Kayaking to or around Magnetic Island

Kayaking to or around Magnetic Island

Location - Townsville, North Queensland, Australia
Distance - 7 km one way to Picnic Bay (or ~45 kilometres around the island)
Time - Allow 2 hours, one way, to Picnic Bay or 8-14 hours around the island

Paddling can be so rewarding for the mind and body, allowing us another way to connect with nature, and we are lucky to have such a gem of a kayaking destination that is perfectly located right next to Townsville. Many locals will opt to surf ski across to Picnic Bay in the mornings before work or have a relaxing paddle around the island on the weekend. Pick your perfect paddle!

A seven-kilometre, approximately one to two hour, one-way trip takes you from Townsville's Strand to Magnetic Island, where you can stop at Picnic Bay for a coffee and/or breakfast before heading back. Just be sure to check opening times for the cafes at Picnic Bay if you plan to paddle super early, as many of them do not open until 8:00 am. Many paddlers also choose to visit the gorgeous Rocky Bay, but note that there are no cafes or coffee shops on Rocky Bay. So, you may opt to bring your own thermos of coffee and morning tea to enjoy on the enormous boulders. Some even paddle straight to Nelly Bay, which is a nine-kilometre, one-way trip. Here, you can spend a bit more time enjoying coffee and brunch, or maybe even a walk, before returning to Townsville.

A 45-kilometre, multi-day, round-trip around the island takes you past some of Magnetic Island's most remote beaches and even several shipwrecks. What an experience! This trip around the island can also be done in one day (allow 8-14 hours, depending on your craft and skill).

There are so many benefits to paddling around Magnetic Island as opposed to taking the ferry. Indeed, you have the opportunity to see so much more than you would by foot or car, as many of the bays are only accessible from the water. Plus, you can enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with being away from the prominent tourist areas, too.

The best time to paddle over to the island tends to be early in the morning. The winds tend to be quite mild early in the mornings, and if you are really lucky to get out when it's flat and glassy, your paddle over will be even more enjoyable. There are several websites you can use to check the winds. Oftentimes, even if the wind is forecasted to pick up, it doesn't do so until after midday, which is also why paddlers tend to go out early in the mornings. And, if you are a sucker for sunrises, this is definitely the time for you!

What you need

  • Safety gear (PLB/EPIRB, first aid kit, life jacket, etc.), navigational equipment, and skills/knowledge required for your specific watercraft. The ability to swim, as well as confidence in the water, and an ability to stay calm, so you can think rationally in emergencies.
  • A skirt, a paddle, and a sit-in kayak, a surf ski, or another type of small watercraft. The watercraft needs to be well-maintained and seaworthy.
  • Also, consider a paddle leash, a bailing device to ensure the inside of your watercraft stays dry could be advisable.
  • Drinking water and snacks.
  • A dry bag (for phone/camera, dry clothes, optional items, etc. depending on the length of your trip).
  • Sunscreen and sun-protective clothing (e.g., sunglasses, long-sleeved top, gloves, appropriate watershoes - especially if you plan to hit up a cafe or take a walk on the island).

Groups to join

Townsville Kayak Club
Townsville Alive!
Magnetic Island Outrigger Canoe Club
Townsville Outrigging Canoe


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