The thrill of the chill: Best Things to do on Magnetic Island

It took me a couple of days to adjust to Magnetic Island, or should I just say Maggie.

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.

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 and that’s why after a couple of days she really grew on me.

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, Queensland, Australia

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.

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.

hammocks in trees

We soon discovered the joy of simple things.

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.

Let’s look at some of the cool things to do on Magnetic Island

1. Zip around Magnetic Island in a mini moke

A car 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!

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 is a few of you to share the costs.

Cost: $69 day hire

2. The Forts walk

A person sitting on a rock near the ocean

This fantastic 4km return walk takes you to the historic WWII fortifications and infrastructure, ending with stellar 360-degree views to 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 on Magnetic Island - Queensland, Australia

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.

4. Take a boat trip around Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia

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 Seafaries 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 bat fish and many 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 to 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 animals 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.

animal eating food

6. Walk from Picnic Bay to Hawkings Point

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 a large boulder, rewarding you with views over the island to Nelly and Geoffrey bays and back towards Townsville.

7. Walk from Nelly Bay to Arcadia

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 take away 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 s 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.

Read more – Sleeping with koalas at Bungalow Bay

11. 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.

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 – Mexican

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 Horeshoe 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 its almond or coconut. And ice-cream is a definite no. I can get a bit pedantic with bandwagon labels.

Thai restaurant at Bungalow Bay

bowls of food on a table

The Thai at the 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

Bungalow Bay YHA

A-frame 6 bed bungalows

Read this post to see why this YHA 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.

For more places to stay on Magnetic Island, click here. 

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

More posts on North Queensland

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

You may also like

You may also like

Scroll to Top