Unlike most of Queensland's offshore islands, Magnetic Island is not
a resort island, nor is it a coral island or part of the Great Barrier
Reef, but a recreational island where both locals and visitors go to
relax and unwind.
Just offshore from Townsville in Cleveland Bay, Magnetic Island is well
established as a holiday destination with many hotels and several
resorts in operation to cater for all levels of service. The locals
like it so much it has effectively become a suburb of Townsville, with
over 2,000 permanent residents, but don't let that put you of from
visiting, either for a day trip or longer.
There is a large 27 km2 national park and bird sanctuary on the island
and excellent walking tracks can be taken between the populated bays
and to a number of popular tourist destinations such as the World War
The island is a haven for wildlife. 54% of the island is Magnetic
Island National Park, which is mostly located on the steep hilly
interior and rugged north-western side. One of the most distinctive
inhabitants of Magnetic Island is the native bush stone-curlew - a bird
with a piercing cry which has awakened many a visitor in the night when
they are most active. Koalas are relatively common on the island and
can easily be found on the famous Forts Walk.
Magnetic Island is famous for its angling opportunities. Fish around
the island include: Blue and Black Marlin, Sailfish, Mackerel, Wahoo,
Giant Trevally, Dogtooth Tuna, Coral Trout, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Red
Emperor and Sea Perch. The highest point on the island is Mount Cook
reaching 497 m above sea level.
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The name of the island came about because of the apparent "magnetic"
effect it had on the ship's compass of Lieut. James Cook as he passed
the island when sailing up the east coast of Australia in 1770. People
have since explored the general area of Magnetic Island with various
instruments to discover what might have caused the effect that Cook
reported, but nothing has been discovered.
Magnetic Island became an important defensive position during World
War 2 due to its proximity to Townsville, an important military base,
and its views over Cleveland Bay, a significant anchorage and assembly
point for large fleets and convoys operating in the south Pacific. As
such, the Magnetic Battery, an artillery battery and observation post,
was built in the hinterland of Florence, Horseshoe and Arthur Bays.
Picnic Bay also became an popular defence force rest and relaxation
camp following the commandeering of a resort in the bay in 1939.