Magnetic Island was named by Lt James Cook
in 1770 when he believed the magnetic compass on his ship the Endeavour was affected by the island.
During the 1800s, Magnetic Island became a popular picnic area and by the late 1890s the first resort was established in Picnic Bay. Tourism prospered during the early 1900s as Townsville grew to be the major city in north Queensland.
The settlement of European people on the mainland brought industry to the island. The landscape of coral reefs, granite boulders and thick forests that today attracts tourists was viewed differently during the late 1800s.
Coral, stone and timber (hoop pine) were collected as a source of building materials for Townsville. Even substantial quantities of gold were mined in 1886! In 1875 Magnetic Island was set aside as a quarantine station, although buildings were not constructed at West Point until 1885.
From 1942, Townsville became a major base for the military, and its harbour, Cleveland Bay, an important assembly point for shipping. During 1942-43, a Signal Station and Coastal Battery were built on Magnetic Island for control of shipping and defence of the harbour.
Two 3,000,000 candle power searchlights, capable of spotting aircraft at 30,000 feet, were located at Horseshoe and Florence Bays and a radar screen was located high in the hills above Arthur Bay.
The Forts complex, now a popular walking track with panoramic views and opportunity for koala spotting, was operated from 1943 until the end of the Pacific War in 1945 by the Australian Coast Artillery Units. Today the Forts ruins are protected under the Queensland Heritage Act 1992.