Great Barrier Reef Places

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Magnetic Island

Outdoor Activities

The island has 24 km (15 mi) of hiking trails, most of which are relatively easy. The popular Forts Walk leads to World War II gun emplacements overlooking Horseshoe and Florence bays. At a leisurely pace it takes 45 minutes each way from the Horseshoe-Radical Bay Road. Look up en route, and you may spot a sleepy koala.

The best views are on the 5-km (3-mi) Nelly Bay to Arcadia Walk. Look out for shell middens created over thousands of years by the island's Aboriginal owners, the Wulgurukaba, or "Canoe People."

Swimming and snorkeling are other popular activities, but from November to May stingers are a hazard: swim at Picnic and Horseshoe bays, which have stinger nets, and wear a protective suit. At other times, Alma Bay and Nelly Bay, as well as Picnic, Florence, Radical, Horseshoe, and Balding bays, are all suitable for swimming. Horseshoe has daily lifeguards; Alma and Picnic bays are patrolled over weekends and school holidays from September to May.

Geoffrey Bay has a well-touristed unofficial snorkel trail. Other good snorkeling spots include Nelly Bay, Alma Bay, and the northern ends of Florence and Arthur bays. Near the northeastern corner of the island, Radical Bay has a small, idyllic beach surrounded by tree-covered rock outcrops. Horseshoe Bay has the largest beach, with boat rentals.

Horseshoe Bay Ranch. Leaving only hoofprints on Magnetic Island's white-sand beaches, these eco-friendly horse rides offer the chance to go bareback swimming with your well-trained steed. Two- to three-hour rides (A$100) depart Horseshoe Bay Ranch daily at 9 and 3, wending their way along bush trails to a secluded beach, where you get to unsaddle and take the horses for a Coral Sea swim. Wear a bathing suit, shirt, long pants, socks, and closed shoes, and BYO drinking water and sunscreen. Safety helmets are provided, and a minimum of two guides accompanies each ride. 38 Gifford St., Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island, QLD, 4819. 07/4778–5109. www.horseshoebayranch.com.au. A$100 per person, guided ride; A$20 kid's pony ride.

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