Five of the best island holidays in Australia
We love nothing better than being outdoors and close to the water, so why not escape the cooler weather and head to some of Australia’s most spectacular island getaways?
Hamilton Island, QLD
The largest inhabited island in the Whitsundays, positioned among some of the world’s most beautiful natural scenery, is open for business and remains the ideal holiday destination to get away from it all.
Home of tropical landscapes, coral-fringed beaches and a kaleidoscope of marine life, it’s the perfect base to explore attractions including the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef, and pristine Whitehaven Beach.
Watersport lovers are spoilt for choice with sea kayaking and game fishing, along with scuba diving and snorkelling in and among thousands of brightly coloured fish and diverse varieties of coral.
The Whitsundays region is home to several spectacular national parks and reserves.
There’s the Hamilton Island Yacht Club for sailing enthusiasts, while golfers can tee off at the only Australian 18-hole championship course on its own island.
If you want to concentrate on doing very little, lie beside the pool or relax on the beach with a book.
What to do:
- Try a jet-ski adventure tour
- Take a helicopter flight over the reef and see the turquoise waters from above
- Book a glass-bottom boat tour
Rottnest Island, WA
At different times, Rottnest has hosted a penal colony, military installations and internment camps for “enemy aliens”. Now, it’s all about fresh air, sunshine and having fun.
Located 19km off the coast of Perth, the island is a car-free destination – you’ll have to walk, cycle or ride the Island Explorer bus.
It’s also the home of the quokka, a cat-sized marsupial with a rat-like tail, which is responsible for the island’s name. Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh named the island Rotte nest, or rats’ nest, after mistaking the mass of quokkas he saw for rats when he landed in 1696.
Rottnest’s more than 60 white, sandy beaches and bays with crystal-clear, turquoise waters make it perfect for swimming, fishing and snorkelling.
Home to more than 130 species of vibrant tropical fish, stunning coral reefs and 13 shipwrecks, along with some of the best surfing conditions in WA, it’s also a haven for serious divers and surfers.
What to do:
- Join a free walking tour
- Discover underwater snorkel trails at Little Salmon Bay and Parker Point
- Climb the Wadjemup Lighthouse
Kangaroo Island, SA
Head to Australia’s third-largest island, which has 509km of coastline and is 155km from east to west coast, if you are after bushland, untouched beaches, local wines and sunsets.
KI, as it’s known, is one of the world’s great nature destinations. More than one-third of the island is conservation or national park, and it has five significant wilderness areas.
Flinders Chase National Park has penguin colonies and striking coastal rock formations, such as the sculptured Remarkable Rocks and the stalactite-covered Admirals Arch, which is at the western end of the island.
Dubbed a zoo without fences, the island is home to a multitude of birds, tammar wallabies, echidnas, koalas, sea lions, penguins, reptiles and the small, soft-brown kangaroo, which gives the island its name.
It’s also renowned for fresh seafood, small-batch wines and a relaxed way of life.
The island’s art galleries showcase the woodworking, glass blowing and furniture-making talents of local artisans.
What to do:
- Walk through a colony of sea lions on the beach
- Be surrounded by wildlife, pounding oceans and strange rock formations
- Relax or swim at northern beaches, including Emu Bay
Phillip Island, VIC
Famous for its Penguin Parade, large fur seal colony and Grand Prix circuit, the seaside resort of Phillip Island is about 140km from Melbourne and is linked to the Victorian mainland by a bridge at San Remo.
Named a National Surfing Reserve in recognition of its surfing heritage and unspoiled environment, the island’s diverse coastline boasts some of the best surf breaks in the state.
Swim at one of the many sheltered bay beaches, or explore the blowholes, caves and unusual rock formations.
There is also plenty of family fun to be had, starting with the Penguin Parade.
At sunset, you’ll see the little penguins riding the waves as they return to their nests in one of Australia’s biggest penguin colonies.
Visit the quaint seaside villages, stroll along The Nobbies boardwalk and enjoy the spectacular views. Play spot the penguin nest, take a boat tour out to Seal Rocks or see sleepy koalas in their natural environment. Take in the action at the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, or enjoy a hot lap at the Phillip Island Circuit.
What to do:
- See the little penguins at the Penguin Parade
- Visit the Koala Conservation Centre
- Visit Churchill Island, a working farm where Victoria’s first crops were planted
Bruny Island, TAS
The island boasts some of the state’s most beautifully preserved natural environments, with abundant wildlife, incredible views and much-talked about local produce.
It is split into two parts – north and south – separated by a narrow strip of land, or isthmus, called The Neck.
Walkways and viewing platforms are a great way to observe the native fauna and flora.
Bruny is home to fur seals, fairy penguins, white wallabies and 12 bird species found only in Tasmania, including the oddly named forty-spotted pardalote.
South Bruny National Park is a highlight, with its towering cliffs overlooking long, sandy beaches and underwater kelp seaweed gardens.
Walking trails traverse beaches, rocky headlands, bush and rainforest. Or take an eco-cruise and explore the breathtaking coastline.
There are also many swimming and surf beaches, and accommodation options range from budget to luxury.
What to do:
- Take a scenic flight over the island
- Check out the Bligh Museum
- Visit the Cape Bruny Lighthouse or Art at the Point gallery
Written by Liz McGrath