Magnetic Island, is a granite-based island of 5184 ha rising to 497 m at its highest point. Offshore from Townsville it provides a popular retreat for residents and visitors alike.
The island, 11 km at its widest with a coastline of 40 km, was named by Captain James Cook in 1770 when he believed the magnetic compass on his ship ‘Endeavour’ was being affected by the land mass. The granite headlands and bays of coral and granite sand are non-magnetic, but more and more people have been attracted to its shores for over a century. Over half of Magnetic Island, is national park and the landscape is rugged and features large granite boulders.
MAGNETIC ISLAND WALKING TRACKS
The main vegetation type is an open eucalypt woodland of bloodwoods, stringybarks and grey ironbarks. Poplar gums are white-barked eucalypts with large roundish leaves. Hoop pines are common on rocky headlands. Bright yellow native kapok flowers appear in early spring when leaves are absent on the tree. Small pockets of rainforest are found in sheltered gullies.
Rock wallabies are commonly seen on steep slopes in the early morning. During daylight hours, koalas may be found in trees near the Forts. Along the beaches gulls, terns, sandpipers and dotterels can be seen, wile ospreys brahminy kites and white-bellied sea-eagles soar the skies.
Swamphens, Australian grebes and pacific black ducks are associated with freshwater habitats. Terrestrial birds include peaceful doves, pied currawongs and yellow-bellied sunbirds. The haunting wails of bush thicknees can also be heard. These birds are unfortunately threatened by increasing vehicular traffic and domestic pets.
TRACKS & LOOKOUTS
There are excellent opportunities to explore the island, with over 20 km of walking tracks and many lookouts. Distances and approximate times are one way. Some track surfaces may be uneven; World War 11 structures have exposed reinforcing rod and unfenced edges. Please take care when walking and exploring.
Nelly Bay to Arcadia (5 km, 2.5 hours)
Starting from the end of Mandalay Avenue in Nelly Bay, the track leads through a pocket of rainforest, then climbs gradually, following the gully alongside Gustav Creek to the saddle between Nelly and Horseshoe Bays.
The walk from Nelly Bay to the saddle and back can be a most interesting 45 minutes. For those interested in a longer walk, the track continues along a ridge through open eucalypt forest with views over Horseshoe Bay. The track then branches one route leading to Horseshoe Road where you can continue on to other tracks detailed later. The other passes through an area frequented by numerous bush birds and then to Arcadia. A short side-trail on top of the hill above Arcadia leads to Sphinx Lookout.
Picnic Bay to West Point (8km, 2.5 hours)
Commencing behind Picnic Bay near the golf course, this track (in reality a bush road) takes you past tidal wetland or mangrove forest. At low tide animals such as wading birds, mud skippers, mangrove snails and fiddler crabs can be seen, particularly in the Cockle Bay area.
Arthur, Florence, Radical Bay Distance from Forts carpark (off Horseshoe Bay Road) Arthur Bay – 700 m – 15 mins Florence Bay – 1.8 km – 30 mins Radical Bay – 3 km – 1 hour
At the crest of the Horseshoe Bay Road is a private ungazetted road which provides easy walking access. These undeveloped bays with their pleasant beaches, provide opportunities for swimming and snorkelling.
Forts carpark (Horseshoe Bay Road) to the Forts – 2km – 30 mins
Diverging from the start of the Radical Bay road is a track which follows a ridge behind the bays. At the summit is a complex of gun emplacements, observation and command posts built during World War 11 and offers superb views of the bays below. To the north are the Palm Islands and to the south is Cape Cleveland and Bowling Green Bay National Park.
Horseshoe Bay Lagoon (730 m)
A few hundred metres from Horseshoe Bay Beach off the main road, is a short track to Horseshoe Bay Lagoon Environmental Park, often frequented by waterbirds.
Horseshoe Bay to Balding Bay (1.5 km, 30 mins) and Radical Bay (1.7 km – 30 mins)
At the eastern end of Horseshoe Bay beach is a track which climbs through a steep gully of closed forest to open eucalypt ridges. At the crest the track branches, one winding down to secluded Balding Bay, the other continuing to Radical Bay.
Searchlight tower track (540 m – 15 mins)
This track diverges from the Radical Bay Road. The start of the track, marked by a National Parks symbol sign, is on the crest of the road before it reached Florence Bay. Remnants of the World War 11 searchlight tower still exist today, overlooking Florence Bay.