So if you haven’t heard of Magnetic Island, chances are you haven’t yet travelled the wonderful East Coast of Australia. Magnetic Island is situated at Townsville, around 4 hours south of Cairns, but above The Whitsundays. It is a must see spot along the east coast and can be done in a day, Or, the option I would suggest, is that you can experience the slow island pace over a long weekend!
The How’s and How Much’s
Getting to Maggie is easy, head over to the Sealink Breakwater terminal in Townsville (The Greyhound bus terminal is in the same place) and get one of the many, every 30min / hour time slot sea ferries across. I got the passenger ferry, but if you have your own car and want to take it across, this is a little bit more expensive and requires the car ferry instead, with less frequent times. The boat across takes around 25 minutes and if you can grab a seat along the back outdoors, or at the open top of the boat, it makes for the best views and suntanning opportunities. Plus, to get you further into the holiday mode, beers are available on the bottom deck! Canadian Club away people!
Return ferry (valid for up to 30 days return) $34.00 per person.
The what’s and where’s?
Getting around Maggie is pretty easy, you have buses that take you between the main areas and taxi options too. However, what I would suggest, if you don’t have your own vehicle, Is hiring one of the main 4×4’s, Barbie cars or motorbikes available to rent! But I will talk more on that later, for now let’s talk areas!
Once on Maggie you have a few options of places to stay. The four main areas of Magnetic Island are, Nelly Bay (where the ferry arrives and departs), Horseshoe Bay, Arcadia & Picnic Bay. There is another section of the Island: West Point, which I will talk about later, but, it’s not a place to stay, rather just visit if you can get there.
Nelly Bay is the first bit of the island you get to see! Make sure to take a picture with the signpost of distances between Maggie and other places like London, Washington, Wellington and others! The Sealink ferry arrives in Nelly Bay, here you have the main IGA food store, two car hire businesses and the main resort, Peppers.
Barbie Cars and Road Runners
Getting around Magnetic Island by car is the best option, you can explore on your own timeframe and get to some off the beaten tracks that the buses and other modes of transport can’t reach!
These are all little girl’s Barbie dreams rolled into one manual gearstick go-Kart. Available in all the colours you could want, tropical topless allow you to explore the two main roads of magnetic. They are sadly not suitable for off roading and getting to West Point would be near impossible! However, for a day zipping around the island they make the perfect little transport and also allow you the Barbie photo shoot of your dreams girls and boys! You can fit up to four people in these cars and with the cost split between four it’s pretty cheap!
Cost for Day Hire and up to 24 hours: $88. + $200 deposit.
The guys at Isle Hire were great! We text them the night before to book our 4×4 open top jeep and they had everything ready to go for us the next morning. The 4×4 are equipped with radio and aux cable/ USB ports. You can fit four people in these and you are provided with a full tank of petrol. For our 24hour Hire we were given 80km mileage to use and thereafter it was 50 cent per KM we went over. This was plenty of mileage and allowed us to explore the island as much as we wanted. The 4×4’s allow you to go off roading to West Point (a must for sunset) and also down to Radical Bay. However this was closed off due to road conditions and jeeps getting stuck, plus we didn’t want to risk the $400 tow fee if we were to get stuck.
Phone: +61 417 649 869
Cost – 24hour Hire $126 with a $200 deposit.
This is one of the main resorts on the island. I honestly couldn’t afford to stay here, but we did pop in for their 4-6pm Happy Hour With $10 beer jugs and discounted $6 wines. It’s a beautiful hotel with rooms starting at $100+ a night unless you can grab a good deal. With magnetic island and all their is to do, we couldn’t justify staying somewhere “flashy” when we wouldn’t be using it other than to sleep and shower! Our bungalow in horseshoe bay was simpler and fitted in our our “island” experience that we wanted
This side of the island was my favourite! I am so happy we chose to stay here for our weekend getaway, it was a perfect spot to base ourselves out of and call home for the few days. It also, on reflection, had the most things to do, or was in closer proximity to points of interest than other places. However, I am on Vodafone and others were on Telstra and neither had any signal in this area! But, on the beach, you could pick up signal and all bars and pubs have free WiFi.
YHA Bungalow Bay
We stayed at YHA Bungalow Bay and opted for the private Bungalow. For three nights this came to a total of $260 which is relatively cheap in comparison to other hotels and private room options on the island. Plus it allowed us to feel a little bit closer to the island life, under the palm trees, on our little deck with hammocks, but with air-con inside!
It has a licensed bar, with a $10 beer jug and $3 Prosecco, yes $3 Prosecco! happy hour everyday from 4-6pm. The staff are lovely and really helpful in terms of island information, pointing you in the right direction and organising trips/excursions. The pool is fitting with the setting of the Bungalow Bay and and the campsites spacious camping area is surrounded by hammocks. Toilets and shower blocks are clean and have hot water! WiFi is only available at the bar but the comfy beanbags make up for that when you want to reconnect to the real world. YHA Bungalow Bay is also on the bus line and has regular buses on the weekends and hourly buses in the week to help you get around the island.
YHA private Bungalow: 3 Nights $260.
Bungalow Bay Koala Sanctuary
I’m not going to lie, I was slightly unimpressed with the Koala Sanctuary and experience in regards to cost. The sanctuary is home to four koalas, a handful of lizards and other reptiles, one sassy blue red tail bird called shadow and a few snakes and three angry fresshie crocs. The tour guide was informative and welcoming but the real deal selling point was the photo opportunity, and, as we weren’t doing that, we spent a lot of time wandering around the small sanctuary on our own waiting, whilst they were organising and taking photos of the people in the group who had opted in for photos. In the end, we left early as we were kind of bored of waiting around to re see what we had explored ourselves. It was good to know that the money made from photos went directly to the Koala hospital on the island and you could tell conservation was a priority for the sanctuary. I just wouldn’t recommend it if you aren’t doing the photos, you can see wild koalas on The forts walk if you wanted a cheaper alternative.
Koala Sanctuary $30pp + $25 Koala picture.
However, if you aren’t petrified of birds everyday 4/4.30 PM YHA Bungalow Bay do a free bird feeding for around 40 lorikeets that live in the trees around the hostel. You hold your arms out and they will land everywhere, fly in your face and leave little grip holds all over wherever they decide to land, if you decide to get involved. Do so at your own risk, I may look happy in the above picture but I was terrified and the other pictures that didn’t make the blog/Instagram cut show this in their hilarious entirety.
Bird feeding: FREE
Beach, Beers and Battered Chips
A short 5 minute walk from YHA Bungalow Bay is Horseshoe Bay, a beautiful bay with cute shops, a tasty Mexican restaurant and The Marlin Pub! Make sure to go to The Marlin pub for typical Aussie pub grub of epic size proportions and $10 Great Northern Beer Jugs and discounted wines and cocktails 4-6pm.
So everybody knows, or your told, that West Point is the place to be for sunset and they are correct. However if you can’t make it to West Point (4×4 access only off roading dirt track) Horseshoe Bay makes for a beautiful sunset alternative. The sun sets behind the mountains but you are left with a beautiful pink glow on the bay and it makes for a rather romantic lighting as you stroll down the beach at sunset with a bottle of wine in your hand (bottle-O next to The Marlin Pub).
Arthur Bay & The Forts Walk
Just as you leave Horseshoe bay, about a five minute drive up through the hills takes you to The Forts Walk Parking Lot and road access to Arthur Bay, Radical Bay and beyond.
The Forts Walk
The Forts Walk is around an hour and a half 4KM walk and is one of the most popular walking tracks on the small island. The Forts Walk surrounds WW2 fortifications, cannon mounts and look out points. Once you get to the top the 360* view is well worth the walk! Make sure to look up as you go along to see if you can spot any of the many wild Koalas in the tree’s.
This was my favourite beach on all of the island! If you have a 4×4 you can park down at its own car park, if you have a Barbie car, park at the Forts Walk carpark and walk down! It’s little bay, with white sands, has calm water and a great big rock formation which you can climb to the top to see another amazing view. A lot of people were kayaking, snorkelling and paddle boarding at Arthur Bay too.
Arcadia is an area between Nelly bay and Horseshoe Bay. It’s home to a really good resort and opposite a lovely beach with kids play park, basketball court and other amenities. We only drove through and past this spot but it’s a good location if you want to be closer to the other side of the island. Arcadia is also another car rental place for Maggie. Pop in to talk to someone about the best deals and types of vehicle hire they provide.
Home to the islands original pier and island entry! Pop along to picnic bay to walk the beautiful white pier and chill on the beach! Take some photos with the beached boat and make sure to visit the true reason to head to Picnic Bay – Mamma Roma!
So friends of mine told me about this amazing Italian restaurant and they bigged it up so much. Considering one of them was Italian and it takes a lot for Italians to praise non Italy based restaurants, Bella insisted we go. Following the smell of garlic and the sound of classic Italian music faintly from the carpark, we headed round the corner to Mamma Roma. It takes a lot for me to feel like I’m somewhere else in Australia, but I had been transported to little Italy. Old couples happily danced around tables whilst families watched mid spoonful of pasta, the alfresco dining and full to the brim tables showed how popular this place is. The live Italian music and cheery welcome from Italian staff set the scene for an amazing evening. Not forgetting it is a BYO (Bring your own alcohol) restaurant with $3 corkage!
We ordered bruschetta and garlic bread for starter, it was mouthwatering. Followed by two pasta dishes, one cream based another tomato. It was the best meal I have had in a long long time. I also got major food envy from people who opted for pizza, fresh from their stone baked pizza oven every time the waiters walked past! The meal for two with a starter and main, with two bottles of wine came to $80! If you eat anywhere whilst on Maggie, it has to be Mamma Roma!
If you can get to West Point, it is a must for sunset! It takes around 30 minutes from Picnic Bay to navigate the off roading dirt track that leads the way to an incredible sunset. So make sure to leave time to get there and set up your spot! 4×4 are your only option to safely make it, without taking off a tire or getting stuck in one of the many potholes. 4WD is a necessity to stop from skidding off the path and even then it starts happened to us a few times!
There is something magical about Magnetic Island! I had the best weekend exploring the special little place along the East Coast. If your driving down from Cairns along the coast make sure to add it to your travel list.
Who else loved this beautiful island? If you haven’t been yet get in touch, pin this blog, comment and share!
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