pristine empty beaches

Magnificent Magnetic Island and all its attractions

You’ll be blown away by the many attractions of Magnetic Island. No pun intended! This is possibly Australia’s best kept secret for a tropical island. Easy to get to and offering a vast amount of natural beauty, we tell you what to see, when and where to go, on this stunning gem, Down Under.

Quick Index Magnetic Island


Where is Magnetic Island?

Discover Magnetic Island only1invillage
Magnetic Island is in the far NE of Australia. It is in the state of Queensland.

Magnetic Island is located in North Eastern Australia. The closest big city is Townsville. It is a jumping off point for the Great Barrier Reef. A clear favourite destination for Australians who live in the city of Townsville. Magnetic Island lures in international and local Aussies by the hundreds of thousands. Known as ‘Maggie’ to the locals in Australian Slang – once you go, you’ll want to go back for more!

Magnetic Island belongs traditionally to the Wulgurukaba people. In is called Yunbenun.


Is it really magnetic?

Well, the story goes that Captain Cook observed some ‘magnetic effect’ on his compass as he was sailing by. Scientists can’t agree if it has any more magnetic pull than any other island in Australia. What is clear, though, is that Magnetic Island has many attractions! You won’t be repelled or repulsed!


Things to do on Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island and its many attractions walks by only1invillage
Magnificent vistas of this granite boulder strewn island await! Definitely one of the best things to do on Magnetic Island is the fabulous walking trails.


Walking and Hiking on Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is just full of beautiful walks and hiking trails. If you love hiking and getting rewarded with great views, you’re in luck. There are over many secluded bays and hills to discover. The natural scenery is just breathtaking. This is one of the best ways to explore this beautiful island. So, lace up those shoes and let’s get going!

Magnetic Island and its many attractions walks by only1invillage
Running shoes are fine to wear on all the walks. You’ll have to take them off though when you go for a cooling dip in one of the bays. It’s sweaty work all that hiking!

The walks and trails on Magnetic Island range from seriously easy to fantastically difficult. There is no drinking water available, except at The Forts Walk, so you must carry all your supplies. Don’t get caught out! Remember to always tell someone where you’re going if you set out on a long hike.

Magnetic Island and its many attractions walks by only1invillage
There is only 1 walk where you can refill your drinking bottle. The Forts Walk where you will see the wild koalas. For all the other walks there is no water along the way. We know this because we did every single walk!

Below we give you the official grading and time and the time it takes us to do the walking! You can use this online version to plan your walks. This walking map has less detail than the paper version. See below.

Magnetic Island walking trails
There are so many walks to keep you fit and occupied on Magnetic Island. We did every walk on this map! Pay attention to the grading of the walks, some are harder than you think.

Most walks you can do in hiking sandals or running shoes. You don’t really need hiking boots. Thongs or flip flops are not recommended as there is lots of uneven ground and rocks to stub your toes on. Also lots of the paths turn sandy, and it’s annoying getting sand and small stones under your feet. However, you can manage most walks wearing thongs or flip flops, if you don’t have any other shoes.

The walking tracks and hikes on Magnetic Island, offer splendid views. In addition, you’ll see native wildlife and the Australian Bush. Below we sort the walks into easy and moderate. Depending on your level of fitness you may find the moderate walks difficult. 

There is also a paper version of this map, which has more up to date walks and a bit more information on what you’ll see, along the way. We refer to use the paper map and we did every single walk on it! You can pick up a copy of this map at the ferry terminal.

Magnetic Island and its many attractions walks by only1invillage
This paper map shows 9 walks on Magnetic Island. We are proud to say we covered every walk on the island, including the snorkelling!

Easy Walks on Magnetic Island


Picnic Bay to WestPoint- 16kms return (5hrs)

This really is an easy walk on flat sealed road. This is labelled as walk number W3 on the paper map.

Attractions of Magnetic Island walks West Point Beach
The walk to West Point is easy but long. 16kms long to be precise. But that’s return!

The road is not really picture worthy. It’s a black road with some trees and grass on either side. There’s no path, so when you hear the occasional car coming, move aside!

Magnetic Island West POint walk start bitumen road only1invillage
Told you, it’s just a boring bitumen road. The start of the West Point walk isn’t that interesting.

But, the beach is very beautiful, if isolated. We had a bit of an accident and dropped the phone on the way. We were not able to fix the phone to get our own shot of the beach.

West Point Beach Magnetic Island
West Point Beach (picture courtesy of


Horseshoe Bay Lagoon- 200ms return (15mins) – official time according to somebody.

Magnetic Island and its many attractions walks by only1invillage
Horseshoe Bay Lagoon Walk is along some boardwalk. We are happy to report it is easy and is 15 minutes long.

Labelled as W9 on the paper map above. We are glad to report it is easy and it only takes 15 minutes.

This is an easy one to miss! It is not very well signed at all. We went down the wrong road and it took us 40 minutes to realise we were going nowhere! Here is the correct way to go. As you walk along the road to Horseshoe Bay, go past the Koala Bay Village. Before you see this road sign,

Magnetic Island and its many attractions walks by only1invillage
If you’re coming from Horseshoe Bay, the rocks to start the Lagoon Walk are just opposite this sign. Don’t miss it, we did!

Then you need to look out for two large rocks!

Magnetic Island and its many attractions walks by only1invillage
Look out for these stones to get to the Lagoon Walk off Horseshoe Bay Road. They’re well camouflaged!
Magnetic Island and its many attractions walks by only1invillage
You’ll know you’re on the right path to the Lagoon Walk when you see this sign. Finding this sign, though, is the hard part!

We turn left at Henry Lawson Street and walk until it becomes a sand path. Don’t do this, it’s the wrong way to the Lagoon Walk, off Horseshoe Bay Road!

Magnetic Island and its many attractions walks by only1invillage
Erm, if you see this while looking for the Lagoon Walk (W8 or W9 on the paper version), you’re going the wrong way! Turn around.

On the boarwalk get your camera out for blue butterflies, blue kookaburras and a crocodile.

Magnetic Island and its many attractions walks by only1invillage
Along the Horseshoe Bay Lagoon Walk classified as easy, we see this beautiful blue butterfly.
Explore the many magnificent attractions of Magnetic Island 1
An iconic Australian bird, the kookaburra. You don’t often see them with a blue belly. Spot him (or her) among the trees at the Horseshoe Bay Lagoon walk.

Depending on the season, the lagoon can look a bit dry. 

Magnetic Island and its many attractions walks by only1invillage
In the dry season, it can be a bit dry! The lagoon is a bit low on water. You can see the exposed roots of the trees along the boardwalk.


Hawkings Point Track – 1.2kms return (1hr)

Labelled as walk number W2 on the paper map. This isn’t that easy if you’re not that mobile or agile as it starts with steep steps. Yes, it’s a short walk, but, it’s all up hill. When you get to the top of a huge granite boulder, you’re finished. The views are spectacular. You’ll be looking over Picnic Bay, Rocky Bay, Nelly Bay, Geoffrey Bay and even back towards Townsville!

Start the walk at the end of a residential street called Picnic Street in Picnic Bay. 

Discover the many attractions of Magnetic Island things to do
Walk number W2 on the paper map. Hawkings Point Track starts at the end of Picnic Street in Picnic Bay. It’s one of the shorter walks, but, it’s quite steep.

We always seem to be walking when it’s hot and sunny! Magnetic Island has over 320 days of sunshine, so a cloudy day would be strange!

Discover the many attractions of Magnetic Island things to do
You’re almost at the top of Hawkings Point Track, when you see these steps. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place!
Discover the many attractions of Magnetic Island things to do
Victory is ours! It’s really windy at the top. Here you are looking out over Picnic Bay and the pier.
Discover the many attractions of Magnetic Island things to do
At the top of Hawkings Point Track, you can see Townsville from a different view point.

When you get back down, take a walk along the Picnic Bay Jetty you can see from the top of Hawkings Point Track.

Discover the many attractions of Magnetic Island things to do
The jetty at Picnic Bay was used as the drop off point for passengers until 2001. Now all passengers alight at Nelly Bay.


Gabul Way – Nelly Bay to Arcadia 1.5kms return (0.5hour)

We are glad to report that this is an easy walk as advertised. It is a little misleading however as the walk starts after Geoffrey Bay, not Arcadia. This is the easier way to do it. There is an elevated walkway which runs alongside the busy road. It is flat if you start at Geoffrey Bay and gently rises as you progress. After you see a spectacular house on the corner on your left, it’s road only. Time to turn back.

Moderate Walks


Horseshoe Bay to Balding Bay and Radical Bay- 3.2kms return (1.5hrs)

This walk is labelled W8 on the paper map and W7 on the electronic version. It is definitely labelled incorrectly.  If you don’t carry water, don’t stop to take photos and don’t trip on rocks, then, sure, you can do this walk in 1.5 hours! We walked first to Balding and  then Radical as suggested. It isn’t going to take you 1.5 hours, unless you’re a top mountain runner! Also you’ll want to cool off at the nudist beach at Balding Bay!

Walking and hiking trails on Maggie Island
Start the walk to Balding Bay from Horseshoe Bay. After those people in the distance, you need to turn right, into the bushes!
Walking and hiking trails on Maggie Island
The Horseshoe Bay to Balding Bay walk starts on sand and finishes on sand. This is walk W8 on the paper map.
walk to Balding Bay from Horseshoe Bay
Follow the path to Balding Bay. This is just after the previous sign. It’s going to get steeper!
Horseshoe Bay to Balding Bay walk
Continue along the well worn path until you see these signs. Make your choice.
Nude Beach warning to Balding Bay one of the things to do on magnetic island
By the time you see this rock, you will have walked 30 minutes. Prepare to get naked!
Granite rock path to Balding Bay
These are the last granite rocks you need to climb down before you see Balding Bay.
Here comes Balding Bay
Finally after 45 minutes we reach Balding Bay from Horseshoe Bay. You’ll be dying to get naked!
Explore the many magnificent attractions of Magnetic Island 2
We finally get to Balding Bay, the nude beach. Why does J have his clothes on? It’s not a 1.5 hour return to Horseshoe Bay, if you’re going to Radical Bay, the next one along.

After a quick swim in the cold water, we feel refreshed to continue on to Radical Bay. You go back up the same steep steps and go past the ‘nude beach’ rock again. 

Signs to Balding Bay
You’ll be hot and sweating again when you see these signs from Balding Bay.
Radical Bay is the next bay along from Balding Bay
From Balding Bay, Radical Bay is another 30 minutes walk. It’s the next bay along. You can reach Radical Bay by boat or from the Forts car park. If you come from the Forts car park, it’s a very steep downwards road full of gigantic pot holes. Best to walk on foot.

The sand isn’t quite as yellow at Radical Bay, more a yellow/brown. There are also larger stones. Like most natural Australian beaches, there is little shade. If you’re going to make a day of Radical or Balding Bay, we recommend you bring a beach tent or umbrella. The water is cold and refreshing. As you can see in the picture, Radical Bay is quiet.


Unnamed walk – 1km – 30 mins

This walk doesn’t have a name. It starts at Picnic Bay. It is above the walk named W2 on the paper map. It’s a quick, steep walk with you guessed it, superb views over Rocky Bay.

unnamed walk Magnetic island view of magnetic island beaches
This walk doesn’t have a name. It is above W2 on the paper map. It’s a quickie and a goodie! On the left is Rocky Bay and Nelly Bay Harbour. It’s very windy too, so secure your hat! It’s hard to get a good posing shot, hence, we’re not in it!


Forts Walk- 4kms return (1.5hrs)

The Fort is in the distance
Yep, you’re going to get to the top of that fort to see some amazing views.

If you don’t stop to read the interesting placards and you never take a photo, you can do this walk in the advertised time. This is THE place to spot the koalas! We saw 9 on our walk and are happy to report, as far as reincarnation goes, we’re coming back as koalas. The cute fur balls sleep for over 20 hours a day! Now that’s a goal to aspire to! Just kidding, we would never travel far, if we slept that long.

There are many interesting placards describing daily life in this WWII outpost
There are many interesting placards describing daily life in this WWII outpost.

Start the walk at the Forts car park. The one bus stops here. It’s quite a difficult walk not in distance, but in gradient. There are lots of steps too.

Forts walk info board
Orientate yourself at the Forts Walk car park. Read the interesting information board covered in giant ants!

It is labelled as ‘moderate’ on the paper map and number W6. In our opinion, if you’re not fit, you’ll find this walk difficult. You can do this walk in 1.5 hours if you are fit and don’t stop. Otherwise, it’s more like 2 or 2.5 hours.

The walk starts on a flat path.

Forts walk flat path start
The start of the Forts Walk from the car park is along a flat path. Go off to the sides and this is where you will see the many cute koalas.
View over Arthur and Florence Bay Forts Walk
Just 10 minutes walk from the Forts car park, you will see this amazing view over Arthur and Florence Bays.

Keep going and keep your eyes peeled for the koalas. 

2 koalas Forts Walk
What’s better than seeing one koala on Magnetic Island? Seeing two koalas on the same tree! The Forts Walk, is the best place to spot these iconic Australian fur balls in the wild. It’s so crowded with koalas, koalas have to share real estate!

When you can tear yourself away from the koala spotting, continue on your history lesson about Magnetic Island’s involvement in WWII.

Discover amazing facts on Magnetic Island Forts Walk info
Learn all about how soldiers went about their daily lives on this remote part of Australia during WWII. If you don’t stop to read these information placards, you can do the Forts Walk in 1.5 hours return.

When you get to the top of the ruins of the Forts complex, this is where the fabulous views start. Persevere to the top. The stunning views at the top are worth it.

Discover the many attractions of Magnetic Island things to do
The trek to the top of the Forts ruins is totally worth it! Breathtaking views from all angles!

Of course there’s also the ruins of buildings and the giant gun emplacement to see. There are no gun remains and there is an interesting story about where all the ammunition went after WWII.

Attractions of Magnetic Island walks West Point Beach
The gun here could rotate on a 360 degree angle. It had a range of 18.3 kms. What happened to the guns remains a mystery. A soldier wrote an entry a week after Armistice Day in August 1945. He says that he and some friends went on a walk from Horsehoe Bay to the Forts and all the guns were gone!
Attractions of Magnetic Island walks Forts Walk
From inside one of the forts you can see the top of another fort in the distance. At 233 metres above sea level, the soldiers could see enemy ships coming! Yes of course we walked to the other fort.
Attractions of Magnetic Island walks Forts walk nerve centre
At the highest point of Magnetic Island. The nerve centre of the Forts complex offers outstanding views. Take time to take it all in.

Congratulations you have reached the top of the nerve centre of one of the forts! Stop to take in the fabulous views. Bring a few snacks and scramble up the rocks behind this picture to take a well deserved break. The way back to the car park will seem easier as it’s all downhill! Tick off walk number W6 on the paper map.


Nelly Bay to Arcadia- 5kms one way (1.5hrs) Grade moderate

This is walk number W4 on the paper map. It’s pretty steep in places. It starts with a steep hill climb and it keeps going.

Discover the many attractions of Magnetic Island things to do walking trails
To start the Nelly Bay to Arcadia walk, walk down Mandalay Avenue in Nelly Bay. This is walk number W4 on the paper map.

This is the most deserted walk we did. We only saw 5 other people on this walk. You start this walk by going down Mandalay Avenue, a street with houses on it. It’s on the corner of the Scallywags Cafe. When you get to the end of the road you see the sign for the walk to Arcadia. You cannot do it in the advertised time unless you run – non-stop – all the way.

Discover the many attractions of Magnetic Island things to do walking trails
There are some cool patches of ancient rain forest on the walk to Arcadia from Nelly Bay. It doesn’t get easier though. We don’t agree it’s a moderate walk for most people.
Discover the many attractions of Magnetic Island things to do walking trails
It’s steep and tough going on the Nelly Bay to Arcadia walk. We’re about an hour in at this point and we’re nowhere near completing the walk in another half hour!

After an hour and half, we reach the half way point. We stop to catch our breath and admire the view. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water. There’s no where to fill up your water bottle on this walk.

Discover the many attractions of Magnetic Island things to do walking trails
Looking over Horseshoe Bay at a very high point on the Nelly Bay to Arcadia walk. At this point we are 1.5 hours into the walk. The official time to complete this walk is 1.5 hours.
Discover the many attractions of Magnetic Island things to do walking trails
Time to take a well deserved break! Looking over Horseshoe Bay thinking about….. dinner! There’s another 1.5 hours of walking to get to Arcadia.

There’s a few hopeful signs along the way as you sweat through. Thankfully now the path to Arcadia is down hill!

Discover the many attractions of Magnetic Island things to do walking trails
Helpful signs to orientate you on the Nelly Bay to Arcadia walk. If you’re coming from Arcadia, it’s up hill. If you are coming from Nelly Bay, the descent down begins from here!

It takes a total of 3 hours for Only1invillage to complete this walk. Pfft to the 1.5 hours, who wrote that?

Tracks to Florence, Arthur and Radical Bays from the Forts car park

Arthur Bay-2km return (30mins) This is doable in 30 mins. Very steep non gravel road. Can get slippery if wet.

Florence Bay-3.6km return (1hr) This walk continue on from the walk above on the same unpaved road with massive pot holes.

Radical Bay-6km return (2hrs) This is accurate time. It starts downhill. Be prepared for the return up the steep road.

Searchlight Tower-3.7km return (1hr) You can do this walk in 1 hour.

Horseshoe Bay via Radical Bay-7.5km one way (2hrs) This is a realistic time for most people to walk one way.


Swimming, snorkelling and diving

The water is cold around Magnetic Island. It is definitely refreshing! It can be quite wavy at some of the beaches. The calmest beaches for swimming and ones with Surf Life Savers on patrol are Horseshoe Bay and Arcadia.

The clearest snorkelling spots are Arthur Bay, Florence Bay and the marked trail in front of the Base Backpackers. Geoffrey Bay is unbelievably murky and bordering on dangerous. You can barely see your own hand. At low tide, it is extremely difficult to get out past the sharp coral at Geoffrey Bay. We can’t comment on the snorkelling clarity in the Northern bays as these are only accessible by boat. If you’ve been to Maud, Norris or Joyce Bay, get in touch!


Native Australian wildlife and Flora

Magnetic Island is famous for its koalas! See the biggest group of koalas in the wild here! Boasting over 800 koalas in the wild, Magnetic Island is the place to see these cuddly fur balls. You can get really close to them and they don’t wake up! We saw 9 in one walk!

Native Australian Wildlife
Hands up if you want to come back as a koala in another life? Sleeping over 20 hours a day sound good? Maggie Island, boasts the largest wild koala population in the world!

Magnetic Island Rock Wallabies – Feed the tame wallabies! These cute little relatives of kangaroos are best fed in Geoffrey Bay. You should not actually feed them, but, if you must, they like carrots and paw paw. 

Rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay
These wallabies rock! Rock wallabies are common in Geoffrey Bay. Look at the cute little joey! Best time to see them is around 5pm. They’re very tame. Try to resist feeding them if you can.

If you must feed them, please consult this list.

Rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay
If you must feed the rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay, look at this list of food they can eat.
Attractions of Magnetic Island walks
The multi-coloured rainbow lorikeet perches on native kapok branches. The bright green, blue, yellow, red and orange bird is common across Australia, including Magnetic Island.

Endangered Curlews – These rather plain birds have the most interesting call. They sound like they’re screaming and whining, it can be quite off putting. Some people call it haunting. We call it downright weird!

Attractions of Magnetic Island walks
The unremarkable looking curlew bird of Magnetic Island. Thanks to Katankart from Pixabay for this image. We only heard their eerie call. They are difficult to see and are endangered.
kapok tree has beautiful yellow flowers discover attractions of Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island is dotted with these magnificent yellow flowers. They come from a kapok tree. Kapok are native to Australia and are found mostly in Townsville and Magnetic Island. You can even eat the bright flowers. Apparently they taste like marshmallows!


Marine Life around Magnetic Island

The marine life, if you can see it, is not bad! It’s the murkiness of the water that you have to contend with. We don’t rate Magnetic Island as a top snorkel or dive destination. You are better off going to the Great Barrier Reef. However, for some free snorkelling, Florence Bay and Nelly Bay (the trail near Base Backpackers) are reasonable. The coral is a bit grey in colour and there are a few colourful fish to spot. 

Snorkelling around Magnetic Island marine life
We spot lots of lettuce coral at Florence Bay and Arthur Bay. The water can be a bit murky.

Some parts of Arthur Bay have some coloured staghorn coral. On the day we visit, there are a few bright fish around.

Different coral at Arthur Bay
Staghorn, brain and lettuce coral at Arthur Bay. A few bright blue fish make an appearance.


Magnetic Island Beaches

There are over 23 Magnetic Island beaches and bays to visit. Some are very easy to access, just off the main road. Other beaches are an hour’s hike on rugged paths. All Magnetic Island beaches are picturesque and rugged. Many of them are curved. The sand is generally a little course, although some have fine sand. Below we have photos of nine of the most popular Magnetic Island beaches.


Horseshoe Bay

Sand quality – rough yellow brown coarse sand. Water – not clear, but warm enough.

Attractions of Magnetic Island beaches of Magnetic Island Horseshoe Bay
Horseshoe Bay has some natural shade and lifeguards on duty. There are stinger nets to keep out the jellyfish.


Balding Bay

Discover attractions of Magnetic Island. Balding Bay is definitely worth the walk. A wide sandy bay with aqua water. Water is cold.
Balding Bay is definitely worth the walk. A wide sandy bay with aqua water. Water temperature – cold.
Balding Bay
Huge granite boulders on a pristine beach at Balding Bay. Balding Bay is isolated. It is a nude beach. The sand is fine and yellow to white, depending on the angle of the sun.


Radical Bay

Radical Bay beach things to do Magnetic Island
Radical Bay Beach is a lovely curved bay shouldered with giant granite boulders.


Alma Bay Beach in Arcadia

Attractions of Magnetic Island beaches of Magnetic Island
Arcadia Beach is popular with families. It has a grassed area before the beach with toilets and a playground. Beautiful bay with large granite boulders on either side. Don’t forget to swim between the flags.
Attractions of Magnetic Island beaches of Magnetic Island
Before you get to Arcadia Beach there is a good picnic area. Also there’s a children’s playground and some toilet and change facilities. The beach is known as Alma Bay Beach or Arcadia Beach which can be confusing. The town is Arcadia. 


Picnic Bay Beach

This is the end of the line for the one bus. Or it can be the beginning of the line. All ferries used to drop passengers off here. This is the beach you can see from Hawkings Point Lookout.

Attractions of Magnetic Island beaches of Magnetic Island
Picnic Bay Beach has fine golden sand. It has a long line of trees you can take shade under. Apparently there’s some good snorkelling off to the right of this picture.


Arthur Bay Beach

Explore the many magnificent attractions of Magnetic Island 3
Arthur Bay beach has some decent snorkelling opportunities. Known as fringe reef, it’s like mini reef before the Great Barrier Reef. The water is cold so a rash vest is advisable.


Florence Bay Beach

Located in between Gowrie Bay and Arthur Bay. Florence Bay is another beautiful curved beach on Magnetic Island for you to discover. This is a marine national park area. No fishing allowed. This is a good spot to go snorkelling, with some colourful reef. The water clarity is good.

Florence Bay Beach Magnetic Island pristine beaches to explore only1invillage
Florence Bay is another empty beach for you to explore. Easier to reach than Radical or Balding Bay. From the Forts car park, you can walk down hill in half an hour. Don’t attempt to go by car unless you have a ‘real’ 4×4′.


Cockle Bay Beach

A very small beach that is often wet. There is a shipwreck to swim out to but is quite difficult to locate. 

Attractions of Magnetic Island beaches of Magnetic Island
Cockle Bay Beach is small. Thousands of years ago, you could walk across the water to Townsville. At low tide you have to wade quite far out before you can swim. There is coral reef here.


Nelly Bay

Nelly Bay doesn’t have a beach since it is the ferry terminal bay. Nelly Bay is more of a harbour. But, to the right of Nelly Bay is a huge strip of beach where turtles have been spotted.

snorkelling to the right of Nelly Bay
Nelly Bay doesn’t have a beach since it’s the harbour and ferry terminal. But, to the right, there’s this huge strip of sand where there is well marked snorkelling. It’s where the backpackers called Base backpackers is located.
Nelly Bay Harbour doesn't have a beach
The harbour at Nelly Bay is picturesque for boat spotting. There’s no beach as such, since the ferry terminal is here.


When is the best time to Visit Magnetic Island?

Magnetic Island Weather

Magnetic Island has a dry tropical climate! With 320 days of sunshine per year, it seems it is always a good time to go to Maggie. As with all tropical places, Magnetic Island has a wet and a dry season. The biggest factor to consider for the best time to go to Magnetic Island is the jellyfish season.

As Australia is blessed with at least 60 deadly and toxic animals, you don’t want to be the tourist making the headlines! Stingers, or jellyfish, like to take a nibble on humans between November and April. Magnetic Island is not a great Christmas destination! The best time time to visit Magnetic Island is April to October. It is cooler but not much wetter, since it doesn’t rain much. 

There are hardly any mosquitoes on Magnetic Island! C is always the first to get bitten by a mosquito, they just love her blood! On Maggie Island though, the biting is far less severe than other tropical places, we have visited.


How to get to Magnetic Island?

The Magnetic island ferry is the only way to get to Magnetic Island!

Getting to Magnetic Island
Foot passengers get on the ferry at the Sealink Townsville Terminal. The terminal is well connected to the airport by bus or taxi. The terminal offers free wi-fi and drinking water.

Click here for the Magnetic Island ferry timetable. The prices are $34 AUD return per adult, if not booked online. If you book online, it’s only $30AUD for a return ticket. Children under 14 years old, only cost $17AUD. The same goes for concession card holders. Book your Magnetic Island ferry online here.

Magnetic Island and its many attractions walks by only1invillage
The Sealink Ferry whisks you to Magnetic Island in 20 minutes from the ferry terminal in Townsville.

If you’re driving, you need to take a different ferry.

Inside the ferry, it’s nice and spacious. There are comfortable and clean seats in an air conditioned space inside.

Magnetic Island getting there on the Sealink ferry
Inside the Sealink ferry there are comfortable seats. The interior is fully air conditioned.
The downstairs area of the ferry is air conditioned. There’s even a bar on board for the short crossing!

The Sea Link Magnetic Island Ferry even runs on Christmas Day! It’s a smooth easy 20 minute cruise on a very comfortable catamaran. You can even bring your mountain bike! There are at least 12 crossings a day from Townsville and vice versa. Book online for a $4 discount.

Magnetic Island getting there on the Sealink ferry
If you really can’t wait for a drink, there’s a bar on board the Magnetic Island ferry!
Groups can sit together and socialise in air conditioned comfort on the Magnetic Island ferry
Groups and families can sit and socialise together at the tables. You won’t miss out on the view if you get a window seat.
Magnetic Island getting there on the Sealink ferry
If you like to feel the wind in your hair, choose an outside bench seat on the ferry to Magnetic Island.

What we love about the ferry to Magnetic Island – It’s easy to find the terminal. There are frequent trips across the water. The journey only takes twenty minutes. It’s a clean, modern ferry service. You’ll have free wi-fi onboard  and at the ferry terminals, both in Townsville and Magnetic Island. A bus connects you at both terminals to all the major places of interest.

Top tip for tourists and Australians – buy the Entertainment book for Townsville. This gives you 25 per cent off the return ticket price for 4 adults. Also there are vouchers for 4 places to eat on Magnetic Island. In the Townsville section, there are over 100 discount vouchers for places like Reef HQ and the museum. Many dining establishments ranging from cafes to restaurants also honour the vouchers. You can even get an e copy of the Entertainment Book.


Getting around Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island car hire 

You can hire a sedan, four by four or a special ‘topless’ car. Going topless is optional!

getting around Maggie
Getting around Maggie (Magnetic) Island like the locals do! Going topless is an option for males only!
cute pink hire cars are called mokes on the island
Ladies, just because the car says topless, keep your clothes on! You’ll get a ticket for public indecency otherwise!

Many of the roads are un-passable off the bus route, so you may not need to hire a car. If you do want to get to the bays, we recommend a 4 by 4 as some of the pot holes are quite deep!

Getting around the island
The unsealed roads have SERIOUS pot holes. The roads to the bays are also very narrow. Pray another vehicle isn’t coming towards you!
Getting around the island
You need a ‘real’ 4 x 4 vehicle, with high clearance, to handle the deep pot holes of the unsealed roads on Maggie Island. Don’t think your Range Rover can handle the terrain. You have been warned!

The bus – Route 250 by Sunbus 

There’s only 1 bus that goes to all the major bays on Magnetic Island. The bus is crowded at times and there’s no space for luggage. Actually, one bus had a luggage crate, but otherwise, the bus driver will tell you to put your cases on the back steps of the bus. It only has regular seats. All seats face forwards in pairs. Click here for the one and only bus timetable.


Getting around the island
Sunbus Route 250. There’s only one number and one route for ‘the bus’ so you can always get on it!
Getting around the island
Sometimes the hourly bus gets so crowded! We couldn’t resist this shot. The driver told us to sit on the floor, or he would lose his job! We were not going to wait another hour for the next bus! Bringing back memories of our travels in some Asian countries.

You’ll never get lost on the bus, because it only goes 2 ways – to and from Picnic Bay to Horseshoe Bay. The only thing that may confuse people is at Arcadia Beach there is only one bus stop for both directions. At Arcadia Beach you will see on the bus timetable that the bus is labelled HB or PBJ. HB stands for Horseshoe Bay as the destination and PBJ for Picnic Bay (Jetty). The bus does a U turn to pick u up if it is coming from Horseshoe Bay! 

there's only bus route on Magnetic Island the 250
There’s only one bus route number on Magnetic Island. It’s the 250 and it only goes 2 ways. The only confusing bus stop is pictured here at Arcadia. Usually bus stops are on opposite sides of the road. At Arcadia, there’s only one bus stop. Read the timetable carefully and always check the destination on the front of the bus when you get on.

You still stick you arm out at the bus stop to get the driver to stop. You can buy your single, one day or weekly ticket when you get on the bus. The bus runs every hour only, so make sure you get to the bus stop in advance. You don’t want to miss it.

Taxis and Uber

We spotted only 2 taxis! A shuttle bus type taxi that can seat 10 people and a Toyota Corolla.

Uber is operating apparently, but we could never get a car! There is a business opportunity in the making!


Where to stay on Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island accommodation

There is a wide range of accommodation on Magnetic Island. Serviced apartments, houses and hotel rooms. There are some bed and breakfast places, a few backpackers and airbnb to choose from. A lot of hotel rooms are privately owned in the Grand Mercure Apartments in Nelly Bay. You will find many of these rooms advertised on Airbnb. 

Magnetic Island is not a cheap destination. You don’t get bargain prices except at hostels like the Bungalow Bay Koala Village, in Horseshoe Bay. This is a YHA hostel. Prices for a dorm bed start at around 30 AUD. They also have private A frame bungalows, some with their own bathroom. The best thing about staying here is that you will see koalas every day! Non guests can pay to have ‘breakfast with the koalas’.

Clusters of places to stay are Horseshoe Bay, Nelly Bay, Picnic Bay and Arcadia. There are a few Airbnb options in West Point, a ‘remote’ part on the western side of Magnetic Island. 

If you are travelling in a big group and need a whole house, at short notice, local estate agents will have a list of available properties. It’s still a good idea to book in advance though!!


The food on Magnetic Island

Unfortunately it’s quantity over quality on Magnetic Island. Portions are generous, but taste is not like you would find in the big city restaurants. There is one exception, the pub in Horseshoe Bay, which serves up a really decent braised beef cheeks and mash. 

Noodies Mexican – Horseshoe Bay

Noodies on the Beach Mexican Horseshoe Bay
Give the paella a miss at Noodies Mexican restaurant. The taste was bland and they haven’t used the correct rice!
huge tortillas at Noodies Horsehoe Bay
The huge tortillas are nothing special. The food is bland and overpriced. Sorry Noodies we are not impressed.

Sandis on the Beach at Horseshoe Bay. Yes, we ate mostly at Horseshoe Bay, The seafood platter was OK, not great value at 80AUD. A restaurant serving Modern Australian fare. That means seafood dishes, pasta and steak.

seafood platter at Sandis Horseshoe Bay
The seafood platter at Sandis includes half a dozen oysters.

Barefoot Art Food Wine at Horseshoe Bay was recommended by locals. The starters are impressive. The mains, unfortunately lacked taste. Great garden and balcony though, for scenic dining. Friendly service too.

Explore the many magnificent attractions of Magnetic Island 4
The scallops at Barefoot Art Food Wine are delicious. This place is attached to an art gallery in Horseshoe Bay.

Scallywags – Nelly Bay

Another recommendation that we do not recommend. Great friendly service but, sorry, the food was awful. The beefburgers were like frozen cheap patties that you might feed your dog. Maybe the breakfast is good, but, we went for dinner. It really is a case of quantity over quality. The burger is huge, but, the taste, yuk. They do have BYO (bring your own) and a bicycle you can use to go and get the booze from the supermarket, down the road.

Picnic Bay Hotel

This pub, hotel and bar is an all in one Australian classic. Recently refurbished with great views over Picnic Bay. They serve classic pub fare at good prices and an unbelievable special which we couldn’t bypass.

Naturally, being a pub, it’s open every day of the week! They also have a very large aquarium where you can find Nemo and Dory together! After a long day’s walking, it is a great pit stop and the bus stop is just outside too.

where to eat Picnic Bay hotel pub restaurant
Get an Aussie classic, chicken parmigiana with chips or garden salad AND a glass of white wine just $16 !

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Explore the many magnificent attractions of Magnetic Island 5


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