On our five-week trip through Australia, we didn’t expect to find ourselves on Magnetic Island. Frankly, we hadn’t even heard of Magnetic Island until another couple told us that if we wanted to see wild koalas, we needed to head for the island. Koalas, cute fuzzy koalas, in the wild! That was all the impetus we needed to plunk ourselves down in the island, which turned out to be one of the best decisions of our trip to Australia.
Getting to Magnetic Island: The easiest way to reach Magnetic Island is to fly to Townsville and then taking a ferry. Sunferries transports commuters every hour by high speed ferry to the island within twenty minutes. If you have rented a car on mainland Australia, you can take your car with you to the island on the Fantasea ferry that runs every two hours.
Hotel/Hostel: We stayed at the YHA Bungalow Bay Village, an eco-friendly series of A-frame bungalows with a variety of options, including private bungalows and dorms and with and without air conditioning, and campsites at the edge of a national park. In the evenings, rangers pull out food for lorikeets and the area near the pool is swamped with hundreds of the colorful birds searching for food on your hands, head, and feet.
Awesome Free Activities: The reason to go to Magnetic Island is for the wildlife. We saw several koalas in the wild, including a mother with a baby, on the Forts Walk, an hour long walk through the woods. Keep your eyes peeled for them — they hide in the trees! We also saw rock wallabies fed at the Arcadia in the afternoon. Rent some snorkel gear and jump into the waters at Florence Bay and Arthur’s Bay to find beautiful coral and fish in this less touristy part of the Great Barrier Reef. (As always in Australia, be careful of the box jellyfish in the waters.)
If You Shell Out Some Dough: At Bungalow Bay, for $19 AUD, we had the incredible opportunity to hold a koala. The koala was surprisingly heavier than we expected and clung to our shoulders as we looked into those beautiful deep eyes. Due to statewide regulations, Magnetic Island is one of the few places in Australia where tourists are permitted to hold koalas so we were thrilled to have this opportunity.
Finish Out Your Day: Watch the sun set over the beautiful Horseshoe Bay and then walk across the street to have dinner at Barefoot Art Food Wine, an art gallery/restaurant that focuses on serving seafood.
More than 24 hours? Take a snorkel/dive boat off the island to see stingrays; ride a horse on Horseshoe Bay with Blueys Horse Riding; get a rush with Adrenaline Jet Ski Tours; go beaching on one of the many beautiful beaches on the island.
- I highly recommend bringing a car from the mainland to Magnetic Island. Car rental on Magnetic Island is quite expensive (about $50/day). If possible, opt for a vehicle with 4 wheel drive because some of the beaches are otherwise inaccessible.
- On Magnetic Island, people will convince you to rent a moke. Don’t fall for this trick. A moke is basically a Ford Escort without any doors and practically useless because you cannot drive it on much of the island.
- Bring insect repellant. Because Magnetic Island is a natural habitat and unspoiled, insects abound.
Written by Akila McConnell who, along with her husband, are currently eating and cooking their way around the world. Follow their adventure at their website, The Road Forks.