The Ultimate GUIDE to the Best MAGNETIC ISLAND BEACHES and Bays

Coming to Maggie and wondering which bays to visit? As locals we're proud to share our ultimate guide to the best Magnetic Island beaches with you!

If you’re planning a trip to Maggie and want to know where the best spots to hang are, our guide to our favourite Magnetic Island beaches will point you in the right direction!

Beautiful white sand, turquoise waters, abundant marine life and swaying palm trees – this is what awaits you when you come on over to Magnetic Island in Queensland!

Known as ‘Maggie’ to us locals, it’s impossible not to instantly feel like you’re on holiday the minute you arrive thanks to the relaxed island vibe.

If you’re an ocean lover or just enjoy chilling by the sea, you’ll be blown away by the gorgeous Magnetic Island beaches, which are guaranteed to be a highlight of your trip here.

But with 23 bays and beaches to choose from, how do you know where to go on your visit?

That’s where we come in!

READ MORE: Don’t miss our guide on getting around Magnetic Island so you know exactly how to get to these spectacular beaches!

Person Kayaking In Alma Bay Magnetic Island Beaches
There are so many bays with beautiful beaches on Magnetic Island.
Photo courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

Our Guide to the Best Magnetic Island Beaches

Whether you’ve jumped on the Magnetic Island ferry to come here for a day trip, or are planning on spending a few days in an accommodation and hitting up some of the best beaches in Australia, you’re going to love this tropical island.

Now that we’re proud to call Magnetic Island home, we’ve made it our mission to explore all the spectacular beaches and bays that this adventure paradise has on offer.

After all, being in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, there’s bound to be a lot of epic places to see, right?

So without further ado, here is our guide to the best beaches on Magnetic Island!

Alma Bay

Alma Bay is probably the most popular swimming spot on the island, and once you get here you’ll quickly see why – it’s STUNNING!

Located at the end of the village of Arcadia, the beach is surround by enormous granite boulders, white soft sand and glistening, usually calm water.

There’s little wonder then that Alma is known to be one of Queensland’s top 10 beaches.

Besides diving in for a swim in this glorious water, make sure you take your snorkel with you to as there is a healthy fringing reef that follows along the rocks on either side of the bay.

The bay is patrolled by lifeguards all year-round and has the yellow and red flags for safe swimming. Alma Bay is also accessible to every visitor with beach wheelchair access.

Facilities – Toilets, BBQs, playground, picnic tables, large grass area and a basketball half court. There is a convenience store across the road at the Arcadia Hotel. The bus stops directly in front of the beach.

Alma Bay Sunrise
Sunrise over Alma Bay. Definitely one thing not to miss in Magnetic Island.

Picnic Bay

Picnic Bay is a fantastic beach with a tranquil setting and truly local vibe.

Famous for its long, historic jetty and being the original holiday destination for people coming over from Townsville, Picnic Bay is a lot quieter now than it used to be. But that doesn’t make it any less marvellous!

Bring your snorkel so you can explore the marine life around the bay and jetty, as well as the shipwreck at low tide on the east side of the bay.

You may even spot a turtle or dugong if you are lucky.

READ MORE: While you’re on the mainland check out our list of what to do in Townsville as well!

There’s little cafes to grab a bite to eat, so pick up some fish and chips and kick back on the soft sand and watch the waves roll in.

Just down the road from Picnic Bay is Cockle Bay where the iconic shipwreck of the SS City of Adelaide is located. We do not recommend this area for swimming, but do check out while you are in Picnic Bay and have a look.

If you’re here in the evenings, Mamma Roma does the best Italian food in the entire region.

Facilities – At Picnic Bay there are BBQs, toilets and a playground. There are restaurants and cafes located along the walking esplanade. There are no facilities at Cockle Bay.

Aerial Photo Of Picnic Bay
Picnic Bay is a lovely place to spend some time in.

Rocky Bay

If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, and don’t mind showing a bit of skin, try to find your way down to Rocky Bay, a beautiful hidden beach located between Picnic Bay and Nelly Bay.

Just a short walk from the Base Backpackers hostel, Rocky Bay is one of Magnetic Island’s nudist beaches. You have been warned.

Access to this beach can be a bit trick the first time you come here. At low tide you can rock hop around from X Base, or alternatively take the rough path down from Rocky Bay Lookout.

Facilities – There are no facilities or shops here.

Rocky Bay On Magnetic Island
Rocky Bay is a hidden gem. Photo courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

Nelly Bay

Nelly Bay is the main residential town of Magnetic Island, and where you’ll arrive and depart from on the ferry from Townsville (read our guide on how to get to Magnetic Island).

The beach at Nelly Bay is 1.75 km long and has many spots to jump in and have a dip. The bay is sheltered so the water is calm with small waves rolling in.

There is a great walking path by the beach for your morning or evening strolls or bike rides.

Towards the northern end of Nelly Bay beach is a snorkel trail. This area has a fringing coral reef that widens from 10m in the west to 300m against the western Bright Point.

Dugongs live in the sea grass between Nelly Bay and Townsville, and during the winter months humpback whales swim right by.

Nelly Bay isn’t the most beautiful beach on Magnetic Island, but it is clean with plenty of places to grab a meal or drink nearby.

Facilities – BBQs, playground, picnic tables, shelters and toilets. All located at the northern end of the beach on The Esplanade.

Nelly Bay Beach Aerial Photo
Looking down Nelly Bay Beach. Photo courteous of Tourism and Events Queensland

Geoffrey Bay

One of our favourite places on the island is Geoffrey Bay, located in Arcadia. With the beach stretching a similar size to Nelly Bay beach, you can pop in anywhere and have a dip.

The best time to swim at this beach is during high tide, as it’s very shallow and at low tide you have to walk a long way out to get into the water.

It is a very calm beach for young swimmers too.

At the northeastern end of Geoffrey Bay you will find the local residents, the rock wallabies.

These super cute marsupials are definitely worth visiting, and are actually one of the top things to do in Magnetic Island.

There’s another snorkel trail here at Geoffrey Bay too. Pick up a self-guided snorkel trail card for a small donation from one of the local shops and head out near the rock wallabies to see the giant clams, the Moltke Wreck, remains of a Curtiss Wright CW22 plane and maybe even sea turtles.

Facilities – There are no BBQs and public toilets along this beach. The nearest ones are at Alma Bay. There is exercising equipment, a walking path with picnic tables along the way.

READ MORE: We’ve compiled our list of the top places to stay on the island! Check it out here!

Geoffrey Bay At High Tide
Looking down on Geoffrey Bay at high tide.

Arthur Bay

Arthur Bay is located on the north-east corner of Magnetic Island, and chances are you’ve already seen it on Instagram.

This bay is a perfect location for a nice dip, to enjoy a picnic lunch and head out to see what’s floating around underwater.

Because you have to hike into it, this beach has less traffic than the others, so there’s a good chance you will have the place to yourself.

Arthur Bay is the best place to snorkel on the Magnetic Island.

With a beautiful fringing reef that skirts around Arthur Bay you are bound to see some marine life.

It is shallow but has great coral cover, and if you are lucky you may see a turtle or two. Don’t forget to pack your snorkel gear.

Because the Radical Bay Road is now closed to vehicles the only way to get here is to hike down to it.

Park your car at the Forts carpark (or jump out at the bus stop here) and walk down to Arthurs Bay.  

Keep our eyes open when you are walking down here. You may spot koalas, rock wallabies, lots of birds and even migrating whales in the winter.

If you need to rent snorkelling gear, head into Pleasure Dives (Arcadia) or Pro Dive (Nelly Bay) – they can help you.

Facilities – There are no public toilets, BBQs, drinking water, picnic tables or shops in this area.

View Up High Of Arthur Bay
Arthur Bay is a great spot to spend the morning or afternoon.
Photo courteous of Tourism and Events Queensland

Florence Bay

Florence Bay is another local favourite when it comes to beaches on Magnetic Island.

This picturesque bay is another lovely place to have a swim and a snorkel, with a large coral population along the rocks on the left and coral bommies in the middle.

When the winds are up you will see all the surfing locals head down to Florence Bay to catch some waves.

Access to Florence Bay is via the Radical Bay Road, which is accessible only by foot. There once was a 4×4 track down to Radical Bay passing Florence Bay but the road is closed to cars now.

Park your car at the Forts car park and walk down to Florence Bay.

Facilities – There are no public toilets, BBQs, drinking water, picnic tables or shops in this area.

Snorkelling At Florence Bay
The snorkelling at Florence Bay is amazing.
Photo courteous of Tourism and Events Queensland

Radical Bay

Radical Bay is on the northeast of the island and can only be accessed by foot now that the road is closed to vehicles. But trust us, it’s worth the effort!

The location is magnificent. It is a popular beach, but if you walk to the other end you can get away from everyone.

The water is calm and sheltered, making it the perfect place to chill out and relax with your friends or family.

The beach is lined with giant granite boulders with you can explore and there’s lots of empty sand to throw a towel out on.

Bring a picnic, your floppy hat, a towel and sunscreen to spend the day out here.

You can walk to Radical Bay from Horseshoe Bay.

Facilities – There are no public toilets, BBQs, drinking water, picnic tables or shops in this area.

Radical Bay Palm Trees
Radical Bay was a beautiful beach and a lovely walk there too.

Balding Bay

Balding Bay is a hidden gem, and one of our favourite Magnetic Island beaches.

Many people skip the turn off and continue onto Radical Bay when walking from Horseshoe Bay, but we recommend that you do not miss this beach.

It is the closest one to Horseshoe Bay on the trail, and because most hikers make a beeline to Radical, you may be the only one at Balding Bay when you arrive.

The soft sandy bottom feels amazing between your toes and the water is so calm as the bay is protected.

Facilities – There is a drop toilet here. There are no BBQs, drinking water, picnic tables or shops in this area.

Balding Bay Maggie
There are so many beautiful beaches around the island to explore
and have a swim in.

Horseshoe Bay

Everybody loves Horseshoe Bay, and for good reason. It’s absolutely gorgeous!

Like all the other beaches here, it has beautiful, soft white sand and vibrant clear water.

A lot of water sports activities happen here, such as jet-skiing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, fishing and sailing.

The bay is lined with palm trees for shade and has a great swimming enclosure, which you can swim in all year round thanks to the stinger nets.

There are a number of restaurants and cafes along Pacific Drive which offer water views. Grab a meal or coffee and watch the world go by.

On the northeast side of the beach you can find where the walking trail to Balding Bay and Radical Bay starts.

Facilities – There are toilets on the corner of Horseshoe Bay Road and Pacific Drive. There are free BBQs, picnic tables and a playground. There is a nice grass area on the beach front. There is a convenience store, restaurants and cafes near by.

Horseshoe Bay Magnetic Island View From The Forts
Looking down on Horseshoe Bay from the Forts.

West Point

If you’re wondering where is the best place to watch sunset on Magnetic Island, then you need to make your way out to West Point.

Down a long, dirt (and sometimes rough) road you’ll find this secluded township that is almost like the land that time forgot.

Facing towards the mainland, West Point is a fantastic spot to kick back with a drink and some snacks and watch the sunset while the sea glows crimson.

We don’t recommend swimming at West Point due to the fact that there are crocodiles in the area, but definitely grab a spot in the sand by the road and enjoy the evening.

West Point Sunset Magnetic Island
Sunset at West Point on Magnetic Island.

Bays Only Accessible by Boat

The bays and beaches in Magnetic Island below can only be accessed by boat. So if you have a boat or are going on an Island Tour you may have the chance to visit them.

  • Gowrie Bay 
  • Lovers Bay
  • Norris Bay 
  • Joyce Bay
  • Huntingfield Bay
  • Rollingstone Bay
  • Young Bay
  • Bolger Bay

There are no facilities at the above beaches.

Geoffrey Bay Drone Shot
Yes, the water in Magnetic Island is this blue.

Tips for Visiting the Beaches on Magnetic Island

Being in the tropics of Far North Queensland, there are a few things you should know about the beaches on Magnetic Island to stay safe.

Stingers Arrive in the Summer Months

From November to May, but particularly from January from April, the deadly irukandji jelly fish frequent the waters off of the island.

While the chance of getting stung isn’t high, it is a serious risk and people do die from these near-invisible stingers.

If you’re swimming here in the summer months stick to Alma Bay where the lifesavers are and stinger nets are deployed, and wear a stinger suit (available for rent at Pleasure Divers).

There Are Crocodiles and Tiger Sharks on the West Side of the Island

Yes, you read that right.

On the west side of the island is a large tiger shark breeding ground, and saltwater crocodiles swim in the waters here.

We do not recommend swimming on the west side of the island.

Note – Crocs do occasionally come around to the east side and have been spotted around Arcadia and Horseshoe Bay, but it’s not common.

Wear Sunscreen and Stay Hydrated

You’re in the tropics and the heat and humidity can really get to you if you’re not acclimatised.

Always drink lots of water and cover up from the sun by wearing clothes or sunscreen.

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!

Join the Team

We’ve been traveling the world together since 2008, searching for the planet’s best destinations and adventures.

Love Travel?

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter for the best travel tips, ideas and deals!

We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.


Related Posts

8 thoughts on “The Ultimate GUIDE to the Best MAGNETIC ISLAND BEACHES and Bays”

  1. A friend was recently at Horseshoe Bay and commented that visibility is not the greatest. . . thought it might be silt related. Is this your understanding?

    • Hey! We’ve had some pretty strong easterlies over the past few weeks, which has affected visibility. The silt comes and goes though, so after the wind dies down it should be nice again. If Horseshoe has low visibility, can always try Picnic Bay 🙂

      • Thanks. Just deciding whether to bring the snorkel

        • There are places to rent snorkelling gear if you would like. If the visibility is not the best then don’t worry about a snorkel but if it is great you can rent a set. There are so many amazing places to go snorkelling on Magnetic Island. Have a great time. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for this information. Very helpful.

    • Glad it was helpful. Hope you had a great time.

  3. The plane wreck in Geoffrey Bay is not a bomber jet.. it’s a Curtiss Wright CW22. It’s propeller driven plane used as an 2 person advanced trainer by the US Navy.

    • Hi Neil, thanks so much for the information! We have just updated out article. Really appreciate it 🙂

Leave a comment