Located on the east coast of Australia, Queensland is home to a huge number of beautiful, idyllic islands – some of which offer accommodation, making for a fantastic addition to any Australia holiday – time to relax, reflect or perhaps to explore the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef. Here, we have mentioned just some of the islands to consider off the coast of Queensland.
This is the largest sand island in the world, and is World Heritage listed. Access is by ferry from Hervey Bay, just a 3.5 hour drive north of Brisbane. With pristine beaches, lakes and rainforests growing in the sand, the island is best explored by small group four-wheel drive tours. There are no paved roads on the island but, rather uniquely, parts of the beach surrounding the island act as a ‘highway’ for the four wheel drive vehicles. Visit 75 Mile Beach, the Champagne Pools, Coloured Sands and Eli Creek. Between late July and early November whale watching cruises operate in search of humpback whales.
For many, the Whitsunday Islands bring to mind an image of a yacht sailing in crystal clear waters to beautiful white sandy beaches. Comprised of 74 islands, only a few of these offer accommodation, leaving many uninhabited and beautifully natural. Access is either by ferry from Airlie Beach on the mainland, or by flight into Hamilton Island with boat transfers from there. Hamilton Island, Hayman Island and Daydream Island are three of the key islands to consider for a stay. Alternatively, think about taking a multi-day cruise by yacht, tall ship or by motor boat. The southern part of the Great Barrier Reef can be visited from the Whitsundays by day trip.
Lady Elliot Island
This is the southernmost of the islands located within the Great Barrier Reef Marine National Park, and is a true coral cay. It is situated in a tidal lagoon, and one can simply walk into the ocean and begin snorkelling over the magnificent coral reef. You’ll also see abundant marine life and bird life. Access is by light aircraft (providing fantastic views of the reef on the approach) – the island is too remote for access by sea.
This island is another true coral cay, located right on the Great Barrier Reef – within the World Heritage Listed Marine National Park. It is perhaps best known as a significant nesting location for two turtle species – the Green Turtle and the Loggerhead Turtle. Viewing of the turtles during nesting and hatching is subject to strict guidelines, and generally begins in November. With beautifully white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, the snorkelling from here is fantastic. Access to Heron Island is by seaplane or by boat from Gladstone on the mainland.
This island is easily accessible from Cairns, located just forty five minutes away by boat. It can also be accessed by helicopter. It is one of the busier islands, and is in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Explore the reef by glass bottomed boat, or get up closer and snorkel or dive instead. Kayaking and windsurfing are readily available here as well as some walking tracks across the island.
This island is located in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef. The island itself is a national park covering over 1000 hectares and with 24 beaches. A stay here is very much an exclusive and luxury experience, with access only by private charter flight from Cairns. The island is eco-certified, not only providing a research station for the Great Barrier Reef, but also providing guests with an education through nature walks and presentations.
Whichever island (or islands) of Queensland you choose to visit, you can be assured of an unforgettable experience – almost certainly a highlight of your tailor-made Australia holiday.
Visits to the Islands can easily be added to the beginning or end of your trip, but if you want to incorporate them part way through your itinerary, take a look at the links below for inspiration