurant and perform original shows that include singing, impersonations, comedy and a lot of fun. Your ticket includes a three-course meal and there’s a bar available all night long.
7. Rent a topless car
I’m 100% a sucker for the bright pink Barbie-esque topless cars you’ll spot across Maggie. I was a Barbie girl, after all. You can rent one from Tropical Topless Car Rental at the ferry terminal.
8. Go shopping
There aren’t a lot of shops on Magnetic Island. But there are a couple of options in Horseshoe Bay, including Island Fever for surfwear and accessories and MI Design & Retail for beautiful giftware. Homewares, accessories and beautiful-smelling candles can all be found here.
9. Dive at one of the world’s top sites
Magnetic Island and Townsville are actually two of the closest locations to the SS Yongala Wreck, which is known as one of the world’s top dive sites. This is because of both its diverse and dense marine life. So if you’re a certified diver, you don’t want to miss experiencing Australia’s best dive site.
10. See the sunset from the water
Maggie sunsets are something else and one of the best ways to experience them is on the water. There are two main options I recommend; the first being Pilgrim Sailing’s Sunset Cruise. Enjoy the sunset while sipping on unlimited beverages and dipping into the delicious cheese platter.
The other option is the sunset cruise by Island Time Cruises, departing from Horseshoe Bay. If you like, you can go swimming or fishing while watching the sunset.
11. Visit Selina’s Koala Village
Once known as Bungalow Bay Koala Village, Selina now owns the premises. But it’s still Australia’s only resort with an on-site wildlife park and one of the most popular Magnetic Island tourist attractions. You can meet turtles, koalas, wombats and crocodiles.
Free things to do on Magnetic Island
Let me just say, there are SO many free things to do on Magnetic Island. You don’t have to spend money to enjoy these activities on Magnetic Island.
12. Say hello to the rock wallabies
Looking for family-friendly Magnetic Island attractions? Well, look no further, because I’m a big kid myself and Maggie’s unique animal encounters are one of the things I love most. Now, you’re first going to want to pick up some wallaby food from the local newsagent. You can get a bag of pellets for a couple of dollars, but it’s better than feeding them food they can’t (or shouldn’t) eat.
Then you can go where everyone goes: Bremer Point in Geoffrey Bay. You may find many here or none at all. It depends on the time of day, as I find they tend to hide within the rocks when it gets hot.
The newer option we’ve only discovered in the last year is in Nelly Bay. You do have to walk for a few minutes to get out to the point, but you’ll be blown away by the amount of rock wallabies. They’re not shy either and will happily hop up to you for a treat.
13. Go nude at Balding Bay!
Yep, Magnetic Island has its own nudist beach. If that’s your style, you can hike to Balding Bay from Horseshoe Bay. It’s actually a beautiful secluded bay, no matter if you’re in the nude or not!
14. Do the Forts Walk
The Forts Walk is probably the most popular thing to do on Magnetic Island. But as a local, I do the walk every chance I get. Mainly because it’s the best place on Magnetic Island to find wild koalas. Take your time checking out all the trees, especially the ones off the main path. On good days, my mum and I have seen six or seven.
Besides the koala spotting, the Forts Walk is a step back in time to World War II. In fact, it’s a heritage-listed site as it’s home to Queensland’s best-preserved WWII coastal defence fortifications (hence the name). There’s an interpretive display at the top that brings to life the site’s history. There are actually steps now connecting the Forts Walk to the road that takes you to Florence, Arthur and Radical Bays if you want a bigger adventure too.
15. Hike Hawkings Point
If you want a short hike with a big impact, check out Hawkings Point Lookout. It’s a short distance up to the top and the views are worth the exertion. You can see across to Nelly Bay in one direction and Townsville in the other.
16. Check out the Arthur Bay Lookout
There’s no vehicle access to Arthur Bay Lookout these days. But look at that view – it’s worth the walk, right?
17. Visit the Horseshoe Bay Markets on Sunday
The Horseshoe Bay Markets take over the foreshore every Sunday. You’ll find stalls selling food, clothing, accessories and local arts and crafts. Have a browse, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the live music. You might even get lucky and attend on a day my dad’s performing!
Psst… here are my other favourite photo locations on Magnetic Island to take the most beautiful photos!
18. Watch the sunset at West Point or Horseshoe Bay
West Point is the most talked-about sunset location on Magnetic Island, as you can see the sunset over Townsville. However, it isn’t the easiest to get to. So I prefer watching the sunset from Horseshoe Bay. As you can see, it isn’t too shabby at all.
19. Swim at Alma Bay
Alma Bay is undoubtedly the most popular swimming location on Magnetic Island. But with its combination of picnic tables, grassed area and sandy shoreline, it’s the perfect spot to spend the day with the family.
20. Visit Picnic Bay Jetty
Picnic Bay Jetty is the old ferry terminal. I remember getting off there for my year 6 camp in 2000! There was uproar when demolition was suggested and now it’s one of Maggie’s most prized possessions. The views from the jetty are great and it’s a popular spot for fishing too. My recommendation: head underneath for a cool photo idea.
21. Adventure down to Radical Bay
Radical Bay isn’t easy to get to. It’s past both Arthur and Florence Bays, but it’s a beautiful stretch of beach.
22. Enjoy the snorkelling trails
There are beautiful fringing reefs surrounding Magnetic Island, seeing as it’s in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Check out the Nelly Bay snorkel trail or the trail in Geoffrey Bay. You can also pick up a snorkelling trail map at Fish N Fuel, as well as snorkelling equipment.
23. Do the Butterfly Walk
If you happen to visit Maggie during the dry season, I highly recommend going for a walk through Horseshoe Bay’s Butterfly Walk. It’s a little bit hidden and a little bit rustic, but it’s one of my favourite Magnetic Island activities. One year we visited and there were hundreds of vibrant blue tiger butterflies resting in the trees.
24. Check out the view from Olympic Lookout
If you head to the end of Olympic Crescent, there’s a beautiful lookout with your name on it.
25. Do the Arcadia to Nelly Bay or Horseshoe Bay hike
Yep, Maggie is home to so many good hikes! This is another fan favourite. Don’t miss the view from Sphinx Lookout.
26. Walk the Gabul Way
Gabul Way is the name given to the path that hugs the winding road from Arcadia to Nelly Bay. Take in the views and either continue into Nelly Bay or along the water in Geoffrey Bay.
27. Visit the SS City of Adelaide shipwreck at low tide
Did you know there’s a shipwreck off the coast of Magnetic Island? SS City of Adelaide began its life in Scotland in the 19th century before becoming an Australian passenger and cargo ship. Unfortunately, it sunk off the coast of Cockle Bay in 1916.
Today, it’s an artificial island that’s home to an array of plant and marine life, including mangroves. It’s 300 metres offshore, but you can walk out to it in low tide. Just know it’s a very muddy adventure!
28. Visit Florence Bay
Florence Bay is located next door to Arthur Bay, so you once again have to walk to reach it. But because it takes a little extra effort to get there, you’ll find you’ll often have the beach to yourself.
The Best Food & Drink on Magnetic Island
29. Enjoy Italian food at Picnic Bay
Mamma Roma is one of my favourite Magnetic Island restaurants. It serves authentic Italian cuisine, including handmade pasta and wood-fired pizza. Plus, you can BYO for a small fee or grab a growler from the brewery next door. Looking out over Picnic Bay with the glistening lights of Townsville in the background, it’s a must-visit on Maggie.
30. Have a beer at the Maggie Island Brewery
Maggie Island Brewery is Mamma Roma’s neighbour. Enjoy a locally brewed beer with a side of live music and fresh barbecue from the on-site food truck. You can also grab a pizza from Mamma Roma’s and enjoy it in their courtyard too.
31. Have authentic curry at Ceylon Curry Corner
One of the cheapest eats on Magnetic Island has to belong to Ceylon Curry Corner. This family business makes the most delicious authentic Sri Lankan curries and serves them out of their food truck at the old helipad on Nelly Bay Road on Friday and Saturday nights. You can get a vegan curry for just $10 and enjoy it with a dreamy seaside view. Doesn’t get better than that!
32. Have breakfast at Fruits N Scoops
Located right near the ferry terminal, Fruits N Scoops is my preferred breakfast spot at the moment. They do everything from waffles (my personal favourite) to acai bowls (my mum’s favourite).
33. Enjoy pub grub at the Marlin Bar
If you’re craving pub grub, check out the Marlin Bar. It’s in an enviable position on the Horseshoe Bay waterfront and has everything you need.
34. Grab fish and chips from SOS – Stuffed on Seafood
If you’re craving fish and chips, I recommend Stuffed on Seafood. It’s next door to Fruits N Scoops and offers seafood platters, burgers, sandwiches, salads and the classics.
35. Get a burger at Island Burger
I have celebrated many special occasions at Island Burger. It’s located at Nomads (formerly Base Backpackers). Their Mother Clucker burger is to die for and the fried chicken is always so big it can’t be contained in the bun. Add a side of deliciously seasoned fries and a beautiful waterfront view and you have a winning meal in my books.
36. Go fancy at Saltwater
If you want a fine dining experience, your best option is Saltwater. Sitting outside under the twinkling lights and enjoying Australian seafood and seasonal produce is certainly one of the most romantic things to do on Magnetic Island. Think Moreton Bay bugs, Tasmanian salmon, and Australian abalone. Your next best option would be the Boardwalk Restaurant. Totally random, but get the side of roasted potatoes. They melt in your mouth. Exquisite!
Where to stay on Magnetic Island
Depending on your budget, here are a few Magnetic Island accommodation options:
- Nomads has cute little A-frames on the waterfront.
- Selina is the new Bungalow Bay and the best budget option in Horseshoe Bay.
- Peppers Blue on Blue is home to hotel rooms and spacious apartments. Plus there’s a massive pool.
- If you want an Instagrammable stay, head directly to Maggie A-Frame.
- If you want a luxurious stay, check out Dacha on Maggie. These holiday homes have multiple bedrooms and luxe details from top to bottom.
Frequently Asked Questions
For all FAQs, check out my Magnetic Island travel guide.
Do you need a car on Magnetic Island?
No, you don’t need a car on Magnetic Island. It certainly makes life easier and you can bring your own on the barge or rent one on the island. However, there are also public buses and taxis available.
How long do you need at Magnetic Island?
The perfect Magnetic Island itinerary would be two to three nights. This would give you enough time for a couple of hikes, swimming or touring a couple of bays, and enjoying Magnetic Island’s best restaurants.
Can you swim at the beach on Magnetic Island?
Yes, you can. However, stinger season is from November to March and there are stinger nets you should stick to during this time. You can also purchase stinger suits from local retailers.
I hope you enjoy this bumper guide to the most fun things to do on Magnetic Island! If you have any specific questions, feel free to leave a comment or DM me on Instagram. I’m always happy to talk about my home away from home.
Plus, if you’re looking for more of my favourite solo travel destinations in Australia, click here.