Magnetic Island sits in Cleveland Bay 8 km off the coast of Townsville, Queensland. You can see its beautiful, majestic mountains from the shoreline. It is in the tropical north and just inland from the central part of the Great Barrier Reef. The island is home to a little over 2,000 residents that mainly support the tourism industry there. Even though there are resorts and hotels on the island to support the guests on holiday, most of the island still remains the natural island paradise. More than half the island is encompassed with Magnetic Island National Park and a bird sanctuary so the unspoilt natural elements can be enjoyed by all who visit and live there. Magnetic Island is home to the Wulgurukaba (“canoe”) people who are the recognised original land owners of the island and have lived there for thousands of years.

Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island View from Townsville Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Magnetic Island - Map

Magnetic Island and Townsville Map Photo Credit: Google Maps

Townsville, Queensland


Townsville Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Townsville is one of the major port city destinations for tourism to the Great Barrier Reef. Magnetic Island is actually considered a suburb of Townsville. Townsville is one of the more metropolitan cities on the coast of Queensland. Even though Townsville is an urban environment, there is still plenty of beach and reef fun in the sun to be had. Some of the top things to do in Townsville and surrounds include visiting the Reef HQ Aquarium, the Billabong Sanctuary, and the Museum of Tropical Queensland. Nearby is Castle Hill, which is a pink granite monolith that is a popular hiking destination.

Hiring a Car in Townsville

Townsville Car Hire Map

Townsville Car Hire Map Photo Credit:

Even though you would take a ferry over to Magnetic Island, you will still need a rental car to tour around Townsville, which is an amazing city that should not be missed. There are two car hire locations in Townsville that you can choose from: the car rental location in Townsville city or rent a car right from the Townsville Airport. Touring around Townsville in your own rental car is the best way to see all the sights on your own schedule. Be sure to tell your Budget rental agent your holiday plans so that they can help direct you to insider tips and highlights.

Things to do on Magnetic Island

Horse Shoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay Photo Credit: Wikipedia

For a small island, there is plenty to do on Magnetic Island. There are bushwalking trails, historic WWII ruins to explore, flora and fauna to discover, and of course, the Great Barrier Reef, tranquil bays, and everything that the Coral Sea has to offer. You can always do nothing too. This tropical paradise is perfect for just lazing around by the beach or resort pool with a refreshing beverage.

Magnetic Island National Park

Radical Bay

Radical Bay Magnetic Island National Park Photo Credit:

Arthur Bay

Arthur Bay Magnetic Island National Park Photo Credit:

Magnetic Island National Park is 27 square kilometres and takes up over 2/3 of the island. You can explore the national park via the different walking trails or kayaking and snorkelling in the sheltered, shallow bays. There are over 100 species of birds on the island and plenty of other wildlife to encounter including rock wallabies and possums. It is also home to the largest colony of wild koalas in northern Australia. The bays and surrounding reefs are teeming with tropical fish and other marine life. The landscape of the island is quite unique with rocky granite mountains and cliffs and terrain covered with native kapok trees, eucalypt woodlands, and tall hoop pines.

The Trails of Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island - Walking Trails

Magnetic Island Walking Trails and Hiking Maps Photo Credit:

Bushwalking - Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island Bushwalking Trail Sights Photo Credit:

One of the best ways to see the entire island is via the many trails including 12 bushwalking trails, a shipwreck trail and 2 snorkel trails. Be sure to take water plenty drinking water and maps with you. Read up on the details for each trail before you head out.

Here are the 12 bushwalking trails:

  1. The Butterfly Walk
    Distance/Time: 100m (Approx.) 15min
    Depart: Horseshoe Bay
    Difficulty: Easy – flat ground.
  2. Horseshoe Bay Lagoon Walk
    Distance/Time: 300m (Approx.)
    Depart: Lagoon end of Henry Lawson St, Horseshoe Bay
    Difficulty: Easy – flat ground.
  3. The Forts Walk 
     Magnetic Island’s No. 1 Bushwalking Trail
    Distance/Time: 2.8km 1.5hrs return
    Depart: The Forts Car Park
    Difficulty: Moderate – undulating terrain.
  4. The Forts, Arthur Bay, Florence Bay, Radical Bay, Balding Bay and Horseshoe Bays Walk
    Distance/Time: 2.8km 1.5hrs return
    Depart: The Forts Car Park or Horseshoe Bay
    Difficulty: Advanced – steep climbs.
  5. The Forts to Horseshoe Bay Walk
    Distance/Time: 2km 30-45min
    Depart: The Forts Car Park or Horseshoe Bay
    Difficulty: Difficulty: Easy – flat ground.
  6. Arcadia to The Forts Walk
    Distance/Time: 2km 30-45min
    Depart: Alma Bay or The Forts Car Park
    Difficulty: Moderate – undulating terrain.
  7. Nelly Bay To Arcadia & Endeavour Falls Walk
    Distance/Time: 6km 2hrs
    Depart: Mandalay Ave, Nelly Bay or Endeavour Rd, Arcadia.
    Difficulty: Moderate – undulating terrain.
  8. Rocky Bay Walk
    Distance/Time: 1km 30min
    Depart: Lookout between Picnic and Nelly Bays.
    Difficulty: Moderate – moderate climb.
  9. Hawkings Point Walk
    Distance/Time: 600m 30mins
    Depart: Picnic Bay
    Difficulty: Moderate – moderate climb.
  10. Sails Rock Walk
    Distance/Time: 1km return
    Depart: Picnic Bay
    Difficulty: Advanced – steep climb.
  11. Cockle Bay Walk
    Distance/Time: 2.5km (Approx.) 45min – 1hr
    Depart: Picnic Bay
    Difficulty: Easy – flat ground.
  12. West Point Walk
    Distance/Time: 8km 2.5hrs
    Depart: Picnic Bay
    Difficulty: Easy – flat ground.

Shipwrecks - Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island Shipwreck Trail Sights Photo Credit:

Like many offshore sights around Australia, the reefs and land around Magnetic Island has claimed many ships. Over 20 ships met their demise around the island. The Maritime Museum developed a trail that circles the island that takes you on a historical tour that includes:

  • SS City of Adelaide which ran aground in Cockle Bay in 1916.
  • The George Rennie which crashed into Hawking Point in 1902.
  • The Moltke which wrecked near Geoffrey Bay in 1890.
  • The SS Bee was a wooden steamship that wrecked in Picnic Bay in 1901.

For more details on all the shipwrecks of Magnetic Island’s Shipwreck Trail, see the Townsville Maritime Museum.

Magnetic Island - Snorkle Trail Sights

Magnetic Island Snorkel Trail Sights Photo Credit:

There are 2 snorkel trails around Magnetic Island. The Nelly Bay Snorkel Trail is marked by five white surface floats that outline the trail which is about 100 metres off the beach near Base Backpackers. The Geoffrey Bay Snorkel Trail is about 390 metres from the beach apposite from the Hotel Arcadia. On this trail you can see a great variety of fish and the Moltke shipwreck. If you are a stronger swimmer and a little more adventurous, the WWII aeropane propeller and engine block from a CW-22B Curtiss Falcon is also nearby.

Magnetic Island Events

Junior Fishing Competition - Magnetic Island

Junior Fishing Competition Photo Credit:

Magnetic Island - Talk Like a Pirate Day

Talk Like a Pirate Day Celebration Photo Credit:

There is certainly never a shortage of fun things to do on Magnetic Island. There are events, competitions, and celebrations around every turn. From seasonal events to annual competitions and tournaments, there is something for everyone. Even when there isn’t a special event happening, there are always tours available and great food at the hotels and resorts.