Top 13 Things to Do on Magnetic Island, Australia

Rent a topless car on Magnetic Island
Rent a topless car on Magnetic Island | © Hayley Simpson
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer31 May 2018

Magnetic Island may be small (11 kilometres in length at its widest point), but it has a big list of attractions. With the Great Barrier Reef on its doorstep, and Magnetic Island National Park as its backyard, it’s the most adventurous and idyllic day trip option from Townsville. Here are the best things to do on Magnetic Island.

Go for a walk

There are nearly 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) of walking tracks on Magnetic Island, which take you across bays and through Magnetic Island National Park. The most popular bush walking track is the Forts Walk, which takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete. It’s home to intact WWII forts, gun emplacements, and panoramic views of the Coral Sea. In Picnic Bay, two scenic but short hikes are to Rocky Bay and Hawkings Point. Another option is to head into the national park via Nelly Bay to Arcadia walk, which is a six-kilometre (3.7-mile) track that takes you past Endeavour Falls as well.

Spotted on the Forts Walk | © Manuel / Flickr

Horse ride from bush to beach

Horseshoe Bay Ranch has been providing unforgettable horse riding experiences on Magnetic Island for over 30 years. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or advanced rider, as the team give basic riding instructions before the fun begins, and there are always experienced guides on hand to assist. Riders travel through the native bush to Horseshoe Bay beach, where they go bareback into the water on their horse. Horseshoe Bay Ranch does both morning and afternoon tours daily.

Snorkel the reef

Make the most of Magnetic Island’s location in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. There are snorkel trails you can follow at both Nelly Bay (near Base Backpackers) and Geoffrey Bay. Follow the white surface floats, which outline the trail and offer a place for people to rest while snorkelling. The Nelly Bay trail is close to the shore, so is a great option for beginners. The Geoffrey Bay snorkel trail is further offshore, but you will spot more fish around the Moltke shipwreck. Alternatively, there’s fringing reef located in Florence and Arthur Bays.

Surface floats ready and waiting at Florence Bay | © Hayley Simpson

Spot a koala

Magnetic Island is home to the most koalas in northern Australia. It’s estimated that about 800 koalas live on the island. You can get a souvenir photo holding a koala at Bungalow Bay Koala Village, but the Forts Walk is known as the best place to spot koalas on Magnetic Island. You’re more likely to see koalas in the early morning or late afternoon.

Family time | © Hayley Simpson

Be Surprised at Stage Door Theatre Restaurant

Map View
Magnetic Island really has it all. Stage Door is North Queensland’s number one theatre restaurant. Starring Bernadette Smith and Kevin Wright, the duo perform different shows every few months. In 2018, shows include Dancing Queen and Diva Las Vegas. The performances feature singing, comedy, dazzling costumes, and ‘tongue-in-cheek impersonations’. Tickets include a three-course meal and access to a fully-stocked bar. Don’t miss The Greatest Little Show on Earth when on Magnetic Island.

Enjoy water sports at Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay is where you’ll find various local companies focused on water sports hire. Horseshoe Bay Water Sports offers tube rides, which are very popular with visitors. Hire a kayak from Magnetic Island Sea Kayaks, or a jet ski from Jet Ski Hire Magnetic Island. No licence or experience is required to hire their jet skis, but safety and operating instructions are provided by the friendly staff. They also offer GoPro hire, so you never forget your Magnetic Island jet ski experience. Finally, fishing from the beach at Horseshoe Bay is permitted, as it’s a GBRMPA Recreational Fishing zone.

Horseshoe Bay | © Hayley Simpson

Play golf at Picnic Bay

Magnetic Island Country Club is the island’s only golf course, and is backdropped by the rugged boulder-strewn hills of Magnetic Island National Park. Visitors can hire clubs and carts at the club, and there’s night golf available at the nine-hole golf course as well. A lot of animals call the course home, including koalas, kangaroos, and native birdlife.

Other Australian animal interactions

Besides spotting koalas, you can also hand feed wallabies and rainbow lorikeets on Magnetic Island as well. There’s a large rock wallaby population that live among the rocks at Geoffrey Bay. You can purchase food to feed them at the local service station, but they will happily nibble on fruit and vegetables, too (specifically carrots and apples). This is also where you can feed bread to a lot of fish, which call the Moltke shipwreck home. Bungalow Bay Koala Village also hosts a rainbow lorikeet feeding daily at 4:15pm. It’s open to the public, so you don’t have to be staying at the resort to take part.

Colourful rainbow lorikeets | © Stuart Seeger / Flickr

Go topless

Magnetic Island is the only place in Australia where you can rent these cute convertible cars. Nicknamed Barbie cars due to their resemblance to Barbie’s convertible, the topless vehicles can be hired from Tropical Topless Car Rentals. The company also hires mini mokes, which used to be the island’s iconic car before it went topless. Both vehicles can fit four people.

Rent a topless car on Magnetic Island | © Hayley Simpson

Dive time

There are two companies offering diving experiences on Magnetic Island. Pleasure Divers has been operating on the island for over 20 years. They offer snorkelling, scuba diving, and boat tours; as well as beginner to advanced diving courses. You can also hire both scuba and snorkelling gear from Pleasure Divers in Arcadia. Another option is to do a Great Barrier Reef or SS Yongala Wreck day trip with Adrenalin Dive. The SS Yongala Wreck is considered one of the world’s best dive sites.

Bay hop

Magnetic Island is home to 23 beautiful bays. Horseshoe Bay, Alma Bay/Arcadia, Nelly Bay, and Picnic Bay are the main residential bays. In summer, there are stinger nets installed at the beaches at Horseshoe, Alma, and Picnic Bays. Radical and Florence Bays are accessible by foot or four-wheel drive, and are quieter options. Balding Bay is unofficially known as Magnetic Island’s naturist option. Another four-wheel drive option is West Point, which is known for its sunsets. How many bays will you visit on Magnetic Island?

Just one of Magnetic Island's 23 bays | © Hayley Simpson

Dine at one of the island’s top restaurants

Magnetic Island has plenty of cafes, restaurants, and pubs spread across its bays. In Horseshoe Bay, Early Bird is the best option for breakfast and lunch, while Noodie’s is home to the island’s best Mexican fare. Over the hill in Arcadia, Bikini Tree Cafe offers wood-fired pizzas and is connected to the Arcadia Village Hotel, which has daily food specials. Boardwalk Restaurant & Bar at Peppers Blue on Blue is one of the island’s finest dining options. Then in Picnic Bay, choose between Italian at Mamma Roma, or traditional pub grub at R&R Restaurant.

Do a boat tour

Circumnavigate Magnetic Island on a boat or sailing tour. Aquascene Charters is an award-winning business run by a family who have lived on the island for over 35 years. Their Discovery Tour includes snorkelling, swimming, fishing, and exploring the island’s many secluded bays and beaches. Big Mama Sailing does half and full-day tours of the island, which includes access to their boom net, snorkels, paddleboards, and kayaks. Finally, Pilgrim Sailing offers sunset and lunchtime cruises, where you can relax on their floating inflatable mat.

Swim in secluded bays like this on a charter | © Hayley Simpson

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