There’s no better way to recharge than on an island getaway.
But maybe your idea of recharging isn’t all beaches and sun. Maybe it’s discovering wildlife, hiking through lush rainforests or sampling local delicacies.
With over 8,222 islands in Australia, you’re guaranteed to find your own personal island paradise. Each island boasts its own unique qualities that are part of what makes Australia unlike anywhere else in the world.
We’ve gathered a list of the top 12 stunning islands in Australia that will have you dreaming of your next island getaway.
1. Kangaroo Island
Image: Alan & Flora Botting on flikr.com
See wildlife the way it was meant to be seen – out in the wild. No place does a zoo without fences better than Kangaroo Island, located off the coast near Adelaide.
Its separation from mainland Australia has allowed for the wildlife to thrive among untouched wilderness. So yes, you’ll see tons of wild kangaroos, but if you want to get close to them head to Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park.
Though the wildlife is the main star of this island, it’s hard not to be mesmerized by the dazzling landscapes. Long stretches of beaches, turquoise waters and spectacular rock formations – no zoo could even touch this.
Head to Seal Bay to walk among sea lions, swim with wild dolphins off the north coast of the island or spot koalas hanging out on eucalyptus trees at Flinders Chase National Park. Don’t miss the stunning Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island’s signature landmark, looking like something straight out of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.
2. Phillip Island
Image: Tourism Australia
See the tiniest penguins in the world at Phillip Island, just about two hours away from Melbourne.
Phillip Island is famous for its tiny penguins, but its coastal scenery is just as spectacular in its own right. Gorgeous green landscapes crumble into rugged coasts and pink granite cliffs, stretching out into surf beaches with perfectly barreling waves.
Meet the local wildlife at the Phillip Island Wildlife Park or see koalas in the wild at the Koala Conservation Centre. Stop into one of the local restaurants for a classic fish and chips lunch and visit the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for a race on Australia’s largest four-lane GP slot car track.
As the sun sets, settle into Summerland Beach for a spot to catch the nightly Penguin Parade.
3. Fraser Island
Image: Jules Ingall
For an island holiday with a more adventurous vibe, head to Fraser Island, just off the coast of southern Queensland. This unique island is the only place in the world where the beach never ends. Its ancient, cool rainforest towers over white sand, interrupted only by freshwater creeks and the clearest lakes you’ve ever seen.
Pack your swimmers and head to Lake McKenzie, a pure crystal blue lake ringed by soft white sand and verdant rainforest. Honestly, this lake beats out any chemically-treated pool in clarity. And it’s all untouched, pure rainwater!
One of the best ways to explore the island is on a 4WD. Drive down 75 Mile Beach and discover the SS Maheno Shipwreck or find a spot along the beach to try your hand at saltwater fishing. You might spot wild dingoes along the way, but only admire from afar!
4. Rottnest Island
Image: Tourism Australia
One of Australia’s favorite holiday island destinations is Rottnest Island. Located off the coast from Perth in Western Australia, many locals like to reach the island by their own boat. Ferries are also available through three ferry operators along Perth.
Though Western Australia is not often on many traveler’s lists, Rottnest Island alone is enough to add it to your bucket list. Impossibly white sand beaches with crystal turquoise waters offer fantastic swimming and snorkeling. Biking is the best way to explore the island, allowing you to beach and bay-hop across its sublime coasts to find your perfect swimming spot. The best part – no roads!
You’ll also meet Rottnest Island’s famous locals – the quokka. This unique Australian animal is found only in Rottnest Island, and has become popular for its photogenic smile.
5. Bruny Island
Image: Tourism Tasmania
Foodies rejoice! Culinary delights are the star at Bruny Island, perfectly paired with otherworldly landscapes.
About two hours away from Hobart in Tasmania, Bruny Island is well beyond the typical tourist trail. But once you step foot on the island you’ll see why it’s a true hidden gem.
Our favorite Bruny Island tour takes you to local artisanal shops showcasing some of Australia’s finest cheesemaking, chocolatiering and whisky distilling. You’ll also try some freshly shucked oysters, locally grown berries and premium wine. Every course on the menu is a stop on your journey!
Make the small journey to The Neck Lookout and see the isthmus connecting the northern and southern parts of the island. The view from the top is absolutely unbeatable.
6. Moreton Island
Want to get up close with dolphins? Moreton Island is your best bet. Just across Moreton Bay from Brisbane, Moreton Island is a must for dolphin-feeding, kayaking, shipwreck snorkeling and sandboarding.
Yes, sandboarding – it’s exactly like snowboarding except with sand! Riding down the large slopes of sand is a lot more fun than you might realize. You might find yourself climbing the slopes again and again, then simply wash off the sand with a dip at the beach.
With no roads on the island, this unspoiled paradise is perfect for relaxing walks and simply taking in the beauty of untouched nature. Be sure to stay after sunset for the chance to hand-feed wild dolphins at Tangalooma Resort.
7. Magnetic Island
Image: Tourism Queensland
A popular stop along the east coast of Australia is Magnetic Island. Located just 20 minutes off the coast of Townsville in Queensland, Magnetic Island promises extremely laid-back island vibes.
Time seems to be at a standstill on Magnetic Island, or “Maggie,” as affectionately called by locals. It’s easy to lose track of time here and just let the world go by.
Go for a dip in one of many sublime beaches or zip around the island on a hired mini moke, a small convertible perfect for island exploration.
Take the Forts Walk through historic WWII landmarks ending with incredible views across the ocean. Be sure to keep an eye out for koalas hanging around the trees. As home to Australia’s largest population of wild koalas, you’re almost guaranteed to spot one of these furry creatures.
8. Frankland Islands
Image: Frankland Islands Reef Cruises
One of Australia’s truest hidden gems is the Frankland Islands. Located off the northern coast of Queensland near Cairns, these islands are an untouched slice of paradise.
Only one tour operator is licensed to go to Frankland Islands, and their close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef make for perfect small-group snorkeling excursions. The main island, Normanby Island, boasts white sand beaches and clear waters ideal for snorkeling.
The marine biologist on the Frankland Islands tour crew offers guided walks around the island, exploring rock pools rife with exotic marine life.
Complete with an included lunch as you cruise back to Cairns, the Frankland Islands are a fantastic way to experience the Great Barrier Reef without the crowds. Ask our About Australia Destination Specialists about this special tour!
9. Whitsunday Islands
Image: Tourism Australia
Looking for a tropical island paradise? The Whitsunday Islands offer your pick out of 74 impeccable islands.
These islands off the coast of Queensland sit within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and are just as stunning above the water as below the surface.
With only 8 inhabited islands, the rest are natural sanctuaries of secluded beaches and rainforest bushwalks, making for perfect campsites. The fringing reef protects the waters surrounding the islands, making for calm bays perfect for sailing across the islands. And you don’t even need a license to rent a private yacht for bareboat sailing!
One of our favorite Whitsunday Islands is the main, titular island, the largest of all 74. Here is where you’ll find the unparalleled Whitehaven Beach, often listed in the top 10 beaches in the world.
10. Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island is the definition of picture perfect paradise. There’s absolutely no bad angle – everywhere you turn is a postcard-ready scene, just waiting to be captured on camera.
As one of the 8 inhabited Whitsunday Islands, Hamilton Island is an Australian favorite for a luxury getaway. Take in incredible views of the ocean from high-end resort infinity pools, tropical cocktail in hand. Explore the roadless island by golf buggy and indulge in world-class dining at one of many renowned restaurants.
It doesn’t get more luxurious at Hamilton Island than in qualia, a 5-star resort embracing its magnificent surrounds in ultimate, couples-only seclusion. More budget friendly options on Hamilton Island include renting holiday homes. With a buggy included in your rental, you’re free to explore the beautiful palm-fringed, white sand beaches on this idyllic island.
11. Lizard Island
Imagine stepping onto a white sand beach right out your door and seeing one of the world’s greatest natural wonders at your feet.
The best way to experience the Great Barrier Reef is being surrounded by it. Situated right on the reef, no island does this better than Lizard Island.
This small island is home to Lizard Island Resort, an all-inclusive luxury getaway up there with some of the highest-end resorts in the world.
You can snorkel some of the reef’s most pristine and young corals right from the beach, or take a scuba diving trip out to spectacular dive sites such as Cod Hole.
See the reef right from your own private infinity pool, explore the local waters on a private dinghy or walk the lush bushland on nature walks and tracks.
Indulge in gourmet meals, taste local and international wines and enjoy a private beach picnic, all included in your stay.
Lizard Island Resort provides the ultimate luxury deserving of the Great Barrier Reef right at its steps, and will be a getaway you’ll never forget.
12. Lord Howe
Lord Howe Island is like stepping into a Planet Earth documentary. The only hues on this island seem to be endless gradients of blues and greens, hiding an abundance of wildlife.
Located over 300 miles off the eastern coast of Australia, the only way to get to Lord Howe Island is on a two hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane.
Its pristine beaches lend to some of the world’s cleanest and clearest waters perfect for snorkeling. It’s just like swimming in an aquarium!
The island is strewn with easy strolls through lush palms and forests, but for a one-of-a-kind adventure the Mt Gower climb is a must. Rated as one of the best day-treks in the world, this challenging journey takes you on a guided cliff-face mountain climb for a truly rewarding experience.
See Australia’s Breathtaking Islands
Dreaming of an island getaway on your trip to Australia? Whether you’re looking for a quiet retreat surrounded by stunning beaches or an adventure unlike anywhere else, Australia’s got an island to suit you perfectly.
Our Destination Specialists are experts in all things Australia. We’ll help you pick the best island for your Australia vacation.
Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877
(CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
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The Great Barrier Reef is a mind blowing natural wonder. It’s truly one of the best places to visit in Australia. It spans over 1,200 miles and harbors one of the richest ecosystems on the planet with over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands scattered along its expanse. If you’re traveling all the way to Australia, you’ll want to visit the Great Barrier Reef in all its glory. This amazing video produced by David Attenborough gives you an idea of what it’s like to explore the reef, but nothing can really do it justice. It’s one of those things you have to see for yourself.
There are a multitude of ways you can launch your reef adventure. Take the traditional route and dive or snorkel the reef, or stay dry on a glass bottom boat, scenic flight or adventurous sail. Maybe even find a more unique way to explore the reef on your own terms. Read more for your guide on exploring the Great Barrier Reef.
Snorkeling and diving
Don your mask and fins and get up close to the dazzling kaleidoscope of corals, sea turtles, rays, sharks and tropical fish of every color. Snorkeling is the cheapest and most popular way to have an aquatic adventure you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
A Day Trip on a Reef Cruise
One of the best ways to dive or snorkel the reef is to hop aboard a boat excursion. These are great because they take you out to 2 or 3 exclusive dive sites along the outer reef. All boats offer snorkeling, most offer diving for certified divers and a few even offer introductory dives for those who want to try out diving for the first time on the reef. Our favorite operators depart from Cairns and Port Douglas. If you want to make it out to famous dive sites like the Ribbon Reefs on a day-trip, you have to depart from Port Douglas. It’s a great town to stay in, but only a short transfer if you’re staying Cairns. These full day excursions tend to include lunch, snacks, snorkel gear, lycra suits and a guided snorkel tour with a dive master. Scuba diving and gear brings additional costs. Different boats offer different experiences. Some take you out to a single location with hundreds of other people, some offer a more exclusive experience and others go farther out into more remote locations to cater to the more experienced. Talk to an About Australia Destination Specialist to select the right one for you.
The best diving sites are located further from the mainland. Famous dive sites like The Ribbon Reefs with Cod Hole are best encountered on a 3 day Liveaboard. If you want to dive both the Ribbon Reefs and the remote and amazing North Horn at Osprey Reef, you’ll need to take a Liveaboard for at least a week. For the ultimate Great Barrier Reef experience, embark on a 14-Day expedition. During these trips, you can swim with Minke whales (June-July), see Humpbacks (August – October), dive during a shark feed (totally safe, we swear!) and visit some of the most immaculate coral reefs in the world.
Liveaboards generally only offer diving to certified divers, but snorkelers are often welcomed at a discounted rate. Snorkelers on Liveabaords are normally accompanying their diving partners. We wouldn’t recommend it otherwise. There are usually only a few dive sites that will work well for a snorkeler on a 3-7 day liveaboard trip.
For astonishing diving or snorkeling, consider staying on a Great Barrier Reef island. Our favorites are Heron Island, Lizard Island, Elliot Island, Fraser Island, Hamilton Island, and Orpheus Island. Famous diver and documentarian, David Attenborough, has named Heron Island
and Elliot Island
as a few of his favorite dive sites.
So, you’ll be in good company! A stay at most of these islands offer the added bonus of enjoying an all-inclusive resort. Most offer free use of snorkeling gear and motorized dinghies. From these islands, a diver easily take a short boat ride with a small group to a number of amazing dive sites. Snorkelers can see the reef right off the beach or venture further on their own reef bound boat. Your About Australia Destination Specialist
can find you the best deal possible.
Luxury Snorkeling Experiences
If you really want to treat yourself, try out a day-cruise or luxury catamaran tour in the Whitsundays. These small group tours offer exclusivity and comfort all while sailing around some of the most beautiful islands in the world. The ship will drop anchor and you’ll jump into the turquoise water to snorkel among the big sea turtles, anemone and schools of colorful fish. Most excursions around the Whitsunday Islands include a visit to the famous Whitehaven Beach. This long white-sanded beach stretches over four miles along the coast of Whitsunday Island. Unlike most beaches, Whitehaven is made up of 98% pure silica which gives it a bright snow-like complexion. The sand is a fine grain with a soft velvety feel. It also doesn’t retain heat very well, so you won’t burn your bare feet on bright sunny days. It’s the most photographed beach in Australia. You can clearly see why.
See the Reef without Getting Wet
If swimming isn’t your thing, you can still see the Great Barrier Reef without submerging into the depths of the South Pacific.
Glass Bottom Boats
Glass bottom boat tours are a great way to admire the underwater beauty of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Most boats are designed to accommodate as many people as possible while still allowing everyone a clear view of the tropical life thriving below them. Some boats come with tour guides who provide detailed descriptions of the different type of coral and marine life. If you have the opportunity, take a night tour to see the coral really come to life after dark. There are great glass bottom boat tours operating out of Airlie Beach, Cairns and Port Douglas. Some also offer scuba diving and snorkeling excursions which makes them a perfect option for mixed company.
Reef HQ Aquarium
Reef HQ houses the largest living coral reef aquarium. The building itself is quite small when compared to other aquariums, but the live ecosystem sets it apart from other aquariums you’ve seen. It’s a great introduction to the reef as friendly guides explain about the reef in an educational and entertaining manner. Be sure to stop by the turtle hospital.
Fly Over the Reef
Behold the sheer magnitude of the Great Barrier Reef by taking to the sky and seeing the reef from above. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to fly over the reef while on your Australia vacation. From the Whitsunday Islands, you can take a flight out to Hardy Reef to snorkel, hang out in a semi-submersible, check out the underwater observatory or chill on the deck and get a massage. After, take the scenic view and fly over Heart Reef. Or skip Hardy Reef and soar over the heart of the Great Barrier Reef from any one of the Whitsunday Island resorts. Helicopter rides and scenic flights are also available from Cairns and Port Douglas. Stay at a resort like Lizard Island or Orpheus Island and a low-level flight over the reef is par for the course. You’ll be awed by the stunning beauty of the maze of reefs weaved together to form this natural wonder.
If you fancy yourself an angler, fishing on the reef is a must. Cairns and the Ribbon Reefs are probably best known for trophy black marlin fishing. About 30-50 miles off the coast lies a very special stretch of ocean called “Marlin Mecca” where more “granders” (100lbs or more) are taken than all the other combined fishing water in the world. Billfishing aficionados can try their hand at catching the big one every year late September through December. Lizard Island is the only land-based operation that offers access to “Marlin Mecca”.
There is also great light tackle fishing on select areas of the reef. Take a charter from Cairns or stay on a Great Barrier Reef Island for access to nearly every species of Pacific game inhabiting the ocean just adjacent to the reef and the continental shelf. It’s a great experience for fishing enthusiasts, offering some of the fastest game-fishing in the world.
Unique Reef Experiences
Looking for something a little more “out-of-the-box”? Maybe you aren’t a very good swimmer but you really want to explore the reef. Try one of these awesome tours.
Seawalking/ Helmet Diving
A helmet dive is a perfect way for non-swimmers to explore the reef like pro divers. It’s quick and easy too. You start with a quick briefing. Then, you’ll don a large space-suit type helmet and you’re ready to go. A guide will take down about 6 people at a time. Jump into the water and hold on to metal tubing as your guide takes you around the ocean floor. You’ll be completely surrounded by colorful fish and coral and you won’t even get your hair wet. Children as young as 12 can participate, so it’s great for families. You can embark on this unique diving experience from Cairns or Port Douglas.
Another great option for people who don’t want to scuba dive the reef is a tiny 3-person submarine. Two people, guided by an experienced pilot can explore the underwater world of the beautiful coral and exotic marine creatures without traditional scuba gear or training. Tours depart from Fitzroy Island, just a 45 minute boat ride from Cairns. There is always a safety diver trailing the sub while your experienced diver and submarine pilot doubles as a tour guide, providing vivid descriptions of the surrounding sea life and corals. This is a really fun and super safe way to see the Great Barrier Reef!
Are you ready to start planning your visit to the Great Barrier Reef? Check out some of our Great Barrier Reef Deals below, request a custom vacation quote or phone us toll free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
You may also like: 16 Photos That Will Make You Want To Go To Australia Right Now | 11 Best Underwater Experiences in Australia | Great Barrier Reef, Best Australian Beaches & Dives | Vacation Deals
|Look at the tweet below and you’ll understand what it feels like to experience the beauty of Australia.Below are 16 amazing photos to trigger some of that awe inspiring delight right now!Our Destination Experts can help you plan the perfect trip to Australia. Customize your trip and start jumping for joy.
Whale Sharks in the Indian Ocean, Western Australia
Image by Migration Media – Underwater Imaging via Western Australia facebook
The Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is the only place in Australia where you can swim with the majestic Whale Shark. The Whale Shark is the largest known fish and can grow up to 42 feet long. Unlike most sharks, they are filter feeders with huge toothless mouths.
The Famous Bondi Baths, Sydney, New South Whales
Image by: Andym5855 on flickr
These giant pools have been a landmark of Bondi Beach for over 100 years! There is a large pool for lap swimming and a smaller pool for the kiddos. Its a great way to experience one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches during the winter. The pool is open 6am to 6:30pm, Monday through Friday, 6:30am – 6:30pm on Saturday and Sunday, and is closed for cleaning on Thursdays. It’s only $6.50AUS for adults & $4.50AUS for children.
Sea Turtles on the Great Barrier Reef
When visiting the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, don’t forget to bring an underwater camera. Whether you’re diving or snorkeling, you’re sure to run into many members of the large diverse aquatic life population, like this Green Sea Turtle. Six of the world’s seven marine turtles can be found on the Great Barrier Reef.
Lizard Island, The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
Sitting right on the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island has some amazing views and uniquely diverse diving conditions. Forbes.com recently published an article about the Luxury Resort of Lizard Island, saying it “may be one of the most beautiful place in the world.” The resort, complete with a recent 46-million dollar renovation, is absolutely stunning. With 24 sandy white beaches and 1,013 hectares of National Park, it’s really easy to get away from it all.
(Click here for 11 Day Luxury Lizard Island & Sydney Getaway from $3,995)
Sea Lions off the coast of Port Lincoln, South Australia
Image by: Adventure Bay Charters via australia.com facebook
These friendly “puppies of the sea” can be found in many waters off the coast of Australia. This photo was taken in the crystal clear water of Seal Cove. So adorable!
Byron Bay, New South Wales
Image by: Adrll Slonchak on flickr
Byron Bay is a popular vacation spot among the Aussie population. So you know it’s good! It’s a laid back, new-age utopia kind of town with miles of picture-perfect coastline. Great for families, friends, couples and shutterbugs.
The Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, Victoria
Every night a parade of little penguins marches across Summer Land Beach. Phillip Island in Victoria is home to an estimated 32,000 breeding pairs. As you can imagine, this is a very cute sight to see!
Swimming with Humpbacks off the Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Image by: Migration Media Underwater Imaging, Australia.com Facebook
This amazing photo was taken off the coast of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast during this year’s Humpback migration season (July – October). It’s amazing to see calves swim along side their mums.
Wineglass Bay, Tasmania
Image by: aussiejeff on flickr
Wineglass bay, located on the Southern edge of Tasmania, is located in Freycinet National Park. These perfect contours, turquoise water and pure white beaches exist on any normal day while you’re on Wineglass Bay.
Baby Turtles on Diamond Beach, New South Wales
Image by: Judith Conning via australia.com on facebook
Every year thousands of baby turtles make their way to the ocean for the first time. Turtle nesting grounds can be found all over Australia’s coast.
The Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell National Park, Victoria
Image by: Visit Melbourne on facebook
Near the Great Ocean Road in Victoria in Port Campbell National Park, you’ll find a collection of limestone stacks just off the shore. There are only eight apostles now, after the ninth one dramatically collapsed in July of 2005. Interesting fact: There were never 12 stacks, as far as we know.
Augie the Killer Whale on the Coral Coast, Western Australia
Image by Indian Ocean Imagery via Western Australia facebook
Considered an Exmouth local and regular around Ningaloo Reef, Augie the Orca is known for putting on a show. He’s been spotted multiple times performing for crowds on cruises around the reef.
Fraser Island, Queensland
Image by: Greg Schechter
Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, is a nature lover’s dream. Activities available include 4×4 next to the sandy cliffs, hike through the rainforest, meet native wildlife, whale-watch, comb the beaches, visit shipwrecks, and swim in freshwater lakes ringed with gold. The photo above is of the island’s most famous shipwreck, the SS Maheno. It was one of the first turbine-driven steamers.
Tangalooma Island Resort, near Brisbane
Tangalooma is the only place you’re practically guaranteed the opportunity to feed wild bottlenose dolphins during your stay. Each night at sunset up to 10 wild dolphins visit the shores of Tangalooma and everyone is invited to feed them a treat. The feeding program runs with strict guidelines to ensure the health and safety of the dolphins, but everyone still enjoys this magical experience.
Heart Shaped Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
Image credit: Kieran Stone via australia.com facebook
You might recognize this scene from TV and movies. The Heart Shaped Reef, in Hardy Reef, is a great place for snorkeling and scuba diving. You can see this lovely sight from a helicopter or plane tour.
Bremer Island, Northern Territory
Image by: Australia’s Outback, Northern Territory on facebook
Bremer Island is at the topmost end of Australia in the Northern Territory. It’s the perfect place for a remote wilderness retreat, world class fishing, learning about the Yolngu culture, and getting away from it all.
There are so many amazing sights to see on and off the coasts of Australia. As they say, pictures just don’t do it justice.
You have to see it for yourself. Are you ready to start planning your tip to Australia?
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Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).