The Thrill Of The Chill: 13 Best Things to do on Magnetic Island

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It took me a couple of days to adjust to Magnetic Island, or should I just say Maggie as the locals call it.

It was like I had suddenly walked into a bubble and was left suspended on the twig of a tree. Just waiting to drop. There was no past or present, nothing to distract me or fill the time with, and no need for worrying.

It was just a place to be.

woman and girl looking at view from boat

When you’re used to constantly moving, and filling every second you have with action, it’s extremely difficult to just stop and relax.

But, Maggie forces you to, and that’s why after a couple of days she really grew on me. And to my surprise, in amongst all this relaxation, there were actually quite a lot of things to do on Magnetic Island.

After a while, it was time to pull myself out of the hammock and start exploring. Here are some of the top attractions on Magnetic Island I discovered…

Is Magnetic Island Worth It?

people on the beach
Alma Bay

Magnet Island is all about relaxing and taking a step out of your daily life to do nothing. That’s something we can all take for granted.

The island is quite large, but only boasts around 2000 residents, so it always feels remote and disconnected.

With 320 days of sunshine per year, stunning bays and beaches, well maintained national park reserves and some world-class dive sites and places to go snorkeling, it’s definitely worth a trip to the east coast of Australia and stopping over at Magnetic Island.

Things to Do on Magnetic Island

Walks through the bush, stunning sunsets, wild animals, water splashing on your feet, dives off the roofs of boats, shell collecting, and drives up and down the one road in a bright orange mini – there are plenty of great things to do on Magnetic Island.

Let’s look at some of the cool Magnetic Island attractions.

1. Zip Around Magnetic Island in a Mini Moke

A mini moke parked in front of a lake

This was fun – like young backpackers zipping around a Greek Island fun.

There aren’t many places you can drive on Maggie, and the bus can easily get you around the island. 

But there is just something about driving around in a bright orange mini convertible from Tropical Topless car rental.

It’s the definition of cool and the girls thought we were just IT! It’s also known as a Barbie car, and we can definitely see that – it does look like a lifesize doll’s car.

people driving in a car

They loved driving up and down the island with their hair whipping back and forth. Each time we’d come to the end of the road Craig and I would look at each other and say, “Let’s do it again!”

It’s especially worth it if there are a few of you to share the costs.

2. Talk The Forts Walk

A person sitting on a rock near the ocean

This fantastic 4km return walking trail takes you to the historic WWII fortifications and infrastructure, as well as passing Arthur Bay Lookout which offers stellar 360-degree views of the Palm Island Group in the north and Bowling Green Bay National Park in the south.

This is the one place on the island you can pretty much be sure you’ll see wild koalas.

Magnetic Island has the highest number of koalas in the wild in Australia. We saw one chillin’ up in the tree by the side of the path.

Cute koala in a tree on Magnetic Island - Queensland

Look out for the mobile juice lady when you get to the bus stop at the end of the walk. A refreshing healthy, freshly squeezed juice was just what I needed after it.

Make sure you’ve read our tips on how to hike with kids and enjoy it

3. Walk from Horseshoe Bay to Radical Bay

rocks on the beach

It’s an easy 30-minute walk up and over a hill to Radical Bay from Horseshoe Bay. You can stop at Balding Bay along the way too, which is even more secluded and is a favourite amongst the nudies, which is why we decided to skip it with the girls – we wouldn’t have looked anyway!

You can also hike into Radical Bay from the Forts, which is a much longer way to go. You can drive it if you have a 4WD – do not attempt it otherwise you will trash your car.

Radical Bay is one of our top beaches in Queensland, so don’t miss this off of your things to do on Magnetic Island list!

4. Take a boat trip around Magnetic Island

woman and girl sitting on front of boat

One of the best ways to experience Magnetic Island is from the outside looking in at the boulder-strewn headlands, hoop pines, sandy beaches, and fringing coral reefs. We joined a tour with Mick from Magnetic Seafarers tours.

We had a great day out and the girls loved it – well actually Savannah slept most of the time, which made it a lot more enjoyable for all of us as we could relax a little.

We stopped at Florence Bay for snorkelling with the batfish and much other big fish. We were impressed with how warm the water was! The only other way to get to this snorkelling beach is to walk in or by 4WD.

mountain next to the ocean
Florence Bay

We cruised around to Radical Bay where we anchored for morning tea. We then stopped for a bit of fishing, except there were no fish biting. So we moved to Huntingfield Beach for a BBQ lunch and a play. It’s one of the five beaches on the north side of Magnetic Island only accessible by boat.

people fishing on a boat
Trying to catch lunch
mountains next to the beach
Huntingfield Beach

Kalyra and I swam to shore for a bit of shell collecting and after lunch, all the adults had a go at jumping off the roof into the water. Kalrya was our biggest cheerleader and we became just that little bit cooler as parents in her eyes!

people swimming in the beach

We then cruised back home via the western part of the island which is vastly different from the other rocky side. This one is more mangrove and sharky! We trawled the whole way home but the fisherman didn’t pull anything in.

It was a really fun day out. Michael was great – full of interesting stories and grew up on Maggie so had lots of local knowledge to share.

5. Feed the rock wallabies

girls feeding arock wallabies on the sand

You can walk around to the rocks at Geoffrey Bay during dusk to feed the many rock wallabies that come bounding down for a nibble on carrots and sweet potato. You can buy a bag of feed from the newsagents next to Arcadia Pub.

rock wallaby eating food

6. Walk from Picnic Bay to Hawkings Point’s Lookout

overview of the trees next to the beach

Another great walk is the easy 1.2 km walk from the end of Picnic Bay up to the top of some large granite boulders which are known as the Hawking’s Point Lookout.

The lookout rewards you with views over the island to Nelly and Geoffrey bays, and back towards Townsville.

Be sure to take a walk along the jetty in Picnic Bay to see some great views of the island behind you.

7. Walk from Nelly Bay to Arcadia

aerial view of coastline with cottages on the edge
Nelly Bay | Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland/Khy Orchard

One of the only times we ventured out of the Peppers Resort was to walk along the cliff boardwalk from Nelly Bay to Arcadia (5km one way). It’s an easy walk with lovely views.

A great idea would be to walk there for the rock wallaby feeding and then have dinner at Arcadia Pub. Try to time it for Wednesday night when the toad racing is on.

8. Sunset at Horseshoe Bay

sunset at Horseshoe Bay

If you don’t have a 4WD to get to West Point for the sunset, then Horseshoe Bay is the next prettiest spot. Grab some fish and chips from the takeaway shop, and pull up a palm tree.

9. Spend the day at Alma Bay

A sandy beach next to piles of rocks

The favourite of the beaches for us as a family. There’s a playground here and the beach was really pretty. It’s quite protected and has shallow water for the kids to swim in.

10. Bush breakfast with Koalas

A close up of a koala

Breakfast that starts with champagne is always a winner. And the kids loved cooking their toast over an open fire.

The Aussie bush breakfast is held in the small wildlife park beside the main hostel area. It’s a cooked buffet breakfast and the koala sits happily munching his brekkie beside you in a small tree.

While you’re having breakfast the rangers bring around lots of wild animals you can hold – snakes, water dragons, lizards, birds, and koalas.

11. Do Nothing, Just Chill

We’d just returned from a beautiful walk to Radical Bay. It was a short thirty-minute hike over the hill from Horseshoe Bay.

Along the way, we saw a small olive snake and we’d worked up a bit of a sweat that made us appreciate the shade of the huge tree overhanging the beach. The girls built sand castles and squealed as the waves chased them in and out of the water. We sat and watched the world go by.

We returned to Horseshoe for sunset with a few hours to spare. There was nothing else to do but sit.

Sunset on Magnetic Island with a silhouette of a palm tree

The discomfort of doing nothing was overwhelming. So I got up and moved to the palm tree leaning over to kiss the sand. I moulded into the tree and lay there for the next hour doing nothing. Maggie time grabbed me. This is how I used to do it – before kids made rushing the norm.

I’d slip into a hammock for hours enjoying the gentle swinging with a  good book and a softly setting sun. One of my favourite activities had become a long-lost friend. There’s no space for swinging when you’re a parent.

hammocks in trees

I was lucky enough to have stolen this hour on the tree. The kids had found a friend and because I had no other distractions I could just slip into space and be there.

If you can stay long enough on Magnetic Island you’ll soon find yourself shifting into that zone of nothingness filled with beingness.

We soon discovered the joy of simple things.

12. Check out the Museum of Underwater Art

underwater sculpture of boy looking at shipwreck
art installations by sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor | Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Since Magnetic Island resides in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, snorkelling and diving tours are in no short supply.

However, if you’ve already seen the Barrier Reef and want to do some snorkelling, perhaps you’d be interested in seeing something a little more unique.

The Museum of Underwater Art is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s an underwaters museum of mesmerizing sculptures that reside underwater, and have been taken back by the ocean and provide a home for corals to thrive.

It’s the only underwater museum in Australia.

Its ‘Coral Greenhouse’ at John Brewer Reef has won the silver award at the Australian Street Art Award’s, in the Best Sculpture Park or Trail.

The pieces were created by Jason deCaires Taylor, and were built to inspire and educate about reef conservation. The statues have been purposely built to allow for coral to grow, and to help support reef restoration.

13. Visit Rocky Bay

road winding along coastline
Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland/

Magnetic Island is not short of small and hidden beaches, but if you want somewhere more secluded and quiet, this beach is for you.

It’s located on the south-eastern side of Magnetic Island between Picnic Bay and Base Backpackers.

To get to it, you need to walk down a rocky terrain to reach the beach.

Once you arrive, you’ll be blessed by a gorgeous, sheltered beach with light waves and rock pools at low-tide.

This is the perfect beach to bring a book to and to just sit and chill for a while.

Places to Eat on Magnetic Island

Eating out is a little expensive on Magnetic Island so be prepared. You know the deal, it’s an island. But here are a few places we really enjoyed.

Picnic Bay Hotel

a plate of food and a drink on a table

We came here for lunch and a cold beer – and got beautiful views and a nice pub lunch. The burgers are especially impressive.

Arcadia Hotel

salt & pepper squid
salt & pepper squid

Food is decently priced and typical pub grub with big and tasty servings – possibly the best salt & pepper squid we’ve ever had. Combine it with one of the live music or frog racing evenings. Oh, and there’s a swimming pool for those hot muggy days.

Noodies on the Beach (For Mexican Food)

bottle of beer on a table

We found this to be too overpriced for what you got. But, if you’re a Mexican fan, you’ll probably like it. The setting along the main drag of Horseshoe Bay is nice, and if you buy the right drink special you’ll get a sombrero!

Nourish Organic Cafe

Lovely coffees here, but a bloody long wait to get them.

They also do a decent breakfast. Kalyra said it was the best pancakes she’s ever had. It’s still not my idea of a true healthy cafe – milk doesn’t belong in nourishing smoothies unless it’s almond or coconut.

Thai Restaurant at Bungalow Bay Selina

bowls of food on a table

The Thai at the Selina (Formerly YHA Backpackers) is really good and quite cheap for Maggie.

The menu is not extensive but they do have pizza at the bar too if that is more your grub of choice.

pizza on a plate

Places to stay on Magnetic Island

Here are just a couple of places we recommend staying on Magnetic Island. We have stayed at each of these places and can vouch that they were great places to stay.

Bungalow Bay Selina, Formerly YHA Backpackers

If you’re looking for a place to rest on the cheap, or perhaps somewhere that base backpackers, then the Bungalow Bay Selina (formerly the YHA) is the place to be.

You get to stay in one of these cute little bungalows, while mingling with other travellers in their open-air communal areas.

It’s nestled in Horseshoe Bay, just a short walk from the beach. There’s also an outdoor deck bar serving food and drinks and an outdoor pool.

A-frame 6 bed bungalows

Read this post to see why this Selina Hostel is an awesome budget place to stay on Maggie.

Peppers Blue on Blue Resort

If you want more of a comfortable, lux apartment stay on the marina at Nelly Bay, Peppers Blue on Blue is for you.

We loved it and definitely suited our need to chill for a while and catch up on work. Again, stay with us as we’ll share more photos and notes about it in an upcoming post.

For more places to stay on Magnetic Island, click here and here for home rentals or scroll through the listing below

How to Get to Magnetic Island

Aerial view of car driving on road
| Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

To get to Magnetic Island, you will need to catch the Sealink ferry from Townsville’s Breakwater Ferry Terminal to Nelly Bay Terminal on Magnetic Island.

The ferry is a vehicle ferry, so you can rent your car in Townsville if you don’t have your own.

The ferry takes just 40 minutes and leaves several times a day, seven days a week.

More North Queensland Tips

Are you planning to visit other parts of North Queensland? Then you may like these other guides:

Do you think you could slip into Maggie Time? And if you’ve already been to Magnetic Island share any tips in the comments

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