Magnetic Island is a common day trip option from Townsville, on the north Queensland coast in Australia. Located within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, visitors can be as active or relaxed as they like. Here’s how you should spend 24 hours on Magnetic Island.
The Early Bird is for early birds, as it’s the only cafe in Horseshoe Bay that’s open from 7 a.m. Owned and operated by an Italian couple, The Early Bird is known for its innovative and delicious drinks and dishes, which are predominantly made from organic and free range ingredients. Some of the menu highlights include ricotta and pear bruschetta, Hawaiian French toast, European brioche, and Florentine poached eggs with ‘avodaise.’ The Early Bird uses coffee beans from Coffee Dominion as well, which is a local Townsville company.
Hang in Horseshoe Bay
After breakfast at The Early Bird, spend the rest of the morning exploring Horseshoe Bay. Go swimming at the beach, which has lifeguards and a stinger net installed in the summertime. Alternatively, hire a jet ski, sea kayak, catamaran, or go on a tube ride. There are local companies waiting for you directly on the beach.
Over half of the island is protected as Magnetic Island National Park. There are 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) of walking trails on the island, which take you along the coast and through the national park. The most popular walking trail on Magnetic Island is the Forts Walk. The 90-minute return trip is the best place to see koalas, particularly in the morning. It’s also a historic journey, as you can still see gun emplacements, an observation tower, and a command post from WWII. The Forts Walk offers unbeatable views of the Coral Sea too. Another place to get up close to koalas is at Bungalow Bay Koala Village, which does daily interactive wildlife presentations and Breakfast with the Koalas.
After the morning in Horseshoe Bay, head over the hill to Arcadia. If you’re after traditional pub grub, head to Arcadia Village Hotel, which has daily specials and good-priced meals. Connected to the pub is Bikini Tree Cafe, which is known for its delicious wood-fired pizzas. The cafe and restaurant is open for lunch every day, and has a large outdoor undercover deck for a relaxed dining experience.
Behold the beautiful bays
After lunch, it’s all about deciding which bay to explore next. Firstly, the award-winning family owned and operated Aquascene Charters does morning and afternoon charters around the island, which allows you to snorkel and explore several bays. Geoffrey Bay is also known for its rock wallaby population and snorkel trail. You can purchase feed from the local service station.
Alma Bay is patrolled by lifeguards, and is the most popular swimming beach on Magnetic Island. Finally, if you bring your own 4WD vehicle to the island via the daily barge services, head down the rocky road to Radical Bay. Hire cars do not insure for this journey. Along the way you can stop at Florence Bay as well, which is just as beautiful. Magnetic Island may be small, but it’s home to 23 bays. How many will you see in 24 hours?
Enjoy Picnic Bay
Head over another hill to Picnic Bay for the evening. When it’s light, a great viewpoint is found at Hawkings Point Lookout. For excellent night photos of Townsville’s bright lights and dominating Castle Hill, visit the Rocky Point lookout off the side of the road, or walk to the end of the Picnic Bay Jetty.
Mamma Roma is another restaurant on Magnetic Island that’s owned by Italians. Hence you can expect to be served authentic Italian meals here. The menu includes starters, pasta dishes, wood-fired pizzas, and delectable Italian desserts. There’s a prosciutto platter, ravioli Mamma Roma that’s tossed with pesto and Napoli sauce, and traditional Napoli pizza. Mamma Roma also has live music most Friday nights, and a takeaway menu.
Located at Picnic Bay Hotel, R&R Restaurant is as well-known for its aquarium as it is for its food. Found at the restaurant’s entrance, the aquarium is the largest on the island, and is filled with Great Barrier Reef marine life species. The food menu features contemporary Australian cuisine, while the wine list focuses on the best local and Australian wines. Guests can dine al fresco with ocean views, or in air-conditioned comfort. R&R Restaurant also has a Sunday roast special, as well as schnitzel night on Wednesdays.