Nanomedicine can provide a multi-functional platform for image-guided diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Although gold nanorods (GNRs) have been developed for photoacoustic (PA) imaging and near infra-red (NIR) photothermal applications, their efficiency has remained limited by low thermal stability. Here we present the synthesis, characterization, and functional evaluation of non-cytotoxic magnetic polymer-modified gold nanorods (MPGNRs), designed to act as dual magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and PA imaging contrast agents. In addition, their high magnetization allowed MPGNRs to be actively localized and concentrated by targeting with an external magnet. Finally, MPGNRs significantly enhanced the NIR-laser-induced photothermal effect due to their increased thermal stability. MPGNRs thus provide a promising new theranostic platform for cancer diagnosis and treatment by combining dual MR/PA imaging with highly effective targeted photothermal therapy.