Most places these days are in and around the (relatively new) Ferry Terminal in Nelly Bay but there is still a number of great places in beautiful Horseshoe, Arcadia/Alma and Picnic Bays too. Picnic is at the southerly point of the island and Horseshoe is at the Northern end with the others located roughly halfway between the two.
Where is Magnetic Island?
Magnetic Island, affectionalty known by locals as ‘Maggie’ is situated only 8 kilometres offshore from Townsville in Queensland. It is 52 km² in area and is officially a suburb of Townsville with some 2400 permanent residents. This is one of the only islands on the Great Barrier Reef where people live and work year round and, in our opinions, offers the best value and ease of access of them all.
Townsville is located in North Queensland and is 350kms south of Cairns and 270kms north of the Whitsundays, making it roughly halfway between either on a driving holiday.
There is a domestic airport in Townsville that is serviced by Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar, Alliance and Air North with connections to all the major capitals as well as many regional cities.
Further reading : Things to do Magnetic Island
How to get to Magnetic Island
The only way to get to Magnetic Island is to catch the ferry or barge from Townsville.
The high-speed Sealink ferry leaves from the terminal on Ross Creek and takes just 22 minutes and are modern, air-conditioned catamarans. See timetable and more HERE.
You can also take a car over on the Barge which leaves from the opposite side of Ross Creek and take around 40 minutes. For the timetable and more click HERE.
To get to either you can catch a taxi or Uber from Townsville airport which should take around 15 minutes or there is a shuttle service as well.
arriving on the vehicular barge into Nelly Bay
Our pick of Magnetic Island Accommodation
Luxury Accommodation on Magnetic
Situated right next to the Ferry Terminal in Nelly Bay Peppers is the major luxury hotel on the island and has lovely views over the Marina. Delivering everything you would expect of the Peppers brand this hotel also has a restuarant, bar, beautiful resort pool and a fantastic Endota dayspa.
Situated on the other side of the Ferry Terminal from Peppers Absolute Waterfront have fabulous self-contained apartments with wonderful water views, a rooftop swimming pool and a bar.
Located on Nobby Headland in Picnic Bay Driftwood is a stunning, fully self-contained 4 bedrooms/4 bathroom house with panoramic views over the bay below and out over the Coral Sea. The house can sleep 10 people and is very private and luxurious, yet only a short walk into town.
Reflections are a group of 4 luxury beachfront villas in Picnic Bay designed especially for couples. Each one has a king-size bedroom, a heated plunge pool, a separate living pavilion with BBQ and lovely views across the quiet and peaceful bay. They are a short walk to the cafe, pub and excellent Italian restaurant. Chose from Amber, Turquoise, Topaz and Emerald.
Located right across from the beach ( at the end of the main street) on Horseshoe Bay, Villa Kembali is a beautiful Balinese style house that sleeps up to 10 people comfortably in 4 bedrooms. This brand new luxury house has its own pool, a huge open-plan living area and is the perfect location with its north-facing aspect and proximity to town.
Pure Magnetic is a complex of very charming 2 bedroom villas on the beachfront at Nelly Bay. Villa 6 has views across the lagoon pool and a balcony with a private courtyard. The complex also has a heated pool and a restaurant and is located within walking distance of all the towns amenities. Also, check out Units 9 & 10.
Located on the Beachfront at Horseshoe Bay Sunsets Resort this is a great place for friends and families with large, self-contained and air-conditioned rooms and a pool and BBQ with big lawns and gardens. There is a tour desk at reception and a bus stop right outside as well as numerous cafes, restaurants and shops just metres from the front door.
Located in Arcadia Bay these modern cabins/units are located right near the bus-top in popular Arcadia Bay and are clean, comfortable and great value. There is an outdoor pool and BBQ and it is only a short stroll to the famous Arcadia pub and beautiful Alma Bay. And Dandaloo Gardens are surprisingly quiet!
In Picnic Bay this holiday home is a beautiful and very spacious house that includes a private pool, 5 bedrooms sleeping up to 14 people and lots of extras. It’s a short stroll to the beach, pub, jetty and cafe and is perfect for a large group or 2 families.
Budget Magnetic Island accommodation
In Picnic Bay one of the best budget options is CStay, a clean and modern hostel-style place that offers double and twin rooms with shared bathrooms and a big communal kitchen. It’s a short walk to the pub, the beach and the bus stop and has friendly and helpful staff.
Located in Nelly Bay SEA-green is a cleverly designed converted shipping container that offers 1 bedroom,1 bathroom and even a small laundry. It is very close to some great cafes and restaurants and an easy walk from the Ferry Terminal too.
Island Cottages are also located in Nelly Bay and have 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom as well as a small kitchen and laundry facilities. These cute cottages are a short walk to all the amenities and are great value for money.
Things to do Magnetic Island
There is a surprising array of things to see and do on Maggie. Most Great Barrier Reef island activities revolve primarily around snorkelling, diving and marine life and, while those things are available, there are few other things to do as well – some quite unique!
- Swim at one of the many beautiful beaches including Horseshoe, Picnic and Alma which are patrolled and have year long stinger nets
- Sail the island and surrounds
- Hire a topless car and explore the island at your pace
- Outer reef trips including snorkelling and lunch
- Snorkel the local reefs and shipwrecks
- Hike the numerous trails including the fascinating Forts walk
- Day trips to Orpheus and Palm Islands
- Visit the Koala Park and cuddle a Koala
- Spot wildlife in their natural habitat – wallabies, dugongs, turtles, koalas, numerous birds, fish, dolphins, reptiles and more
- Horse-riding on the beach
- Watersports such as jet skis, banana boats and sea kayaks
- Hire a Pontoon boat and explore the more secluded bays, coves and beaches
- Jeep tours in a stretch limo jeep
- Aquasearch Aquarium – small but very interesting
- Yoga, boxercise and dance classes
- Art Galleries including one owned by renowned artist Peter Lawson
- Bike Hire
- Trike and Harley Tours
- Enjoy the Horseshoe Bay markets ( every 2nd and last Sunday of the month) or the Arcadia Bay night markets
- Visit Magnetic Museum in the first house ever built on the island
- Have a night out at the wonderful Stage Door theatre restaurant
- Wine and dine at the many excellent cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars
- BBQ or Picnic at Alma, Picnic or Horseshoe Bay beaches which all have large grassy areas, lots of shade and playgrounds for the kids
- Dive the famous Yongala Wreck, considered in the Top10 in the world! Catch the ferry back to Townsville to join this one or add it to your trip before or after
- Fish off the iconic Picnic Bay Jetty ( and take the mandatory photo underneath)
See our full guide of Things to do on Magnetic Island for more details!