The idyllic Magnetic Island in Queensland, Australia is a tropical paradise!
An easy 20-minute ferry from the coastal city of Townsville, hopping across to Maggie (as the Island is affectionately known) for a day trip or a weekend is the perfect way to enjoy this gorgeous part of Australia.
At only 52sqkm and with 2000 residents, Magnetic Island really is the perfect island getaway with its palm trees and gorgeous hidden beaches – and trust me we should know!
After living on Maggie for 3 months and running a guest house as part of our great budget road trip around Australia we’re definitely sold-up fans of this little place!
You can read more about our experience of living on Maggie here, otherwise start off your budget adventure with these 10 best free things to do on Magnetic Island.
- 10 Best FREE Things to Do in Airlie Beach
- The Ultimate Budget Travel Guide to Magnetic Island
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#1 Feed the Wallabies
Out on the headland at the end of Geoffrey’s Bay is a gorgeous wallaby colony that are now well accustomed to human contact.
Having been fed by us homo sapiens for years, these little guys are now anything but their normal timid selves, which means that you can get some awesome close-up photos of them.
Conservationists recommend not actually feeding the wallabies at all, so maybe just consider going along to say hello instead.
If you do want to feed them however, please make sure it’s something that their tummy agrees with such as bits of carrot or sweet potato.
#2 Hike the Arcadia to Nelly Bay Track
There’s lots of different hikes to tackle on Magnetic Island all of which showcase the beautiful scenery of the place and are free, free, free!
Perhaps my favourite however, is the awesome 6km walk from Arcadia to Nelly Bay, which you’ll almost certainly have to yourself.
Taking you up and over the range, this walk will give you with some of the best views of the island care of the Sphinx Lookout.
And, if it’s been raining, then you’re also likely to see some gorgeous waterfalls.
Second in line, is the walk to the lookout at Hawkings Point, which is another phenomenal hike on Magnetic Island I highly recommend.
With great views across both sides of the island, the start of this track leads from the end of Picnic Street, taking you up over Rocky Bay, and is definitely one of the best free things to do on Magnetic Island.
#3 Snorkel at Florence Bay
Magnetic Island really is the perfect snorkelling spot, with the Great Barrier Reef starting right at its shores.
In addition to this, the little coves of Maggie generally make the snorkelling conditions easy and safe here – meaning it’s the perfect place for beginners and families.
Florence Bay in the north-east of the Island is the best beach for snorkelling I think, providing the greatest visibility and diversity of marine life.
There are handily-placed white buoys in the bay here, so stick to the left-hand side of these and you should have a great time.
Common reef fish you might see include the Bengal Sergeant, the Golden-Striped Butterflyfish, the Six-banded Angelfish and perhaps even a turtle or 2 if you’re really lucky!
5 ESSENTIAL PACKING ITEMS FOR AUSTRALIA
#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Australia and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous country justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Australia – from cities to national park! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish strollling, I love mine
#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Australia edition is well put together
#4 Good Water Bottle – Travelling in hot old Australia can be thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because tap water is drinkable… and free!
#5 Good Sun Hat – And there’s no denying you’ll need a good sun hat for protection in Australia too. In my opinion, you can’t go past this Hello Sunshine one, which is both gorgeous and ideal for keeping the rays off your face.
#4 Watch a Cane Toad Race
If you’re looking for something totally different, and quite unique to Northern Australia, then can I suggest heading down to the Arcadia Village Hotel on a Wednesday night for their famous cane toad racing showdown.
This free entertainment really is quite the cultural insight, with a good local feel that is fascinating to watch, if not a little amusing too!
#5 Spot a Koala at The Forts
If seeing wildlife in its natural habitat is more your thing, then don’t worry, you’ve still come to the right place!
Definitely one of the best free things to do on Magnetic Island, a hike to the Forts will lead you to a series of WWII ruins left from when the ANZAC forces made preparations to defend this part of Australia from Japanese invasion.
The ruins are interesting in themselves, but by far the main attraction here are the stunning coastal views you get, as well as the chance to spot a furry friend.
Despite becoming increasingly rare in the wild across Australia, the koala community on Maggie is thriving!
Just be sure to look up into the gumtrees as you walk up to The Forts or listen out for the sounds of a grunting male – this really is your best chance to see this iconic Aussie animal in the wild.
For more tips on spotting other iconic Australian animals in the wild, click the link which details all the best locations and top tips.
#6 Play the Piano at Radical Bay
There’s few beaches in Australia more idyllic than Radical Bay, which lies at the end of a bumpy 4wd track.
Undoubtedly one of the best free things to do on Magnetic Island, heading down here really is worth the effort as you’ll be rewarded with crystal clear, calm waters and some gorgeous looking palm trees to lie underneath.
Walk along Radical Bay a little and you’ll also be rewarded with the epic view of an old decaying piano, sitting stranded on the beach like something from a lost world.
The perfect Instagram opportunity, it’s no wonder I voted Radical Bay one of the best beaches in Queensland.
Best Budget Accommodation on Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island is ideal for budget travellers with several cheap accommodation options available. Here’s our pick of the bunch:
Camping: Bungalow Bay Koala Village is the only place on the island where you can pitch your own tent. Fall asleep to the waves of nearby Horseshoe Bay and wake up to the kookaburras and the kangaroos!
Glamping: Arcadia Beach Guest House has some brilliant safari tents located in their tropical garden that are perfect for couples or friends. With beds and fans they are budget-friendly with a bit of added luxury.
Base Backpackers is where the party is at on Maggie Island. Full Moon parties are held here, but almost every night of the week the bar, situated right on the beach, is pumping too!!
#7 Get Nudie at Balding Bay
Not far from Radical Bay, but only accessible by walking track, Balding Bay is the unofficial nudist beach on Magnetic Island.
I say unofficial because strictly it’s not legal to sunbathe naked on any beach in Queensland, but if you can do it anywhere and get away with it, it’s probably at Balding Bay!
This little cove also has some well-placed giant boulders that are perfect for hiding behind, otherwise they provide good shade cover for your white bits too!
#8 Shop at the Horseshoe Bay Markets
Taking place on the second and last Sunday of every month from 9am-2pm, the Horseshoe Bay Markets are a lovely free thing to do on Magnetic Island.
Set right on the beach, with a friendly local atmosphere, this is definitely a relaxing morning activity which you can easily follow with a lovely swim or stand up paddle.
#9 Spot Rays off the Jetty
The jetty at Picnic Bay on Maggie Island has to be one of the most picturesque jetties I’ve ever seen.
Lovingly restored, strolling along it is gorgeous, as are the stellar ocean views when you get to the end.
Surprisingly, however, the best time to walk to the end might just be at night!
Attracted by the overhead lights, spotting stingrays here is a regular occurrence and lots of fun under the stars and a full moon!
#10 Sunset Watch at West Point
And last but not least, one of the best free things to do on Magnetic Island also just happens to be one of the best ways to end your day.
Driving over to West Point to see the fabulous sunset over the ocean is amazing – and a rare treat on the east side of this country.
You’ll honestly feel like you’re standing on the edge of the earth at West Point, as the deserted nature of the place makes it a great spot to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Why not take a picnic and enjoy the view with a sundowner too?
Just make sure you don’t swim here however, this is a popular bull shark feeding spot!
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
So those are my 10 best free things to do on Magnetic Island which, if you’re travelling down the coast of Queensland really shouldn’t be missed.
Check out my Ultimate Budget Travel Guide to Magnetic Island for more info or do let me know if you’ve also visited Magnetic Island and what you loved about it … I’d love to hear 🙂