Magnetic Island is an exceptionally unique part of Australia’s east coast, and is a not-to-be-missed opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts! The small island is under formal conservation as Magnetic Island National Park, which means that all the flora and fauna on the island is under protection. Additionally, the island lays within the boundaries of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which itself is listed as a World Heritage site! Double whammy!
Getting to Magnetic Island
As part of our Loka passes, our trains, buses, and ferries were booked ahead of time. You take the Queensland Rail into Townsville, a local bus to the ferry port, and the Sealink Ferry to Magnetic Island! Once you’re on the island, just ask someone at the port which local bus to hop on for transfer to your accommodation.
Before you leave the mainland, stock up on groceries and booze. Everything is more expensive on the island. Otherwise, the mojitos at the Island Bar are pretty rad.
Where to Stay
You have a ton of options for accommodation on the island. BASE hostel was an obvious choice for us, not only because we have the BASE Jump card, but also because it has the most popular bar on the island.
Apparently it used to be an aquarium, so the campus is spaciously spread out with stellar views of the ocean. It’s the perfect place to kick back and enjoy some island time. Be sure to visit our BFF Adam at the travel desk for kickass adventure ideas and sweet deals on bookings. Tell him Kim & MJ sent you.
Renting a 4x4
Absolutely, hands-down the best way to see Magnetic Island. Adam booked an Arcadia Beach Car Hire for us, and we were happy with the vehicle. It was an old standard transmission cruiser, but it got the job done. We rented it for just the two of us, but you can definitely split it among 4 people for a better deal and additional company.
The cars are heaps of fun. Topless is the way to go - it’s fun even just to drive around the island and enjoy the views from the road. You have the option to rent if for a few hours, 12-hours, or 24-hours. Definitely go for at least 12-hours so you can do all the activities. We opted for 24 hours literally just so we could drive out to West Point for sunset. Unbelievably worth it.
We started our day in the most northern part of the island at Nourish Cafe. Great iced coffee to get you going. Horseshoe Bay is the place to go if you’re interested in souvenirs and the classic tourist-ville main drag. Pretty beach too.
As part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the bays around Magnetic practically call your name. Hop in any of the bays around the northeast part of the island for some more secluded swimming, or check out the more southern spots like Geoffrey Bay for snorkeling*. But be sure to rent a stinger suit with your snorkeling gear, otherwise you risk a lethal sting from some of the world’s deadliest jellies. Not worth it. Take the sexy suit.
Koalas at The Forts
The iconic cuddly Koala of Australia roams freely around this National Park safe haven, and you can spot them anywhere along The Forts walk. Don’t make the mistake we did - a blazing hot midday walk is not a good choice. First of all, you won’t see any koalas because they’re smarter than you by avoiding the heat. Second of all, you’ll melt before you even get to the top. Take a hike in the morning or late afternoon when the koalas are more active. When you find one, stay a respectable distance away from them and do not feed them - they can be aggressive. You’re a visitor in their home, so don’t ruin their Eucalyptus high.
Feeding Rock Wallabies
For another, friendlier marsupial encounter, you have to go to Geoffrey Bay at sunset. Wild rock wallabies will emerge from their hiding places in exchange for a nibble on your snacks. It’s really important that you only feed them approved foods, otherwise they could get sick. We recommend carrots because they’re cheap, we already had them for our own snacking purposes, and it’s not sticky. The wallabies really like them, and chopping an entire carrot will give you a ton of little discs to share with the wallabies.
Nighttime on the Island
If you’re not afraid of the dark, take a midnight stroll to truly experience the wildlife. The island comes alive at night. Just take 5 minutes to listen to the bats swooping through the sky, or the possums wandering around the trees, or even the little unknowns rustling in the underbrush. It’s a truly amazing feeling to walk among the wild things in such magical place.
If you’re looking for a place to go for your midnight stroll, check out the Magnetic Island Bakery… it’s open 24/7 and the owner is an absolute sweetheart. He’ll hook you up with the best treats on the island.
*Ask Adam about the batfish, maybe he’ll clue you in.