Magnetic Island is a Tropical North Queensland treasure.
There are many things to do on Magnetic Island and you will be spoilt for choice. The Island is a stone’s throw away from the Great Barrier Reef, making it a popular destination for snorkelling.
Other things to do on Magnetic Island include seeing the amazing wildlife such as koalas, whose estimated numbers are between 600 – 800 on the Island. Also, you can even get up close and personal with rock wallabies, gently feeding out of your hand which will be an unbelievable experience.
If that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, then the pristine beaches and lush green walks surely will. There are many bays around the Island each with their own personality and features ready to be explored.
As Magnetic Island is only a 20 min ferry journey from Townsville and a short 4-hour (by Australian standards) drive away from Cairns, it is fast becoming a backpackers must-see destination on their East Coast road trip.
Best time to visit Magnetic Island
Tropical North Queensland has warm weather throughout most of the year. The weather is pretty much summed up in 2 seasons, the dry season and the wet season.
The dry season (‘winter’) runs from May – October and is pleasantly hot with low humidity.
The wet season (‘summer’) runs from November – April with some tropical showers and it can be very humid, making some months unbearably hot.
We visited during December and it was indeed very hot and humid. However, we didn’t have many showers as at the time Australia was going through a massive drought.
We wouldn’t recommend visiting during the wet season/summer months as activities such as bushwalking and hiking can leave you drenched in your own sweat, begging for another sip of water.
If you can, visit during the dry season/winter where the weather will be much more comfortable and you’ll be skipping along those hikes instead of crawling.
How to get to Magnetic Island
The best and most stress-free way to get to Magnetic Island from Townsville is by SeaLink Ferry.
SeaLink operates 18 daily high-speed catamaran ferries across to Magnetic Island giving you plenty of opportunity and variation.
The journey only takes 20 min and by the time you admire the passing Islands, you’ll have arrived at Nelly Bay Ferry Terminal on Magnetic Island.
We paid $37 each which included a hop on hop off daily Sun Bus ticket. We used this to travel around the island. The tickets are usually sold separately for a higher price.
The public Sun Bus on Magnetic Island
The Sun Bus pass is a must if you’re travelling to Magnetic Island and do not plan on having your own transport.
Magnetic Island is split up in 5 zones. For most of the things to do on Magnetic Island, you will only need zones 1-4. This ticket will cost around $8.60.
Money-saving tip: If you purchase this ticket with the SeaLink ferry as mentioned above, you will get around $1 discount per adult ticket. Every little helps for us backpackers.
Once you have the ticket all you do is show it to the driver as you get on the bus. You can hop on and off as many times as you want for the duration of the ticket validity.
Most likely you will not travel to zone 5. In case you do, you would just have to pay the extra fee to get there.
The Sun Bus only accepts the correct amount of money for the fare, you will be lucky to get any change. Make sure you check the fees for the ticket if you decide to pay as you go.
Magnetic Island accommodation
There are many places to stay on Magnetic Island whether you want accommodation right on the beach or a forest resort. However, one place stands out from them all and we would always tell people to stay there and wouldn’t hesitate to go back ourselves.
Bungalow Bay Koala Village
Bungalow Bay Koala Village is one of those accommodations that have the wow factor, the out of the normal experience everyone should try at some point in their lives.
It’s not uncommon to see kangaroos hopping past you as you make your way to your room. It just makes you smile seeing these wild animals roaming freely and untouched, knowing you’re sleeping amongst them.
The park is filled with well-built huts which are where you sleep. We slept in a hut with air conditioning and a double bed. It was small yet it’s all we needed in accommodation being more than adequate.
Bungalow Bay Koala Village also has a massive area for guests to chill. For the couple of days we spent there we chilled at night sipping on cider and pizza. It is a good chilled out atmosphere, we lounged around on bean bags and played a game of pool.
It also has Koala village in its name for a reason. At certain times of the day, you can hold a koala. Don’t worry as this is done ethically, the koalas are treated well and won’t get petted if they are not up for holding.
Things to do on Magnetic Island
All the things to do on Magnetic Island mentioned below can be done in 2 days. If you have more time that’s even better as you can spend more areas such as Nelly Bay and Picnic Bay.
However, if you have only 1 day, we would highly recommend prioritising checking out Horseshoe Bay for a swim, feeding the rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay and walking the Fort at sunset. These are not to be missed.
1. Horseshoe Bay
Out of all the bays on the Island, Horseshoe Bay has the most going on.
It’s also nice on the eye, with golden sand and deep blue waters with green mountains either side.
It has a strip filled with cafes and restaurants and the beach has a patrolled area. This patrolled area has a stinger net.
Our pick of the restaurants would be Cafe Nourish. It’s all in the name, they serve coffee, tea & delicious nourishing stuff.
If you are visiting during stinger season like us, you can take a dip without fearing those jelly blobs.
If you happen to be visiting on the second or last Sunday of the month, there is a market at Horseshoe Bay. The Horseshoe Bay markets run from 9 am – 2 pm right on the beach.
Are you into your water sports? There’s no better place to be, you can rent kayaks and jet skis. Get on the water and gentle row your way around paradise or grin from ear to ear as you speed your way through dreamland.
Horseshoe Bay is always a great spot for a sunset. If you find yourself there around the evening, you may as well enjoy the sun disappearing transforming the sky with a cheeky cocktail in hand.
On top of all that, you may even be able to spot whales. The middle of July through to August is the peak time to spot them. One of the best ways is to book a tour but make sure you book in advanced.
2. Radical Bay
Radical Bay is a 30 min hike away from Horseshoe Bay, being more secluded and tranquil.
We aren’t going to sugar coat it; the hike is hilly and you’ll have to hop over a few rocks but it’s not that bad unless you are clever enough to visit on an extremely hot day like us.
You’ll be rewarded for the hike with beautiful turquoise waters and it is more than likely you’ll have the area to yourself.
There are nice shady areas over the swaying trees for you to chill out and maybe even have a picnic. Just beware for stingers during stinger season as unlike Horseshoe bay, the beach is not patrolled and there are no stinger nets.
The beach is astonishing with a landscape of giant boulders with lush green trees protruding from the cracks.
3. Balding Bay (Nude Beach)
Hike a further 10 min to reach the equally secluded Balding Bay.
However, this one has its own charm to it. You can let loose and get naked.
If you do go here expect to see the unexpected as it’s a nude beach. Granted, we didn’t see anyone nude when we were there and didn’t feel like getting butt naked ourselves, even so, it’s still a nice beach to visit.
Just make sure you bring a load of water and hat when visiting these bays. There isn’t much shade on the walks and you will get flustered with the heat especially visiting during summer.
One more thing, make sure you wear some decent secure footwear, trainers/runners will do. Sliders are not your friend hiking up steep terrain. They’ll get really annoying sliding off your feet every minute.
4. The Forts Walk
Walk through history as you spot Koalas sleeping in the trees.
The Fort was built during World War II which is not used in the modern-day. It is now a beautiful scenic 2.8 km return walk with lovely views of Arthur and Florence Bay. It is a smooth path on the way up so don’t worry about a hard trek.
Koalas can often be seen along the walk in the trees. They are nocturnal animals which mean they sleep mostly during the day and are more active at night.
We saw a couple on our way up, it’s amazing seeing them just hanging on top of tall gum trees looking so comfortable. Bring your zoom lens as you will need it for a good shot.
It takes around 45 min to reach the top and what a view you will be compensated with.
If you time the walk right in time for sunset, it’s one of the most breath-taking views you will witness on the Island. Climbing to the top of the fought you will have 360-degree views of the entire Island.
The sky will illuminate deep red and florescent orange as the sun falls beneath the mountains and forest.
Don’t get too enticed by the sunset as you don’t want to walk back in pitch black. Keep a keen eye out for more koalas as we saw more on the way back down as they are more active at night.
5. Feed rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay
Have these cute animals feed right out of your hand at Geoffrey Bay in Arcadia.
Before heading straight to the rock wallabies make sure you buy some food from the local newsagents. They sell a bag of food for the wallabies for $2.50 a bag.
Money saving tip: Bring your own fresh fruit and veg such as carrots, they love them more than the food pellets.
The rock wallabies can be found on the old ferry harbour in Arcadia. The wallabies will be in-between the boulders and will come out at the sign of food or rustling of a bag.
We even saw one with a little Joey in its pouch!
If you do intend to feed the rock wallabies, ask the locals what’s safe for them to eat. Carrots and cabbage are safe bets but please be weary on other fruit and veg which may harm these lovely animals.
6. Feed the colourful parrots at 4 pm
You can feel like a bird whisperer as you will have a ton of parrots feeding off of you.
At 4 pm every day at the Bungalow Bay Koala Village, they give free food for visitors to feed the cheeky little parrots.
We could hear screeching and fussing of hundreds of parrots 5-10 min before feeding time, they obviously know what time of day it was.
With some food in each of your palms stand still and enjoy the parrots flying over to you and having their feed.
Don’t expect them to stay nicely on your hand as you’ll end up with some parrots on your head, shoulders and arms too. Wear a long sleeve top to protect you from those claws.
7. Snorkel Magnetic Island
If you love to snorkel, then you’re in for a real treat. There is an abundance of snorkelling spots and even snorkelling trails to explore.
Some of the best snorkelling spots on Magnetic Island are Florence Bay and Geoffrey Bay, as they have colourful reef there still.
We snorkelled in Geoffrey Bay but the tide was low and it was later in the evening, however, we still got to see a few stingrays. We won’t lie, we were sh*t scared of them from all the Steve Irwin stories. Just watch your step as you are going in the water.
Florence bay is known for people spotting sea turtles but we were advised at the time it wouldn’t be any good as there was a storm a few days earlier. This made the bay murky at the time and we wouldn’t have been able to see anything.
If the snorkelling is anything like Fitzroy Island then we missed a real treat.
There are snorkelling routes which can be done, just ask your accommodation or visit the information centre for some maps.
8. Toad racing at Arcadia Hotel
Fancy something a bit more random?
There is toad racing at the Arcadia Hotel if you fancy it. A beer and a toad race, one to tell the grandkids about your adventures.
9. Rent a Barbie Car
Travel the Island in a bit more style by renting a famous Barbie Car.
These topless mini mokes are only for the cool people, so if that’s you go ahead and rent one.
There are many colours and designs to choose from and they make travelling more fun instead of waiting around for a bus.
They can be rented from Tropical Topless.
Money-saving tip: Travelling as a group? Split the cost on a mini mute it may be cheaper than separate bus tickets.
We hope you enjoy these things to do on Magnetic Island and let us know how you get on in the comments below.
If you feel like driving further up the coast don’t miss epic places such as Cairns where you can do more Island exploring on Fitzroy Island.
As well as this, don’t miss the amazing Cape Tribulation with the oldest surviving living rainforest in the world, the Daintree Rainforest.
2 days on Magnetic Island is a perfect amount of time to explore the bays and see all the great wildlife.
Yes, you can swim; Horseshoe bay also has a stinger net during stinger season.
Magnetic Island is great for snorkelling and even has a snorkelling trail.
Magnetic Island is reached by ferry from Townsville.
You can travel by Sun Bus or renting a famous Barbie Car.