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Lying within Australia’s maritime borders are over 8,000 islands, many of which have become favoured holiday destinations among locals and tourists alike. From stunning sunsets and beaches to shipwrecks, unique marine life and native animals, there is clearly plenty to choose from. We have found Australia’s most incredible islands that need to be added to your bucket list, now.
The largest inhabited island within the Whitsunday Islands is Hamilton Island, a popular and highly sought-after holiday destination. Surrounded by a kaleidoscope of coral for excellent snorkelling and water sport experiences, Hamilton Island is the perfect base for exploring the Great Barrier Reef. With pleasant weather all year round, there are over a dozen walking trails to be discovered across two thirds of the island that remain in their natural state.
At the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef lies 24 hectares of coral reef, world famous for snorkelling and scuba diving. Heron Island – named after the rich bird life and in particular the abundance of herons found – is a World Heritage-Listed Marine National Park protecting all flora and fauna. Removed from modern civilisation, this island is only available for guests (no day trips) to enjoy an array of animal life, from Green and Loggerhead Turtles to reef sharks, small fish, birds, and forests upon forests of coral. As you admire the beauty of the Reef, keep an eye out for whales journeying through the waters.
A sanctuary for over 1,200 species of marine life, Lady Elliot Island is the Great Barrier Reef’s southernmost coral cay known for an amplitude of marine life and unspoilt coral reefs. Located within a highly protected ‘Green Zone’, along the island you can come face to face with friendly turtles, dive with manta rays, discover the nesting birds, and watch majestic humpback whales. Not only is the marine life a must-see, but when the tide is out a guided reef walk can be taken along with a journey in a glass-bottomed boat.
Offering the most diverse marine wonderland in North Queensland lies the national park island known as Orpheus Island, home to ‘1,100 of the 1,500 species of fish in the reef, 340 of the 359 varieties of hard corals and some of the region’s largest collections of soft corals’. Diving and snorkelling through the coral gardens and crystal clear blue-green waters are very popular, and after an adventure on a dinghy be sure to relax and enjoy a picnic on one of the private beaches on offer as you watch the tropical fish swim by.
Made up of 74 islands, the Whitsundays is one of the most beautiful collections along the tropical coast of Queensland. At the heart of the Great Barrier Reef lies the largest island in this collection, Whitsunday Island. Home to clear blue waters and palm-fringed, secluded white sand beaches, this island is a must for those seeking a highly tropical beach-side escape. With scenic helicopter and seaplane flights on offer, be sure to make time to discover the seven-kilometer stretch of deserted white sand at Whitehaven Beach.
Recognised for its internationally famed Grand Prix circuit, this rural island offers many white sand beaches and an abundance of wildlife that will have you wanting more, alongside offshore basking places for fur seals. Phillip Island is home to Penguin Parade, a nature park that allows quiet spectators to gather to watch the fairy penguins return to their homes after feeding and swimming in the sea. An experience like no other, you can walk alongside these little penguins from the shore before making your own way home.
One of the most beautifully preserved islands on this list is home to fur seals, little penguins, mutton birds and echidnas. Bruny Island consists of two islands – North and South – joined by a narrow strip of sandy land stretching five kilometers, called The Neck. Home to South Bruny National Park, the southern island offers large rainforest areas that offer a unique wilderness experience, whilst the northern island is more open, offering light bushland suitable for bush walks.
The ultimate serene escape surrounded by natural beauty is the largest island in the Furneaux Group, Flinders Island, offering plenty of natural attractions along the long, deserted beaches and scenic routes. Located within the Strzelecki National Park lies a rugged pink and grey granite mountain range that is a natural wonder in its own right. Accompanied by sapphire waters and an abundance of wildlife and flora, it is easy to see why many migrating birds from the Northern Hemisphere visit Flinders Island. Be sure to take some time to rummage for ‘Killiecrankie diamonds’ during your adventures.
Sweeping bays, dramatic cliffs and plenty of wildlife to be explored come together to form the mountainous Maria Island in the Tasman Sea. Grab a bike or walk around the island to discover historic sites – ruins of the Darlington ghost town and the island’s oldest building lie 150 meters from the jetty (now the visitor centre) – tall eucalypt forests and the beautifully patterned sandstone Painted Cliffs at Hopground Beach. Whether you come face-to-face with wombats, kangaroos and Tasmanian Devils, or watch the seals and whales from the shore, the peaceful beaches of Maria Island will take you to another place.
Just off the mainland lies diverse wildlife and nature reserves on the beautiful Kangaroo Island. Walk past the lazy sea lions soaking up the Aussie sun on the beaches, koalas high up in the trees, and of course, as the name suggests, plenty of kangaroos! From Flinders Chase National Park and towering sand dunes to the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, a trip to Australia’s third-largest island is a must, especially during spring.
Western Australia’s very own paradise is the sunny holiday island Rottnest Island – or Rotto, as locals and Perthians call it. Home to some of the world’s finest beaches, there are 63 beaches and 20 bays to snorkel through and discover over 135 species of tropical fish, 20 species of coral and plenty of shipwrecks. Despite coming face-to-face with dolphins, it is the native quokkas that steal the hearts of visitors. These little marsupials, often mistaken for rats, are friendly animals that have been seen in many selfies taken on the island.
Known for its Immigration Detention Centre, Christmas Island’s natural wonders that lie across its 80 kilometers of shoreline are often forgotten. Officially known as the Territory of Christmas Island, there are plenty of easily accessible beaches like Flying Fish Cove and Lily Beach, whilst others require a four-wheel drive and a trek to get to. Embodied by sharp cliff faces, many of the deserted beaches have only ever been walked on by nesting turtles and birds. Whilst the swimming, snorkelling and nature walks are highly prized, it is the annual red crab migration that will make this journey truly unique.
Located between Australia and New Zealand lies an island covered in scented pine trees. Norfolk Island, owned by Australia, is the ‘largest of the three islands emerging from the underwater Norfolk Ridge’ offering many cliffs, sandy beaches and crumbling ruins to be discovered. Whether you take a bush walk or hiking trail inland, or a glass-bottomed boat to discover the marine life, there is plenty on offer on this tiny speck lying in the ocean.