The Ultimate Budget Travel Guide to Magnetic Island

The Ultimate Budget Travel Guide to Magnetic Island

27 August 2019

Image thanks to Sangeeta Kocharekar

Situated off the coast of Townsville; Magnetic Island, better known as ‘Maggie,’ by the locals, is your next paradise escape. In recent years, the tranquil island has become a tourist hotspot that welcomes all travelers to experience its 52 sqm land of palm trees, national park reserves, granite boulders and spectacular blue waters. Magnetic Island is home to only 2000 residents, making it the picture-perfect, stress-free destination for both extravagant and budget voyagers.

For the purpose of this article, we have created The Ultimate Budget Travel Guide of things to do on Magnetic Island.

Magnetic Island Transportation: On A Budget

Magnetic Island Transportation: On A Budget

Image thanks to SeaLink travel group

Those who experience motion sickness…fear not, Magnetic Island is a short 20-minute ferry ride from its neighbouring coast, Townsville, making it accessible for any occasion. There are two main services that both offer regular boat services between 6am and 10pm.

1. Sea Link

Sea Link offers up to 18 return trips daily and is considered the speedier foot passenger service. If you’re heading to the island for a day trip, you can expect to pay $7.50 to park your vehicle in their car park and an additional $34 for your adult return ticket.

2. Fantasea Ferry

For foot passenger services, Fantasea offers a competitive price of $28 return for adults and a $5 car park fee, however, takes around 40 minutes due to loading time and only offers 8 trips daily. If you plan on taking your car across to Maggie, Fantasea is the only car ferry service available. This in mind, it may not be the most appropriate ‘budget friendly’ option, costing between $103 and $115 each way.

To save yourself time and money, purchase tickets online, and leave your vehicle on the mainland. Once on the island, inexpensive travel services are easy to find. Aside from the taxi service, Magnetic Island also offers a bus and car hire.

Things to do on magnetic island

Image thanks to Kyle Hunter

3. Sun Bus

The bus service operates between 6am and 10pm, making it an extremely convenient and cheap service at only $2-3 per ride or $8 for an unlimited travel day pass. Be sure to check the website for full timetables and pick up/drop off points.

4. Car Hire

Whether you’re an adventure seeker looking for a 4WD, dare-devil on a scooter, barbie girl looking for your tropical topless car or plan on self-driving your adventures around Magnetic Island in a mini-moke, you will be spoilt for choice. While scooters cost around $50 a day, 4WDs, at $100 per day are the safer option. Some roads on the island are only accessible by 4WD, therefore if you plan on finding the semi-deserted beaches, and spectacular lookout points securely, try team up with others and opt for the rental car.

Magnetic Island Activities: On A Budget

Magnetic Island is a haven for activities at a low to no cost commitment. From snorkelling and fishing, to walking, sun tanning and wildlife spotting, the island is a plethora of remarkable action or relaxation.

1. Walking

Bungalow Bay Backpackers

Image thanks to Bungalow Bay Backpackers

Forts Walk

Forts walk has become one of the Islands pertinent must-dos. The 4km walk includes beautiful lookouts, captivating historical infrastructure and adorable, but somewhat unsociable Magnetic Island koala. A 1-2-hour walk may seem daunting for some; however, the breathtaking panoramic views of Palm Island Group and Bowling Green Bay are sure to have you forgetting the workout woes.

From Horseshoe Bay to Radical Bay

This track hikes through a sharp gully of lush forests to a ridge of open woodlands. The 1.5-hour return walk allows you to stop off at Balding Bay, a secluded spot favoured by the nudist, before continuing over the ridge to Radical Bay. Here you will find a beautiful beach surrounded by boulders and pine.

From Picnic Bay to Hawkins Point

The easy 1.2km walk from the eastern end of Picnic Street in Picnic Bay to Hawkins Bay is another great track for travellers. The walk features views over the island to Nelly and Geoffrey Bays along with a large boulder fixture finale.

From Nelly Bay to Arcadia

This walk is a beautiful 5km one-way activity where travellers pass through vines, gradually climb to the saddle between Nelly and Horseshoe Bay, before following a ridge that leads onto a track to Arcadia Bay. If you have a bit of spare cash, head over to Arcadia Pub for a delicious and affordable feed. 

2. Snorkeling

Adrenalin Surf and Dive 

Image thanks to Adrenalin Surf and Dive

The cheapest way to experience the underwater marine life is to rent budget snorkelling gear and waterproof snorkelling cards for the day. For the beginners, we suggest either Florence Bay, Nelly Bay or Alma Bay where you can dive right off the beach - however, for the stronger swimmer, follow the trail to Geoffrey Bay and go clam spotting around the Moltke shipwreck. For a little bit of extra money, you may decide to opt for a half-day discovery cruise with Aquascene that takes you on a Magnetic Island Snorkelling Tour, to uncover the pristine and secluded reef.

Magnetic Island Accommodation: On A Budget

If you’re travelling with a group or seeking something self-contained, the first go to is Air BnBs, however for those backpackers looking for a Magnetic Island hostel, or Magnetic Island camping experience, here are our two suggestions.

1. YHA Bungalow Bay

Bungalow Bay Backpackers

Image thanks to Bungalow Bay Backpackers

For those looking for a quieter escape, YHA offers an array of accommodation options, from dorms and private rooms, to campsites that allows you to pitch a tent. Facilities include a swimming pool, bar and the renowned koala village where you can take a daily tour around the sanctuaries or sit back and relax with some bush tucker inspired menu delights. Bungalow Bay Koala Village advertises $189 package deals that include two nights in an 8-share bungalow, round trip ferry, 2 hour guided sanctuary tour and cuddle, full day snorkel gear hire and a chance to feed the local wallabies. 

2. Base Backpackers

Base Backpackers

Image thanks to Base Backpackers

Keen to party? Base Magnetic Island has become famous for its full moon parties that take place each month between June and October. The sleeping arrangements range from cheap dorms and camping, to private rooms. There is nightly entertainment and a bar for guests staying, as well as a swimming pool to dip your toes into in the summer months.

Magnetic Island Eats: On A Budget

Image thanks to Picnic Bay Hotel

General Tips: For an extended stay, we recommend stocking up on some essential ingredients on the mainland before heading over to the island as they tend to be slightly expensive.

Breakfast/Lunch: Try out Shaka in Nelly Bay, or Magnetic Islands Bakery and Café for a morning pick me up of fresh bread, smoothies, and eggs.

Dinner: Head over to one of the three pubs on the island – Arcadia Motel, Picnic Bay Hotel and Marlin Bar, Horseshoe Bay Fish and Chips or Noodies on the beach for a Mexican feast without blowing your budget.

Magnetic Island is a holiday destination to do as much, or as little as you’d like. Pack your sunscreen and sunglasses and take a trip to this tropical paradise.