UPDATED FEB. 2018. Magnetic Island off the coast of Townsville in North Queensland has many National Park walks connecting the bays. The Island was used as a defence post in WWII and the walk leads to artillery installations, ammunition bunkers and of course the forts with their gob-smacking enemy-spotting views. Viewing war paraphernalia in such a peaceful location is surreal to say the least – but if it’s koalas you’re looking for, this sauntering 4km return walk, through natural bushland of Australia, practically guarantees a sighting.
Pin these cute koalas.
- More about Magnetic Island’s wildlife.
- Forts Walk Magnetic Island
- Koalas on the Forts Walk
- Views from this Magnetic Island Walking Track
- Budget Travel Tips
- How to get to Magnetic Island
- Find more fun things to do in Townsville.
More about Magnetic Island’s wildlife.
Around 200,000 people visit Magnetic Island each year and locals are onboard with protecting their island’s flora and fauna. To find out more about wildlife on the Island click here.
Forts Walk Magnetic Island
How to get to the Forts Walk trailhead
Access is from the parking area and bus stop on the Arcadia to Horseshoe Bay road, just before its final descent into Horseshoe Bay. Let the Magnetic Island Bus driver know you want the Forts Walk and he’ll drop you there. From here a pot-holed bitumen road leads to Arthur, Florence and Radical Bays, but there is no vehicle access to the Forts.
In May, flowering Wattle Trees bring their brilliant colour and unique but delicate aroma to the track.
World War II on Magnetic Island
World War II enthusiasts will appreciate the rough concrete box like structures dotted along the way, a sober reminder that Townsville, only 8 km away, was bombed on three separate occasions in July 1942. Luckily the attacks only resulted in one injury and a near miss on the railway bridge across the Ross River.
That is Cape Cleveland you can see in the background. It’s part of the mainland but is quite often mistaken for an island.
WWII Relics and Bats
The walls and roof of this WWII Powder Keg are made of 12 inch (30cm) reinforced concrete. Located away from the guns and soldiers it was used to store ammunition. Inside is the cutest cluster of Little Bentwing Bats each only 45mm long, (captured here by Jim McLean), huddled on the ceiling. They are vulnerable to disturbance by humans so use a dim light without shining it directly on the ceiling.
Koalas on the Forts Walk
But the real draw card for tourists and locals alike, is the possibility of spotting Koalas in the wild. I have been known to joke that the National Park Rangers round the koalas up each morning and deposit them in the trees beside the track. Looking for koalas on the Forts walk is at the top of our favourite things to do on Magnetic Island list.
They might look cute and cuddly but the koalas you see here are wild. If they feel threatened they will climb higher into the trees, which means they can’t be easily seen and if cornered they will fight. By the way, Koalas can be held (for a price) at BUNGALOW BAY KOALA VILLAGE, just down the hill in Horseshoe Bay.
Marty spotted this adorable koala only four metres off the ground.
How to Find Koalas
Koalas sleep during the day, so movement can’t be relied upon as an indicator. The trick is to walk slowly and scan the forks of trees, remembering that koalas might be quite close to the ground. They snuggle down into an accommodating fork and sleep the day away.
If you can’t find one don’t be shy.
Ask everyone you meet along the track if they have seen any.
Everyone loves sharing a koala sighting.
Our friend is adamant that she saw thirteen in one day. Hmmm. I’ve never seen that many on the one walk.
Views from this Magnetic Island Walking Track
Granite boulders, giant hoop pines and unspoilt bays can be seen from vantage points along the way. At the top lookout which is set back a little from the ocean there are superb views down to Horseshoe Bay, back to the Mainland, across to Cape Cleveland, and north to the Palm Island Group.
Access to the highest fort is by steep ladder-like steps with handrails.
Horseshoe Bay’s distinct horseshoe shape.
Budget Travel Tips
What to take on the Forts Walk.
Take water, hat, and sun protection.
There are no shops/kiosks on the walk, the nearest being in Horseshoe Bay.
The track is not suitable for prams or wheelchairs.
Being Safe in the Aussie Bush.
As always in the Australian Bush keep be watchful for snakes. Snakes stay away from humans, but if you surprise one on the track, stand still and then slowly back away, and invariably it will slither quickly into the bush.
Magnetic Island Camping.
Bungalow Bay Koala Resort (YHA) at Horseshoe Bay is the only official Magnetic Island camping destination. It caters for tents and Campervans. Island roads are narrow and quite steep in places and not suitable for larger caravans. Privately owned and currently unused Radical Bay is sometimes used as a free (unauthorised) camping area.
How long does the Forts Walk take?
The Forts Walk Magnetic Island only takes 90 minutes to complete, making it achievable on a Magnetic Island day trip.
Magnetic Island Beaches
Magnetic Island beaches are spread out around the island so that no matter what the prevailing breezes, or ocean conditions, there will always be somewhere to relax in the sun, or in the shade of a She Oak tree. The island has twenty-three beaches although not all of them are accessible by road.
Magnetic Island Weather
The Island’s Weather is determined by it’s location in the dry tropics, with an average of 320 days of sunshine each year. It has an average maximum temperature of 28.7C and an average minimum of 19.5C.
November to April (Wet Season) is Stinger Season on Magnetic Island and both Picnic Bay and Horseshoe Bay have stinger enclosures for swimming. Stinger suits are recommended for swimming outside of these enclosures.
Best Time to Visit Magnetic Island
Winter in North Queensland (June to August) boasts temperatures of around 26 degrees and with no marine stingers in the water, it is the perfect time to visit Magnetic Island.
How to get to Magnetic Island
Catch a Magnetic Island ferry:
- Sealink Passenger Ferry – Breakwater Terminal, Sir Leslie Thiess Drive, Townsville (City Side of Ross Creek). Best for a Magnetic Island day trip.
- Fantasea Magnetic Island Car Ferry – Ross Street, South Townsville (South Side of Ross Creek). Best for a longer trip if travelling by car.
For more furry creature adventures on Magnetic Island read about feeding the Rock Wallabies at Arcadia.