Even if you only have one day on Magnetic Island, you should not miss the Forts Walk. It’s a must-do for nature lovers, and also those interested in history and WW2. You’ll get to see splendid views of the whole island, but it’s not the only reason why the Forts Walk is so popular. We completed the Forts Walk twice and saw koalas each time. And each time, I know some people doing the same walk as us did not see them. So here are my tips to explore the Forts Walk and maximise your chances of seeing koalas.
Distance: 3-5 km
Time: 1.5-2 hours
How long is Forts Walk on Magnetic Island?
Forts Walk circuit is about 3 to 5 kilometres long, depending on the detours you take. The fittest hikers can complete it in one hour and the national park signs advise to allow 1.5 hours. But you do not want to rush on this hike. You should allow enough times for breaks to enjoy the views. And when there’s no view, you should walk slowly and try to spot one of the many koalas living in the national park. I recommend allowing two hours for this walk.
How hard is Magnetic Island Forts Walk?
We found Magnetic Island Forts Walk pretty easy. The first part of the walk is rather flat. There are steeper sections at the end as you climb up to the forts, but the path is well maintained and you can take your time in the steps. The ladders to access the forts can be a challenge for those not at ease with heights. I was totally fine going up and down despite being scared of heights as the stairs don’t move. The ladder had a comfortable angle and two solid handrails to make me feel safe.
How and where can you see koalas on the Forts Walk?
The Forts Walk is the best place on Magnetic Island to see koalas. It’s even one of the best spots to see wildlife in Australia. Wild koalas are not easy to spot. I hope these tips will help you find a koala on Magnetic Island Forts Walk.
Learn more about koala behaviour
During the day, koalas don’t move a lot. They mostly sleep in Eucalyptus trees. If you can recognise these trees, you can focus your search and will have better chances of spotting koalas.
Walk slowly and look up… and down!
To increase your chances of seeing a koala on the Forts Walk, you need to walk slowly and look up in the trees. Your walk may take longer, but it’s rare to see a koala if you don’t look for it. Why did I write you should also look down? It’s not rare that other hikers who spotted a koala before you would leave a mark on the ground (a cross, arrow or a pile of branches) where they spotted a koala. As the animals don’t move a lot during the day, it should still be there!
Ask other hikers
The Forts Walk is one of Magnetic Island’s most popular attractions. Hence, you’re likely to meet other hikers finishing the walk as you’re going up. Don’t be shy; ask them if they had any luck seeing a koala. We had walked past one without seeing it and realised it thanks to a German backpacker who pointed it to us.
Make sure you do the full circuit
When you come back from the top of the Forts, make sure you don’t use the same path to go down. We saw a few people who did the hike as a return walk. There’s a short loop and once, we spotted koalas as we went down the other side of the loops (and would have missed them should we have done a return walk!).
Take the detours to the ruins
On our way to the top, I always skip the detours to the ruins when we’re in the flat area. I honestly don’t find them interesting. But that time when we were on our way back and still hadn’t spotted a koala, I’m glad my partner decided to check out the ruins. They take you a bit further in the forest, just a few metres away from the main track. And we finally saw a koala that day!
Other wildlife you can spot on the Forts Walk
We also found small bats in one of the bunkers at the start of the circuit. As we were walking slowly to try to spot koalas, we could also see many butterflies and a few birds, including birds of prey.
Tips to find the best views on the Forts Walk
The view from the main fort at the end of the Forts Walk is the best view of the hike. But you’ll have other opportunities to get stunning views and take beautiful pics if you take some of the detours to the gun emplacements or the captain lookout, for example. We liked hopping on boulders to get closer to the cliff and away from the trees. Of course, make sure you stay safe; it’s never worth risking injuries for a photo!
WWII on Magnetic Island and in Townsville
Around 70,000 US servicemen were living in Townsville after the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. After the Japanese tried to attack Townsville by air in 1942, forts and gun emplacement were built on Magnetic Island to protect Cleveland Bay and Townsville. A lot of ruins and bunkers remain and can be explored on the Forts Walk. If you can get your eyes off the stunning views, signs help better understand the history.
Have you hiked the Forts Walk on Magnetic Island? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where is Magnetic Island and the Forts Walk?
The Forts Walk is between Geoffrey Bay and Horseshoe Bay. It takes less than 10 minutes to drive there from Nelly Bay, where the ferry arrives on Magnetic Island from Townsville. If you don’t have a vehicle, you can also easily reach the Forts Walk by bus (‘Forts Walk Turnoff’ bus stop). You may be keen for a refreshing dip or a snorkelling session after the walk. From the car park, you can walk to Arthur Bay and Florence Bay, or you can drive to the more popular Geoffrey Bay.
Magnetic Island is one of the most popular day trips from Townsville, as it takes only 30 minutes by ferry to reach Magnetic Island from the marina. You can book a ferry from Townsville Marina*. It’s one of the best day trips from the capital of North Queensland. If you’re planning to visit Magnetic Island, check out these one-day itinerary ideas.