What to do on Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is an underrated gem that is another of our favourite islands off Australia. Heading up the East Coast, you’re bound to see some amazing sights. After four-wheel driving over Fraser Island and sailing the Whitsundays, you’re probably keen for a change of pace and  somewhere easier on the pocket. Magnetic Island is a beauty – with national park covering over 50% of the island, wildlife encounters are common, and the secluded beaches dotted around provide a private slice of paradise. While its not currently featured in our tours, we’ve got the scoop on how to spend a few magical days on Magnetic Island if you have the time.

Magnetic Island hike
Take a hike on Magnetic Island for breathtaking views

Day 1, Afternoon

Arriving on the ferry in the afternoon, you’ll lay eyes on Magnetic Island for the first time. Named because apparently the island began interfering with the compasses of Captain James Cook and his crew, we can tell you there is some sort of magnetic pull to this place – albeit maybe because it is just so beautiful.

After checking into your hostel, we highly recommend heading out on the Forts Walk for sunset. Combining WWII history with stunning scenery, this 1.5 hour walk will lead you to a vantage point where you can admire the horizon and surrounding islands. Don’t forget to look up, as Magnetic Island is one of the few places in Australia where you can see wild koalas dozing in the trees (seriously, they sleep up to 22 hours a day, they’re almost guaranteed to be asleep). Enjoy the sunset up high, before heading back to the hostel for a few beers with your mates.

Koalas on Magnetic Island
Look out for a sleeping koala in the trees

Day 2

We highly recommend renting a 4WD to fully explore the island. We know you’re probably feeling broke after your epic end of Stray Tour party, but the cost split between 4 is very reasonable. With a vehicle at your disposal, you’ll be sure to get further off the beaten track, find little beaches with no one on them, and feel like a bunch of glamourous castaways.

If you pack a snorkel in your day kit (rent these from your hostel), you can immerse yourself in the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and see even more incredible wildlife under the water. Our sunset spot for today has got to be the West End Beach. Only accessible by 4WD, you’ll feel extra special as you watch the sun dip behind mainland Australia from this side of the island. A delightful experience!

If you’re serious about saving money or just not keen on a vehicle, you can walk or rent a bicycle to explore the area. There are plenty of walking tracks and with half the beauty of this place underwater, your only expense today needs to be a snorkel. Watch out for turtles, sting rays, reef sharks and of course, hundreds of species of fish.

Don’t forget the go pro and stinger suit, and give the creatures some space (we hear turtles get anxious). Once you’ve had enough exploring for one day, you can head back to the hostel and laze in a hammock by the pool – there are only a few accommodation options on Magnetic Island, but all of them know how to create a comfortable chill out zone.

Magnetic Island YHA
In the past, Stray has stayed at Magnetic Island YHA

Day 3

This could be the point where you head back to the mainland with your group, but you’re not ready to go yet are you? Take a couple more days to chill. Sleep in, take it easy….

After all, you’re on island time now. Having explored much of the island yesterday, you might just choose to take it easy today, relax by the pool and read a good book. But if you’re fizzing over Maggie Island and want more, getting out on the water is next on your agenda. Rent a sea kayak with a mate and explore some hidden coves for the day, or head out on a boat trip to the best snorkelling spots.

You can even try your hand at SCUBA diving, with some tours offering an introductory course for complete beginners. How cool would it be to say that you learned to dive on the Great Barrier Reef? There’s something about spending the day at sea that is so pleasantly exhausting, so we’d guess that after all that beautiful exploring, you’re ready for an early night.

magnetic island
Or just chill out at the beach

Day 4

Depending on the season and which day you arrive, today could be the day you’re voted off (well, voluntarily leave) the island. If the bus timetable says you must stay another day (what a terrible shame that would be), we advise you to go full relaxation mode. Head out to one of the many beaches, find some shade, and set up in paradise for the day. Treat yourself to a delicious lunch in Horseshoe Bay, we recommend Café Nourish for a healthy and satisfying meal. Celebrate the end of your holiday from travelling (because that is a real thing), with fish and chips on the beach.

magnetic island koala
A great place to see koalas – in their natural habitat

Maggie Island is one of our favourite spots on the East Coast, we hope you love it as much as we do. From koalas and rock wallabies to sea turtles and starfish, there is an abundance of wildlife to explore. If you have some spare time at the beginning or end of your Stray Tour, take time for Magnetic Island and you can thank us later. This is a destination you won’t forget!

In the meantime, check out our current tours for more inspiration for the most amazing east coast trip.


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Emily is a native creative nerd. This creative crew member's favourite stop is Bay of Islands.

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