Australia's Bermuda Triangle - A Guide to Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted August 11, 2022

From missing ships to mysterious disappearances, find out why Magnetic Island maintains its magnetic pull.

For years, the world has been intrigued by the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle - an area marked by the ‘triangular’ coastlines of Florida, Bermuda and the Greater Antilles. The section of ocean has been where 20 aeroplanes and 50 ships are said to have disappeared without a trace.

But did you know that Australia is home to its own mysterious waters?

Home to over 20 shipwrecks, apparent Loch Ness monster sightings, and the ‘Maggie Island Mystery,’ it’s time to dive into the history of why Queensland’s Magnetic Island has been dubbed 'Australia's Bermuda Triangle'.

People looking to experience Magnetic Island and the Queensland Coast can even take a tour and experience the wildlife, waterfalls and wild history the jewel of the north has to offer. 

The Maggie Island Mystery

Where is Magnetic Island?

A short 20-minute ferry ride from the coastal city of Townsville in Queensland lies Magnetic Island, or ‘Maggie’ as it’s referred to by its approximate 2,300 locals. The origins of the name also relate to strange happenings on the island – it is said to have been named by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770, whose ship’s compass had a ‘magnetic effect’ when in the Island’s vicinity.

It is known for being Queensland’s sunniest city, as well as for its native parks, wildlife -it is home to Australia’s largest koala colony - 24 kilometres of walking trails and the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Magnetic Island also boasts attractions such as an aquarium, tours, shops, galleries, museums, spas, bars, and restaurants across its 52 square kilometres.

Whilst there have been no proven instances of magnetic forces at work, tourism boards will tell you that a trip sure is ‘magnetising.’ 


Spot one of the 800 koalas roaming Magnetic Island. Image: Sean Scott for Tourism and Events Queensland.
Magnetic Island is known as a tropical paradise, boasting over 320 days of sunshine per year. Image: Getty.

Shipwrecks – suspicious or scuttled?

Magnetic Island is home to at least 20 shipwrecks, many of which now form part of a ‘Shipwreck Trail’ that avid tourists can take around the island by boat or view the history of at the Magnetic Island History & Craft Centre & Magnetic Museum. 

While pirates and treasure chests are yet to be spotted, some of the shipwrecks can be seen when snorkelling and scuba diving, but can also be viewed when the tide is low. However, some remain lost to the legend – if you’d care to believe it.

While some wrecks were true disasters, some were purposely ‘scuttled’ around the island to assist in providing breakwaters in the surrounding bays.

Many of the shipwrecks date back to the 1800s, such as 1863's SS City of Adelaide, a passenger ship making its way from Glasgow, Scotland.

In 1912, after being converted into a cargo vessel, it was gutted by fire and was set to be scuttled in Magnetic Island’s Picnic Bay. However, it ran aground off the Island’s Cockle Bay, where it has since laid.

In 1942, it was used as target practice for the Royal Australian Air Force, where three officers and a US Navy Officer lost their lives after their aircraft struck a mast of the ship wreckage.

These days, the SS City of Adelaide is a tourist hotspot, and has been used as everything from a snorkeller’s haven or sunbaker’s bathhouse to a trekker’s and tourist's paradise.

That said, there are many other stories aboard the shipwreck trail, whether cursed or simply conspiracy.

In 1891, the SS Motke ran aground, not once, but twice, again in 1895. By 1911, it was purchased to be used as breakwater, but more mishaps were afoot, from a hole blown in the side to US Air Force injuries. It is now submerged, lost at sea without a paddle, and is only accessible by experienced divers off the coast of Magnetic Island’s Geoffrey Bay.

In 1896, the Presto sank after Cyclone Sigma smashed her into the Townsville Breakwater, while the Lavinia got dragged ashore to Hawking Point, killing a member of the crew.

Were magnetic forces at work? Or was this simply a run of bad luck? 



The SS City of Adelaide shipwreck is located 300 metres offshore in Cockle Bay. Image: Getty.
The night sunsets on Magnetic Island aren't quite so sinister. Image: Amber Storie via Tourism and Events Queensland.

Did Nessie make her way to Maggie?

Adding to the Island’s mystique was a rumoured spotting of one of the world’s favourite folklores and mythical creatures, the Loch Ness Monster. While 'Nessie' is said to be a creature that inhabits the waters of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, there were rumours the water monster may have taken a holiday Down Under.

In 2013, an image was taken of a strange-looking object in the sea that bared resemblance to the fabled creature, with locals joking that 'Lost Nessie' was perhaps a bit cold and looking for a trip to sunnier seas.

The scientific explanation was that the image was probably that of shipwreck remains – but 'Lost Nessie' sure is a lot more fun.

Washed ashore

As well as ships and sea monsters, in 2002, 2011 and 2021, skeletons appeared on the shore of Magnetic Island.

The 2011 bones were later found to be over 150 years old, while a human skull washed onto shore in 2021.

Both the 2011 and 2021 were treated as ‘historical,’ with the 2011 remains being returned to the Traditional Owners. 


The island has a magnetising appeal. Image: Getty.
Magnetic Island is one of the only Great Barrier Reef regions with its own postcode. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland.

Getting ghosted

In perhaps one of the lighter mysteries of the Island is the shadowy 'ghost hand' that appeared in a tourist snap taken in August 2022. A woman posed for a picture in the Island’s seas, but the photo in question seemed to show a floating ‘ghost hand’ under the water next to her – despite no one else being around.

A simple trick of lighting of random piece of debris? Or is it part of the Island’s mystique and ongoing allure?  

Australia’s urban legend?

So, is Magnetic Island really an urban legend set to rival that of the Bermuda Triangle? That’s up to the visitors to decide. But whether you’re there for the sunken ships, the sea monster, or simply for sunbaking and snorkelling, either way - it sure is magnetising.


Want to check out the mystery for yourself? 
Head on a Queensland Coast & Islands Adventure →