About Magnetic Island

8 kilometres off the shore of Townsville in tropical North Queensland is the World Heritage listed Magnetic Island, so-called for the rumoured magnetic effect the island had on Captain Cook’s ship compass during his voyage up the East Coast in 1770. Home to 2,335 permeant residents (2017), the mountainous island is 52 square kilometres and boasts 40km of coastline comprising of 23 bays and beaches, rocky headlands, eucalypt forests and laidback locals.

70% of the island is made up of National Parks creating a haven for the wildlife, around 800 koalas inhabit the island, while the rest of Queensland is noting a decline in their koala population, since their introduction to the island in the 1930 these furry critters have thrived.

There are four villages that share the majority of Magnetic Island’s population:

1)      Horseshoe Bay: - The island’s largest bay is a hub of recreational activities and is considered the main tourist strip.

2)      Arcadia: - Claims the island’s best beaches and a house originally used in WWII

3)      Nelly Bay: - A charming village home to the majority of the island’s backpacker hostels and the ferry terminal.

4)      Picnic Bay: - The main town, home to the island’s golf course and the old jetty, now an ideal location for fishing.

Magnetic Island Tours

Geoffrey and Nelly Bay offer fantastic snorkeling trails, guiding you through the Moltke wreck, a World War II aeroplane propeller and engine block which attract an astonishing amount of fish. Mt Cook is the highest peak of the island at 497m offering stunning panoramic views over Cleveland Bay, combined with Magnetic Island’s close proximity to Townsville made it an important defensive military base during World War II. “The Forts” is a former Royal Australian artillery battery still maintained and almost fully-accessible for tourists. There is just a small section cordoned off to house generators and radio equipment for the still operational radio repeater and navigational beacon. 

Magnetic Island travel itinerary and things to do:

  • Cool off in the refreshing natural pool at the top of Mount Cook
  • Spend the day at the nationally accredited Billabong Sanctuary
  • Take in views across the whole island on the Hawkings Track
  • Take a shipwreck dive at the SS Yongala, considered one of the top five wreck dives in the world
  • Explore the tranquil bays on a guided sea kayak tour
  • Enjoy a scenic horse ride along the beach
  • Watch the sunset at West Point
  • Hand feed the allied rock-wallabies at sunset at the pier in Arcadia
  • Hire a topless “Barbie” car to cruise around the Island in

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should I spend on Magnetic Island?

3 days

With around 24 kilometres of walking trails, numerous snorkeling spots and every water sport activity under the sun we recommend at least 3 days to enjoy the delights of Magnetic Island.

How long does it take to get from Townsville to Magnetic Island?

The passenger ferry takes 20 minutes and the car ferry takes 35 minutes.

When is the best time to visit?

Magnetic Island receives over 300 days of sunshine a year! Its wet season coincides with its Stinger season which lasts from November to April.  Whilst the southern half of the continent has winter from June to August on Magnetic Island the water is still warm enough to swim in and the temperatures stay in the high twenties (oC).

How much does the ferry cost?

Tickets are cheaper to buy online rather than at the ferry port. The return fee for walk on passengers is $30 per person and a standard car is $216 return, per vehicle.  

Are you looking to discover more Cairns Tours? Click out and see Whitsunday Tours.

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