Australian Natural Adventures
Wildlife, Nature & Soft Adventure Tours
New Zealand & Pacific tours and travel
Queensland islands are some of the most beautiful anywhere, and there are so many spread along a 1500 mile coastline that you can pretty much have your pick of location, style and budget. Some, such as Magnetic Island off Townsville are a combination of outer city suburb and holiday playground, while others are remote, wild and completely uninhabited. In fact, this describes the majority of Queensland islands, and the larger part of even the inhabited ones. The Whitsunday group, off Airlie Beach, is the largest concentration of developed vacation islands in Queensland, but there are plenty of others to stay at, from hobnobbing with royalty at the super luxe of Lizard Island in the north to camping under the stars on Stradbroke in the south. You can feed the dolphins just a short boat ride from Brisbane, the state capital, at Tangalooma on Moreton Island, hike for days on Hinchinbrook, or stand on the top of Australia and visit the traditional people of the islands of Torres Strait.
Unlike many countries, almost none of the islands are privately owned, and resorts and other accommodation occupy just a part of them. Quite a few are National Parks, or part of them is, and so camping and day visits are permitted, although on some it's not, and restrictions, especially number of campers, may apply. Camping is mostly primitive, with nothing but possibly a small ring of rocks for a fireplace - no water, toilets or other amenities. The nature of the islands is so varied that if an island stay, or visit, is part of your plans, we strongly recommend giving us a call or email, or reading up in recent and detailed travel guides to find out what's best for you.
Most islands with accommodation are listed below, generally from south to north, with a short desciption, but there's a lot more to deciding which is right for you, so give us a call if your perfect island escape is not described. Most (but not all) islands allow camping with permits, and so this is not usually a part of the description; where special conditions apply these are usually mentioned. On resort islands at least one place to stay will be mentioned, but there may be others - just give us a call, or email.
South Stradbroke Island
South Stradbroke is the most southerly Queensland Island, located off the Gold Coast. While it has long been a locals' playground, recently the Couran Cove Island Resort has offered visitors the opportunity for an island stay close to Brisbane. Unlike islands other than Fraser further north, Straddie, as it is known to locals, offers 15 miles of surf beach in addition to the sheltered mainland side and its own lagoon. Stays from spa-seeking romantic getaways to family hoildays are all available on Stradbroke Island.
Tangalooma - Moreton Island
Tangalooma on Moreton Island is directly off Brisbane, making it the most accessible of southern islands. Once a whaling station, Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort is known for its family orientation, casual style, and the free-living dolphins which come up to the shallow water in front of the resort - quite an irony. From July to October there are also whate-watching tours from the island. You'll meet a lot of Aussies at Tangalooma, and can spend a couple of days here enjoying the island life and the wildlife just a short hop from Brisbane's international airport.
Fraser Island lies just of the Sunshine Coast, and like Stradbroke and Tangalooma, only has boat access. Fraser is the world's largest sand island, at about 75 miles long and 18 miles wide. It's easy to spend a week here, wandering the miles and miles of both surf and protected beaches by foot or 4WD, looking at wildlife including free-living dingos, canoeing, fishing, and even exploring rainforest which grows directly on the sand. The leading accommodation is Kingfisher Bay Resort, a multi-award winning 4-star ecolodge with a personal and relaxed style. The resort offers many activies and tours, so you can be as busy or relaxed as you wish. Each year the lodge operates a bird week, with specialists guiding small groups around the island to find the 300+ species of birds - and other wildlife - that live there. In addition to Kingfisher there are other smaller places, including both self-contained and catered B & Bs.
Lady Elliot Island
Like Heron Island, Lady Elliot Island is a true coral cay, 50 miles off the coast, rather than a mainland island like most others with accommodation. The water around Lady Elliott is surrounded by coral reef, as it's here that the Great Barrier Reef starts. The resort here is simpler than on some other islands, and is popular with Australians. New ownership and management has started to generally upgrade Lady Elliot starting in 2005. Like other southern islands except Tangalooma, access is a little more drawn-out as the departure points on there mainland must be accessed by car after a commuter flight, often meaning an overnight stay or two in the nearby town. However, this can also mean a less touristy and more relaxed island stay. Access is by light plane from Hervey Bay or Bundaberg.
Lady Musgrave Island
Lady Musgrave Island is close to Lady Elliott, but there is no accommodation here. Day trips are made from Town of 1770, between Bundaberg and Gladstone, to the island and the coral reefs in the immediate area, and is the closest Great Barrier Reef experience to Brisbane.
Heron Island is considered one of the jewels of the Barrier Reef, and is the prime Great Barrier Reef island for a true Barrier Reef experience. Once just a few simple rooms set back from the beach, Heron is now a complete resort that also offers reasonably priced rooms in addition to its luxury beachfront suites. However, Heron stays true to its natural roots, and the nesting birds, turtles that lumber ashore to lay eggs, and the reef that you can walk to from the beach take pride of place. Of course, it's a plus that after your day in the sun, snorkeling, learning to scuba dive, birdwatching or enjoying a secluded picnic you can enjoy a spa treatment and gourmet meal looking over the sparkling Pacific Ocean. See more about Heron Island here.
Wilson Island lies a little way from Heron Island, a mere drop in the Pacific Ocean, and is just for the special few. Accommodation here are just six simple hard-floored "designer-inspired" tents, spaced apart through the beachside bush. Each has its own patio. There's a dining room virtually on the beach, where the chef (from the Heron Island Resort) produces an amazing range of superb meals, and acomfortable lounge area complete with armchairs and sofas. Find out more about Wilson Island here and why both Travel & Leisure and Conde Naste rate Wilson Island in their Top Ten/World's Best lists, and why it's one of our personal favorites.
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