53sq km in size, ‘Maggie’ as she is known by the locals, is over 70% national park and offers 23 secluded bays and beaches, rugged scenery, abundant wildlife, and fringing coral reef with over 141 fish and 180 bird species identified.
Magnetic Island offers quiet, secluded beaches, rugged nature, abundant wildlife and easy access to the Great Barrier Reef.
Who lives here?
2,500 inhabitants call the island home with the majority living and working on the island. Although some islanders do work on the mainland and commute via Ferry. Maggie is a suburb of Townsville these days, but is unique in that it is the only Great Barrier Reef island with its own postcode! We are well serviced with 2 ferry companies, 2 supermarkets, 3 pubs, many restaurants, a golf course and a primary school. High schoolers commute via Ferry to the mainland every morning.
What’s with the name?
The island’s traditional owners, the Wulgurukaba or Canoe People, refer to Magnetic Island as Yunbenun. Descendants of the Wulgurukaba are still living on the island. The modern name of Magnetic Island comes from Lt. James Cook who referred to it as Magnetical Isle. Sailing past in June 1770 Cook believed the granite was having a magnetic effect and causing his compass to give errant readings. He wrote in his journal : ” the Compass would not travis well when near it.” It turns out Cook was wrong, they’ve never found a magnetic effect on the island, but we quite liked the name, and it stuck.
(PS. When James Cook sailed past Magnetic Island in June 1770 he held the rank of Lieutenant. He was awarded the rank of Captain in 1775).
Magnetic Island is good to visit at any time – even in ‘off season’ as the island is always changing and offering something new. We experience over 320 sunny days per year and our temperatures range from a low average of 19 degrees to a high average of 28.7. Because of the sea breeze, the island maximum temperature is about one degree cooler than the mainland.
The busiest times of year are the winter months when our sea temperatures drop to a chilly 23 degrees!! In summer the sea temperature can climb to a 29 degrees!!
Situated in the dry tropics Maggie gets 80% of its rainfall in the months of January and February. May through to October are traditionally the driest months with a mean rainfall of less than 30mm.
Magnetic Island’s story started 275 million years ago when molten volcanic rock pushed its way to the surface. Over time the soil has been eroded the granite along fracture lines, revealing the granite rocky domes and boulders (Tors) that we see today.
There are about 23 different vegetation types on Magnetic Island. You may expect to see rainforest but Magnetic Island lies in the dry tropics and is covered with open eucalypt woodland of bloodwoods, stringy barks and grey ironbarks. Rainforest, called vine-thicket, is restricted to small pockets in sheltered gullies. Littoral rainforest, or beach scrub, a rare vegetation type first recorded in 1918 as ‘dense scrub’, is still found in Nelly and Florence bays. This is the most accessible ‘rainforest’ on the island and is an important food source for fruit-eating birds.
Distinctive hoop pines wedged amongst the boulders are a common features on the island. You will see Native kapok, producing yellow flowers in August and cottonwool-like seed pods in December. Higher up the Townsivlle Wattle often puts on a spectacular show over winter. The sheltered western side of the island is characterised by Mangrove forests and saltmarshes.
Allied Rock Wallabies
Magnetic Island is home to Allied Rock-wallabies. Difficult to see among the rocks they move quickly . Allied rock-wallabies move quickly and surely around the rocks and you will often find them feeding in the early morning and late afternoon. Allied Rock Wallabies range includes Magnetic and Palm Islands and extends from Townsville to the Burdekin River, the Bowen River, Croydon and Hughenden,
Koalas were introduced to the island in the 1930s to protect them from perceived threats on the mainland and have found a home on the island which these days boasts one of the largest Koala populations in Northern Queensland. You will also find echidnas, black flying-foxes bentwing bats and the common brush-tail possum around the island.
Several species of snake are found on Magnetic Island including the non-venomous common (green) tree snake, carpet and scrub pythons. A venomous snake, the death adder, is common on the island. The death adder is a shy snake hiding under leaf litter or sand, so if you’re on the walking trails and paths and not pushing through the bush you shouldn’t encounter any problems.
Over 180 species of birds can be seen on Magnetic Island. Some are permanent residents, whilst others are migratory. Seabirds include gulls, terns, sandpipers, dotterels and oystercatchers. Ospreys, White-Bellied Sea-Eagles and Kites are often seen soaring overhead. Peaceful Doves, Pied Currawongs, Olive-backed Sunbirds and a variety of honeyeaters are found throughout the woodlands, Perhaps our most iconic bird is the Bush Stone-Curlew which is still found in large numbers on the island. Its eerie call during breeding season and before a storm can send shivers down your spine if you’re not expecting it!