If you’re looking for an island getaway, Australia has you covered. With a total of 8,222 islands, picking one to visit will be the most challenging part of your holiday.
There’s an island to match every traveller’s dream holiday. Whether you’re an adventurer, a beach bum, a romantic, a wildlife enthusiast, a snorkeler, or a foodie, there’s an island just right for you.
Over the many years we’ve lived in Australia, we’ve had the chance to visit many of the country’s top islands. Each has had its own unique beauty. So here are our ten favourite islands in Australia so far.
12- Moreton Island (QLD)
Moreton Island is an unspoilt paradise which is almost completely covered in sand. You’ll need a 4WD if you wish to drive around it. Moreton Island’s beaches are perfect for swimming and the Tangalooma Wrecks located a few meters off the west coast offers excellent diving and snorkelling opportunities.
The island is home to approximately six hundred bottlenose dolphins and every evening a small pod of them makes their way to the jetty near the Tangalooma Island Resort. If you are only visiting for the day, take the last ferry in order to see the dolphins before returning to the mainland.
Best for: Beaches, diving/snorkelling, sand-boarding, dolphins
Read more about Moreton Island here.
11- Raymond Island (VIC)
Raymond Island is a small island in the Gippsland Lakes, about three hundred kilometres from Melbourne. It is two hundred metres off the coast of the town of Paynesville and is accessible via a very short ferry ride.
The main attraction on Raymond Island is its large koala colony. Make a gold coin donation and grab a map of the koala trail which is a must do on the island. You’ll quickly lose count of how many koalas you’ve spotted. It’s one of the best places in the country to see them in the wild.
Best for: Koala spotting, nature lovers
10- Heron Island (QLD)
Heron Island is a coral cay located off the coast of Gladstone, near the Tropic of Capricorn. It’s situated in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef, which makes it a fantastic place for divers and snorkelers.
As you start your swim, just off the beach you will often find stingrays lying in the shallow water, half buried in the sand. Snorkel your way over to the semi-submerged wreck of the HMAS Protector nearby, where you’ll be treated to an abundance of fish, eagle rays, reef sharks and maybe even a turtle!
Heron Island is also a bird breeding and nesting sanctuary. Visit during the breeding season to see more birds than you’ve ever seen in your life!
Best for: Birdlife, snorkelling, diving
Read more on Heron Island here.
9- Phillip Island (VIC)
Phillip Island is found one and a half hours from Melbourne and it’s a popular weekend getaway for Melbournians, especially in summer. It’s home to the famous Penguin Parade where every day a crowd of visitors patiently waits at dusk for these little guys to waddle up the beach to their nesting areas.
Apart from the penguins, there are also fur seals, koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, wallabies and many species of birds that call the island their home.
The southern part of Phillip Island has some of the best surfing spots in Victoria, making it one of the most popular surfing getaways in the state.
Best for: Families, surfing, wildlife
Read more about Phillip Island here.
8- Bruny Island (TAS)
Bruny Island is a little gem off the south-east coast of Tasmania. This fifty-kilometre long island is actually two islands, joined by a narrow strip of land called “The Neck”. The highlights of Bruny Island are its towering sea cliffs, its beautiful sandy beaches and its mouthwatering local produce.
You can access Bruny Island by driving thirty minutes south of Hobart and catching the car ferry at Kettering. Alternatively, you can join the award-winning three-hour wilderness cruise offered by Pennicott Wilderness Journey. This cruise will give you a better view of the incredible coastline and rock formations, plus you’ll check out some deep sea caves and some of the coastal wildlife such as seals, dolphins, migrating whales (in season) and seabirds.
Bruny is also the only place in Australia where you can find a unique species of wallaby, the white wallaby.
Best for: Coastal scenery, wildlife, local produce
7- Lord Howe Island (NSW)
Lord Howe Island is located on the east coast of Australia, less than two hours from Sydney by plane. This UNESCO World Heritage site is not the cheapest island destination in Australia, but it’s so spectacular that it’s worth every penny you’ll spend. Lord Howe Island’s stunning turquoise lagoon is perfect for swimming, its tall mountain peaks and rolling green hills are perfect for hiking and the abundance of birdlife makes it perfect for bird watching.
The island’s crystal clear waters are home to five hundred species of fish and ninety species of coral, making it a snorkeler’s heaven.
Lord Howe Island is a tropical paradise and the best part is that only four hundred visitors are allowed on the island at any one time. So you’ll always feel like you have the island to yourself.
Best for: Birdlife, hiking, snorkelling, romance
Read more about Lord Howe Island here.
6- Whitsunday Island (QLD)
The Whitsunday Islands are probably the most popular and well-known group of islands in Australia. The Whitsundays archipelago is made up of seventy-four islands and located within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The largest island, Whitsunday Island is home to the picture-perfect and iconic, Whitehaven Beach. This seven-kilometre beach is world famous for its white silica sands and turquoise crystal clear waters.
Whitsunday island is accessible by boat from the mainland tourist ports of Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour, as well as from Hamilton Island.
Best for: Beach swimming, stunning natural landscape
5- Fraser Island (QLD)
Fraser Island is a larger version of Moreton Island (see above). Just off the coast of Queensland’s Hervey Bay, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. This World Heritage Listed island is the only place on earth where a rainforest grows on sand. It’s home to some stunning beauty spots such as blue freshwater lakes, giant sand dunes, lush rainforests, sandy beaches and an abundance of wildlife, including a large population of wild dingoes. It’s also one of the best places in the world to watch migrating humpback whales (in season).
Although the beaches surrounding the island are breathtaking, the rough waters and strong currents make them unsuitable for swimming. But the many freshwater lakes on the island are the perfect alternative. With fine white silica sand and crystal clear water, you’ll quickly forget about the beach.
Fraser Island is the island to go to for 4WD enthusiasts. Four-wheel-driving along its 75-Mile beach ‘beach highway’ is a must do experience on the island.
Best for: Adventure, freshwater lake swimming, fishing, whale watching
Read more about Fraser Island here.
4- Rottnest Island (WA)
Rottnest Island is a true paradise, just a short ferry ride from Perth in Western Australia. It’s a picture-perfect island with sixty-three white-sandy beaches, translucent, turquoise blue water and many secluded coves.
The island’s waters are great for swimming and snorkelling, with an abundance of marine life living just offshore. The best way to get around Rottnest Island is by bicycle. You can hire one through the ferry company or once you arrive on the island.
Rottnest Island is also home to the world’s happiest animal, the quokka. The quokka is a small marsupial unique to Rottnest Island. You are unlikely to visit the island without coming face to face with one of these gentle creatures.
Best for: Beaches, cycling, swimming, wildlife
3- Kangaroo Island (SA)
Kangaroo Island or “KI” is found seventy miles southwest of Adelaide in South Australia. It’s Australia’s third-largest island, and it’s the perfect place to see Australia’s native wildlife up close.
More than a third of Kangaroo Island is protected by conservation areas and national parks where you’ll find plenty of wallabies, koalas and kangaroos roaming freely. Penguins, fur seals and sea lions are also found in abundance on the island. At Seal Bay, you can even take a guided walk on the beach through a colony of sea lions. That’s definitely a highlight of the activities on KI!
Be sure to drive as far as the Flinders Chase National Park to check out its spectacular rock formations, the Remarkable Rocks and the Admiral Arch.
Best for: Wildlife, local produce, beaches
Read more about Kangaroo Island here.
2- Lady Elliot Island (QLD)
Lady Elliot Island is the southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef. If you are looking for the best island for snorkelling on the Reef, then look no further.
Not only is the snorkelling on Lady Elliot out of this world, but you don’t have to take a boat trip to experience it. There is a magnificent coral reef just off the beach. While snorkelling you’ll come across many friendly turtles, rays (including the mighty manta), reef sharks, octopus and schools of colourful fish. In winter, you might even be lucky to share the water with a migrating humpback whale!
Plenty of coral reefs around the world are struggling, but not Lady Elliot’s. The island has some of the healthiest coral we’ve seen in our travels.
Heron Island (see above) is a little better for seeing stingrays close to shore in shallow water, but for everything else, you can’t beat Lady Elliot.
Best for: Snorkelling/diving, turtles, manta rays
Read more about Lady Elliot Island here.
1- Tasmania (The “island state”)
Tasmania might be a state of Australia but it’s also its largest island and our absolute favourite! A trip to “Tassie” might not be a tropical island getaway but it offers some of the most spectacular scenery you can find anywhere in the country.
Tasmania is home to nineteen national parks that feature incredible wilderness areas, rugged coastlines, limestone caves, snow-capped mountains, rainforests, alpine plateaus, wild rivers and gorges, and magnificent white sandy beaches.
Tasmania is one of the best places in the country to see some of Australia’s unique wildlife. Wombats, echidnas, pademelons and wallabies are a common sight in Tasmania. It’s also home to the Tasmanian Devil, the world’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and unique to the island.
If you’re a nature lover or a keen hiker, Tasmania will quickly become your favourite island getaway!
Of course, I also have to mention Tassie’s amazing food and wine. Tasmania has some of the best local produce, including some pretty awesome wines. While on the island, be prepared to eat and drink like a king.
Best for: Hiking, wildlife, wilderness, food and wine
What are your favourites?
So that’s our favourite islands so far, but we still have many more islands to explore. If you have a favourite island that’s not on our list, please comment below. We are always keen to find out about new places.