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13 Fun Things to Do on Magnetic Island on Your First Visit

13 Fun Things to Do on Magnetic Island on Your First Visit

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Discover the best things to do on Magnetic Island in Queensland, Australia in this complete travel guide!

Magnetic Island offers some of Australia’s best secluded beaches, abundant Australian wildlife, wreck snorkelling, and epic island hiking. It’s no wonder why nearly 300,000 people head to Maggie every single year!

I spent several weeks photographing and exploring almost every inch of this island during my time sailing the Australian East Coast. So, if you’re wondering what to do on Maggie for your first visit, I’ll offer you this fun, unique, and interesting list of activities and places to check out! I’ve also included helpful advice on the current best and most affordable ways to reach the island from Townsville and where to stay.

Horseshoe bay magnetic island
The beautiful coastline of Magnetic Island, Australia

How to Get to Magnetic Island

Getting to Magnetic Island is as easy as a 20-minute ferry ride from the coast of Townsville, operating daily.

The best ferry company is SeaLink, which has ferries operating roughly every hour from Townsville to Nelly Bay ferry terminal on Magnetic Island.

The cheapest SeaLink ticket can be booked online in advance on GetYourGuide, which gives you a scannable QR code to use on your phone when you board. The cost for the return trip to Magnetic Island on SeaLink is $40.50 per adult with some concession options available.

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Magnetic island sunset

Best Things to Do on Magnetic Island

1. Aquascene Magnetic Island Discovery Tour

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 my first recommendation on this list of things to do on Magnetic Island.

That's because this awesome bay-hopping boat tour is one of the best island snorkeling tours I've ever been on.

It's run by a local guide who will show you the best underwater snorkeling spots on Magnetic Island’s fringing reefs as well as scenic secluded bays to explore and relax. This tour is one of the highest-rated in Queensland and has a Badge of Excellence on Tripadvisor.

Beaches of magnetic island, australia

2. Snorkel at Geoffrey Bay & Florence Bay

By far, my favourite thing to do on Magnetic Island is to go snorkelling in the many bays and secluded beaches. If you don't book the tour above, and have your own snorkelling gear, then I suggest heading to either Geoffrey Bay or Florence Bay.

You'll find plenty of healthy fringing reefs in both of these bays, with many tropical fish and healthy corals! You can snorkel at these bays any time of year and expect good visibility all year round! However, best time for snorkeling around Magnetic Island is outside of the "summer" season. Between the months of November to April stingers can be present, so make sure to wear a stinger suit.

Tip: If you don't have your own snorkelling equipment or stinger suit, then it is possible to rent some at Horseshoe Bay.

Snorkeling at geoffrey bay magnetic island

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. We met many funny and unique characters here, who should some some beautiful scenic covers around the bays in the kayak.

Thankfully, this is 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 but is usually quite affordable compared to the Gold Coast or the islands off Cairns.

Tip: I recommend kayaking over to 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!

Magnetic island sunsets at horseshoe bay

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!

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 lingering winds and enjoy snorkeling in the fringing reef.

Magnetic island walking track
Rock wallaby sitting on boulders on magnetic island, australia

5. Spot 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 that are famous on this island.

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 car park.

For the best chance of a sighting, come at 5.00 pm in the afternoon or at sunset. Also, remember to not feed them, as this encourages them to become reliant on human feeding.

Rock wallabies at geoffrey bay magnetic island

6. Snorkel at the Geoffrey Bay Shipwreck

Snorkeling at the many wrecks is usually at 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 wallaby spot mentioned above. 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.

Molkte wreck underwater on magnetic island

7. Wind Down at Alma Bay

Alma Bay is located in Arcadia and is one of Magnetic Island’s most beautiful bays for swimming, relaxing, and enjoying the calm, laid-back island vibes.

This bay has some of the clearest waters on Magnetic Island with pristine beaches backed by lush tropical vegetation and huge boulders you can climb and find a nice spot to sit on.

The bay is just 2.5 kilometers from the Magnetic Island Ferry Terminal in the main town of Nelly Bay. I recommend taking the reliable and affordable Magnetic Island public bus. Take the Translink Route 250 bus on Marine Parade near the main ferry terminal and get off after 4 stops at "Armand Way".

From here, you can easily walk down to the bay in a few minutes.

Water at alma bay, magnetic island
Crystal clear waters at Alma Bay on Magnetic Island

8. Hike 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. Truthfully, this Magnetic Island activity is one of my the best if you want great views and the opportunity to spot koalas and other wildlife.

The track starts at the designated Forts Walk car park 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 the reliable bus.

Tip: Hail any bus and 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!

Anchor bay viewpoint from the forts walk magnetic island
Forts walk on magnetic island gun fortifications world war 2
Historical military installations at the top of the "Forts" Track.
Forts walk koalas on magnetic island

9. 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. I've been told by locals from Horseshoe Bay 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!

Forts walk koalas on magnetic island

10. Check Out the SS City of Adelaide Wreck

Have you ever seen the image of the iconic shipwreck overtaken by lush mangrove forests? 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.

You will find this awesome shipwreck at 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.

Magnetic island wreck cockle bay ss adelade drone photo

11. Visit 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. I'm sure you can work it out from the image below.

Florence bay on magnetic island, australia

12. 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 of taking the northern connecting trail from Radical Bay Road.

Once you arrive, you'll be greeted with a more secluded beach, with more epic opportunities for snorkeling or swimming.

Snorkeling at geoffrey bay magnetic island

13. 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 reflects 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 sunsets at horseshoe bay

Where to Stay on Magnetic Island

I recommend staying in Horseshoe Bay for vibrant beachfront cafes and water activities, Nelly Bay for convenient ferry access and family-friendly accommodations, or Picnic Bay for tranquil beaches. Below are my top 3 accommodation picks.

Koala mum and baby in kuranda, australia

1. Selina Magnetic Island Top-Pick

This is one of the best-rated accommodation options on Magnetic Island. It has a good chill-out area, pool, yoga an option to sleep on a converted bus, and on-site koala tours.

Nomads magnetic island accommodation on the beach

2. Nomads Magnetic Island

This hostel offers shared rooms and private rooms. Rooms are small cottages that overlook the reef right on the water's edge in Nelly Bay.

Double bedroom at cstay in picnic bay on magnetic island, australia

3. CStay

One of the best value accommodation options for couples is CStay in Picnic Bay. There are several twin rooms available with an outdoor pool. It is located close to public transport and walking distance to many restaurants.

Getting Around on Magnetic Island

To help you plan your visit around Magnetic Island, here is a breakdown of how to get around!


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 vehicle is convenient, you can to most of the Magnetic Island attractions and things to do by taking the bus. This is much cheaper than renting a car in Townsville.

The maximum ticket price is $3.70 for a full trip from Nelly or Picnic Bay to Horseshoe Bay (cash only). 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.

Forts walk on magnetic island

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 $90 per day for a typical topless island moke.

Best Time to Visit Magnetic Island

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.

In my experience, the winter months around July is also when the weather is calm and the water is free of marine stingers.

However, it’s possible to make the trip to Magnetic Island at any time of the year. In saying that, Most resources recommend wearing a stinger suit if swimming, freediving or snorkeling between November and April.

Magnetic island manta ray
What do do on magnetic island, australia
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.


Friday 18th of August 2023

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