Find the best things to do on Magnetic Island here!
Magnetic Island is truly one of Australia’s greatest islands. It is an island with amazing natural beauty, yet totally underrated.
In just 48 hours on Magnetic Island, you can experience some of Australia’s most stunning beaches, be awestruck by panoramic sea views, see newborn koalas in the wild, and feed rock wallabies with a surprise joey in the pouch.
That’s just 48 hours! With this guide, you’ll discover 7 amazing things to do on Magnetic Island, and find plenty more along the way.
Firstly, where is Magnetic Island?
Wow, this part of Australia has loads of amazing destinations for backpackers, I could spend months around here. If you are backpacking, be sure to check out this huge Australia backpacking guide and even consider hot air ballooning in Cairns for an awesome view of the area.
Just 30 minutes on a ferry means that Magnetic Island is easily accessible, yet far away enough to be secluded.
So what should you do with 2 to 3 days to spend on Magnetic Island?
Here are 7 amazing things to do on Magnetic Island!
1. Hike the Forts Route
The Forts Route is a 4km round trip hike which takes approximately 2 hours. This hike is the best place to spot Koalas in the wild and has the best viewpoint on the entire island.
While walking the trail keep an eye on the treetops and notice any movement in the leaves. Koalas are slow, docile creatures. They are not easy to spot but with a keen eye, you will come across a few.
On our hike, we were lucky enough to find three adult Koalas, one of which was carrying a newborn baby. Surely one of the most amazing things you can expect to see in Australia!
The last section of the Forts Route consists of a steep 800m rocky trail. Here you make your way past the old concrete Forts and artillery foundations used during World War 2.
The top of the Forts Route offers panoramic views over the island. Here you can see Horseshoe Bay to the west, Balding Bay and Radical Bay to the north, and Florence Bay to the east.
Whether you hike the Forts Route for sunrise, midday or sunset you are sure to have a fantastic view.
2. Morning Swim at Alma Bay
WARNING: Deadly Jelly Stingers in the water! You’ve probably seen these signs at beaches all over the island and for a good reason. The Box Jellyfish lives here, one of the world’s most deadly creatures. Typical Australia.
Fear no more, there is Alma Bay. Alma Bay is the safest place to swim as it is the rarest place to come across the Box Jellyfish. The lifeguard will still recommend you to swim with your stinger suit on, and that’s not a bad idea during the danger season.
Still scared of the water? Trying climbing the mountains either side of Alma Bay for a great view over the beach. This is one of my favorite views on the island, and once you will probably have all to yourself.
3. Snorkel the reef at Radical Bay
When you’re this close to the Great Barrier Reef you have to go snorkeling. At Florence Bay, the water is clear and generally calm. Radical Bay is also quite secluded and accessed only by hiking trail. There are two hiking options to get here:
- Hike 2.5km from the start of the Forts Route. This trail takes about 30 minutes one way.
- Hike 1.5km from Horseshoe Bay. The trail is small and at times steep as it winds its way up and over the mountain.
4. Watch Sunset at Horseshoe Bay
Horseshoe Bay offers one of the best sunset views I have found in northern Queensland. Take a late afternoon swim in the stinger nets and watch as the sun drops down over the long beach in front of you.
When it turns dark head across the road to the Marlin Bar for the cheapest beers on the island. At 5 dollars per schooner and daily dinner specials, you can’t go wrong here.
5. Sunbake Nude at Balding Bay
Want to hang free for the afternoon? Head down to the nudist beach at Balding Bay.
Balding Bay is reached only via a 1.3km trek from Horseshoe Bay which winds its way up an over the mountain. The trail is fairly small and in parts overgrown. The occasional marker will ensure you are on the right track.
Even as you come right down to the end of the trail, the beach is hidden behind a screen on long grass. The only way to see this beach is to hike right down to the water.
It is definitely worth it, but you will have to see for yourself.
6. Hire a Pink Barbie Car (Daihatsu Mira)
Hiring a ‘Barbie Car’ is one of those iconic things to do on Magnetic Island.
There is really only one main road which stretches less than 50% of the entire island’s perimeter. In fact, you can drive from the south to the north in about 10 minute’s total. Nevertheless, this little car makes getting around much easier than using the once-hourly bus system.
Barbie Cars are actually small Daihatsu Mira’s which come in both Pink and White variations. Cars are available through Topless and Isle Hire and start at AUD 88 per day.
Fuel is also super cheap. An entire day of driving cost us a grand total of AUD 6.25. That’s some serious fuel economy!
7. Feed the Rocky Wallabies at Geoffrey Bay
Want to meet some mini kangaroos? They’re actually called wallabies and Geoffrey Bay is full of them.
Head down to Geoffrey Bay just before sunset at around 5.30pm. A family of up to 65 rock wallabies will come hopping out looking for an early dinner and some attention.
Most people take a bag of grass pellets but what these rock wallabies really love is bird seed! Take a small bag of bird seed and you’ll find that feeding these wallabies is one of the most memorable things to do on Magnetic Island.
You might even be lucky enough to see some baby joey wallabies like I did!
8. Meet the Koalas at Bungalow Bay
If you failed at finding Koalas along the Forts Route then you still have another chance. The YHA Bungalow Bay Backpackers doubles up as a sanctuary for injured Koalas.
For $29 you can meet Koalas up close and in person. As a bonus, you’ll also get to see some huge snakes, wombats, blue tongue lizards and plenty more.
See Koalas in my 14 Stops on the Great Ocean Road
How to get to Magnetic Island
With so many things to do on Magnetic Island, you’re obviously wanting to know how to get there.
Getting to Magnetic Island from Townsville is fairly simple. Head down to the Sealink ferry terminal and get a round trip ticket for just $33. The ferry takes only 30min to cross the 8km stretch of water.
To be sure you don’t miss the boat get your Magnetic Island ferry times here:
Getting Around Magnetic Island
If you want to cover all of these things to do on Magnetic Island, then you need a way to get around!
The cheapest way to get around Magnetic Island is by public bus. With this you have the following 2 options:
- A one-way ticket costs $2.80 per person
- A day tripper ticket costs just $7 per person. Unlimited travel!
The choice between the two seems pretty obvious. However, the catch is that this single bus service runs only once hourly. Miss it and you’re better off walking, so plan well.
It is also possible to bring your car to Magnetic Island with the FantaSea ferry line. A ticket for a car costs $80 one way. Spaces are limited so be sure to check here for a car space.
Of course, the alternative to the bus is to pick up a Barbie Car as mentioned above. These small Daihatsu Mira’s cost $88 per day and seat up to 4 people. They are super-efficient on fuel but don’t double up as a campervan.
Accommodation on Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island offers a range of accommodation from private rentals through Airbnb to campsites around the island.
During my stay at Magnetic Island, I stayed at the Bungalow Bay YHA, just a 5-minute walk from Horseshoe Bay.
This was a great place to meet other backpackers and laze by the pool in a hammock.
Bungalow Bay offers shared dorm rooms, campsite and private bungalows. I’d definitely recommend the private bungalow with shared bathroom facilities. However don’t take my word for it, see it yourself below!
Another great option is Base Backpackers by Picnic Bay. This hostel also offers new private bungalows right by the water’s edge.
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What else did you love about Magnetic Island? Be sure to drop me a comment below.