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Best Walking Trails on Magnetic Island

A couple on rocks look out at the view in front of them as the sun rises

The best way to explore Magnetic Island is on foot, at your own pace.

Here are the best walking tracks curated by SeaLink staff members. These are simply the best hikes on Magnetic Island.

Explore at your own pace & discover the spectacular lookouts, environments, and wildlife Magnetic Island has on offer every single day.

For those that enjoy discovering nature on foot, the Island offers an extensive 26km network of walking trails that guide visitors through thick bushland, ranging from dry wattles and the beautiful barks of eucalypts to pockets of rainforest. Along the way discover many lookout points boasting stunning views of the surrounding bays and beaches.

The most famous and popular trail of them all is the Forts Walk which is roughly a 90-minute return walk and is the best place on the island to see Northern Australia's largest population of koalas in the wild. The Forts Walk offers magical 360-degree views of the coast and the Coral Sea. It is here that you will also discover fascinating WWII history with several gun emplacements, an observation tower, and a command post still intact.

1. Gabul Way - Nelly Bay to Arcadia

This elevated, scenic walkway is next to Arcadia Road and is made up of two sections linking Nelly Bay and Geoffrey Bay. Gabul Way is suitable for walkers and cyclists and is disabled-compliant, with breakout platforms along the way to pause and enjoy the Island coastline and views across the bay.

1.5km return (approx 30 minutes)

Grade: Easy

Nelly Bay to Arcadia - Gabul Way
Nelly Bay to Arcadia - Gabul Way

2. Hawkings Point track

This is one of the easiest and shortest walks with an exceptional view. From Picnic Bay, a track winds to the top of a large boulder, affording a spectacular panorama over the island past Rocky Bay to Nelly Bay and Geoffrey Bay and back towards Townsville.

1.2km Return (Approx. 1 hour)

Grade: Easy-Moderate, steep but short

Hawkings Point Sunset
The sunset view overlooking Picnic Bay and Townsville from Hawkings Point

3. Picnic Bay to West Point

This walk follows a bush track that links the bays on the western side of the island. The track passes a tidal wetland, mangroves, paperbark swamps and savanna grasslands. The flora and fauna are totally different in this area to the eastern side of the Island, making the journey particularly rewarding.

You will need sturdy footwear, some water, and a can of insect repellent!

16km return (Approx. 5 hours)

Grade: Easy, but long distance

4. Nelly Bay to Arcadia

Continuing along Mandalay Ave, Nelly Bay, this walk passes through a cool patch of rainforest alongside Gustav Creek, then climbs gradually to the saddle between Nelly and Horseshoe Bays. The track follows a ridge with views over Horseshoe Bay before it branches, with one track leading on to Horseshoe Bay, and the other down to Arcadia past the Sphinx lookout.

5km one way (Approx. 2.5 hours)

Grade: Moderate

Nelly Bay to Arcadia Walking Trail
Nelly Bay to Arcadia Walking Trail

5. Arcadia to Horseshoe Bay

Opened in 2011, this walking track replaces the old walkway adjacent to the main road. The track begins at the end of Endeavour Rd, winding uphill to the saddle between Nelly and Horseshoe Bay, passing through native grasses, delicate wildflowers and an impressive stand of grass trees. Continuing on past the Sphinx lookout the track veers off to the right at the ‘Forts junction’ following the ridge line before descend to the Radical Bay and Forts walk car park. Continue 2.1km via tack and Horseshoe Bay Rd to the beachfront.

4.6km one way (Approx. 1.5 hours)

Grade: Moderate

Arcadia to Horseshoe Bay Walking Trail
Arcadia to Horseshoe Bay Walking Trail Views

6. The Forts Walk

From the turn-off to Radical Bay, this track ascends, sometimes steeply, to follow a ridge behind the bays before arriving at the ruins of the Forts complex operated during World War II. Lookouts afford excellent views to the Palm Island Group in the north and Bowling Green Bay National Park in the south.

4km return (Approx. 1.5 hours)

Grade: Easy-Moderate

The Forts Walking Trail
Sunrise from The Forts Walking Trail

7. Arthur, Florence and Radical Bays

From the Forts car park on the Horseshoe Bay Road, an easy track along Radical Bay Road leads down to these undeveloped bays which provide excellent swimming and snorkeling.

Arthur Bay walk - 1.4km return (Approx. 30 minutes)

Florence Bay walk - 3.6km return (Approx. 1 hour)

Radical Bay walk - 6km return (Approx. 2 hours)

Grade: Easy - Moderate

Arthur Bay Lookout
Arthur Bay Lookout

8. Horseshoe Bay to Balding and Radical Bays

From the eastern end of Horseshoe Bay beach, the track climbs through a steep gully of closed forest to a ridge with open eucalyptus woodland. One branch of the track leads down to the secluded Balding Bay and the other continues to Radical Bay. Both bays offer excellent swimming opportunities (although proper precautions should be taken during stinger season). An unsealed road leads back from Radical Bay to the main road past Arthur and Florence Bays.

3.4km return (Approx. 1 hour)

Grade: Easy-Moderate

*Radical & Balding Bays are zoned Marine Park. No fishing or collecting permitted.

Radical Bay
Radical Bay - photo courtesy Emma Shaw

9. Horseshoe Bay Lagoon

Leading off the main road near Horseshoe Bay beach, a short track leads to the lagoon where a lot of wild waterbirds can be seen over the wetlands. Walkers can continue on past the lagoon along the back of Horseshoe Bay beach through to the end of Swenson Street.

200m return (Approx. 15 minutes)

Grade: Easy

Horseshoe Bay Lagoon
Horseshoe Bay Lagoon - photo courtesy @prinzessinstephie

Things you need to know before you explore Magnetic Island’s walking trails.

Magnetic Island provides ideal habitats for a range of species both on the land and in the water that they call home. The island is home to over 254 species, including vulnerable species such as koala and green turtles. Magnetic Island has the largest known population of koalas in Northern Australia and is also a site for seasonal turtle nesting and whale watching.

Things our wildlife likes:
  • To sleep and have quiet time during the day to save their energy
  • Native trees and flora as this is the safest place for them to be
  • You to keep your dogs and other pets locked in at night
  • You to keep an eye out and take it easy on the roads, especially at night
  • Foraging for food and can travel vast distances on land or in the water to their favourite spot!
  • When you stay calm and quiet if you come across them in the wild. They like their personal space so use the zoom on your camera if you’d like a photo.
Things our wildlife dislikes:
  • Pets – they frighten or even attack wildlife if allowed to roam free
  • Garden pesticides – wildlife can absorb chemicals through their paws, in runoff or through their food in the leaves they eat
  • Fast traffic – animals usually take their time as they cross the road so please drive slowly
  • Rubbish – contaminates their habitat and food sources so find a bin and recycle where you can
  • Feral dogs & cats – which prey on native animals
  • Nets and fishing lines – marine life can get caught in these, which often leads to death
  • Being fed by humans – in some cases can result in death or unnatural behaviours if they become reliant on being fed outside their natural diet.
  • Get your copy of the SeaLink Magnetic Island Wildlife & Trails Guide from the Townsville or Magnetic Island terminal.

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