We have heard so many different things about Magnetic Island that we decided to check it ourselves.
Magnetic Island is situated only 7 km offshore from Townsville Harbour. There are two types of ferries: passenger and car. We wanted to explore the island properly so decided to take our car.
The car ferry with Fantasea company is pretty expensive. Presently it costs just above $200 for a standard car return ticket, and Magnetic Island residents pay only $60 less. Also, there is an option to purchase a multi-pass for ten trips (passenger only).
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Transfer to Magnetic Island with Fantasea Ferry
The transfer took us only 40 minutes, and during the trip, we experienced a great view from disappearing Townsville with its Castle Hill and Cape Cleveland Peninsula.
During the trip, we spoke to a lady who lives on Magnetic Island, and she said that the ferry prices are so expensive to limit the number of tourists visiting the island. After all, most of the island is covered by Magnetic Island National Park, and they want it to remain in its unspoiled condition.
There are many ways to get around Magnetic Island. The cheapest way is to take a passenger ferry and move around the island using a public bus that runs between 6 am and 10 pm. Also, there is an option to hire a car, bike, go on an organised tour or simply get a taxi.
There are five main settlements on Magnetic Island (starting from the biggest): Nelly Bay, Picnic Bay, Alma Bay, Horseshoe Bay, and remote small West Point.
Nelly Bay is a well-organised tourist village with easy access to bus transfers, taxis, hire vehicles, or guided tours. If you want to do your last shopping before exploring the island, Nelly Bay is the place to do it.
We arrived at Nelly Bay, and the first thing we drove up to West Point – the farthest place on the western part of the island where the road ends.
We passed picturesque Picnic Bay with a nice small jetty to go fishing. However, this time, we only went for a walk to Hawkins Point Lookout to see a nice view of Nelly Bay on the north, Rocky Bay on the west-south and Townsville on the south.
Hawkings Point is a funny, rectangular shape peninsula with a three-way view of the surrounding landscape.
Saying hello to March flies
On the way to Hawkings Point, we realised that we have some ugly company flying around us – March Flies. If you read our post from Kearneys Falls, you know already they are annoying.
These flies are nasty as they bite and suck the blood. Also, it is difficult to get rid of them. They are big and slow, so it is pretty easy to smack them and kill, but this action only attracts more flies to come. So, we got to the lookout, quickly looking around not to be bitten.
After that, we decided not to go for other tracks, because as we realised later, March flies were on the island for two weeks already, which was very unusual. They usually come up after rain and disappear after 2-3 days. This time we were not lucky.
After Picnic Bay, the road changed to dirt, but it was drivable with no worries. West Point is very isolated from the rest of the island, and there were only a few houses as we were driving past.
At the end of West Point, there is a small village with 20 houses and a lovely West Point Beach.
We drove around and stopped there to have some rest and take photos. As there was no road past West Point, we went back to Nelly Bay for lunch.
I heard that you could do excellent snorkelling at the Magnetic Island Reef, so we drove to the northeast part of the island after lunch.
The road was in pretty bad condition with big holes in asphalt, so driving was tricky.
Arthur Bay happened to be a beautiful, secluded beach surrounded by little hills on the left and right sides.
There is lovely accommodation at The Beach House next to the beach at Arthur Bay. We spent some time on the beach and drove north to Florence Bay.
Florence Bay – snorkelling that I barely survived
Florence Bay was very similar to Arthur Bay, with a nice, white beach and hills around.
The bay water was not very clear, and there was a slight current in the sea, but I bravely decided to go snorkelling.
Before I entered the water, we saw a young man coming out, and he looked pretty exhausted. I thought maybe he was swimming for a long time.
Nothing more wrong. The tide was outgoing, so it was effortless when I went to the water. I snorkelled for a while, but the water was too rough to see anything, so I decided to swim back.
I was only 40 meters from the shore, but when I wanted to swim back, I realised that even though I had put in a lot of effort and power, I did not move much.
I started to panic.
I was already tired, and I could not move closer to the shore as the tide pushed me back. I even waved to Marius and Nell that were playing on the beach. Sadly for me, they waved back, not knowing I was in big trouble.
I realised – I have to calm down.
I started swimming gradually, saving my energy and finally, after 10 minutes I reached the beach completely exhausted and scared that I almost lost my life.
When I finally felt the sand under my feet, my muscles gave up, and I just collapsed from exhaustion.
Don’t snorkel when water is rough, and visibility is not clear. Ensure the tide is incoming, so it is easy to swim back. Always have a snorkelling partner with you.
After my minor incident, I decided it is enough snorkelling for one day so we drove further.
We drove up to Radical Bay which was the end of the road, and we knew there were excellent walking tracks. Unfortunately, there were so many March flies discouraging us from going out.
Bungalow Bay Koala Village
It was getting late, so we decided to arrive at our accommodation in Bungalow Bay Koala Village. They claim to be the only Australian resort with a wildlife park on-site.
Indeed it is beautiful there. The resort has a swimming pool, wildlife tours, and walking tracks.
They offer various accommodation, including camping, but we wanted to try something different and stayed in one of their small bungalows. The bungalow had three beds and a fridge. It was a little triangle house and was enough for us, and we enjoyed it.
Horseshoe Bay is the widest bay on Magnetic Island. They have stingers net for swimming, playground, park and a few shops and restaurants. It is a very picturesque place, and we were regretful we did not have a boat to explore more around the island.
Breakfast with Koalas
In the morning, we had breakfast with Koalas. We were welcomed with a glass of champagne. Everything was organised very well and lots of food to eat.
Koalas and wombats were sleeping in the nearby enclosures, and we could see them all the time. Even we could prepare our bread in the fireplace. After breakfast, whoever wanted could have a picture with Matylda – a seven-month-old Koala girl.
Also, we could take a picture of ourselves or stroke a crocodile, python, or koala bear. Australian country songs were heard in the background, and there was a fire in the air.
It was a fantastic start to the day. We wanted to make Nell happy and take a picture of her holding a teddy bear, but unfortunately, she is still too small and cannot carry it.
Koalas have large and sharp claws to hold on by themselves if not supported, but it is painful. So I ended up with a koala photo,
held by a guardian.
After breakfast with Koalas, we packed and drove to Alma Bay. It is a small narrow bay popular with swimming and snorkelling. The bay is patrolled with Lifeguards year-round, making this beach the safest swimming area on the island.
You have to remember that during the wet season, stingers are often coming, and it is a real risk to swim without protection unless you have a lycra suit.
Geoffrey Bay Snorkel Trail
The main attraction of Alma Bay is Geoffrey Bay Snorkel Trail. It starts 390 meters from the beach next to Hotel Arcadia.
This trail is an in-water route where you can admire the fringing reef. There are connected surface floats that allow snorkelers to have a rest. Also, at the bottom, you can find subsurface floats marketed in letters.
Geoffrey Bay Snorkel Trail is an easy way of exploring the reef without going to sea. However, this time, I decided to give it a pass as I had snorkelled enough after my Florence Bay attempt.
Finally, in the early afternoon, we arrived at Nelly Bay and took the ferry back to Townsville. It was great to see Townsville from a distance again.
Magnetic Island summary
Overall, Magnetic Island was a great experience. Life on the island is very isolated, but the area is beautiful. Magnetic Island National Park looked very wild and unexplored as it did not have any inland walking tracks.
The highest peak of the island, Mount Cook, does not have any walking track. It would be so good to walk to the mountain and see the 360 degrees view, but we cannot have everything.
If you are around Townsville, make sure to pay a visit to this beautiful, and I think, still an unspoiled island. It is worth it!