Although there are over 8000 islands off the coast of Australia, Magnetic Island is one of the most accessible to visit. It is only 8km from mainland Townsville to Magnetic Island, and as the island itself is only 52km2 you can experience the many things to do on Magnetic Island in just one day.
This guide will cover everything you need to know whether you are planning a day trip or a full weekend; you will have memories to last a lifetime. From the numerous things to do on Magnetic Island including stunning beaches, wildlife and of course the famous Mini Moke hire we share all the details for a trip to remember.
HOW TO TO MAGNETIC ISLAND
Townsville to Magnetic Island Ferry
If you are wondering how to get to Magnetic Island, it could not be easier. Although our Maggie day trip was booked as a package, it is easy to book the Magnetic Island ferry yourself.
The Townsville to Magnetic Island ferry prices vary – they are AU$30.00 return per person if you book online but are more expensive if you book at the terminal at AU$33.00.
Confusingly, when you book the Townsville to Magnetic Island ferry, you can book the specific date of departure, but you cannot book a time. It only takes 20 minutes from Townsville to Magnetic Island and the first ferry of the day leaves at 5:30 am.
If you are planning a Magnetic Island daytrip, it’s likely you will be looking to hire a Mini Moke or a car on the island. As a little tip, the car rental offices don’t open until 8:00 am, so it isn’t necessary to take the first ferry of the day unless you fancy a long wait at the other end.
Instead, we took the 7:45 am Magnetic Island ferry which arrived at 8:05 am, and we ran to the Moke hire office to ensure we got the sought after pink Barbie car (more on that later.)
MAGNETIC ISLAND ACCOMMODATION
As mentioned, our Magnetic Island accommodation was included as part of our package, and we LOVED it. We genuinely feel a day trip is not enough time to fully enjoy the many things to do on Magnetic Island as falling asleep after the beautiful sunset is far more rewarding than rushing off back to the ferry. If your time and budget allow there is Magnetic Island accommodation to suit every style of traveller, here are our top picks:
For Backpackers: Base, Magnetic Island
We were told Base Backpackers is the (cheapest) and BEST Magnetic Island accommodation for party lovers and we stayed in a an eight-bed dorm. However, these were not your average backpacker dorms but instead wooden beach huts complete with a pool, beach bar and so much more.
As mentioned, Base does have a reputation as the party goers choice of Magnetic Island Accommodation (it even hosts Australia’s only full moon party). However, during our visit, it was easy to avoid the beer pong and DJ music and instead sip cocktails on the beach.
We loved the atmosphere, views and even found a wallaby under our beach hut. The staff were friendly and bar prices reasonable for backpacking budgets although the food was some of the worst we had in Australia, so we do not recommend eating there.
I had a halloumi burger which resembled rubber and wasn’t cooked and Darren had “fish tacos” which was half a tortilla with a fish finger on it. It may have been a one off that the standards had majorly slipped as our food took over an hour, but pack some snacks to keep you going incase this is the norm!
For Animal Lovers: Bungalow Bay Koala Village
For animal lovers looking for Magnetic Island accommodation, we recommend Bungalow Bay Koala Village. When we visited the sanctuary, we instantly wished we had time to stay here too as the accommodation is actually set within a wildlife sanctuary and you can even have breakfast with the koalas. It has similar hut style accommodation as well as a large pool area, friendly staff and of course an abundance of wildlife.
For Couples: Nelly Bay
For a more romantic Magnetic Island stay, we recommend staying near Nelly Bay where there are several luxurious apartments and hotel style accommodation ideal for couples and families. Peppers Blue on Blue Resort even boasts private plunge pools and balconies with incredible views over the marina or Absolute Waterfront also offers exactly as the name describes, incredible views over the bay.
GETTING AROUND MAGNETIC ISLAND
Mini Moke Hire Magnetic Island
Before we get in to the best things to do we need to share our tips for getting around Magnetic Island. Admittedly, one of the main reasons we planned a Magnetic Island day trip was so I could whizz around the island in my own Barbie car. It is undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do on Magnetic Island, but there are a few things you should know before you part with your hard earned cash.
Firstly, you gotta be quick. We phoned ahead although we were told it is a first come, first served basis so you cannot reserve a pink car specifically. Hence we ran from the ferry to the Moke hire office (literally 5 minutes) to ensure we were first in line at opening. Sad, I know but nothing comes between me and a pink car.
Secondly, the Tropical Topless Barbie cars are not the cheapest Moke hire on Magnetic Island. We paid AU$111.00 for the day which included 12km of fuel. As mentioned the island is small, so this was enough fuel for getting around Magnetic Island, but we did have to plan our route carefully (or you could just pay to top it up.)
Thirdly and most importantly, you are restricted on which areas you can access with the Mini Moke hire on Magnetic Island. With your hire, you will be provided with a map of where you are allowed & not allowed to go. Some of the Magnetic Island beaches will not be accessible in the Barbie car, and you would need a 4WD instead.
Getting Around Magnetic Island by Bus
There are other options for getting around Magnetic Island if you can’t drive. For AU$7.60 you can purchase a day ticket for the bus which will take you to the majority of Magnetic Island activities and is valid for all zones. View the fare info for Magnetic Island bus here. Although the timetable will prove a little restricting as there is only one bus an hour (ish) so plan your day well to make the most.
You can also purchase a ticket that includes a return ticket for the Magnetic Island Ferry + All day bus travel for $39. More info here.
Getting Around Magnetic Island on Foot
Alternatively, if you are on a major budget but have plenty time on your hands, you could opt for getting around Magnetic Island on foot. We will warn, it is Australia after all so expect hot temperatures and a few steep hills.
Getting around Magnetic Island on foot is not for the faint hearted although we met plenty of people who did it and much preferred walking as it means avoiding the crowds who are restricted to the roads only. This means you are able to explore off the beaten track away from the typical things to do on Magnetic Island which is always a fun experience.
THINGS TO DO ON MAGNETIC ISLAND
Now you know how to get to Magnetic Island and have a place to stay, it’s time to plan your perfect Magnetic Island day trip with these suggestions of things to do. As we were backpacking Australia, we were delighted there were so many free things to do on Magnetic Island which makes it an ideal destination for those travelling on a budget. Here are our top picks, but let us know in the comments if we’ve missed any highlights or hidden gems!
Spot Koalas on The Forts Walk
Did you know one of the best things to do on Magnetic Island was spot koalas in the wild? Although our favourite place to see koalas in the wild is Kennett River on the Great Ocean Road, we had an amazing time on The Forts Walk admiring these snuggly creatures in their natural habitat.
Although the koalas are the main reason people do this walk, we actually found the military sites which make up the route equally as interesting. In total it took us around 90 minutes to do the full route which is 4km in total and despite it being 9:00 am we were incredibly hot. We recommend to start your Magnetic Island day trip with Forts Walk as any other time of day would simply be too hot to attempt it, so tick it off your list first.
Meet Some Australian Icons at Bungalow Bay Animal Sanctuary
If you are unfortunate to not see any koalas in the wild on Forts Walk, another popular thing to do on Magnetic Island is visit Bungalow Bay animal sanctuary. They run tours through the sanctuary three times a day (10:00 am, noon and 2:30 pm) that last 2 hours for a AU$29.00 entry fee.
They also host a special Breakfast with the Koalas experience at 8:15 am every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The sanctuary allows the opportunity to meet some Australian icons up close such as crocodiles, snakes and birds as well as koalas with their rangers offering passionate and informal guided tours as well as hands-on interaction with the animals such as holding a python and iguana.
At the Bungalow Bay animal Sanctuary you are given the opportunity to hold a koala for an extra fee of AU$25.00 and receive a souvenir photo of this experience. Although this is one of the most popular things to do on Magnetic Island, it is completely your discretion whether you partake in this activity or not. Do note, only accredited sanctuaries and appointed states are legally allowed to let the public holding of koalas. For example, it is illegal in NSW to hold a koala, but in Queensland (where Magnetic Island is) it is legal.
Take a Stroll Along Picnic Bay Jetty
I have an unashamed obsession with jetties, and Picnic Bay Jetty did not disappoint. It is a heritage listed jetty which offers incredible views of the Bay as well as a peaceful walk to admire the determined fishermen along the jetty. Picnic Bay is also home to the only golf course on the island if you fancied a more unique thing to do on Magnetic Island.
Say Hello to the Rock Wallabies at Geoffrey Bay
This was one of our favourite things to do on Magnetic Island and an incredible memory from our time here. If you head to Geoffrey Bay around 4:00 pm (there is space to park nearby), you will find these incredibly cute creatures come out to play.
There are nearby shops which sell wallaby food, or many people take carrots etc. We didn’t feed the rock wallabies as personally feel wild animals should eat wild food, but it is a fun experience nonetheless to admire and photograph them from a safe distance.
Rock Wallabies are much smaller than ordinary wallabies although definitely more inquisitive and friendly than previous ones we’d come across during our time in Australia (such as the one we found earlier in the day under our hut at Base Backpackers!)
The walk itself around Geoffrey Bay was incredibly beautiful, and we found the rocks themselves so fascinating even if the Wallabies do not come out to play.
Enjoy a Photo Stop at Hanging Rock, Bremner Point
Another one of the most interesting free things to do on Magnetic Island is to head passed the Rock Wallabies to Bremner Point and admire the incredible Hanging Rock on the way. No Magnetic Island day trip would be complete without an amusing photo stop here. We also found it a peaceful spot to watch the sun go down before heading back to our Magnetic Island accommodation.
BEST MAGNETIC ISLAND BEACHES
There is no denying one of the most popular things to do on Magnetic Island is enjoy the epic beaches. Whether you are here to sunbathe, snorkel or swim, the Magnetic Island beaches offer fun for all ages. Here are a round up of our favourite beaches to squeeze into your visit!
Hike from Horseshoe Bay to Radical Bay
Horseshoe Bay is probably one of the busiest Magnetic Island beaches, lined with restaurants and a designated area for swimming. We stopped here for ice cream and coffee however if you’re more the active type (unlike us) you could escape the crowds and head to Radical Bay.
The challenging yet rewarding walk from beautiful Horseshoe Bay to Radical Bay takes 30 minutes but is one of the best Magnetic island activities for a more peaceful afternoon. Horseshoe Bay is also the next best sunset spot after West Point if you don’t have a 4WD.
Go Nude at Balding Bay
If you’re feeling a lil cheeky, stop in at Balding Bay during your Horseshoe to Radical Bay walk. It is approximately 20 minutes from Horseshoe Bay and is rumoured to be one of the most beautiful Magnetic Island Beaches but also a “clothing optional” beach. We know people who made the detour and didn’t see any naked people, but we didn’t take the risk, ha.
Snorkel at Alma Bay
Alma Bay is also one of the best Magnetic Island Beaches for snorkelling and even diving. Unlike the previous Magnetic Island beaches, it is also far easier to reach (no walking or nudity involved) it’s literally a minute or two from the main road. We sat in the shaded grassy area (we are Scottish after all) and enjoyed people watching for an hour or two during our Magnetic Island day trip.
Note: As snorkelling is one of the most fun things to do on Magnetic Island, Alma Bay can get pretty crowded. If it’s too busy, a great alternative for beginners is Geoffrey Bay (where the Rock Wallabies are.)
Snorkel at Arthur Bay
Arthur Bay is one of the most quiet Magnetic Island Beaches but this is because of the road there. As mentioned earlier, if you are opting for mini moke hire on Magnetic Island the road to Arthur Bay is one of those you are unlikely to be allowed on in a rental vehicle.
This makes it all the more special for other visitors however as it’s super peaceful and one of the best beaches for snorkelling. Note half the beach is safe for swimming and the other half has stunning coral underneath so be extra careful where you walk/swim and please be a responsible tourist and use reef friendly sun cream if heading into the water.
Admire the Views From Nelly Bay/Picnic Bay Look Out
We, unfortunately, run out of time during our Magnetic Island day trip however were told that from the main road, it was only a 10-minute climb here to reach the most incredible views of Nelly Bay. Let us know if you make it as we’ve heard it’s one of the best views of Magnetic Island.
Watch Sunset at West Point
This was our biggest regret with hiring a Moke on Magnetic Island. The road to West Point is strictly for 4WD and experienced drivers which meant a definite no-no for our wee barbie mobile.
Apparently this not only one of the best Magnetic Island beaches for sunset but one of the best sunset spots in Australia. Unfortunately, my passion for Barbie won over my passion for sunsets so we had to give it a miss but would love to know if it lives up to expectations, so please let us know in the comments.
Hopefully, now you will have plenty of inspiration for what to do on Magnetic Island whether it’s for a day trip or a weekend away. Our time here was genuinely one of the highlights from our entire time in Australia, and we would have loved more time on the island.
We hope you squeeze in as many of these things to do on Magnetic Island as possible and that your time on Maggie is as epic as possible. Let us know in the comments if there are any activities we missed, or if you made it to the Magnetic Island beaches that our wee Barbie car couldn’t!