Australia is surrounded by stunning islands. Luxurious, adventurous, rugged or remote – there’s an island suited to every paradise seeker.
Here are Australia’s best and most beautiful islands.Play Video
Australia’s most beautiful islands
ISLANDS NEAR PERTH
Cossies Beach, Direction Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands © Cocos Keeling Islands Tourism Association
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
This idyllic Indian Ocean outpost of 27 islands boasts dazzling white-sand beaches, world-class diving and a unique cultural blend – yet it receives only a handful of visitors each year, perhaps due to its remote location off Australia’s west coast. Those who do make the trip from Perth (via Christmas Island) will be handsomely rewarded: divers of all abilities can marvel at coral reefs and shipwrecks with Cocos Dive; curious historians can take a guided tour to learn about the local Cocos Malay people; and explorers can visit the territory’s untouched southern islands on an outrigger canoe safari. Don’t miss calm Cossies Beach on Direction Island; it’s been called Australia’s best beach.Show more
ISLANDS NEAR DARWIN
Rainbow Beach, Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory © Tourism NT/Elise Cook
When to go
If you love sport, be sure to visit between October and March when you can watch a match of Australian rules football. Seven teams compete to win the annual Grand Final.
The Tiwi Islands, located 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Darwin, overflow with culture, art and beauty. Take a tour with AAT Kings and be welcomed with a smoking ceremony before watching Tiwi women weave baskets and learn some of the complex rituals associated with the Pukamani (burial ceremony). Avid anglers will love a guided sport-fishing experience with Tiwi Island Adventures; there are more than 40 fish species to catch.
ISLANDS NEAR ADELAIDE
Remarkable Rocks, Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island, South Australia © Julie Fletcher
Kangaroo Island, 13 kilometres (8 miles) off the coast of South Australia, has everything you need for a unique adventure. Wildlife, natural attractions, gourmet produce and delicious spirits all make an appearance. Head to the western side of the island to explore Flinders Chase National Park, home to large boulders covered in orange lichen; they’re called Remarkable Rocks for a reason. You don’t want to miss Seal Bay Conservation Park, where you can walk among endangered Australian sea lions. The two-hour Platypus Waterholes Walk will give you a chance at spotting Australia’s elusive platypus. Indulge in the island’s culinary creativity at Penny’s Restaurant, Kangaroo Island Spirits and Dudley Wines.
ISLANDS NEAR BRISBANE
SS Maheno, Fraser Island, Queensland © Tourism Queensland
Wild dingoes, breaching whales and beaches that double as roads are just a few of the things you’ll find on Fraser Island. Located about a six-hour drive north of Brisbane, Fraser Island is the perfect getaway for those who like to roam free. Discover the island’s welcoming waters at Lake McKenzie and Lake Wabby; you won’t be able to resist a relaxing swim. Driving along the island’s incredible beaches is a way of life on Fraser Island. Visit Aussie Trax 4WD Hire for a vehicle and a quick lesson on navigating the sandy highways. Visit during migration season (August through October) to spot giant humpbacks on a whale watching cruise. At dusk, try to spot wild dingoes with a local guide before settling into your campsite on the beach or resort accommodation. If you have a few days to spare, consider trekking the Fraser Island Great Walk, where you’ll reconnect with nature along the winding coastal path.Show more
ISLANDS NEAR CAIRNS
InterContinental Hayman Island Resort, Hayman Island, Queensland © InterContinental Hayman Island Resort
The Whitsunday Islands, located in Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, boast some of the country’s most beautiful nature. There are 74 islands in the Whitsundays, but only some offer the chance to stay amid the azure waters and white sand. Hamilton Island is home to qualia, one of the most luxurious stays on the reef, while Daydream Island offers a one-of-a-kind Living Reef, along with breathtaking views and aquatic activities. Hayman Island is a private island paradise. Check into InterContinental Hayman Island Resort for a huge swimming pool, suites and villas, seaplane adventures and a trip to the famous Whitehaven Beach or Heart Reef.Show more
ISLANDS NEAR SYDNEY
Anson Bay, Norfolk Island, New South Wales © Kyle Bowman
Norfolk Island’s undulating, pine-tree-covered hillsides hide a dramatic secret: this speck in the ocean was once Australia’s most notorious penal colony. These days, it’s better known for its gorgeous scenery and fiercely proud residents (many of whom are convict descendants) – but the original penal buildings still stand in the Kingston and Arthurs Vale Historic Area, providing a vivid look at the past. Once you’ve brushed up on your history, play a scenic round of golf on one of the world’s only courses located in a World Heritage Site; laze on the golden-sand beach that fronts Emily Bay Lagoon; or check out the island’s immense basalt and sandstone cliffs on a kayak tour. On-island accommodation and dining options are plentiful, and flights depart regularly from Sydney and Brisbane.Show more
ISLANDS NEAR MELBOURNE
Seal Rock, Phillip Island, Victoria © Visit Victoria, Robert Blackburn
It’s a good idea to book your Penguin Parade experience at least a month in advance, especially during busy periods like Christmas and Lunar New Year.
Just a 90-minute drive south of Melbourne is Phillip Island, famous for its abundance of wildlife. Begin your animal adventure at the Koala Conservation Centre, where you’ll stroll through the bush to spot koalas in their native habitat. Next, take a trip with Wildlife Coast Cruises to Seal Rocks to see one of the largest colonies of Australian fur seals. Alternatively, visit Nobbies Centre, where you can see Australian fur seals from the land for free. Afterwards, stroll the boardwalks with terrific views of Phillip Island’s rugged south coast and blowhole. One of the island’s must-dos is watching the Phillip Island Penguin Parade, where wild little penguins emerge from the sea and waddle across the beach to their dune burrows.
ISLANDS NEAR HOBART
Trousers Point, Flinders Island, Tasmania © Luke Tscharke
The wild, green islands of the Furneaux Group dot the Bass Strait, a stormy patch of ocean that stretches between mainland Australia and Tasmania. The largest of the islands, Flinders, is the most captivating of the lot: it’s full of sandy beaches, rambling hillsides and tracts of thick bushland. Tasmanians love the place for its atmosphere and its incredible seafood, particularly the famed Flinders Island crayfish – book a Rockjaw Tour to catch some yourself. Take a walk through Strzelecki National Park to admire its moody granite mountains and little-known Aussie marsupials such as Bennetts wallabies, Tasmanian pademelons and potoroos. Or book a room at Sawyers Bay Shacks for barefoot luxury and genuine relaxation. Flinders can be reached via plane from Launceston or via ferry from nearby Bridport.