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Where to Find the Magnetic Island Wreck (SS City of Adelaide)

Where to Find the Magnetic Island Wreck (SS City of Adelaide)

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.

Magnetic island wreck at cockle bay, ss city of adelaide drone
Olly gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler & adventure photographer for 6 years with 700+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.

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

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.

Magnetic island wreck from above

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.

Map showing location of ss city of adelaide wreck, magnetic island, australia

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.

Magnetic islands shipwreck at cockle bay

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.

Ss city of adelaide wreck at high tide, magnetic island

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.

Magnetic island viewpoint sail rock
Magnetic island viewpoint, sail rock
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.

Magnetic island sunset, magnetic island best things to do, magnetic island attractions
Magnetic island sailing boat

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?

Magnetic island wreck
Magnetic island ship wreck 1
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure travel journalist & photographer. Traveling non-stop since 2018, I've published over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. These draw on my personal experience to share unique itineraries, accommodation tips, & fun adventure guides covering hikes, viewpoints, beaches, waterfalls, & tours. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

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