Magnetic Island or ‘Maggie Island’ as locals affectionately call it is one of the most visited national parks within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The golden beaches, coral reef, friendly wildlife and accommodation choices to suit any budget make this tropical island so enticing to visitors and locals.
The island is located eight kilometres off the coast of Townsville accessible by a short 25 minute ferry ride. The island gets its name from Captain James Cook who sailed pass the island commenting that it was affecting his compass- hence Magnetic Island.
Unlike many other islands within the Great Barrier Reef, Magnetic Island has a wide variety of accommodation options and services available to visitors to suit any budget. In fact, Magnetic Island is the only island to have it’s own postcode and 2500 residents call this tropical island home.
It is not hard to see why this island is popular with locals and tourists because of the 23 bays and beaches that the locals are more than happy to share with visitors. Nature lovers will enjoy the 24 km of walking tracks with amazing views of the island. You may also have the opportunity to get up and close with Koalas, wallabies, possums and many bird species in their natural habitat but please look and don’t touch. There is also something to offer for the history buffs with WWII artefacts, command posts and gun emplacements still intact on the island on the Forts Walk.
The four main bays within the island are: Nelly Bay, Picnic Bay, Geoffrey Bay and Horseshoe Bay.
Nelly Bay is your first port of call as all ferries and cruises depart from this point. You will be met with local buses to help you navigate the island or taxi, car and bike hire options if you did not bring the car over. Nelly Bay is good for swimming, sailing, and snorkelling and there are many hotels, resorts and services nearby.
This area is popular for water sports with kayaking, stand up paddling boarding, jet skis and more. For a unique way to explore the beach and the bush you might also consider the horseback rides that are on offer. There is also a safe swimming enclosure, children’s playground and BBQ facilities available for a beach picnic on a tropical island. There are many restaurants and café’s nearby to sit back relax and enjoy a glass of wine or beer overlooking the bay.
Picnic Bay is another area on the island that offers a relaxing swim or snorkel with abundant marine life visiting the area. It is not uncommon to see turtles in this area. Again, there are café and restaurant options available or you can catch your own with a spot of fishing the jetty. You will also find a 9-hole golf course in the middle of this tropical island.
Geoffrey bay is part of a snorkel trail stretching the length of the beach and is popular with divers also. Fishing is strictly off limits here but is a great spot for a relaxing swim or snorkel. The beaches are often frequented by rock wallabies at dusk looking for a feed and make for amazing photo opportunity.