Location - Magnetic Island National Park, North Queensland, Australia
Difficulty - Grade 4
Distance - 3 kilometres return
Time - Allow 2 hours return
Magnetic Island is located just out from Townsville, North Queensland and may well be one of Australia's most underrated tourist attractions. Five Beach Bay is even more of a secret, with very few people frequenting these beautiful beaches. Even though locals have been doing this hike for decades, and motorboats, kayaks, and SUPs have made access a bit easier, these parts of beautiful, picturesque Magnetic Island are still some of the most obscure and secluded, making this adventure quite special.
Lovers, Maud, Norris, Joyce, Wilson, and Huntingfield Bays are all part of the secluded 'Five Beach Bay' group (even though you may count six in that list) and are rarely visited by those on foot, which probably helps to keep these areas as pristine as they currently are. These bays are also part of the National Park, meaning tropical fishes, turtles, and even dugongs are abundant. Of the aforementioned, Maud Bay is the easiest to visit via foot, as it's only a 1.5 kilometre scramble, but you simply must rock hop to Norris Bay as well to truly enjoy how special this area really is! Remember to bring plenty of water.
How to get there
Start by walking along the beach toward the west end of Horseshoe Bay. Then, the route follows the creek (and the rock cairns) up beside Split Rock to the saddle. Take a small detour to enjoy Split Rock as well; the views across Horseshoe Bay are pretty remarkable.
Continue to follow the rock cairns down into Maud Bay, and you will soon find your way onto the sandy beach and creek mouth.
Please note that there is private property adjacent to and within this beach area. Please respect the property owners' privacy and property boundaries. Do not trespass or "sticky beak", as some may call it.
From Maud Bay, follow the beaches and bays, making your way southwest, stopping at Norris Bay. Once you've had enough, return via the same way.
The Other Bays
Note that the other bays mentioned below are much harder to reach and more remote. Attempting to walk to Horseshoe Bay from West Point via the coast is a long walk/scramble. There have been several people over the years that have attempted this route but did not make it, ending up stranded on Maud Beach, usually after dark, without any water left, etc. Be sure your experience, skills, and resources (e.g., water, food, and emergency overnight gear) are sufficient if you are attempting these other routes.
- Continue on by ascending into the upper reaches of Endeavour Creek. Then, follow Endeavour Creek back to Horseshoe Bay.
- Or, continue along the coast to Joyce Bay, Wilson Bay, and Huntingfield Bay. Traversing past Norris Bay requires a much longer, yet still feasible, rock hop that is best done as an overnighter, even for the most experienced bushwalkers.
- If you are keen to check out Lovers Bay, you will want to do this after exploring Split Rock but probably before heading down into Maud Bay from which you will rock hop northeast to Lovers Bay. Alternatively, take the ridgeline down through the boulders. Lovers Bay is a bit harder to access than Maud Bay due to more boulders in the hills and longer rock hops, but it is quite nice and worthwhile. You can even get their via SUP or kayak.
- The creeks on Magnetic Island do not flow for most of the year. You must carry adequate water supplies for your route. We usually recommend 3.5 litres per person per day, but that varies, depending on the person, the weather (e.g., high temperatures), etc.
- Be aware of the private property boundaries on and around Maud Beach. Please be respectful, as the land owners love the remoteness of the area and their privacy. Over the years, they have had many issues with trespassing from all sorts of people, including locals. Please do not trespass or "sticky beak".
- Leave No Trace. As Magnetic Island becomes increasingly popular, we will need to be more diligent in practicing our Leave No Trace philosophy. Be mindful that you do not disturb the flora and fauna, and aim to keep your impact to a minimum. Please take everything you bring back home with you (i.e., pack it in, pack it out). If you find rubbish, please pick it up, and hike it out. Let's take only photos, memories, and other people's rubbish, and leave only light footprints... and, of course, a cleaner environment.
- Death adder snakes are common on Magnetic Island. The death adder is the ninth most deadly snake in the world and is commonly encountered on the ground but has remarkable camouflaging skills. It has a diamond-shaped head, its body is typically covered in thick bands of varying colour (usually grey), it has a worm-like lure on its tail, and this snake averages 40 centimetres in length. Death adders are ambush predators, and given that they are so well-camouflaged against the rock and rarely move unless directly provoked, they can be stepped on or disturbed accidentally. Be vigilant, and take care not to step on them! If you are bitten, do not wash the area, and do not elevate the area. Instead, immobilise the limb, apply a pressure bandage, and seek immediate medical treatment. This will require helicopter evacuation.
What to bring
- 2-4 litres of water (depending on route and season/weather)
- Long pants and shirt (quick dry, protection from vegetation and sun)
- Sun protection: sunscreen, hat, long-sleeved clothing
- Lunch, snacks, and electrolytes (if required)
- Camera and/or phone
- First Aid Kit (with snakebite bandages and a PLB)
- Insect repellent
- Headlamp and spare batteries (just in case)