How to get to Magnetic Island, Queensland – Everything You Need to Know

Everything you need to know on how to get to Magnetic Island in Tropical North Queensland – a place so magical we made it our permanent home!

Located just 8km from the city of Townsville and right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef in Far North Queensland is the stunning Magnetic Island, one of the most incredible destinations in all of Australia.

Over the years the island has become a major tourist hotspot thanks to its pristine beaches, laidback vibes, diverse wildlife and adventurous activities.

The ease of access to get to Magnetic Island has also helped its recent boom in visitors, with ferries going every 20 minutes from Queensland’s second-largest city.

We loved the island so much when we visited that we ended up buying a block of land and building a home there!

Yep, after 12 years travelling the world, this place is just that magical that we wanted to stay forever. And after you visit we’re sure you’ll feel the same.

Radical Bay How To Get To Magnetic Island
Beautiful scenes just like this await you on Maggie!

How to Get to Magnetic Island – The Complete Guide

Here is our complete guide on getting to Magnetic Island.

And while you’re at it, don’t miss out on these other great Maggie Island articles we’ve put together:

Getting to Townsville

First thing, to get over to Magnetic Island you need to make your way to Townsville in Far North Queensland so you can jump on the ferry, as there is no airport on the island itself.

Townsville is well connected via road, rail and air, so getting here won’t be an issue.

There’s also a lot of epic things to do in Townsville, so make sure you have a few days spare on either side of your Maggie trip!

Driving to Townsville

Townsville is located at the intersection of Queensland’s two major highways – the Bruce Highway that goes from Brisbane to Cairns, and the Flinders Highway that goes from Townsville inland to Mt Isa.

The drive from Brisbane takes about 16 hours, so needs to be broken up over two days at least.

From Townsville it is only 4.5 hours to Cairns, 4.5 hours to Mackay, putting it right in the middle of Tropical North Queensland and with lots of incredible sights to see close by.

Ss Adelaide Magnetic Island
The famous S.S. City of Adelaide shipwreck on Magnetic Island.

Flying to Townsville

If you’re planning on flying to Townsville you’re in luck, because it’s home to a very well-connected airport.

Townsville has on average 7 flights per day coming in from Brisbane, and daily direct flights to Sydney and Melbourne.

There are also regular direct flights between Gold Coast, Cairns and Darwin to Townsville, as well as a range of regional flights to Mackay, Cloncurry, Mt Isa, Rockhampton and more.

Bonza Air, the newest ultra-budget airline hitting Australia soon, will be launching direct flights between Townsville and Sunshine Coast. Watch this space.

Train to Townsville

There’s also a rail service between Brisbane and Cairns that stops off at Townsville. The Spirit of Queensland does this trip 5 times a week.

Looking at Townsville at night from the ferry

Getting from Townsville to Magnetic Island

Once you’ve made it to Townsville you’re ready for the next part of your journey on how to get to Magnetic Island – Jumping on the ferry!

The island has two ferry companies that makes the short 25-minute crossing from Townsville very day. SeaLink, the passenger ferry, and Magnetic Island Ferries, the vehicle ferry.

Both ferry companies have different terminals in Townsville, but they arrive at the same Nelly Bay Ferry Terminal.

READ MORE: Don’t miss our locals’ guide to the best beaches on Magnetic Island!

Most people who travel to Magnetic Island tend to stay for just one day, or a couple of days at most.

For that reason it’s often more economical to leave your vehicle at the SeaLink ferry terminal in Townsville and come over as a foot passenger.

But if you’re staying for longer, or would rather use your own vehicle than rent one on the island, then it’s well worth bringing your own set of wheels across.

Airport Shuttle to the Ferry Terminal

If you’re flying into Townsville and don’t have your own vehicle, we highly recommend booking the local shuttle bus to get from the airport to the ferry terminal.

You can book it online here:

The prices are:

  • $10 for one person
  • $15 for a couple
  • $5 per person for groups of three or more

It’s cheaper than taking a taxi, which will cost about $25, and you can book it in either direction (from the airport to the ferry, or from the ferry to the airport when you return).

Simply book online and they’ll meet you when you arrive. Payment is cash or card on the day.

Townsville Magnetic Island Ferry Terminal
The Magnetic Island Ferries terminal in Townsville.

Passenger Ferry to Magnetic Island

For the foot passengers wondering how to get to Magnetic Island, you can jump onboard with either company.

The main passenger ferry to Magnetic Island that most people take though is SeaLink Queensland, and they only takes foot passengers to and from the island.

The reason most pedestrians take this one is that it is a lot faster (taking only 25 minutes terminal to terminal) and has a few more regular departures.

Their terminal in Townsville is also located closer to downtown, making it a bit more convenient to get to.

The SeaLink ferry is a fast, modern and safe vessel, with clean facilities and wheelchair accessibility.

The price for the ferry is AUD$39 return for an adult and $19.50 return for a child.

You can also take a bicycle onboard for free.

  • Address: Breakwater Terminal, Sir Leslie Thiess Drive, Townsville
  • Phone: 1300 MAGGIE (1300 624 443)
  • Times: 5:30am through to 11pm
Sail Boat Maggie
If you have your own boat you can always sail over to Magnetic Island too.

Car Ferry to Magnetic Island 

If you’re planning on taking your vehicle over to Magnetic Island, then your only option is to go with the company Magnetic Island Ferries.

Their large ferry can transport motorcycles, cars, campervans, caravans, boats and even semi-trailers from Townsville to Magnetic Island and back again.

They also take foot passengers (for the same price as SeaLink), where you walk on and walk off before the vehicles enter the boat.

But this option is only convenient if you are already in South Townsville, as the journey takes about 40-45 minutes rather than the 25 minutes with the other company.

This ferry company is not cheap, and will charge you by the weight and length of your vehicle, so be wary of this.

As an example, a standard car is $216 return (going up to $240 return during peak seasons), and if you’re taking a long vehicle such as a campervan or caravan, their return rates are $196 + $52 per metre over 5m.

But they are the only option you have if you want to take your own set of wheels to the island, so there’s little you can do.

If you’re planning on just spending one day on Magnetic Island, it can be better value to park your car at the ferry terminal in Townsville and simply rent a car on the island for the day.

  • Address: Ross Street, South Townsville
  • Phone: +61 7 4796 9300
  • Times: 5am through to 8pm
Car Ferry
Taking our campervan over to the island.

We hope this article answered all your questions on how to get to Magnetic Island, Queensland.

It’s one of the best places in the entire state, and we sincerely hope you enjoy your time there.

Is there a bridge to Magnetic Island?

No, there is no road or bridge to Magnetic Island. While rumours of construction have been circulating for a number of years, Townsville Council have confirmed they will not build one as the island is reportedly drifting away from the mainland.

How long is the ferry ride from Townsville to Magnetic Island?

The journey to and from Magnetic Island is 8km, and takes about 20 minutes one-way on the ferry in calm conditions.

How much is the ferry to Magnetic Island?

The price for the ferry to Magnetic Island is $34 return for a foot passenger, but there are special deals available if you pre-book your ferry.

How much does it cost to take a car to Magnetic Island?

The price to take your car to Magnetic Island starts at $216 return for a standard length vehicle, and goes up from there based on length and peak season availability.

Picture of Alesha and Jarryd

Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Hi, We’re Alesha and Jarryd!

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4 thoughts on “How to get to Magnetic Island, Queensland – Everything You Need to Know”

  1. Planning a 3 night trip at Selina on magnetic island, however we are travelling from Cairns to Sydney in a motorhome and magnetic island is one of our many stop offs.

    Do you have any suggestions as to where we can park our motorhome whilst we are in magnetic island?

    Thank you

    • Hey! The only campground/cavarvan park on Magnetic Island is at Selina. Otherwise if you are leaving your motorhome in Townsville there is free parking near the barge or paid secure parking near the Sealink terminal. Parking is at your own risk 🙂

  2. Hi

    I am planning on coming over for a few days in March and bringing my hire car.

    Just read the T and Cs and it excludes bringing the hire car over.

    Just how easy is it to get around without a car.

    The plan was to stop at Horseshoe Bay


    • Hi David, That is no worries at all about your rental car. There is parking at the car ferry terminal and then you can hop on that ferry as a passenger.

      Getting around the island is very easy. There is a local bus and you can pay $7.60 for the whole day with as many stops as you need. The bus runs usually every hour and during school holidays more frequent. The bus goes between Horseshoe Bay and Picnic Bay via Arcadia, Nelly Bay and the ferry terminal. Here is our article about getting around the island. Hope it helps. Have a great time.

      If you only have one day on the island, we wrote an article about this also.

      Have a great time. Happy travels.

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