An Essential Travel Guide To Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island, affectionately known as Maggie by the locals, is a perfect island paradise found only eight kilometres off the coast of Townsville in Tropical North Queensland.

With some of the most perfect weather conditions in Queensland, Magnetic Island boasts 320 days of sunshine every year, an abundance of wildlife around the island, dozens of tiny little bays and beaches, hiking trails to keep you busy at all times and some epic snorkelling opportunities.

To help you plan your adventure to this perfect little holiday destination, here’s our travel guide with everything you need to know about Magnetic Island.

radical bay

seashell graphic

Where is Magnetic Island?

Found just eight kilometres off the coast of Townsville in Tropical North Queensland, Magnetic Island follows the Australia Eastern Time Zone UTC +10.

magnetic island

Getting To Magnetic Island

The closest domestic airport to Magnetic Island is Townsville (TSV), on the mainland of Australia. From Townsville Airport it’s just a short 10 kilometre drive to the Breakwater Ferry Terminal, where you can jump on the SeaLink ferry to Maggie. You can get to the ferry terminal either by taxi (approx. $22 AUD for the trip) or there is a shuttle bus that runs between the airport, the ferry terminal and most major hotels in Townsville which is around $10 AUD per person or $15 AUD for a couple when you book in advance (check out Townsville Shuttle Services).

From Breakwater Ferry Terminal, SeaLink QLD offers a regular ferry service between Townsville and Magnetic Island. The ferry takes about 25 minutes and costs $33 AUD per adult for a return trip. Return trips are valid for 30 days from the day you buy your ticket and do not need to be booked in advance. You can park your car at the ferry terminal for just $7.50 AUD per 24 hours.

If you arrive after hours you can pay for your car park on the ferry – just make sure you know the licence plate number! Check out the ferry timetable HERE. You are able to take your car over to Maggie if you would live via Fantasea Ferry Service – you can find out more HERE.

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rock wallaby

Climate in Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is sitting on the fringe of Tropical North Queensland, so it does begin to get a little more humid and tropical weather. The weather is generally sunny and warm most days of the year (there is literally 320 days of sunshine every year here), with little stormy or rainy weather, and a yearly average temperature of 29°C.

Road Trip Break: Relaxing at Mission Beach

Getting Around Magnetic Island

There are a couple of different ways to get around Magnetic Island. The cheapest is by public bus, which runs daily around the island between 6am and 10pm. Buses will meet each ferry to take you around to your accommodation. It cost us just $2.50AUD to travel by bus from the ferry terminal to our accommodation in Horseshoe Bay on the other side of the island. Bus fare prices may differ depending on your journey.

The other options include bicycle (if you’re prepared for an intense incline ride) or renting a car. Rather than a normal car though, I would definitely suggest renting either a Topless Barbie Car or an Open Top Suzuki 4WD! Both offering the ultimate island vibes, these cars have no tops or sides and are super cute to get around in.

While they might be a lot more fun, the Topless Barbie Car are unfortunately only allowed to go on sealed roads and are not permitted to drive on the bumpy pot-hole filled roads down to the beaches. If you’re planning to spend a lot of time at the beach consider the Suzuki 4wd instead – still topless, cute and little but able to get to all those hard to reach places! Barbie Cars and Topless Suzuki’s are available to rent from both Isle Hire (call 0417 649 869) and Tropical Topless.

beach buggy magnetic island

Currency in Australia

There are ATMs in the main towns on the island, but the majority of hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops, tour companies, etc, will accept credit and debit card. (Except the bus – make sure you have cash if you are planning to jump on the bus!).

Internet Access in Magnetic Island

Free wifi is often hard to come by in Australia. Most hotels and accommodation will offer free wifi in public spaces but do not cover the rooms (even if you want to pay). Make sure you load up on maps and information when you find some wifi – or alternatively, purchase an Australian sim card for access to 4G internet.

Many BYO plans (where you use your own phone) offer generous data limits for prepaid customers, which gives you internet wherever you are!

Explore all of the experiences you can have on Magnetic Island

magentic island

The Main Towns of Magnetic Island

Arcadia, Horseshoe Bay, Nelly Bay, Picnic Bay and Florence Bay. Everything is within close driving distance (less than 10-15 minutes from one side of the island to the other), so it doesn’t really matter where you chose your accommodation.

Nelly Bay is where you can find the biggest town which includes the ferry terminal, an IGA, pharmacy, major hotels, car rental companies and even an aquarium.

Check out the best places to stay on Magnetic Island

Best Time To Go to Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is truly a year round destination – with mostly warm sunny days and very little rain throughout the year. However, it is on the fringe of Tropical North Queensland, which means the winter months are technically the dry season, with the summer months being more susceptible to wet weather. The average temperature year round though is between 27 – 29°C. To dodge the crowds try to avoid Australian school holidays year round.

arthur bay lookout

Can’t Miss Experiences in Magnetic Island

  • Drive a lap around the whole island in a topless Barbie Car or 4WD Suzuki.
  • Check out all the little beaches, bays and hideaways.
  • Jump on the Maggie Discovery Tour with Aquascene for the complete Magnetic Island experience.
  • Watch the sunset at Horseshoe Bay.
  • Hike to Hawkings Point.
  • Visit the Rock Wallabies in Geoffrey Bay.
  • Snorkel the Nelly Bay & Geoffrey Bay self-guided snorkel trails of the island’s fringing reefs in Arthur and Florence Bay.
  • Cuddle a koala and get up close and personal to countless turtles, lizards, crocodiles and birds at Bungalow Bay Koala Village.
  • Take The Forts Walk to see koalas in the wild, World War II Ruins, and epic views of the Coral Sea, Cape Cleveland and Palm Island.


Top 10 Things To Do On Magnetic Island

magnetic island wildlife sanctuary

Good to know about Magnetic Island

As of 2020 you can no longer drive down Radical Bay Road or out to West Point due to the terrible road conditions. Hire cars are no longer allowed there, and if you’re travelling with your own car just be very careful, because it is VERY difficult.

Read more about our adventures through Queensland

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Happy travels,

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Emma is a travel writer, photographer and blogger, chasing the sun around Australia. Travelling in her recently renovated vintage Viscount caravan, along with her husband Thom and daughter Macey, she's sharing the very best experiences from around her beloved sunburnt country.

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