A quick guide to checking out the SS City of Adelaide, the famous Magnetic Island wreck reclaimed by nature. Find out how to get here with tips to get great shots.
The Magnetic Island wreck, or more specifically, the SS City of Adelaide is one of the most iconic wrecks on the Australian coast.
What makes it so unique is that it has been resurrected by thick mangroves that grow from the wreck. It’s also now home to a flock of cockatoos who live in the mangrove trees sprouting from the rusted deck.
I'm Olly, a full-time traveler for the past 5 years. I visit every destination I write about & handpick all recommendations.
How to Get to Magnetic Island
Getting to Magnetic Island is as easy as a 40-minute ferry ride from the coast of 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 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 of the return trip to Magnetic Island on SeaLink is $39 per adult with several concession options also available.
Magnetic Island Wreck - The SS City of Adelaide
While there are dozens of wrecks on Magnetic Island, the SS City of Adelaide is one of the most famous.
It was originally a Scottish steam passenger vessel that stranded itself in shallow water in Cockle Bay, Magnetic Island due to a fire.
At the time of its sinking in 1916, it was decided that cutting up the ship and salvaging it would be too difficult due to the shallow water. Instead, it was decided that it would remain in Cockle Bay.
How to Get to the Magnetic Island Wreck
The wreck is located in Cockle Bay, on the southern end of Magnetic Island. The best way to get there is to first head to Picnic Bay and walk.
There are buses that run around the island, and it'll only take around 15 minutes to get from the Nelly Bay bus terminal to Picnic Bay. For those coming from Horseshoe Bay, expect a 40-minute trip.
From the Picnic Bay Wharf, you will have a couple of options to get to the iconic Magnetic Island Wreck. For convenience, I've pinned the exact location of the wreck on the map below.
Walk Around the Rocks from Picnic Bay
At low tide, it's possible to walk all the way around the rocks from Picnic Bay. It can get a little bit muddy, and you'll need to watch the flood tide. However, this is the quickest option for reaching the wreck.
Walk the Road to the Wreck from Picnic Bay
You can walk around the headland, following suburban streets to the end of W Point Road in order to reach the wreck site from Picnic Bay Wharf. It's only a short walk that won't take more than 20 minutes.
For exact directions, follow the map above.
Walking Out to the Wreck at Low Tide
At low tide, the water rushes out and leaves the wreck sitting completely out of the water. It's entirely possible to walk all the way out at low tide. However, watch the soft, sinking mud.
Otherwise, admire the wreck from afar at the shore's edge, or even rent a kayak to paddle out at high tide.
Related:Magnetic Island Sunset Spots
Secret Local Wreck Viewpoint
The best viewpoint on the southern end of Magnetic Island is also a prime spot for checking out the Magnetic Island wreck. It's not clearly marked on any maps, and we found it purely by coincidence when looking for a spot to fly the drone from.
Apparently, locals have named this viewpoint Sails Rock.
The viewpoint is just beside a water tower at Cockle Bay. I've marked the directions on the map below. If you're coming from Picnic Bay, it'll only take around 20 minutes, following a steep road to the top.
Once you reach the water tower, there is a small, unmarked trail that leads a bit further to a clearing with some huge, overhanging rocks at the edge of the cliff.
From this viewpoint, you will have excellent views over cockle bay and the wreck, as well as views all the way past Picnic Bay and into the interior hillside landscape.
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 at the Koala Sanctuary: 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 Hostel With a View: Base Backpackers - 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.
More Photos of the Magnetic Island Ship Wreck
As promised, here are some of the photos I was able to snap of the SS City of Adelaide in Cockle Bay. Before you head out to see the famous Magnetic Island wreck, why not check out some of my other guides to Maggie and greater Queensland too?