Our Inspiration For Visiting Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island is absolutely worth a visit - we actually liked it so much that we have been twice already!
We decided to take a road trip down the Queensland Coast from Cairns to Brisbane and stop at a few sights along the way. We had found that Magnetic Island was home to one of Australia’s biggest wild koala populations. Being wildlife enthusiasts and wanting a chance to glimpse a koala in the wild, Magnetic Island was a must-visit for us! We ended up falling in love with the island and went back for another visit later!
Read More: East Coast Road Trip Sydney To Cairns Itinerary
How We Planned For The Trip
We booked around two weeks in advance for each visit.
Getting to the island must be done by ferry, there are two ferries: Sealink and Magnetic Island Ferries. The Sealink ferry is $30 per adult for a return trip. Magnetic Island Ferries’ is the same price, but has the option for passengers to bring their vehicle to the island for an additional fee.
Our first trip to the island was a weekend trip and we only stayed one night. It was $66 for the night at the Arcadia Beach Guest House, which was basically “glamping” - a bed and electricity in a tent.
Our second trip we stayed 14 nights at an Airbnb in Arcadia and the cost was $1,200 total, approximately $85/night for a 1-bedroom apartment.
The island is very small and has efficient public transit, so we did not rent a vehicle on either trip. We either walked or took their bus, which is just about $2.50 to get anywhere you need to go and stops at multiple trailheads! The bus has day pass options too!
Group Tour Vs Private Trip
We would recommend taking a private trip around Magnetic Island. Most of the attractions on Magnetic Island are beaches or bushwalks, which are best enjoyed at your own pace.
We thought that taking their bus was a reliable, easy, and inexpensive way to get around the island. You can bring your own vehicle to the island and they have several car rental options if you want even more flexibility.
What We Packed
We are carry-on only travelers and brought all of our belongings. For travelers heading to the island, I would recommend packing clothing and shoes suitable for bushwalking, sunscreen, swimwear/beachwear (with a stinger suit depending on the season), a hat, water bottle, a light jacket, and snorkel equipment if you have it!
On our first visit we spent the entire day on the “The Forts” route spotting koalas, followed by the Forts Junction trail stopping at Arthur Bay, Florence Bay, Radical Bay, and finally Horseshoe Bay. We took the bus back to Arcadia and ate at the Drop Bear Cafe. On our second day we woke at sunrise to spot the Rock Wallabies at Geoffrey Bay followed by the “Forts Junction - Nelly Bay - Arcadia” walk, ending our trip in Nelly Bay to catch the ferry back to Townsville.
Our second trip which was 2 weeks long was also done with no set itinerary and we had spent a lot more time relaxing. We completed every walking route mentioned on the National Park map, as well as explored areas that were off-map.
Our favorite activities on Magnetic island were feeding the rock-wallabies at Bremner Point, spotting koalas on “The Forts” trail, kayaking at Geoffrey Bay, and exploring the lookout over Alma Bay!
Meeting Other Travelers
We met many Magnetic Island visitors in passing. Most people were there on a short trip to immerse themselves in nature and expressed fondness for the island.
For us, our overall cost was about $1,600 for two weeks on the island.
To save on costs we could have booked further ahead of time and we could have stayed in cheaper accommodations. Budget travelers could consider camping on the island, walking or taking the bus around the island, and shopping at the local grocery store rather than eating out.
Magnetic Island Must-Do’s
The “Forts” hiking trail and “The Forts” themselves, which are an old military installation with an amazing view. The rock-wallabies are another adorable must-see! If you have the chance, the entire Northeastern part of the island between Nelly Bay and Horseshoe Bay is absolutely gorgeous and very accessible!
Our Favourite Memory
For us, probably kayaking in Geoffrey Bay. Our Airbnb host had a kayak for guests to use at the beach. It was a perfect sunny day and we kayaked over a fairly shallow reef, spotting multiple colorful reef fish and dozens of small reef sharks! Spotting Koalas at The Forts and visiting the rock-wallabies at sunrise comes in a close second for us though!
Suggestions For First-Timers
It is a very low-stress and fun destination to visit! Don’t plan too much for one day or get too dead-set on an itinerary. There are so many wonderful things to do on the island that you can enjoy at your own pace!
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