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Maggie Island - A Couples’ Getaway With A Difference

Ben Hall

With an impressive lineup of bays, beaches, national park and endless sunshine, Magnetic Island is a natural wonderland for travellers of all ages, as well as an ideal location for couples to get away from it all. Dubbed ‘Maggie’ by the locals, the petite island is located just 20 minutes by boat away from Townsville, and is the perfect spot for no-fuss, activity-packed getaway. It has a broad range of accommodations including some top class resorts in its handful of charming settlements, along with a safe, laid-back vibe. But the majority of the island is national park, which means there are plenty of places explore and escape to, making you feel like you are far away from the city, and in another world. Here’s our top pick for couples to enjoy.

The Beaches

Magnetic Island has around 23 beaches, each one blessed with golden sand and lapped by the warm waters of the Coral Sea. Some are harder to access than others, however, making them a haven for backpackers and couples, and others are not patrolled, or they don’t have any facilities. The best pick for seclusion is Balding Bay, which is only accessible only by boat or via a 2km track through the bush from Horseshoe Bay. It was named after the army corporal, Sydney Balding, and is a gorgeous little bay with rocky outcrops providing shade and privacy on the beach, as well as safe swimming and snorkelling.

Walking Tracks

For hikers, the island's unspoilt natural beauty is a unique combination of stunning headlands, beaches, eucalypt forests, and small areas of rainforest, with around 25 kilometres of bush walks, some accessing historic sites, remote swimming spots, and native wildlife including Australia’s largest colony of koalas in the wild. An easy one to get you started is the Butterfly Walk, which is a flat, 15 minute ramble starting in Horseshoe Bay, and famous for its population of butterflies, which you can enjoy before heading through the bush to Balding Bay. Forts Walk is arguably the island’s number one hike, however, which starts at the Forts Car Park, and is a moderate walk of around four kilometres return across undulating terrain, taking in fascinating World War II forts along the way.

The Wildlife

Besides cuddly koalas, Magnetic island is also famous for curlews, which are everywhere. Depending on where you stay on the island, you’ll either go to sleep at night hearing their mournful cries ringing out on the night air, or not sleep at all if they are right outside your window! Another unique treat on Maggie is spotting rock wallabies playing at sunset at Geoffrey Bay; there’s a family of around 65 of them. And there are two key wildlife seasons on the island to make a note of. One is whale watching, which takes place from August to October, and when humpback whales migrate north to the Great Barrier Reef. The other is turtle spotting; between November and January turtles come ashore to nest and lay their eggs, and they can be spotted at night around Nelly Bay, Radical Bay and Horseshoe Bay.


If you haven’t had a koala experience before, Bungalow Bay Koala Village should be put on your Magnetic Island to-do list. This lovely eco-resort is one of the few places in the world where three times a week you can pose for a photo cuddling a koala, before tucking into a real bush tucker breakfast cooked over a camp fire. And for animal lovers there’s even more in store, as the village is also home to some giant wombats, Australian lizards including bearded dragons, turtles, pythons, and a baby saltwater crocodile.


The balmy waters around Magnetic Island offer great snorkelling for all abilties, with two self-guided trails ideal to start with. The Nelly Bay snorkel trail suits beginners or less strong swimmers, and starts just 100 metres off the beach; you follow the reef closest to the shore, with corals to view including lettuce, boulder and staghorn varieties. The snorkel trail at Geoffrey Bay is better suited to stronger swimmers or anyone more experienced, starting around 390 metres off Arcadia Bay. It takes in relics including a German Moltke wreck which sunk in 1913, and is home to bountiful sea life including sweetlip, barramundi cod, and harmless epaulette sharks.

Horse Riding On The Beach 

This is a wonderful Magnetic Island activity for all ages, a reasonably easy bush-and-beach trail ride from Horseshoe Bay Ranch which end in the water - the horses included. The ranch runs morning and afternoon tours which begin with basic instruction, and the pairing of animals with riders depending on their skill level. Then you and your significant other can channel John Wayne on a lazy meander through native bushland, spotting wallabies grazing or the occasional sleepy koala en route, and ending up on the beach with a bareback ride into the ocean for a swim to cool off.

Water Sports

For more adrenaline-filled fun you can go jet-skiing, kayaking, kneeboarding, wake boarding or fishing at Horseshoe Bay, or take in the natural beauty of Magnetic Island and its beautiful beaches on a lunchtime cruise with Pilgrim Sailing. You’ll sail on a beautiful 58 foot yacht complete with beanbags for adults from where you can watch the scenery slip by, with the destination one of the island’s bays for a swim and a barbecue lunch.

Other Romantic Things To Do

Picnics: Buy some supplies from the local markets, grab a blanket and head to Nelly Bay, where you will find find picnic tables and coin barbecues.

Sunsets: Horseshoe Bay usually has one of the best sunset views on the island. Enjoy a late afternoon swim, and watch as the sun drops down over the long beach in front of you. Another is West Point (see below).

Dinner Theatre: Yes, it exists on Magnetic Island at Stage Door in Arcadia, where you can enjoy a three-course dinner along with a hilarious 90-minute comedy cabaret show, with live singing and  fabulous costumes.

West Point: You’ll need a 4WD to go here, and it’s not safe for swimming, but the sunset here over the ocean is amazing – as well as a rare treat on the east side of this country. You’ll feel like you’re standing on the edge of the earth, as the deserted nature of the place makes it a great spot to enjoy some peace and quiet with a sundowner. 

Eating Out: Try Barefoot art food wine on Horseshoe Bay for dinner, which is quiet, romantic, and specialises in local cuisine including seafood, also the Early Bird on Horseshoe Bay for breakfast or lunch, and which is said to serve the best coffee and French toast on the island.



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