Magnetic Island | The perfect Family Day Trip in Queensland

Australia Queensland Magnetic Island Day Trip
Clear water and beautiful surroundings at Arcadia, Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is located only 8km from Townsville, but so much different. The perfect place to escape Townsville’s City life and spend relaxing time with family or friends on this laid-back hippie feel Island. The weather was perfect, our friends from Mackay joined us, and we were excited to discover Magnetic Island’s highlights.

Ferry from Townsville to Magnetic Island ( and back )

In collaboration with FantaSea Ferry, we went on a day trip to Magnetic Island. We decided to take the earliest boat at 07.10 and the ferry from Magnetic Island back to Townsville at 17.15 so we had the complete day to explore.

FantaSea Ferry has a free, secured parking area in front of their little terminal. This was perfect for us as most of our stuff was still in the car. ( Basically everything we own at the moment 😉 )

The check-in was nice and smooth and after the boys discovered the big aquarium in the FantaSea Terminal, it was time to go on board. We didn’t take the car with us, as we decided to explore Magnetic Island by bus. If you want to take your car, FantaSea Ferry is the only ferry from Townsville to Magnetic Island and back, which transport cars as well.

We found ourselves a great place at the front of the boat, the sun was shining in our face, the sky was blue. What else could you wish for when going to spend the day on an Island?

For prices and timetable of FantaSea Ferry from Townsville to Magnetic Island and return, check out their website here

Arriving at Magnetic Island

When we arrived at Magnetic Islands we had the feeling we arrived at one the stunning Islands in Greece. Blue water, hills, Pine trees, rocks, little beaches. It looks all really cozy. The ferry terminal is in Nelly Bay, which is a small island town with a few shops, car hire offices, lots of resorts and an amazing little café named Maggie Lee’s café. We had fresh home-made pies for brekky and coffee, which was delicious! They had coloring books, pencils, and stickers for the boys and the staff was really friendly and fun.

Rock Wallabies at Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island

After our brekky, we had a little walk along the boardwalk on the right side of the ferry terminal and we unexpectedly found a few rock wallabies hanging out on the rocks!

Exploring Magnetic Island

When we arrived at Magnetic Island we had no idea what we exactly wanted to see, do and if we would walk some part or just do everything by bus. The bus is convenient and is only $14 dollar for a day pass all over the Island and the kids are free! So we hopped in and decided to go to Picnic Bay first. The route from Nelly Bay to Picnic Bay is only 4 km, but the bus goes via a little detour to pick up locals from some other areas. All in all, it took like 10 minutes to go from point a to b.

The route from Nelly Bay to Picnic Bay is only 4 km, but the bus goes via a little detour to pick up locals from some other areas. All in all, it took like 10 minutes to go from point a to b.

If you are keen on walking and don’t have a pram with you, but a carrier, you can walk from Nelly Bay to Picnic Bay as well. There is a boardwalk, which is very hilly and goes down via steps. You have some great views along the way, that is for sure.

Picnic Bay, Magnetic Island

Picnic Bay is really small. There is a long jetty, a little playground for kids, a few restaurants and cafe’s, a nice beach and a swimming net. Not much going on here, but great for hikers, rest seekers and little families who don’t want the hustle and bustle.

Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island

The route from Picnic Bay to Horseshoe Bay ( around 14 km ) takes around 20 minutes, with a few stops along the way. Horseshoe Bay is the total opposite of Picnic Bay. Literally and figuratively. Here you find this relaxed, hippie island vibe. There are a few nice bars and restaurants, a long stretched beach, water sports, boats, backpackers and a nice market ( second and last Sunday of the month ) At the markets they also sold Poffertjes! This

There are a few nice bars and restaurants, a long stretched beach, water sports, boats, backpackers and a nice market ( second and last Sunday of the month ) At the markets they also sold Poffertjes! This are typical Dutch little pancakes, which were of course sold and made by a Dutch lady who lived at Magnetic Island for many years.

We had a great lunch here at the Marlin Bar Horseshoe Bay and were lucky to have the last table, as Magnetic Island was jam-packed because it was Easter Weekend. The busses were also loaded with people, and the bus driver said it was busier than it was during Christmas.

Alma Bay / Arcadia, Magnetic Island

This was definitely our favorite spot at Magnetic Island. Located in a small bay, surrounded by rocks and trees, you will find the ideal place for families with children. There is a large grassy and shady area with barbecues, picnic tables, a playground, the lifesaving club and a beautiful beach.

There is so much to do at Magnetic Island

The tree places above are the main places, but there is much more to do at Magnetic Island. You can rent a topless car or a colorful make and go off-road and discover one of Magnetic Island’s secluded beaches and bays.

You can hire a scooter or hike around the island and camp along the way. If you are not keen on exploring yourself, you can go with one of the Magnetic Island tours or hire a taxi and tell the driver where to go.

In Horseshoe Bay, you will also find the Koala Village, where you can interact with koala’s, pythons and crocodiles. Or if you are boat savvy, you can book a cruise around the Island, where you will visit remote beaches, you can’t reach by road.

If you love snorkeling and /or diving, Magnetic Island is also the place to be. Some of the best places to dive at Magnetic Island are in Geoffrey, Arthur, Alma and Florence Bays and also of Bright Point and the reef in Nelly Bay. For the keen divers, there are also a few shipwrecks to explore.

The best places to snorkel at Magnetic Island are Florence Bay, the reef at Nelly Bay, Arthur Bay at the left side towards the point, Alma Bay ( also on the left side where you find coral )  and in Geoffrey Bay.

Magical Sunset at Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island Insider Tip: Take the ferry back to Townsville at 17.15. When the weather is good, you will experience a stunning sunset  if you are lucky ( sit on the right side of the ferry )

We only spend 1 full day here, but if you want to discover every single corner of Magnetic Island and visit some other hidden secrets, you should stay at least a weekend.

We received complimentary ferry return tickets in collaboration with Fantasea Cruises | This article is 100 % based on our personal experience.
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  • Thank you so much lovely!
    Magnetic Island is definitely a great place to visit. Unfortunately, we were only there for 1 day, would have loved to stay a bit longer.
    You make me curious with the Carribean Islands that reminds me of Magnetic Island. Which ones where that?

  • Such a great post, I love the Sound of Magnetic Island, it actually reminds me of a couple of the Islands we visited in the Caribbean last year! 🙂 How cute are those rock wallabies and those sunset shots are stunning!!! It was a pleasure to read this beautiful post Jo xx

  • Hi David,
    You are absolutely right! We really loved that service from FantaSea as well! Lucky us, as FantaSea is located in an Industrial Area, so there is not much other choice then to park over there.

  • Hello Riely,

    Canada is certainly an ocean away from Australia! Never been there, but i ve got a good friend here who is from Canada and some family members. Where in Canada are you from?

  • Hello WoodyWorldpacker! I must say: what an amazing photography skills you have! Every one of your pictures are simply majestic – specially the sunset ones. Those were my favorites! From what I can see in your pictures one day at Magnetic Island is certainly not enough. Thank you for sharing your tips and experience Safe travels. – Mariella

  • It’s brilliant that FantaSea Ferry offer free and secure parking! Something that most other excursion companies do not offer for free as it’s a good way of earning money!

  • Magnetic Island seems like an ideal day trip to scope out some beautiful beaches. Alma beach looks gorgeous from your photos and a spot I would love to dive in! It’s a little far for me to get to currently as I live in Canada, but if I ever plan a trip to Australia, I will keep this spot in mind.

  • I am so jealous! Seeing Wallabies in the wild all while driving a PINK car (my fave color). What a great family trip to Magnetic Island! I need to plan the same!

  • Hi Juliette,
    Magnetic Islands was the perfect day out for our family! Can definitely recommend it for at least 1 night to take more time on the island.
    Enjoy your weekend!

  • What a great trip! Clearly there is so much to do and see and lots of different places to go to on Magnetic Island. I’d love to swim and snorkel there. Sounds like a perfect family trip. I love those photos of the wallabies! That would be pretty cool seeing them all over the rocks.

  • I love ferry travel! And daaw, those rock wallabies seem such cuties. Horseshoe Bay looks stunning with beautiful long-stretching beaches. What a perfect day trip to Magnetic Island! You got to see a beautiful sunset, too. I have a thing for Australian sunsets, tbh. I think they are some of the prettiest 🙂

  • I have never been to Magnetic Island, but those beaches look amazing! I love the Mokes, we used to have those here in Barbados! I’d love to spend a weekend here exploring, sounds like fun.

  • What a wonderful day on Magnetic Island full of adventure for the whole family! This spot is new to me and I’m so glad to hear of it. We travel with the kids, too, and this would be a fun day.

  • You’re so lucky to have been to this place, I’m completely jealous! I’ve not even (yet) made it to Australia, but I want to see Magnetic Island for myself now! I love Dutch pancakes, nice to see them there, and great tip about seeing the sunset on the 17.15 ferry!

  • Look at these sunsets! It’s like an open air art gallery, lucky you! Never been anywhere near which I guess is rather good as I would sooner or later get arrested for stealing a wallaby or five!I didn’t even know than a cutie like that exists, you’re simply a rockstar Jo with your ways of showing the beauty of this world 💜 But then, what did I expect?! You’re the girl who found Nemo!!! Xx

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