Nelly Bay as seen from the ferry
Magnetic Island is an island directly off the coast of Townsville in Far North Queensland. Over half the land area of the island is a National Park. Magnetic Island is roughly 7km by 5km, with 25km of walking tracks and several beaches and little bays.
Magnetic Island has about 2000 residents spread among four small villages. It is popular with tourists to the region. The villages run up the east coast of the island, with the western part consisting of national park. The villages from south to north are Picnic Bay, Nelly Bay, Arcadia and Horseshoe Bay. Nelly Bay is currently in the middle of a large redevelopment involving high-end residential and tourism facilities right on the water. Most budget travellers stay in Arcadia and Horseshoe Bay, which mainly cater to the pub-going and jetskiing tourists.
Magnetic Island is only accessible by boat from Townsville, which is 8 kilometers away and which has a well served airport. There are two ferry services, both arriving at the Nelly Bay Ferry Terminal:
- Sunferries, Breakwater Terminal, Sir Leslie Theiss Drive, Townsville, ☎ +61-7-4726-0800 (fax: +61-7-4771-3955), . Sunferries operate eleven or more passenger ferry services between Townsville and Magnetic Island daily. Adult passengers are $15.50 ($29 return), children and pensioners $8.30 ($14.50 return).
- Fantasea Magnetic Island Passenger & Car Ferry, Ross Street, South Townsville, ☎ +61-7-4772-5422 ([email protected], fax: +61-7-4721-3576), . The ferry transports both cars and passengers from Townsville with seven or eight departures between 7am and 7pm every day. It leaves from the wharf in Ross Street, South Townsville. Trailers and caravans can be transported. Adult passengers are $12.50, students $9.00 and children and pensioners $7.50. Transport of cars starts at $80 ($160 return).
Ferries take approximately half an hour to reach Magnetic Island. Some airlines can arrange transfers from the airport to Magnetic Island in a package including the flight to Townsville. Some resorts on the island will include a return ticket as part of your accommodation, so ask this when making a booking.
The Airport Shuttle service operates regularly between Townsville Airport, city, selected hotels and the Sunferries Ferry Terminal for $10 each way. Telephone +61-7-4775-5544 (8:30AM-6PM).
- Magnetic Island Bus Service, ☎ +61-7-4778-5130 ([email protected], fax: +61-7-4778-5380), . The Magnetic Island Bus Service runs from Picnic Bay to Horseshoe Bay via the Nelly Bay Ferry Terminal. Buses are 40 minutes or more apart, depending on the time of day and day of week. The timetable is posted at the bus stop at the ferry terminal. The bus services are reasonably well synchronised with the Sunferries passenger ferry. A wheelchair accessible bus is available, call in advance to book.
Magnetic Island mostly has good quality sealed roads, but there are some unsealed roads that require a four-wheel drive.
You can bring your own vehicle on the car ferry, or you can hire cars, four-wheel drives and minimokes on the island:
- Tropical Topless Car Rentals, 138 Sooning St, Nelly Bay (Call in opposite Nelly Bay Harbour and IGA Supermarket), ☎ +61-7-4758-1111.
- MI Wheels Classic Moke Hire, 138 Sooning St, Nelly Bay (Call in opposite Nelly Bay Harbour and IGA Supermarket), ☎ +61-7-4758-1111. Mokes from $70/day (fuel and 40km included).
- Magnetic Island Auto Rentals & Repairs, ☎ +61-437-820-914. Cars from $30/day (unlimited kms & insurance included)
All of the villages are small enough to allow easy walking within their bounds. In theory the entire island is small enough that you could walk from end to end in less than a day, but the paths are not designed for it. There are walking tracks through the National Park on the island, but they are scenic walking routes rather than a direct way to get to different parts of the island. The direct roads themselves aren't always pedestrian friendly; some roads lack footpaths so you have to share the sometimes narrow and winding roads with cars.
- Providence V, marina Nelly Bay Harbour (as you disembark ferry head left to Peppers Blue on Blue marina. Five mins walk), ☎ (07) 47785580, . Providence V is the only tallship in the Townsville region. We run lunch, afternoon and sunset tours around the island. Learn how to belay a cleat, sweat the mainsail or chill on deck. Snorkelling and stinger suits provided. Largest boomnet on the island - operates outside of stinger season (May-Nov) from $65.
Sailing tours are available on the island, and usually depart from either Nelly Bay Harbour or Horseshoe Bay.
- Jazza, PO Box 60, Magnetic Island 4819, ☎ +0404 875 530 ([email protected]), . Jazza offers sailing and cruising water tours around the beautiful bays of Magnetic Island. The 42 foot Jazza yacht can accommodate up to 13 persons for day and sunset tours. Activities include snorkeling, trolling in the boomnet, fish feeding, learning to sail, secluded beach getaways and just relaxing and enjoying the ride. Homemade pizza and snacks are included.
Scuba diving is available on the island, and there are trips out to the Great Barrier Reef leaving Magnetic Island:
- Adrenalin Dive, 121 Flinders St, Townsville, ☎ +61-7-4724-0600 or 1300 664 600 ([email protected], fax: +61-7-4771-6527), . Adrenalin Dive offers 2 dive day trips to the Yongala departing Townsville and Magnetic Island. The base price is $179, equipment hire $35. Divers must have at least 6 logged dives, and divers with less than 15 logged dives will need to pay $30 for a guided dive. PADI certification courses are available via the Pro Dive Townsville liveaboard, see the Townsville article for details.
- Pleasure Divers, 10 Marine Parade, Arcadia, ☎ +61-7-4778-5788 or 1800 797 797 ([email protected]), . Pleasure Divers is close to Magnetic Island's shore diving and hires out snorkeling equipment and scuba. They also conduct PADI certification courses: introductory Open Water is $299 if shore diving, and certification including reef trips start at $469.
- Adrenalin Jet Ski Tours, 46 Gifford St, Horseshoe Bay, ☎ +61-7-4778-5533.
- Jet Ski Hire, The Boat Ramp, Horseshoe Bay, ☎ +61-7-4758-1100, .
- Magnetic Island Sea Kayaks, Horseshoe Bay (Meeting point is at the Eastern end of the beach, right next to the bus stop), ☎ +61-7-4778-5424 ([email protected]), . Offers both morning and sunset kayak tours of Horseshoe bay and surrounding areas of the island. The morning tour includes a simple breakfast (muesli and fruit). The owner Steve is bit of a character and is rather condescending, but the scenery and fresh sea air is worth it. $69 pp.
Ensure you take a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and water for these walks around the island.
- The Forts Walk, Radical Bay turnoff. A 1-2 hour return walk to the ruins of a World War II fort that was designed to protect Townsville from attack. There are fantastic views of Arthur Bay and Horseshoe Bay along from track and from the Fort command post at the top. Also make sure to look for koalas in the trees above the track. free!.
- Hawkings Point Walk, End of Picnic Street, Picnic Bay. 600m, 30 minutes. One of the easiest and shortest walks on the island with views across to Townsville. free!.
- Picnic Bay to West Point, Track begins from the road past the Golf Course, Picnic Bay. 8kms, 2.5 hours. This walk is quite different to the rest of the walks on the island, passing through wetlands, mangroves and salt-waters swamps. Good walk for spotting native wildlife. free!.
- Nelly Bay to Arcadia. 6kms, 2 hours. This walk passes through rainforest, alongside Gustav Creek and up a ridge. There are shops at both ends of the walk, and this walk is good for spotting local wildlife. free!.
- Arcadia to Horseshoe Bay, Track begins from Hayles Avenue. 3kms, 1 hour. This track crosses the road twice and continues along the main road to Horseshoe Bay. free!.
- Horseshoe Bay to Radical Bay via Balding Bay, Track begins from the eastern side of Horseshoe Bay beach. 3kms, 45 minutes. Be aware that Balding Bay is a nudist beach. Take note of the tide times, as the beach track becomes inaccessible (unless you swim!) when the tide comes in late in the afternoon. free!.
- Caffe dell' Isola, Shop 1 Arcadia Village, Marine Parade, Arcadia, ☎ +61-7-4778-5540.
- Marlin Bar Tavern, Horseshoe Bay, ☎ +61-7-4758-1588. Open from 11.00am 7 days a week. Also has attached bottle shop
- Noodies Latin Bar & Cafe, Horseshoe Bay, ☎ +61-7-4778-5786. Closed Thursdays. [email protected]
- Cafe Sirocco, Nelly Bay (Across from Ferry Terminal, next to IGA supermarket), ☎ +61-7-4758-1883. From 7.00am daily. Bar, Cafe and take away food. Gluten free options available
- The Island Tavern, 7 Marine Parade, Arcadia (Arcadia Village), ☎ +61-7-4778-5177. Bistro, Sports Bar and bottle shop. Toad races every Wednesday night. Meals from $7.50.
- Restaurant Le Paradis, Corner Mandalay Ave and Sooning St, Nelly Bay, ☎ +61-7-4778-5044, . Open from 6.00pm. Traditional French cuisine
- Marlin Bar Tavern, Horseshoe Bay, ☎ +61-7-4758-1588. Open from 11.00am daily. Bottle shop attached.
- The Arcadia Hotel, 7 Marine Parade, Arcadia (Arcadia Village), ☎ +61-7-4778-5044. Live music, Poolside bar, Bottle shop attached
- R&R Bar, Yule St, Picnic Bay (Next to the Picnic Bay jetty), ☎ +61-7-4778 5166. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with view across to Townsville, Cleveland Bay and the Picnic Bay jetty. Bottle shop attached.
- Bungalow Bay YHA, 40 Horseshoe Bay Road, Horseshoe Bay, ☎ +61-7-4778-5577 ([email protected], fax: +61-7-4778-5781), . Dorm rooms from $22 per night, double and twin rooms $55 a night.
- The Arcadia Hotel, 7 Marine Parade, Arcadia, ☎ +61-7-4778-5177 or 1800-663-666 (fax: +61-7-4778-5939). Facilities including 2 large swimming pools, an internet cafe, 3 bars, a bistro and dive schools. Geoffrey Bay is across the road. Dorms from $18, twins and doubles $55.
- Magnetic International Resort, Mandalay Avenue, Nelly Bay, ☎ +61-7-4778-5200 ([email protected], fax: +61-7-4778-5806), . Magnetic International Resort is a luxury resort with facilities including a swimming pool, a cocktail bar, tennis courts, an internet cafe and wireless access. Rooms from $136 a night.
- Island Leisure Resort, 4 Kelly Street, Nelly Bay, ☎ +61-7-4778-5000 ([email protected], fax: +61-7-4778-5042), . The Island Leisure Resort is designed to accommodate familes, with most rooms having a queen sized bed and a triple bunk. All rooms are airconditioned and have TVs. Resort facilites include a swimming pool, barbecue area, spa and tennis court. $145 per night for two adults, children $5 extra per night, during Christmas, New Year and Easter higher rates apply.
- Bright Point Elite, 1 Bright Point, Nelly Bay, ☎ +61-412-356-313, . Five star luxury apartment with three bedrooms in a private and exclusive ocean front retreat adjacent to Nelly Bay. Relax in spacious open plan beach style living area’s that are fully air conditioned. Pamper yourself with a relaxing spa whilst looking out over the Coral Sea and enjoying the magnificent sunsets and the lights of Townsville.