Dog-Friendly Magnetic Island: Visiting Maggie with a Dog

Magnetic Island is one of the largest islands off the coast of tropical Queensland. Known affectionately as Maggie to locals, the island is also a popular tourist destination, easily reached by a short ferry trip from Townsville. Find out more about visiting Magnetic Island with a dog.

Dog-Friendly Magnetic Island

Can You Take Dogs to Magnetic Island?

Dogs are allowed to join you on Magnetic Island. After all, the island is effectively a suburb of Townsville, with multiple settlements home to a little over 2000 permanent residents, many that own their own dogs.

However, note that 76% of the island is contained in the Magnetic Island National Park. Dogs are prohibited in the national park, so much of the island is out of bounds for dogs, outside of the villages. This includes the popular Forts Walk.

How to Get to Magnetic Island

It’s quick and easy to get to Magnetic Island from Townsville. There are two ferry options available.

If you’re taking your own car, you’ll need to take the larger Magnetic Island Ferries car barge. Advance bookings for vehicles are essential, with the fares for cars and other vehicles not that cheap. This ferry also transports foot passengers.

Magnetic Island Ferries Car Barge
The Magnetic Island Ferries car barge

Dogs are permitted on this ferry for no additional charge. They need to be leashed if you take them out of your car and are not permitted at the onboard cafe, except in the outside seating area.

The second option for getting to Magnetic Island is the quicker Sealink passenger ferry, which doesn’t transport cars, only foot passengers. We took this ferry across to Magnetic Island.

Magnetic Island Sealink Ferry
The Sealink passenger ferry at Magnetic Island

Dogs are also allowed on this ferry at no additional cost. All dogs need to to be leashed and wear a muzzle on this ferry, or alternatively travel in a pet carrier.

Dog on Ferry to Magnetic Island
Muzzles are required on the passenger ferry to Magnetic Island

Do You Need to Take a Car to Magnetic Island?

When we visited Magnetic Island for the day with our dog, we decided not to take our campervan across, mainly due to the cost and the lack of overnight camping options at the time. However, we don’t recommend this option to others.

The island is larger than you expect, and it’s only possible to get around a limited area on foot. Many foot passengers on the ferry make use of the buses on the island, particularly to get to Horseshoe Bay, but pets are not allowed on these buses.

Consider taking your own vehicle across to Magnetic Island, despite the cost, so that you can fully explore the island.

Another option is to hire a car on the island. I couldn’t track down any pet-friendly car hires at the time of my visit, but I’ve heard reports that Arcade Beach Guest House & Car Hire allows pets in their vehicles. Double check in advance, as they don’t advertise this on their website and they may change their policy.

Magnetic Island Car Rental
There are multiple care rentals on Magnetic Island, often with open-topped cars

Dog-Friendly Beaches on Magnetic Island

One of the top attractions of Magnetic Island is its beautiful beaches, and luckily dogs are allowed on-leash on most of the beaches, outside of the national park.

Consider visiting the following beaches with your dog on a leash:

  • Horseshoe Bay Beach – This large, popular beach is located on the northern coast of the island
  • Geoffrey Bay Beach – A short walk north of the ferry terminal, while not the best for swimming at low tide, Schnitzel loved digging in its sand
Dog Digging at Geoffrey Bay Magnetic Island
Schnitzel digging at Geoffrey Bay Beach
  • Nelly Bay Beach – Immediately south of the ferry terminal and in walking distance from it, although sand rejuvenation was taking place at the time of our visit
  • Picnic Bay Beach – On the southeastern tip of the island, this beach is home to a popular jetty
  • West Point Beach – This remote beach is located on the western tip of the island
Nelly Bay Beach
Nelly Bay Beach allows dogs on leash

Note that dogs are prohibited from a few additional beaches, so always check the signs. The most notable beach outside of the national park prohibiting dogs is the patrolled Alma Bay Beach, also one of the best beaches for swimming on the island.

When we visited Alma Bay, which is just north of Geoffrey Bay and within walking distance of the ferry, we took turns sitting in the park behind, while the other swam on the beach. We did notice that some people took their dogs onto the beach despite the signs.

More Dog-Friendly Sightseeing on Magnetic Island

A highlight of our day on Magnetic Island was walking along the spectacular Gabul Way boardwalk. This boardwalk starts close to the ferry terminal and leads to Geoffrey Bay, making for a safe footpath separate from the road.

Gabul Way
The spectacular Gabul Bay boardwalk to Geoffrey Bay

Dogs are welcome on the boardwalk – just keep them leashed. Along the way, there’s excellent views of the adjacent coastline and reef.

Gabul Way View
The view at low tide from the Gabul Way boardwalk

Another popular attraction at the far end of Geoffrey Bay are the resident rock wallabies. You can usually spot them at the end of Armand Way, close to the former ferry ramp.

Magnetic Island Rock Wallabies
Rock wallabies on Magnetic Island

While there is no prohibition on dogs in the area, I strongly advise you to not take your dogs over to the boulders where the rock wallabies hang out. Instead, my husband and I took turns to hold our dog, firmly on leash, while the other walked over to where the wallabies could be spotted. They are such sweet creatures!

Dog-Friendly Cafes & Pubs on Magnetic Island

The majority of cafes and pubs on Magnetic Island that have outdoor dining areas are happy to welcome dogs in them.

One recommendation I’ve heard from other visitors is for The Island Bar at Nomads Magnetic Island Backpackers (previously Base), at the southern end of Nelly Bay. The bar has a cheap lunch menu and live music.

Another option is Maggie Island Brewery in Picnic Bay. While they don’t serve their own food, there are multiple food options in the same arcade. There’s a dog-friendly enclave in the arcade, complete with plenty of water bowls and even lead hooks underneath the tables.

If you’re visiting Geoffrey Bay and Alma Bay, unfortunately you’ll have to skip dining at the Arcadia Village Hotel. Despite having a large outdoor dining area, the pub has a sign up forbidding dogs from within licensed areas.  

Pet-Friendly Accommodation on Magnetic Island

There’s a wide selection of holiday homes available to rent on Magnetic Island, with quite a few allowing pets. Search for a pet-friendly rental on your favourite site, whether Stayz, Airbnb or Booking. Just double check in advance the rules for dogs, including whether they are allowed inside.

There’s only a single campground on Magnetic Island, which at the time of our visit didn’t allow pets, so we skipped staying on the island overnight. However, the campground has now been taken over by Selina, an upmarket hostel brand that also offers co-working facilities.

I’ve confirmed directly with Selina Magnetic Island that they allow pets on camp sites. I recommend calling in advance to confirm and make a booking, plus find out the relevant rules and fees.

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About the Author

Photo of Shandos & Schnitzel

Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.

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