A true treasure lies hidden off the east coast of Australia, in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef: Magnetic Island. As the name suggests, this island is particularly “attractive” for visitors from all over the world. The island, which is only 51 km² in size, is a paradise for nature lovers, adventurers and those seeking peace and quiet. With stunning scenery, abundant wildlife and a relaxed atmosphere, Magnetic Island is a destination that should definitely be on your list for your next Australian holiday.

Why is Magnetic Island even called Magnetic Island?

Magnetic Island was discovered by British Captain James Cook in 1770 and was named because of the “magnetic” effect it had on his compass needle. When he sailed past the island with his ship “Endeavour”, his compass went crazy, which is why he suspected that the island was made of magnetic rock. At that time, native Australians, the Aborigines (Wulgurukaba or Nyawaygi), lived on the island, which they called “Yunbenun”.

Arrival to Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is located off the east coast of Australia and is easily accessible via a ferry from Townsville. The trip only takes around 20 minutes and can be booked directly through Sealink. If you arrive at the terminal by car, you can park your car directly in the parking lot in front of it (for $9 per day) - however, the “first come, first serve” principle applies here, so you should arrive in good time to get a parking space receive.

Nature and landscape of Magnetic Island

The landscape of Magnetic Island is as diverse as it is impressive. From pristine beaches to dense rainforests to dry eucalyptus forests, the island offers a variety of ecosystems. The most famous beach on the island is the 2,5 km long Alma Bay Beach, which is ideal for swimming and sunbathing.

For nature lovers, a visit to Magnetic Island National Park is a must. Here you can discover the local flora and fauna on numerous hiking trails, including wallabies, koalas and a variety of bird species.

Life on Magnetic Island

Around 2.000 residents live on Magnetic Island, spread across the island's 4 main villages: Picnic Bay, Nelly Bay, Arcadia Bay, Horseshoe Bay. With a mix of locals, expats and tourists, the island has a vibrant and diverse culture. There are a variety of restaurants, cafes and bars offering local specialties and international cuisine.

Hiking with koalas on Magnetic Island

There are many great hiking routes on Magnetic Island. The main hiking trails are in the eastern part of the island and if you have some time, you definitely shouldn't miss them. After a delicious breakfast in our hotel right on the harbor in Nelly Bay (Peppers Blue On Blue) we took the bus to Forts Junction.

Tip: It's best to take the day ticket straight away, then you can use all buses on the same day and travel back comfortably even after a long hike. From there, hiking route 1 begins to “The Forts”, a heritage-listed fortress built in 1943 to protect the island from Japanese invasion during World War II.

We then continued to Florence Bay, a beautiful bay that is best reached on foot. Here you can snorkel and just unwind. We continued our hike from Florence Bay to Horseshoe Bay via Radical Bay, which was also the most strenuous part of the hike and took about an hour in total.

Experience koalas in the wild

We had probably the most impressive moment on Magnetic Island on our hike to “The Fort”. On the approximately 2 kilometer long path through tropical eucalyptus forests you can (if you're lucky) observe free-living koalas. You have to look closely to spot the small, well-camouflaged tree dwellers, but we were lucky enough to spot a small, sweet koala.

Snorkeling and diving in the Great Barrier Reef

Adventure seekers will also get their money's worth on Magnetic Island. From snorkeling and diving in the Great Barrier Reef to kayaking and sailing, there is something for everyone here. The island is also a popular fishing destination, with ample opportunity to catch fresh seafood. On the map above you can immediately see which spots are best suited for snorkeling and where fishing is allowed (not everywhere!). The island's best snorkeling spots are Geoffrey Bay, Arthur Bay, Florence Bay and Nelly Bay.