Guides

The Ultimate Guide To Magnetic Island

If you’ve never heard of Magnetic Island, you’re not alone. Despite being only a 20-minute ferry ride from Townsville, “Maggie” – as the locals call it – is relatively unknown outside of Queensland.

It’s a place you should probably get to know. Because, with its 320 days of sunshine a year, 20-or-so quiet beaches and bays, and unique wildlife (ever heard of batfish?), it’s a perfect destination year-round.

What to do on Magnetic Island

Boasting more than 25kms of walking tracks, nearly every kind of water-based activity, and various wildlife encounters, there’s plenty to do on the island.

Adventurous folk can see the underwater life on a diving day trip or with rented snorkel equipment, take a local boat tour around the island, or head out on a scenic stroll on one of the tracks. The shortest route will take you measly 15 minutes return. The longest – Nelly Bay to Arcadia – is two hours. The 30-minute one to Arthur Bay Lookout is definitely worth doing.

Magnetic Island

Image: Matt Raimondo / Tourism and Events Queensland

If you’re an animal lover, you’re in for a real treat. A tour through the Koala Sanctuary at Bungalow Bay will see you snuggling koalas, holding snakes, and petting all kinds of scaly critters. The tours run at 10am, 12pm, and 2:30pm.

Koalas can also be spotted along Forts Walk with your best chance between 3pm and 4pm. Or, at dusk, head to Geoffrey Bay, where you can take a selfie with a rock wallaby. If you crouch down with your camera beneath you and tilted upwards, ­­it’ll look like the wallaby is smiling.

There’s also kayaking, golfing, horse riding, fishing, and sailing. And, if you just want to relax, most of the beaches and bays are almost entirely deserted most of the time.

Nightlife-wise, some of the bars and restaurants do have happy hours and there is often a scene at Base Backpackers, but, for the most part, it’s a good opportunity to get a good night’s sleep so you’re up and at ’em in the morning.

Where to eat

From casual takeaways to fine dining restaurants, the island’s got dozens of dining options, most of them located in Horseshoe Bay and Nelly Bay.

To start your day, a visit to The Early Bird is a must. Or, for a special occasion, book the Champagne Bush Tucker Breakfast at Bungalow Bay, which will have you getting up and close with a koala.

Magnetic Island

When lunchtime rolls around, head to Sandi’s on Magnetic Island for fresh seafood or Marlin Bar for a hearty pub feed. Both boast water views.

For dinner, you won’t go wrong with Mexican-serving Noodies On The Beach or laidback Barefoot Art Food Wine. Note that most eateries are BYO, so if you’re keen to save, pick up a bottle beforehand.

Where to stay

Speaking of penny pinching, the island’s accommodation options cater to that, too. There’s campsites, backpackers, motels, and bed and breakfasts, including the YHA Bungalow Bay, where you can book a wooden cabin in the bush, the Arcadia Village Motel, which is both affordable and comfortable, and the many listings on Airbnb.

If you have some extra cash to splash, treat yourself to a room at the five-star Peppers Blue on Blue Resort. Though the property is modern and its location convenient, its two waterfront pools make it worth your coin.

Plus, if you’re staying during stinger season, which runs November to April, you’ll want to book a place with a pool.

How to get there

Despite the island’s feeling of remoteness, it’s actually really easy to get to. The nearest airport is Townsville. From there, it’s a 10-minute drive to the ferry terminal and then a 20-minute ferry ride to the island. They usually run every hour, but check the timetable online before you leave to avoid a long wait.

Once on the island, you can catch local buses or taxis. There are only a handful of the latter, so if you want to hire one, you’ll likely need to call to order it.

For a real Maggie experience, rent a brightly coloured mini moke or a topless car. The feel of a salty breeze on your skin and smell of fresh pines will give you a whole other appreciation for the island.

(Lead image: Nathan McNeil / Tourism and Events Queensland)