An inspiring adventure travel guide to the Top 12 Unmissable Things to do on Magnetic Island. Read the complete guide to exploring this great Queensland gem before heading out on your next trip!
Magnetic Island offers some of Australia’s best secluded beaches, abundant Australian wildlife, wreck snorkelling, and epic island hiking. It’s no wonder then why nearly 300 000 people head to Maggie every single year!
I was fortunate enough to spend several weeks photographing and exploring all of the epic things to do on Magnetic Island during my time sailing the Australian East Coast. So, if you’re wondering about what to do on Maggie, I’ve got you covered.
In this guide, I’ll outline all of the best attractions, activities and things to do for your next trip to Magnetic Island. I’ve also written independent guides for many of the items on this list. So, if you’re after more photos of information on how to get to each spot, make sure to follow through to those posts too.
Top 12 Things to do on Magnetic Island
1. The One & Only Maggie Comprehensive
Usually I’m the first one to ditch the guide and go exploring on my own. However, in this rare case I’m going to recommend an island tour as the first item on this list for things to do on Magnetic Island.
That’s because this particular tour is one of the best island tours I’ve ever been on. It’s run by a local guide who knows every inch of Maggie like the back of his hand. This tour is one of the highest-rated in Queensland and has a Bade of Excellence on Tripadvisor.
For those just visiting for the day, or even if you’re staying a while, I highly recommend “Maggie Comprehensive”.
Check price & inclusions: Maggie Comprehensive Island Guide
2. Discover The Underwater World
By far, my favourite thing to do on Magnetic Island is to go snorkelling in the many bays and secluded beaches. If you’ve got your own snorkelling gear, then I suggest heading to either Geoffrey Bay or Florence Bay.
If you don’t have your own gear, then it is possible to rent some at Horseshoe Bay. Alternatively, why not jump on a guided snorkelling tour? There’s only one operating on the island and it’s part of a guided tour both above and under the water.
Check best price: Guided Snorkelling Discover Tour
3. Kayak and Jet Ski in Horseshoe Bay
Horseshoe Bay is located on the Northern end of Magnetic Island. It’s the home to several cruising sailors who live on their boats, either anchored or moored in Horseshoe Bay.
It’s also the best place on the island to rent a kayak or jet ski. There are several jet ski operators and kayak rental places along the main strip in Horseshoe Bay. Prices will depend on the season and availability.
If you do head out into the bay, then I’d recommend stopping by in White Lady Bay on the northeast side of Horseshoe Bay. This is one of the best places to catch the sunset on the island. Best of all, you’ll probably have it all to yourself!
4. Walk to Balding and Radical Bay
Are you looking for ideas for what to do on Magnetic Island and love a good Aussie bushwalk and secluded snorkelling bays?
Hiking to Balding and Radical Bay offers the best of both worlds. The tracks are usually quiet and offer tranquil island views and a touch of Aussie wildlife.
The track starts at the end of the beach in Horseshoe Bay and darts up a short hill around to Balding Bay. Remember to keep your cameras sheathed as this one is a nudist beach, so if that’s your thing, go for it!
If you’d rather keep your jocks on, then continue along the track down the hill to Radical Bay. Radical Bay is usually very quiet, and a great spot to escape any lingering winds and enjoy snorkeling in the fringing reef.
5. Find Rock Wallabies at Geoffrey Bay
For people traveling in Australia, Magnetic Island is one of the best places to explore the unique Aussie wildlife.
While you might have spotted many Kangaroos so far, Geoffrey Bay will guarantee you sightings of many small rock wallabies.
These guys live in the rocky hillside on the northeast headland in Geoffrey Bay. Getting here is easy, and it’s located right next to the water entry point to the Geoffrey Bay wreck. Simply walk or drive down to the end of Amand Way. The rock wallabies are right near the carpark.
For the best chance of a sighting, come at 5.00PM in the afternoon or at sunset. Also, remember to not feed them, as this encourages them to become reliant on human feeding.
Read More: Spotting Rock Wallabies at Geoffrey Bay
6. Snorkel at the Geoffrey Bay Shipwreck
Snorkeling at the many wrecks is usually on the top of many people’s list of what to do on Magnetic Island. One of the best wrecks for accessibility is the Moltke Wreck, a German Barque which sank in 1889.
It’s a short 50 meter swim out to the wreck from the rock wallabies spot. The wreck is marked by several buoys that are hard to miss. You’ll find the decaying ship in roughly 5 meters of water, making this one of the more beginner-friendly diving and snorkeling spots on Magnetic Island.
For more information about the wreck, check out the blog post above.
7. Walk Up to the Forts Walk
If you’d rather stay out of the water and explore the island’s rugged landscapes, then the Forts Walk offers some of the best views across Maggie.
The track starts at the designated Forts Walk carpark on Horseshoe Bay Road. Whether you’re coming from Horseshoe Bay or the Nelly Bay ferry terminal, the best way to get here is by taking a bus.
Just tell the bus driver that you would like to stop at the Forts.
It’s a popular walk and leads up to some historic World War II fortifications and bunkers. Incredibly, these structures are still in excellent condition. The best views of the island are from the top of the large fortifications, which is accessible by a ladder. If there’s one thing you do on Magnetic Island, make sure it’s the Forst Walk!
8. Spot Wild Koalas
I wasn’t kidding when I said Magnetic Island was the best place to spot Aussie wildlife. Coincidentally, the Forts Walk is also one of the best places to spot the resident Koalas.
Keep your eyes on the Eucalyptus branches for your best chances of spotting one. We saw over six koalas, including a baby. We’ve been told that a koala sighting is almost guaranteed, as long as you keep your eyes peeled.
Remember to keep your distance and always respect local wildlife.
Read More: The Forts Track – Where to Spot Koalas
9. Check Out the SS City of Adelaide Wreck
Have you ever seen the image of the iconic shipwreck overtaken by lush mangrove forest? If so, then you’ve probably seen the SS City of Adelaide.
The SS City of Adelaide is probably the most picturesque shipwreck on Magnetic Island, and possibly even Australia– trumped only by Tangalooma on Moreton Island. For me, one of the best things to do on Magnetic Island is to photograph it.
The SS City of Adelaide is located on the south side of Magnetic Island in Cockle Bay. The easiest way to reach it is to take the bus to Picnic Bay and walk the rest of the way.
At low-tide, the wreck is completely exposed on the mudflats. This means that it’s also possible to walk all the way out to it. However, it’s now a nesting site for many birds, so it’s best to enjoy the views from afar.
The absolute best views are enjoyed at high tide from the shore or the local viewpoint on Cockle Bay Hill. I’ve detailed how to get here in the blog post below.
10. Check Out at Florence Bay
Snorkellers will love the tropical reef that surrounds the island. It’s only a small taste of what The Great Barrier Reef has to offer and yet still home to thousands of different fish and coral species.
One of the best places for snorkeling on the island is at Florence Bay. The best way to get here is by taking the Balding and Radical Bay tracks noted above. This way, you’ll get to experience most of this side of the island in a single day-trip.
Once you get to Florence Bay, the main snorkeling sites are marked with white reef buoys on the northern end of the bay. It’s best to head out in high-tide, as spring lows tend to expose a large portion of the reef.
There’s even a small, secluded beach on the other side of the bay that takes a little bit of local knowledge and rock scrambling to reach. If that sounds like your kind of adventure, then add it to your list of things to do on Magnetic Island for your next trip.
Read More: How to Get to Florence Bay
11. Explore the last of Magnetic Island’s Bays – Arthur Bay
If you decided to check out the Northern bays from Horseshoe Bay, then there’s a chance that you might have missed Arthur Bay.
Walkers can take the track that continues on from the southern end of Florence Bay towards Arthur Bay. Otherwise, it’s also possible to walk here after a trip to the Forts, instead taking the northern connecting trail from Radical Bay Road.
Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted with a more secluded beach, with more epic opportunity for snorkeling or swimming.
12. Soak in the Famous Magnetic Island Sunsets
What’s the best way to end the day on a tropical Australian Island? The sun setting over the turquoise coral waters reflect colours that you wouldn’t even believe existed.
There are many different places to watch the sunset on Magnetic Island. So many in fact, that I’ve dedicated an entire blog post to it.
Magnetic Island Visitor’s Guide
How to Get to Magnetic Island
Getting to Magnetic Island is as easy as a 40-minute ferry ride from Townsville. The best ferry company is SeaLink, which has ferries operating roughly every hour from Townsville to Nelly Bay ferry terminal on Magnetic Island.
The cost of the return trip is $30 per adult with several concession options also available. I’ve linked the up-to-date ferry timetable here.
Where to Stay on Magnetic Island
Below I’ve summarised the three best places to stay on Magnetic Island for various budgets. The links go to Booking.com, which is what I personally always use to book the best deals on accommodation.
STAY IN A KOALA SANCTUARY FOR UNDER $35 A NIGHT AT BUNGALOW BAY KOALA VILLAGE
This hostel is one of the best-rated budget accommodation options on Magnetic Island. It has a good chill-out area, pool and of course, the on-site koalas.
BEST VIEW: BASE BACKPACKERS ON MAGNETIC ISLAND
Base Backpackers is a name synonymous with budget travel in Australia. This hostel has shared rooms for under $35 a night. Rooms are actually small cottages and overlook the reef right on the water’s edge in Nelly Bay.
BEST GUEST HOUSE FOR COUPLES: CSTAY IN PICNIC BAY
One of the best value accommodation options for couples is Cstays in Picnic Bay. There are several twin rooms for less than $65 per night.
RELATED POST: 32 Best Things to do in Cairns, Australia in 2021
Getting Around on Magnetic Island
Before you crack into a list of what to do on Magnetic Island, you might want to consider the different island transport options.
While we were on the island, we primarily used buses as a quick and cheap means of transport to remote bays and bushwalking tracks.
For budget travelers, this will be your best option. While your own island ride is convenient, you can to most of the Magnetic Island attractions and things to do by taking the bus.
The maximum ticket price $3.70 for a full trip from Nelly or Picnic Bay to Horseshoe Bay. However, I’d highly recommend buying a day pass for $7.40, or the cost of just two tickets.
This will allow you to take the bus around Magnetic Island as many times as you’d like.
Topless Island Cars
Renting a topless island moke is usually one of the top things on lists for what to do on Magnetic Island. There are several companies that rent out jeeps and topless rides for you to cruise around the island.
This is convenient if you have a small group, as you will be able to drive around Magnetic Island without relying on public transport.
The cost of a hire car varies depending on the season and the car. Expect to pay at least $80 per day for a typical topless island moke.
Best Time to Visit Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island sees up to 300 000 people visit each year. The best time to visit the island is in July when the weather is calmest and the water is free of marine stingers.
Magnetic Island enjoys a tropical climate, with distinct dry and wet seasons. July is the best month to visit since the wind has calmed down and there is little rain. Expect normal day temperatures of around 25-27 degrees.
However, it’s possible to make the trip to Magnetic Island at any time of the year. In saying that, it’s advised to wear a stinger suit if swimming, freediving or snorkeling.
Beyond Maggie: More Queensland Adventure & Travel Guides
That rounds up my list of the best things to do on Magnetic Island. Maggie is an island that really left an impression on me, and I consider it a highlight of my three-month sailing trip up the East Coast of Australia.
If you have any other suggestions or itinerary ideas, then feel free to leave a comment below. Otherwise, make sure to check out some of my other travel guides and adventure articles for other destinations around Queensland.