A Guide to Magnetic Island, QLD, Australia

Magnetic Island is a barrier reef island off the coast of Townsville, Northern Queensland. I recommend spending 2-4 nights here. Magnetic Island is one of the great barrier reef islands.

Magnetic Island guide

About Magnetic Island & The History

Magnetic Island was named after Lt. James Cook called it Magnetical Island after thinking it was interfering with his compass and navigation system. Most of the beaches are just pockets of sand between the headlands.

Magnetic Island Conservation Project

Magnetic Island Wildlife Reflector Project was created to reduce the number of wallabies & possums killed on the island’s roads. Reflectors were installed along the roadside & they are activated by the headlights of approaching vehicles. It works by creating a light fence that causes the animal to freeze though the driver will not notice. Once the headlights have passed the reflectors, they become inactive again allowing the wildlife to cross the road safely.

Between the 1880s & 1930s, the koala population suffered significantly due to bushfires, disease, habitat loss & hunting for the fur trade. To protect their numbers, from the 1930s onwards, naturalists relocated many koalas to island sanctuaries including Magnetic Island. The Magnetic Island Koala population is now in the hundreds and is one of the largest, concentrated populations in North Queensland

Where to Stay on Magnetic Island


Bungalow Bay is a wonderful aspect of Magnetic Island as it is a campsite, hostel and private bungalows. They offer activities such as a koala park walk (as the sanctuary is on site), breakfast with koalas and walking tours. You can also hire the snorkel gear and equipment including stinger suits for the summer months to keep you safe whilst swimming. Bungalow Bay acquired Advanced Accreditation with the Australian Eco-Tourism Association in 2006 too so is eco-certified.

To camp at Bungalow Bay Koala Village, the cost is $16 per person for an unpowered site or $20 per person for a powered site. They have a maximum stay of 1 week.


·         Base Backpackers is in Nelly Bay

You can access Base by getting the bus from the ferry terminal and it will cost you $1.80. You need to get the bus heading to Picnic Bay NOT Horseshoe Bay.

Base Backpackers is not my preferred hostel company in Australia but this is a backpacker resort. There a 6-bed dorms in wooden teepee style huts. They have a kitchen and shared bathrooms which is standard for most hostels but it is in a slice of paradise. There is a pool overlooking the beach, hammocks and picnic benches and a deck area with bean bags. They also have a bar/restaurant called ‘The Island’ which serves breakfast, lunch & dinner of good quality for reasonable prices (though I would personally say breakfast is a little over-priced). It is a party hostel and the music is loud until midnight but the music wasn’t so bad, our roommates were in and out a lot though but that just depends on who you room with. You can also tent camp here if you prefer.

Base backpackers Magnetic Island sunset

What To Do & Activities

  • Hire a Car/Take Your Car
    • There are many hire car places that can give you a variety of different cars to hire but it can be expensive ($90-$120 per day). If you are going to hire a car, then I would recommend a 4×4 because some of the roads are only accessible to 4 wheel drives. Alternatively, if you take your own car onto the ferry, there are many free parking zones in each area.
  • The Forts Walk
    • This National Park is home to an old defense base ruins from World War 2 called ‘The Forts’. It is also the home to many wild koalas. So many, that you’re almost guaranteed to spot one every time you do this walk.
  • Horseshoe Bay Water Sports
    • Horseshoe Bay is home to one of the safe swimming zones (the other being Picnic Bay) which has a swimming net in the water to stop the jellyfish from getting in. It is also where most people choose to do water sports such as jet skiing, kayaking and tube riding.
  • Snorkelling
    • There are many beautiful spots across Magnetic Island to go snorkelling as it is one of the Barrier Reef Islands. The water is clear and you can see lots of fish and maybe even a reef shark or two! If you are travelling between November to March, you are advised to wear a stinger suit to protect yourself from the jellyfish and stingrays that may be in the area. Beaches have signs to warn you if there is a risk of stingers and there is often vinegar provided so you can avoid having to pee on yourself should you get stung!

The forts National Park Magnetic Island Koala joey

Magnetic Island is a truly beautiful slice of paradise that should be protected and looked after. If you visit, please ensure that you take care not to leave any rubbish, especially plastic. The waters of the Great Barrier Reef are home to sea turtles that can confuse plastic with jellyfish (their favourite food). It is estimated that only 1 in 300 sea turtles that hatch even live past their first hour so we don’t want to contribute to further death of these beautiful creatures.

|| Related: A Guide to Agnes Water & 1770, QLD, Australia ||


Post Author: bexcapades

Bookish person trying to get through this crazy thing called life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *