Incredible Australian islands for when you want to get off the mainland

While the mainland has plenty to offer, travellers shouldn’t overlook the incredible islands close to home. Australia’s coasts are fringed with more than 8000 islands, some better known than others.

Luxurious, adventurous, rugged or remote – there’s an island suited to every paradise seeker.

Here are some of Australia’s best and most beautiful islands.

Lady Elliot Island, Queensland
Lady Elliot Island is among the southernmost islands of the Great Barrier Reef and is home to more than 1200 species of marine life and many seabirds.

This island is a watery paradise for snorkellers and scuba enthusiasts, boasting an incredible 45 dive sites. It’s also considered one of the top sites in the world to dive with manta rays.

The water here is cooler than in the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef, which means the coral has not experienced bleaching to the same extent as other parts of the reef.

Read: Splash out on a trip to the Great Barrier Reef

Lord Howe Island, New South Wales
Just 11 kilometres long and two kilometres wide, Lord Howe Island sits about halfway between Australia and New Zealand in the middle of the Tasman Sea.

Only 400 visitors are permitted on the island at any one time and the population is just 382, so you don’t have to worry about getting caught up in the crowds.

Apart from the spectacular scenery, the waters around the UNESCO World Heritage-listed island are home to hundreds of species of fish, 90 different types of coral and a thriving population of hawksbill and green sea turtles. The best months to see turtles are from November to April, but the island’s climate is temperate year-round.

Kangaroo Island, South Australia
It’s likely you’re familiar with this stunning island but it had to make the list. Kangaroo Island sits just over 12km off the coast of South Australia and has a whopping 509km of coastline to explore.

Over one-third of the island is taken up by National Parks and other conservation areas that are perfect for wildlife spotting and close encounters alike. Be prepared to share your holiday with sea lions, fur seals, penguins, echidnas, koalas and, of course, kangaroos.

The 4700-strong population is big on food and wine and there are many locally produced culinary treats to try.

Christmas Island, Western Australia
This tiny, rocky outcrop is known as the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean’, thanks to the incredible variety and vibrancy of the wildlife to be found.

The most famous of its wildlife inhabitants are perhaps the red crabs. Every year, millions of these large crabs emerge from the forest and make their way to the ocean to breed, swarming across roads, streams, rocks and beaches.

Christmas Island is a haven for nature lovers. Visitors can marvel at the stunning coral reefs, spot migrating whale sharks (between November and May) and wander through tropical rainforests.

Read: Do you know which countries these islands belong to?

Bruny Island, Tasmania
If you make it all the way to Tasmania, you should absolutely include a visit to Bruny Island. Once there, it feels like one of the most remote places on Earth, yet in reality, it takes less than an hour to get there from Hobart.

The proximity to the city means this island offers a wilderness retreat paired with incredible food. Bruny Island is home to one of Australia’s most famous artisanal gourmet cheese producers, Bruny Island Cheese Co. Visitors can also pop into Australia’s southernmost winery, Bruny Island Premium Wines.

And there are plenty of hiking trails to tackle to work off the calories, including one to Truganini Lookout for 360-degree views of the island.

Tiwi Island, Northern Territory
The Tiwi Islands are 100km north of Darwin, where the Arafura Sea joins the Timor Sea. It’s a small archipelago of 11 islets, the two main ones being Bathurst Island and Melville Island.

The majority of residents are of Aboriginal descent and are famous for their traditional lifestyle, stunning artwork, vibrant fabrics and a passion for football.

Visitors can partake in a variety of activities including cultural and wildlife tours.

Fraser Island, Queensland
The locals know it as K’gari, and there are more than a few reasons why UNESCO World Heritage-listed Fraser Island is a natural paradise. It’s the world’s largest sand island, stretching over 120km, and the only place where an ancient rainforest grows right from the sand.

If you have time on your hands, take on the Great Walk, an eight-day epic that visits many of Fraser’s 100 freshwater lakes.

Humpback whales visit the waters of Hervey Bay to rest and play during their annual migration between July and November. The local community’s commitment to sustainability and conservation practices made Hervey Bay the world’s first Whale Heritage Area in 2019.

Read: Enjoy these islands while you can

Cockatoo Island, New South Wales
This one is a little different, but if you’re interested in learning a little bit about Australia’s convict history, a day trip is well worth your time.

The island is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site and was once a convict penal settlement. Today, it’s a popular place to venture for a picnic, a history lesson and a great place for a barbecue.

Have you visited any of these Australian islands? Which others would you add to the list? Why not share your favourite island trip with our members in the comments section below?

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Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
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