Magnetic Island is a short ferry ride from Townsville and is one of my favourite spots in Australia. The island boasts over 20 beaches framed by granite boulders and idyllic palm trees, and has an incredible amount of wildlife to be discovered. If you like picture-perfect sunrises, rock wallabies, butterfly forests and the ultimate tropical vibes then this place is for you!
Getting to Magnetic Island
This is one of the few islands in North Queensland that you can actually take your car onto. As most places aren’t walking distance from each other, you will either want to bring your own transport, hire a car (they are famous for their topless cars) or catch public transport – buses run on the island so don’t stress if you don’t have a set of wheels.
You can book your car transfer through Magnetic Island Ferries which is a 30-40 minute journey, or if you are just wanting to get yourself over there you can travel with SeaLink for a shorter 20 minute trip. Both options leave from Townsville on a daily basis.
Here are 7 of my top things to do on Magnetic Island:
- Hand feed the rock wallabies
- Watch the sunrise at Picnic Bay Jetty
- Take a walk through the butterfly forest
- Go for a swing at Horseshoe Bay
- Hike the WWII Forts Trail & spot wild Koalas
- Spend a Day at Arthur Bay
- Discover the Wildlife at Bungalow Bay Koala Village
Hand Feed the Rock Wallabies
These little guys were the absolute highlight of my time on Magnetic Island. They come out every afternoon looking for dinner and will come right up to you and eat out of your hand, using their tiny paws to hold onto your finger while they munch away.
Where are they?
Head to Geoffrey Bay, down the old jetty road which runs alongside the coast. At the end of the road is a small carpark surrounded by boulders – this is where you’ll find the wallabies. They come out an hour or two before sunset so make sure to time your visit right!
Tip: You can buy wallaby pellets at the ferry terminal but they also enjoy a tasty carrot!
Sunrise at Picnic Bay Jetty
I’m sure this jetty looks great at any time of day but sunrise here is absolutely magical. The sun rose just behind the mountains and it made for the most amazing skies all morning. The jetty also offers unique views of the bay and its beautiful palm trees.
Take a Walk Through the Butterfly Forest
This amazing little forest is home to thousands of butterflies, most commonly the Blue Tiger but also a few other species. During the winter months there is a mass migration of butterflies to Magnetic Island. We visited in August and the forest was filled with them fluttering by us or resting on branches.
The walk starts on a hidden track next to Bungalow Bay Koala Village (look for the Horseshoe Bay State School sign if you’re having trouble finding it). It’s about a 15 minute stroll, or in my case 1.5 hours because I was obsessed with photographing them.
Note: move through slowly and quietly as the butterflies use this time to rest, and be careful not to walk on any that might be on the ground!
Swing Away at Horseshoe Bay
Horseshoe Bay was one of the places we just kept going back to (partly because it was only a 5 minute walk from our accommodation). Located on the northern part of the island, you’ll find cute cafes and shops lining the main street. It has several equipment hire stalls for all kinds of water activities as well as picnic and BBQ areas for public use. Both sunrise and sunset are pretty magical here, and you really can’t beat a good swing by the ocean.
Hike the WWII Forts Trail & Spot the Koalas
3 reasons why this should be on your Magnetic Island bucket list:
- Koala spotting
- Insane views of the island
- WWII history
This trail recommends at least 90 minutes to complete, but between stopping to take in the incredible views, playing Where’s Wally with the well camouflaged Koalas, and trying to catch my breath on the steep sections, I’d recommend at least 2.5 hours.
The walk starts off fairly easy and comes to a lookout just as the track bends left. From here on, keep your eyes peeled for Koalas. Magnetic Island is home to the largest colony of wild koalas and this walk is a great place to spot one for yourself! They’re often found snoozing away, curled up between the branches where the sun isn’t beating down on them.
They can be really hard to spot so if you’re having trouble, just wait for someone else to come along who is more attuned to these things. Then when you see their face light up, look where they’re looking.
There’s no need to rush this walk as the views all the way up are worth stopping for. As the climb starts getting steeper, there are little paths off the main track where you can see remnants of common areas used by the men and women posted up here during the war. Further up you’ll see gun emplacements. Check out both of them as they both offer different views of the island, and make sure to check out the historical display in the old observation post!
Spend a Day at Arthur Bay
If you’re looking for a secluded beach lined with epic boulders and lush greenery then you will love Arthur Bay. It’s a popular snorkelling spot and the left of the bay near the rocks is where the action is (aka Turtles!). The coral here was some of the best I saw on the island – although I didn’t see much this trip as the clarity wasn’t great some days and I got stung pretty badly by a jellyfish on the 2nd last day. That being said, make sure to BYO vinegar here as this is one of the beaches that doesn’t have any available (Horseshoe Bay and Alma Bay do though).
Do you need a 4wd?
If you only have a 2-wheel drive, you can park up the top at the Forts Walk carpark and walk down to Arthur Bay (5-10 minutes). The track is recommended for 4wd vehicles but we saw a few vans down the bottom – the road just has massive pot holes so be careful.
But even if you are brave enough or have a 4wd, I highly recommend walking to Florence Bay. It’s past Arthur Bay and is absolutely beautiful but the road to get there has to be one of the worst I’ve ever seen. No one we saw, not even us in our Landcruiser was game enough to take that road.
Discover the Wildlife at Bungalow Bay
One of my favourite parts about Magnetic Island is the abundance of wildlife. We saw just as much of it at our campground as we did while exploring the island. We stayed at Bungalow Bay Koala Village which has both a campground and some really picturesque looking cabins.
Just by hanging around the place you can get up close to Blue-Winged Kookaburras, find Kangaroos having a munch in the bushes, hear the deathly screech of the Bush stone-Curlews, and you might even spot a few Koalas in the trees!
If you’ve never heard what a Koala sounds like at night, either stay here or Google it. It’s both terrifying and fascinating (imagine what the product of a wolf and a boar mating would sound like).
This place also offers free bird feeding every afternoon, even for non-guests!
We spent a week exploring this island and still missed a few things. If I had my time again, I would definitely head over to the West side to watch a sunset over the water and hire a topless car to cruise around in. There are also multiple snorkel trails and the ship wreck at Cockle Bay that are on my list for next time!
From the beautiful beaches to the historic hikes and all the animals in between, there is so much to see and do on Magnetic Island. I hope this post helps guide your next trip – leave me a comment if there is anything else you want to know.