Magnetic Island was aptly named in 1770 by Captain Cook when he believed the compass on his ship was being affected by the land mass. Tests later on proved Cook wrong. The granite headlands and bays of coral and granite sand are non-magnetic and people have since explored the general area of Magnetic Island with various instruments to discover what might have caused the effect that Cook reported, but nothing has been discovered. The name Magnetic Island remains, with locals often referring to it as (Maggie Island) and travellers continue to come as they love to visit and explore this captivating island.
Townsville has a population of just over 172,000 and Magnetic Island has a population of just 2,500. Although it is actually a suburb of Townsville, the island has long become an established holiday destination and is a great escape for the weekend or short trips for many Townsville people as it is located just 8 kms offshore and easily accessible by a 20-25 minute ferry ride. Sealink – the passenger ferry makes up to 14 return trips daily and Fantasea – the car ferry up to 6 return trips daily all arriving at Nelly Bay. The public facilities and infrastructure on the island are managed by the Townsville City Council.
Magnetic Island has a tropical climate with a wet season that lasts approx. 3 or sometimes even 4 months and a dry season for the rest of the year. The high humidity, especially during summer months, can be very tiring for visitors who are unaccustomed to the tropics. Dress code on Magnetic Island is very casual. Cool and lightweight clothing is all you need, a hat and sunscreen if you are outside during the day with the extra sweater or jacket required during the cooler months or evenings. Magnetic Island proudly boasts over 300+ sunny days a year. With warm sunny days, and only slight maximum temperature variations throughout the year, it is swimming season all year round. Always popular during Australia’s winter months it is a favourite destination for all holiday makers with very pleasant weather. The yearly average maximum temperature is 28c and the minimum is 19c.
National Park and Wildlife
Two thirds of Magnetic Island is National Park with secluded but easily accessible bays and golden beaches. The Island is a haven for wildlife – koalas, rock-wallabies, kangaroos, echidnas, curlews, rainbow lorikeets, bluewing kookaburras, red tailed black cockatoos, turtles and dugongs are just a few of the 166 different species of wildlife to be found.
There are 24 kms of walking tracks with many spectacular lookouts. Walking tracks range from easy, short walks to longer tracks with a moderate level of difficulty to advanced walks with steep climbing involved. Wear sturdy shoes, a hat and sunscreen and always take drinking water with you on any walk. The hottest months are between mid November and March where the strength of the sun is quite dramatic, so it is recommended that morning walks are finished by 12 noon and afternoon walks don’t start until after 3.00pm.
There are 23 secluded beaches and bays to visit all unique in their own way and they don’t have to be shared with many other people unlike other beautiful beaches in the world.
The main beaches are easily accessible, but some of the other beaches can only be accessed by foot (steep walking trails) or boat. However once there the peace, privacy and seclusion is definitely worth it. List of beaches below in a clockwise direction, starting with Horseshoe Bay in the North:
1 Horseshoe Bay 2 Balding Bay 3 Radical Bay 4 Gowrie Bay 5 Florence Bay 6 Arthur Bay 7 Whitfield Cove
8 Alma Bay 9 Geoffrey Bay 10 Nelly Bay 11 Rocky Bay 12 Picnic Bay 13 Cockle Bay 14 Bolger Bay
15 Young Bay and West Point Beach 16 Rollingstone Bay 17 Huntingfield Bay 18 Five Beach Bay
19 Wilson Bay 20 Joyce Bay 21 Norris Bay 22 Maud Bay 23 Lovers Bay.
Magnetic Island has some of the most accessible coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The S.S.Yongala wreck is a great place to dive (if you are a certified Padi diver) as you will find abundant marine life including different kinds of rays, sharks, turtles, and a range of amazing colourful fish. It is classified as one of the top 5 wreck dives in the world and a ‘must see’ if you are visiting the Island. All diving and snorkelling equipment can be hired from Pleasure Divers in Arcadia.
Radical & Balding Bay
Turtle in Coral Sea
Marine Life in Coral Sea
The island isn’t based around a single resort like many of the islands within the Great Barrier Reef, instead it has four small towns, and is more quaint than modern, although slowly this is changing. Picnic Bay, Nelly Bay, Arcadia and Horseshoe Bay each come with their own beaches, shops and attractions. Where you live or stay on the island is just personal choice as they all offer something beautiful and unique. Also, nestled away on the most Westerly Point of the island ideally situated away from the mainstream population and only accessible by 4wd is West Point, home to approx 20 houses.
Picnic Bay was where the ferry used to arrive but in 2003 the Magnetic Harbour was built and the ferry operations to the Picnic Bay jetty ceased. The little town of Picnic Bay has a lovely wide mall with huge trees offering shade on a hot day. The Picnic Bay Hotel and small group of shops and café all look out onto the beach, jetty and across to Townsville. There is also a Golf Course, Heritage Museum and the Magnetic Island Police Station.
Nelly Bay is where the ferry arrives now and is considered the main business centre of the island. Bus and Taxis can be caught directly out the front of the ferry terminal and the two big resorts on the island Peppers – Blue on Blue and Grand Mecure – One Bright Point are both metres away, a welcoming relief for arriving guests on a hot day.
The Post Office Bank, Bakery, Gift Shops, Bottle Shop, Chemist, Restaurants, Cafes, IGA and Foodworks Supermarkets, are spread throughout this village as well as the Primary School Kindergarten, Veterinary, Health Care and numerous Accommodation places.
Is more residential focused with around 97% of the dwellings being Housing or Unit type dwellings. Arcadia is also home to the huge stretch named Geoffrey Bay and the lot smaller Alma Bay which is a popular beach for tourists as it has a lovely park and grassed area as well as being manned by Lifesavers.
The Arcadia Hotel and Bottleshop, Newsagent, Pizza Shop and Surf Clothing Shop are all located together just behind the bus stop and a little further down the road is the Arcadia Store, Petrol Station Gilligan’s Cafe and Poppy’s Greek restaurant. Arcadia is also home to Centaur Guest House a World War 2 house built in memory of the hospital ship Centaur and home to the famous Turnbull mansion which was built in the early 1900’s.
Horseshoe Bay is the largest bay on Magnetic Island and considered the tourist strip of the island. It is well known as being a popular destination for water lovers who enjoy sailing, jet skis, tube rides, swimming on horseback and much more. In 1972 the old Primary School was closed down and in 2006 a string of housing development behind the existing residential area to the southern part of the bay was constructed, making it a larger township. Horseshoe Bay offers a large selection of accommodation for all budgets.
There is one street that runs along opposite the beach with the majority of the shops being places to eat and drink as you sit across from the grassy park you can also enjoy the beautiful sea views. Besides the Marlin Bar Hotel, cafes, restaurants and fish and chip shop there is also a Foodworks, a Surf Clothing Store, Adrenalin Adventure Tours, a Doctor and a Real Estate Office. The rest of the street is full of Accommodation. The beach is manned by Lifesavers and has a stinger net in place for safe swimming during the ‘off season’. A small market runs every 2nd Sunday morning.
Getting around Magnetic Island is very easy and depending on your preferences there are different options you can choose. Bicycles can be rented if you would like to explore the island. Rental Cars, Mini Mokes, Topless Cars and Scooters are also available to hire. Taxis run 24 hours, 7 days a week. Buses run 7 days a week back and forth from Picnic Bay to Horseshoe Bay meeting all ferries and stopping at, or close by, to all shops and accommodation. Every day they start from 6.30am – 9.30pm, Friday and Saturday they go from 6.00am – 1.00am