Magnetic Island is a stunning island in Northern Queensland in Australia just off the coast of Cairns and not far from the Great Barrier Reef. Most of this tropical island is a national park with a notable bird sanctuary (not to mention having a population of over 800 koalas on the island. In addition, Townsville was a very strategic location during World War 2 and one can see the forts built there to repel a feared Japanese invasion.

If one is exploring Queensland, take time out to take the ferry to this island paradise. From here one can also explore the Great Barrier Reef - one of the great natural wonders of the world. Another famous stretch of Australian coastline is the Great Ocean Road of Victoria just out of Melbourne - explore that too if one has time.


What To Know About Magnetic Island

The island is a stunning holiday destination and is also famous for its great fishing - fishing includes blue marlin, black marlin, sailfish, mackerel, wahoo, giant trevally, coral trout, mahi-mahi, tuna, red emperor, and sea perch.

  • Name: The Local Native Name Is Yunbenun
  • Location: 5 Miles Off The Coast of Townsville
  • Size: 52 km2 (20.1 sq mi)
  • Population: 2,335 Permanent Residents
  • Koalas: There Are Over 800 Koalas On The Island

But one of the things that the island is the most famous for, is its large amount of wrecks. Some of these wrecks have become almost islands (like the SS City of Adeliade that one can wade out to), while others are some of the most famous and popular wrecks in the world for diving (like the Yongala not far away). Some of the wrecks were scuttled on purpose while others were the worst maritime disasters in Australian history.

In total there are at least 20 known shipwrecks scattered around the island. These ships have been wrecked from a combination of being scuttled for providing breakwaters, while others have bet their end from the region's powerful cyclones. Here we will only mention those on the island or very close to it.

Related: Why Everyone Should Visit Australia's Ancient Rainforest At Daintree National Park

Wrecks Still Visible

Presto (1896) – Still visible:

The Presto is a ferry in Nelly Bay that was destroyed in the 1896 Cyclone Sigma and then towed and sunk to provide a breakwater. When the new harbor was built, most of it was removed. But one can still see the bow of the old breakwater.

  • Type: Iron Barque Of 360 Tons
  • Visible: Her Bow

PS George Rennie (1902) - Still Visible:

The PS George Rennie was a 151 gross ton paddle steamer and was scuttled as a breakwater in 1902. Today one can walk right up to its barnacle-crusted wreck on the beach at low tides. During high tides, she can be snorkeled.

The Moltke (1911) – Still visible/Dive & Snorkel Site

The Molke is part of the Geoffrey Bay snorkel trail and is just past the fourth float. One can see her poking above the water on the lowest tides. She is 52 meters long and built-in Hamburg in 1870 she is described as ‘beautiful, expensively furnished and spotlessly kept’.

After being damaged she was scuttled as a breakwater in the wrong place. Today she is an awesome dive site in 8 miles of water just offshore.

The Platypus Dive site (3-7 m of water):

The Platypus was scuttled between Arthur and Florence Bays in 1902 and today she is a dive site. Although one needs the right equipment to find the wreck as she is covered over by hard coral. Her most recognizable features are her square boilers and their associated steam plumbing.

Wrecks Not Visible

  • Lavinia (1896): The Lavinia Was Another Victim of Cyclone Sigma, Today Nothing Is Visible Of Her
  • The Bee (1901): She Was a 100 Ton Wooden Steam Screw That Was Wrecked by Bad Weather By Heavy Weather - Nothing Is Visible Today
  • The Octopus (1914): In 1880 This Was The Largest Vessel Built-In Queensland, Eventually Her Hulk Was Dragged Out And Sank In Deep Water, She is Not Visible

Related: Japan's Truk Lagoon is Home To An Extraordinary Number Of Wartime Wrecks, Still Visible Today

The Iconic SS City of Adelaide

The most famous and remarkable of the island's wrecks is the SS City of Adelaide. Today she has become an Instagram craze and it is easy to see why. She was a composite three-masted bark-rigged screw steamer and transported passengers between Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane till 1885.

  • Length: 80 Meters
  • Built: In 1864 In Glasgow, Scotland
  • Role: Passenger Ship Later Converted For Coal Storage
  • Changing Room: She Became A Changing Room for Local Tourists
  • Cyclone Althea: Significantly Damaged Her Wreck in 1971

Later she had her boilers ripped out and was converted totally to sail before being converted to a coal ship.

An attempt to tow her was unsuccessful and she ran aground. For a time she became a bathhouse for swimmers. She was also a practice target for Beaufort Torpedo bombers during WW2.

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