Why Should I Visit Magnetic Island?
Quiet beaches, plentiful walking tracks, a large national park, tropical reef accessible from the beach – the question is, why wouldn’t you visit Magnetic Island. Magnetic Island could also be considered somewhat “off the beaten path”, as many travellers who are short on time skip it over for the more hyped up Whitsunday Islands instead.
But everything you can get from the Whitsundays, you can also get on Magnetic Island. But with less crowds.
Magnetic Island is like the version of the Whitsunday’s that locals prefer instead. It is quieter, cheaper, and more relaxed. A perfect destination for couples seeking some quiet romance, solo travellers seeking a place for rejuvenation and relaxation, and family travellers who want a safe, fun destination for kids.
Oh, and its BEAUTIFUL!
Where Is Magnetic Island?
Magnetic Island is located 8 kilometres off shore from the town of Townsville, Queensland. Sunferries operated more than 10 ferries to the island daily, which take about half an hour each way. The water is generally very calm and sheltered, so people who get sea sick like myself do not need to worry. An adult return ferry ticket costs $29, but some hostels (such as Base) offer accommodation packages which include the return fare on the ferry.
Getting to the ferry terminal is simple. If you are already in Townsville, most buses pass through the terminal, and most accommodation providers operate shuttles as well. The ferry terminal is also the main Greyhound terminal, which means you can get off your bus, and go straight onto the ferry – which is what I did.
How Can I Get Around Magnetic Island?
Magnetic Island has a permanent population of about 2000 residents, which means that there is reliable public transportation on the island. Since more than half of the island is a national park, there are not too many roads to choose from, so your bus options are limited to two buses – one going in each direction down the main road which connects the villages around the island. For many travellers, this will be sufficient to get to most places of interest.
Another transport option which is popular on the island are the mini convertibles which can be rented in Nelly Bay.
What To Do On Magnetic Island?
Hiking – Since more than half of the island is a national park, you won’t be surprised to learn that hiking is a popular activity. The following list of popular hikes was taken from the Wikipedia page for Magnetic Island. I did the walk from Horseshoe Bay to Radical Bay, which was a rather easy walk despite some changes in incline and decline. Radical Bay was worth the effort though, and I was one of the only people in this beautiful local. I didn’t have the courage to check out Balding Bay (which was on the way) since it is known to be a nudist beach and I was scared I would see things that I wouldn’t be able to un-see.
- The Forts Walk, Radical Bay turnoff. A 1-2 hour return walk to the ruins of a World War II fort that was designed to protect Townsville from attack. There are fantastic views of Arthur Bay and Horseshoe Bay along from track and from the Fort command post at the top. Also make sure to look for koalas in the trees above the track.
- Hawkings Point Walk, End of Picnic Street, Picnic Bay. 600m, 30 minutes. One of the easiest and shortest walks on the island with views across to Townsville.
- Picnic Bay to West Point, Track begins from the road past the Golf Course, Picnic Bay. 8kms, 2.5 hours. This walk is quite different to the rest of the walks on the island, passing through wetlands, mangroves and salt-waters swamps. Good walk for spotting native wildlife.
- Nelly Bay to Arcadia. 6kms, 2 hours. This walk passes through rainforest, alongside Gustav Creek and up a ridge. There are shops at both ends of the walk, and this walk is good for spotting local wildlife.
- Arcadia to Horseshoe Bay, Track begins from Hayles Avenue. 3kms, 1 hour. This track crosses the road twice and continues along the main road to Horseshoe Bay.
- Horseshoe Bay to Radical Bay via Balding Bay, Track begins from the eastern side of Horseshoe Bay beach. 3kms, 45 minutes. Be aware that Balding Bay is a nudist beach. Take note of the tide times, as the beach track becomes inaccessible (unless you swim!) when the tide comes in late in the afternoon.
Swimming and Snorkelling – The first thing your accommodation will try to rent to you will be a snorkel set. Magnetic Island is renowned for having spectacular snorkelling which is accessible straight from the beach, so no need to join a boat tour.
Rock Wallabies – Magnetic Island is famous for its resident population of wild rock wallabies, which are extremely used to being around humans. The best time to try to spot them is around dawn or dusk when they are most active.
Diving and PADI courses – Scuba diving is popular on the island due to its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, and several companies run boat tours daily. For those who want to get PADI certified, there is a scuba school attached to the Base Hostel. This school has one of the cheapest rates I have ever seen in Australia, and you can also buy scuba and accommodation packages to save even more money.
Where To Stay On Magnetic Island?
Magnetic Island has a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels, to quaint B&Bs, to backpacker accommodation. The two main budget accommodation options are the Base Hostel in Nelly Bay, and the YHA in Horseshoe Bay. I stayed at the Base hostel and was impressed by the comfortable bungalows, great beach front views and access, and relaxing patio area.
Where To Next?
From Magnetic Island and Townsville, the main stop to the north is Cairns. To the south is Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands, or go westwards and visit Mt Isa and outback Queensland on your way to Darwin.
My stay at Base hostels was provided complimentary, but all opinions remain my own.