Top 10 Things to Do on Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Relaxing on Direction Island in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Relaxing on Direction Island in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands | © Marci Paravia / Shutterstock
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer31 July 2018

Located midway between Australia and Sri Lanka lies the Cocos (Keeling) Islands; a predominantly undiscovered Australian tropical paradise that is all about water-based activities.

It may be remote, but the Cocos (Keeling) Islands archipelago has a lot to offer visitors who make the trek to the middle of the Indian Ocean. Swim at Australia’s best beach, go diving and learn more about the islands’ Cocos Malay population. Keep reading to discover all the the top things to do.

Dive deep with Cocos Dive

Diving is one of the most popular water-based activities on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Join the experienced team at Cocos Dive and visit one of their 30 regular dive sites around the islands. Visibility at most dive sites is between 20 and 30 metres, and many have steep drop-offs, so more advanced divers can head deeper underwater. Marine species you can expect to encounter include reef sharks, manta rays, turtles, dolphins, tuna, wrasse and Kat, the islands’ only dugong. Some of the most visited dive sites include Cabbage Patch, Sandshute, Rosewall Coral and Eden.

Check out the variety of colourful coral of the Great Barrier Reef | © Debra James / Shutterstock

Try bonefish fly-fishing

There are very few places in the world with better bonefish fly-fishing opportunities than the lagoon on Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Catching a bonefish is seen as the ‘holy grail’ of fly-fishing, and they can reach up to one metre in length. October to March is peak season for fishing on the islands. Other fish you can expect to catch from the beach include mullet and mahi mahi.

Go snorkelling

Snorkelling on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands is great for the whole family, as they are surrounded by shallow and protected waters. A popular snorkelling site is called The Rip, which is located on Direction Island’s southern tip. At low tide, you can also snorkel after walking across to Pulu Maraya from Scout Park on West Island. Snorkelling gear is available for rent from the Cocos Islands Visitor Centre.

The gorgeous Cocos (Keeling) Islands | © Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH / Shutterstock

Learn more on the Home Island Eco Tour

Home Island is a residential area home to approximately 450 Cocos Malay people. Learn more about their unique culture through a two-hour Home Island Eco Tour. Led by a local guide, during the cultural tour you’ll learn about Cocos Malay traditions, try weaving coconut leaf baskets with the elders, be taught some basic Cocos Malay words and you’ll visit the local museum. The tour runs every Wednesday.

Enjoy a Cocos Island Adventure Tour

Kylie and Ash are the award-winning team behind Cocos Islands Adventure Tours. They do guided motorised outrigger canoe tours and turtle tours of the islands, which include food and drink, as well as snorkelling equipment. There’s also the option to hire kayaks, double kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for self-exploration of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Kylie and Ash have a car and minibus available for hire too.

Crystal clear on Cocos (Keeling) Island | © Paullymac / Flickr

Visit The Big Barge Art Centre

Art Gallery
Map View
The Big Barge Art Centre is housed inside a local handmade timber barge’s hull, which was a ferry between West and Home Islands in a former life. It took over 10 years to create the space, which is both an art gallery and a working artists’ studio. The Big Barge Art Centre hosts outdoor movie screenings and creative workshops throughout the year. There’s an assortment of artwork displayed in the gallery, including driftwood furniture, acrylic paintings, watercolour prints and flotsam factory jewellery.

Behold Australia’s best beach

Cossies Beach on Direction Island was declared Australia’s Best Beach in 2017. It was named in honour of Sir Peter Cosgrove, Australia’s Governor General. Fortunately, there are ferries between West and Direction Islands twice a week. In 1836, Charles Darwin said the beach was “heavenly,” and it remains the same in this century. Take time to soak in the clear and calm waters, before walking three kilometres (1.9 miles) around Direction Island. Along the way, check out the plaques describing moments in the island’s history.

Relaxing on Direction Island in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands | © Marci Paravia / Shutterstock

Indulge in Malay cuisine

Don’t miss indulging in delicious Cocos Malay cuisine while on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. It’s been said you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover when it comes to the cafe at the airport, as it serves the best nasi goreng. Meanwhile, Dory’s Cafe has the best cup of coffee, and Wick Cafe on West Island and Mesra Kafe on Home Island serve authentic Malay cuisine. Finally, there’s the delicious Malay buffet at Tropika Restaurant at Cocos Beach Resort.

Try kitesurfing

The optimal time for kitesurfing in the islands’ South Lagoon is between May and November. There are a few companies that offer kitesurfing lessons. Firstly, F-one Kiteboarding Pro School has locations on the Gold Coast, Brisbane and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. They offer a range of lessons with professional instructors. Limitless Kite Tours does one-week kitesurfing trips to the islands, which include accommodation, transport, a tour guide and visit to Direction Island. Zephyr Kite Tours also organises tours that feature 24/7 coaching and lessons, for beginner to advanced kitesurfers.

Kite surfing at sunset | © Scros / Pixabay

Experience a unique round of golf

The Cocos Islands Golf Club is the only golf course in the world that plays across an international runway. You can see planes take off and land while playing across the nine-hole course. Don’t miss playing a game of Scroungers every Thursday afternoon. The friendly team game is a great way to mingle with locals and you can hire clubs at the golf club — known locally as The Donga.