Magnetic Island Visitors Guide

Snorkeling Guide


Magnetic Island is an amazing and unique place to have a safe snorkel. There are colourful fringing reef systems teaming with life just off the shores. These reef areas are as close as a 2 minute paddle from shore and provide a glimpse into the wonderful world of tropical reef ecosystems. Each bay is unique and holds its own special charms. All these bays are listed below in addition to the official snorkel trails designed to provide a safe and informed snorkelling for individuals, families and groups. These trails are marked by white buoys and information cards can be bought at many stores on Magnetic Island including Magnetic adventure and hire at 36 Mandalay Avenue. The cost of the information cards is $5, and the proceeds go to the upkeep of these special trails. Casual snorkel spots for families are marked (C)


1.    Picnic Bay- Yellow Zone
One of the most underrated snorkelling areas is Picnic Bay. The southern side is mostly coral rubble and not suitable for snorkelling. The Jetty and directly both sides of the long jetty provides scattered bommies and plentiful small reef fish. Under the pylons you can see Trevally, Reef Sharks, Rays, Barramundi (on occasion), Pike schools, Herring, Garfish and many other species hiding in the structures. For the strong swimmer, boat owners or spear fishers, abundant reef systems and Bommies lie 50m off the end of the jetty in the western and North-western areas spreading out to Cockle Bay. Head to
Magnetic adventure and hire for a more detailed map or explore away. This area is popular with crayfish gatherers, look for the feelers sticking out of the bommie holes. Note: Strong swimmers and confident snorkelers are recommended in this area.


2.    Nelly Bay Marked Snorkel Trail- Blue Zone (C)
This trail includes eight  Giant clams, the largest living bivalve Molluscs (Tridacna gigas). These clams were aquacultured in January 1986 by Dr. Rick Braley during his PhD thesis.  This marked trail starts approximately 90m off Nelly Bay beach (Low Tide) on the western end, close to X Base Backpackers Hostel, and heads east (left) to follow the reef structure closest to shore. Snorkel along the line highlighted by the five Yellow surface floats that outline the trail and offer flotation for tired snorkelers. The best entry point is close to Base then head east rather than going straight out from the sign, as that area at low tide can be difficult to negotiate, with sharp coral hidden by the sea weed Sargassum, especially in summer. Corals on view include Brain Coral, Lettuce Coral, Cauliflower Coral, Boulder Coral and Staghorn Coral as well as a variety of reef fish and cruising Predators.


3.    Geoffrey Bay Snorkel Trail- Green Zone (C)
This intriguing trail can be accessed from many different points. For the stronger swimmer, entering the water on the western side of the bay and swimming all the way across to the buoys is a must. The western, (right) side has benefits with plentiful fish species including Coral Trout, Cods, Damsel, Angel and many other fish species.  The official access to the trail starts approximately 350m from the eastern end of beach opposite Arcadia Hotel, or from the old Barge ramp, down the road where the Wallabies get fed.  The Geoffrey Bay Trail and most of the bay has plentiful fish, and sometimes you can come face to face with one of our Green Turtles. It also includes the chance to see the Moltke wreck. For information about this wreck see shipwrecks section. The Moltke can be hard to find if the weed on top has built up after a period of calm seas. Follow the four Yellow buoys to discover the beauty in this trail. For the stronger swimmers a WWII aeroplane propeller and old engine block (from a CW-22B Curtiss Falcon) also is a must, slightly further out (about 170m south of the wreck).  There are also 6 of the aquacultured giant clams  (near anchors or Surface floats 2 and 3).


4.    Alma Bay- Green Zone plus No Boating (C)

This bay has one big advantage, the beach is patrolled by Lifeguards. For family snorkelling, amateur snorkelers and first timers, this bay can be a rewarding experience. Snorkel around the rocks on the Eastern (left side) to see abundant fish life and a few corals. This bay is protected from Northerlies and Westerlies.


5.    Fish Cove – Difficult Access.

A hidden Gem for Spear fishers and snorkelers is Fish Cove. Accessible via walking track at the start of Horseshoe Bay this bay has large boulders, underwater caves, and holds good fish schools, with passing predator fish and some Corals. Swim around the main bay and out to the pint on calmer days at low tide for best viewing. Crayfish can be found in this area in breeding times.


6.    Arthur Bay-Yellow Zone Coral viewers pick (C)

Arguably Magnetic Islands best coral viewing bay, Arthur Bay has won many hearts for its colourful corals and sheer diversity of life. Access is from the Forts carpark via steep road. (1.4km total). At the bottom of the first hill on Radical Bay Road, park and walk through the signposted track to this amazing pristine beach. If driving, go past to the lookout further up. If you can see coral from the lookout the snorkelling should be great. Snorkelling spots include the Eastern or left-hand side all the way out and around to the second small bay. There is also a shipwreck off the second bay for the strong swimmers.  


7.    Florence Bay- Green Zone Fish Feeding (C)

Undoubtedly Florence Bay is a fish viewers paradise. Head off any direction for a wonderful experience. The middle of the bay has fish life just waiting for a feed including large Batfish and Parrot fish. The markers in the water are “no anchor” buoys which protect some amazing bommies growing up from the sandy bottom. Both sides of the bay have unique snorkelling although the Eastern, or left side is favoured by most. Note this bay can silt up fast in strong winds and big tides. Access via Radical Bay road 3.5km. Rated “best Island bay by many, low tide is the top time to see the wonders of fringing reef.


8.    White Lady Bay- Blue Zone Difficult Access.

White lady Bay is a hidden gem, although very susceptible to big tide and wing clarity issues. On the southern or left side of Horseshoe Bay, and towards the point this bay has Giant clams, as well as oyster covered oyster metal structures left only for its oyster and research heritage and abundant fish life. If you have seen the rest, take the time to checkout the bay and snorkel the waters. Hire a kayak or use a reef board for best results. 


9.    Lovers and 5 Beach Bays- Green Zone-Boat Access.

For boat hirers and owners is the remarkable 5 beach bay. Left or North of Horseshoe Bay Lovers Bay is the first and very small bay, in a line of spectacular and private bays, mostly inaccessible by land, covered with spectacular corals and abundant fish life. See 23 beautiful bays for more information. Also see hire services for information on accessing this area.



Surface and subsurface floats.
Follow the white surface floats that outline the trail and offer flotation for snorkelers to rest. 

You’ll also find white subsurface floats that are marked with letters. These letters relate to the Swim Cards which are available from participating retail outlets including Magnetic adventure and hire.

White buoys show where the snorkel trails start and finish and are close to the shore and very safe. Take your time and watch for strong tides.

Yellow buoys You will see further out to sea (and fringing Magnetic Island) are the baited shark lines. Fines apply for interfering with these buoys DO NOT swim to the yellow buoys.


Please do not stand on coral, do not feed bread to fish and do not remove any coral. There is no fishing or spearing in green zones.

1. Stinger suits are recommended by
Magnetic adventure and hire all year round, although we strongly advise you to wear them particularly between the months of November to April, as stingers (marine jellyfish) can be present. The app store has an App called The Jelly fish app which provides current information. If you are stung, wash with vinegar and seek medical attention immediately.

2. Water clarity is poor during and immediately after strong SE winds.

3. Avoid very low or high tides during new or full moon phases. You’ll 
find tide times at

Maps & Swim Cards
Download a map of the Snorkel Trails, and remember to pick up your handy Swim Card from participating retail outlets including Magnetic adventure and hire.

These laminated waterproof cards have a band that wrap around your wrist while you're swimming and have handy information about the types of coral and fish that you'll find on the trails, as well as a location of where you'll find the buoys on each trail