Another island named by Captain Cook in 1770 – after his compass played up as he sailed past – Magnetic Island is a beautiful triangular granite core 12km from Townsville. There’s a lot to be said for a trip here: lounging on a beach, swimming over coral, bouncing around in a moke from one roadside lookout to another, and enjoying the sea breeze and the island’s vivid colours. Small enough to drive around in half a day, but large enough to harbour several small settlements, Magnetic Island’s accommodation and transfer costs are considerably lower than on many of Queensland’s other islands, and if you’ve ever wanted to spot a koala in the wild, this could be your chance – they’re often seen wedged into gum trees up in the northeast corner of the island.
Seen from the sea, the island’s apex, Mount Cook, hovers above eucalypt woods variegated with patches of darker green vine forest. The north and east coasts are pinched into shallow sandy bays punctuated by granite headlands and coral reefs, while the western part of the island is flatter and edged with mangroves. A little less than half the island is designated as national park, with the settlements of Picnic Bay, Nelly Bay, Arcadia and Horseshoe Bay dotted along the east coast. Shops and supplies are available on the island, so there’s no need to bring anything with you.