Tropical oasis of Magnetic Island

By Erin Frick 19 December 2014
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When Captain James Cook sailed around this dry-tropical oasis in 1770, the erratic behaviour of his compass inspired the name

SINCE ITS DISCOVERY, ‘Maggie’ has been used as a quarantine station, military base and shipping centre, and was even mined for gold in 1886.

Today, 70 per cent of the island is preserved national parkland (5194ha) and visitors are invited to explore its 24km of walking tracks and 23 pristine beaches and bays.

Bushwalkers may encounter wildlife including koalas, brush-tail possums and echidnas while traversing the island’s eclectic landscapes.


Bushwalking: Maggie’s walking tracks trace through wooded bushland and lowland scrub to coral-speckled beaches and hoop pine forests. Scramble over granite boulders and enjoy sprawling vistas from a perch high above the wattles, eucalypts and bloodwoods. Tracks can be accessed all over the island and connect the main towns and smaller eastern bays. For geocaching enthusiasts, there are three troves to hunt for on Maggie.

Snorkelling: Surrounded by fringing coral reefs and formidable rock formations that brought five ships to their demise, Magnetic Island’s bays offer much to explore. Strap on a snorkel and discover the wrecks and wildlife along Maggie’s two snorkel trails.

Watersports: Take a dip in one of Maggie’s three patrolled swimming beaches (at Horseshoe, Alma and Picnic bays) or splash around the island’s creeks and gullies during the Wet. Try paddling around the island with Magnetic Island Sea Kayaks, which hires kayaks and leads morning and sunset tours. For those who wish to venture further from shore, sailing, fishing and sightseeing charters are available.

Birdwatching: Magnetic Island hosts 186 native bird species as well as a number of migratory populations. Keep your eyes peeled for rainbow lorikeets, bush stone curlews, black cockatoos and kookaburras.

The essentials

Location: Magnetic Island is located 25 minutes off the coast of Townsville, a four-hour drive south of Cairns or a three-and-a-half hour drive north of the Whitsundays. It is easily accessed by ferry from either the SeaLink or FantaSea terminals in Townsville.

Accommodation: Maggie offers a variety of accommodation types from backpacker hostels and budget hotels to luxury resorts.

Food/drink: Restaurants, cafes and grocery stores are located throughout the island’s main villages of Picnic Bay, Nelly Bay, Arcadia and Horseshoe Bay.

Insider tip: The old ferry ramp, a short walk off Marine Parade in Arcadia, is a prime spot for up-close encounters with wild rock wallabies.

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