When looking for a last-minute getaway before the Easter holidays, I stumbled across Magnetic Island. I first rolled my eyes at the expressions used such as ‘serene nirvana’ and ‘undiscovered oasis,’ but I understood where they were coming from the minute I stepped off the ferry.
Magnetic Island (or Maggie as the locals call it) is situated around 8km from Townsville with ferries leaving regularly throughout the day from 5.30am to 10.30pm. Currently, an adult return ticket costs $34 and is valid for 30 days.
Seeing as it’s only a 30-minute trip, you could certainly visit Maggie for a day, but I recommend stretching it to three full days at the minimum. Spring for a week if you’re keen to relax in between all the walking, snorkelling and eating you’ll do.
The off-the-beaten-track island has so much to offer, picturesque views to soak up, diverse marine life to discover, meandering hiking trails, world-class snorkelling and palm-fringed beaches. If that’s not enough, it’s also home to Northern Australia’s largest colony of wild koalas and averages 320 days of sunshine per year.
Here are a few reasons to head to Magnetic Island.
When we arrived on the island the bus driver welcomed us with a smile and dropped us off right outside our accommodation. And this was a great indication of how many lovely people we would meet during the week.
We stayed at Island Leisure Resort in Nelly Bay. We arrived a little earlier than the stated check-in time but luckily our room was all ready and it had everything we needed for our eight-night stay. A large, comfortable bed, a well-stocked kitchen, a private bathroom and a small outside seating area. The resort itself has a lovely, warm pool that was very quiet during the hours we spent in it, a small book swap, a kiosk selling ice creams and snacks, and laundry facilities.
Swimming and snorkelling
One thing that really drew me in was the promise of swimming in super warm water. The warmest water temperature around Maggie is in January with an average of around 28.8°C, dropping to around 22.4°C in July. In April, it was perfect – around 26°C most days and we spent many days exploring the local reefs, spotting turtles, stingrays and beautifully coloured fish.
Of course, with warm water comes the potential for a few dangerous animals. Stinger suits are recommended to be worn between November to April. We hired ours from Fish’n N Fuel’n along with snorkels, masks and fins for around $120 for two sets for the week. The gear was fantastic, and the service was even better.
If you want to swim with more peace of mind, stinger nets are set up at Picnic Bay and Horseshoe Bay. If you are venturing to remote beaches, it is also advisable to take vinegar with you to treat any possible stings.
Get a dose of history
The Forts Walk is one of the most popular tracks on Maggie and it’s easy to see why. Not only does the track lead you to an incredible piece of history – the ruins of forts operated during World War II – but the views along the way are breathtaking. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for snoozing koalas in the trees. I spotted four during the 4km walk.
Take a tour
On the water is one of the best ways to see the island, and Aquascene Charters offers small personalised tours full of stunning scenery, stories and special places. On our Magnetic Island Discovery Tour, we got to learn a lot about the island’s history, including some of the many shipwrecks that dot the coastline. Our first stop after circumnavigating the island was the breathtaking Balding Bay for a delicious and filling morning tea on the water.
The bay is a real hidden gem, only reachable by boat or a walking track starting from either Horseshoe or Radical Bay. It’s a Marine National Park Green Zone, which signifies no fishing or collecting and makes it a wonderful place to swim and discover some fantastic sea life.
We then stopped in two other spots covered in coral and teeming with fish to snorkel for around 45 minutes each time. One highlight of the tour was seeing a white-bellied sea eagle swoop down and pluck a sea snake straight from the ocean just in front of our boat!
Eat and drink
You can find cute little bars, restaurants, and cafes all along the two main bays, Horseshoe Bay and Nelly Bay. Saltwater restaurant was a real standout – the miso-glazed salmon was delicious, and the chocolate cheesecake topped the meal off perfectly. The ambience and service were great too and, like many restaurants on the island, it’s BYO.
You’ll find a lot of outstanding seafood on the island. Stuffed on Seafood (SOS) was mentioned to us multiple times and it did not disappoint. The restaurant, conveniently located close to the Nelly Bay ferry terminal, sells delicious fresh seafood, as well as traditional fish and chips.
Maggie left such an impression on me that I’ve already booked to go back next month. So, if you’re wondering, “Is Magnetic Island worth visiting?” The answer is yes!
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