Island Gems of the Great Barrier Reef

4 May, 2016

Sure, you've heard of Hayman, Hamilton, Heron and a few of the others, but did you know that, when it comes to island breaks, there's a host of Queensland hot spots you've probably never, ever considered?

Bedarra Island, Cairns and TownsvilleThis privately-owned island sits within the Family Island group midway between Townsville and Cairns in the Tropical North.  If you're after barefoot luxury then Bedarra delivers in buckets and spades and the world's celebrities know it. Princess Fergie, Elton John and The Superfish, Kieren Perkins have called it their 'mini' home in the past. Today, the owners' commitment to sustainable tourism and to keeping the numbers on island to no more than 16 guests at a time, makes this a popular choice.

Facing Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef
Another island off the Gladstone coast in the Southern Great Barrier Reef that has received little press is Facing Island. Travel just 12km by boat from the mainland for secluded beaches, camping, 4WDing, fishing, surfing and unspoiled bushland. You'll love the expanse of sandy beaches here.

Frankland Islands, Cairns and Port Douglas
Five islands make up the Frankland group, 45km south-east of Cairns in Tropical North Queensland. You'll need your own boat to get to High, Normanby, Round, Mabel and Russell Islands but the trek is worth it. You can camp on Russell and High Islands and there's plenty of bushwalking, boating, fishing, snorkelling and diving to be done around this group.

Haggerstone Island, The Wild North
For ultimate seclusion, head 600km north of Cairns near the tip of Cape York in the Wild North and you'll find this remote island. There's only six structures on this property – three huts, a beach house, pavilion and jetty. Go sand boarding, fishing, spearfishing, skin diving, snorkelling, bird watching, beachcombing and take a helicopter adventure.

Hinchinbrook Island, Townsville North Queensland
Plonked in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and separated from the mainland (Cardwell) by a narrow mangrove-lined channel, Hinchinbrook Island is the largest island in the Great Barrier Reef and the largest island national park in Australia.  The island is largely uninhabited, there are no vehicles and there's a limit of only 40 visitors per day on the Thorsborne Trail, a 32km walk that explores the eastern side of the island.

Hook Island, Mackay and Whitsundays
In a lagoon sprinkled with tropical islands, Hook Island stands out for the rugged beauty of its national parks, its breath-taking lookouts and snorkelling from its shores - try Manta Ray Bay, Butterfly Bay and Luncheon Bay. The Pinnacles, offers arguably the best dive site in The Whitsundays and, in the shallow waters off the western beach, the coral cover is nearly solid. You can camp on the island or head to the Hook Island Wilderness Resort for the creature comforts.

Keswick Island, Mackay and Whitsundays
Perched off the coast of Mackay, sits pretty Keswick Island. Stay in a self-contained house, or try a spot of glamping  or fully-catered guest house, and enjoy the abundant nature which has contributed to this being nicknamed the 'treasured island'. There's birds, bees and bushwalking here, as well as diving, snorkelling and coral walks.

Lady Elliot Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef
This remote island is actually a cay that is glued together by guano and coral and is the southernmost island in the Great Barrier Reef.  Part of the Bunker Group of islands, the Lady Elliot is situated within the Green Zone – the highest possible classification of the Great Barrier Marine Park and is famed for its biodiversity.  The island is renowned for excellent SCUBA diving, snorkelling and the tiny eco-resort that is earning a big name for itself for its green environmental practices.

Lady Musgrave Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef
Another of the Southern Great Barrier Reef's famous coral cays, Lady Musgrave is the only island in the Great Barrier Reef to have a navigable lagoon. Stretching more than 8kms, the lagoon and surrounding waters are home to loggerhead turtles, colourful coral, gigantic coral trout. Here, the experience is often likened to swimming in a giant aquarium.

North or South Molle Islands, Mackay and Whitsundays
Camp it up with a trip to the Molle Islands National Park in the stunning Whitsundays.  On South Molle Island, there's great casuarina-fringed site at Sandy Bay whilst the Paddle Bay camping grounds overlook Daydream Island.  On North Molle, Cockatoo Beach offers a number of sites around the forest edge – it's an inviting combination of tropical paradise and cool rainforest.

North West Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef
Further away from the Gladstone coast, 75km to be precise, sits North West Island. Part of Capricorn Cays National Park, this island is the largest coral cay in the area and is ideal for camping, bushwalking, reef walking, diving, snorkelling and studying nature. The fishing is good here too.

Orpheus Island, Townsville North Queensland
Orpheus offers spectacular fringing reefs and interesting geology both above and below the water and all just 110kms north of Townsville. Part of the Palm group of islands, Orpheus is surrounded by more than 1300 hectares of pristine national park and visitors to her shores can opt to stay at the resort or camp and visit the historic Shepherd's Hut at Little Pioneer Bay or The James Cook University Research Station on island.  There's also plenty for snorkelling, fishing and diving to be had and the resort's 'Dining with the Tides' experience is not to be missed.

Palm Island, Townsville North Queensland
Tourism is not as big here as it is on some of the other islands of the Great Barrier Reef, but there are plans afoot to change this.  Situated some 65kms from the coast of Townsville, Palm Island is a tropical island with a resident community of about 5,000 people.  Yes, it has an intriguing past, but it also has a story to tell with incredible people, fantastic life and soul, a sense of community and sunsets to die for.

Pumpkin Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef
Nestled in the Keppel Group of islands on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, Pumpkin is a tiny six hectare island (450 metres long and 150 metres at its widest point) surrounded by coral reefs and the diversity of marine life this region is famous for.  For those wanting a trip back to nature, eco-friendly accommodation – the self-contained units are powered by wind and sun - caters for a maximum of 34 guests at one time. Rumour has it a previous owner won this patch of island in a game of poker.

Quoin Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef
Whilst many have heard of Heron and Wilson Islands, off Gladstone on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, few know of the treasure that lies nearby, Quoin Island.

It will take you only 15 minutes by boat from the mainland to a private retreat on 10ha of the island and the turtle rehabilitation centre here is well worth a visit.

Sweers Island, The Wild North
Life is sweet at Sweers Island, situated in the Southern Gulf of Carpentaria - where the Outback meets the ocean. While many are lured here for the fishing, there's also plenty of other activities such as bird watching, nature walks and boating. Accommodation is in comfortable cabins and every stay comes with its own boat.

Thursday Island, The Wild North
If you want to soak up the unique culture of Queensland's Torres Strait Islanders, head to Thursday Island in Tropical North Queensland. There's several hotels, motels, lodges and a hostel here. The Grand Hotel offers views over Endeavour Island, Horn Island (which has a modern motel and a hotel) and Prince of Wales Island.

Three Extra Island Escapes A Little Closer To Brisbane…
Coochiemudlo Island
Situated between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, you'll find this island with the cutesy name which some say is the 'jewel of Moreton Bay'. This tiny land mass – it's only five square kilometres in size – is named after the prominent red rock on the island. There's a motel, private accommodation or the aptly-named Quirky Cottages, where you can choose from four uniquely decorated places.

Russell Island
Also in Moreton Bay off of Brisbane sits Russell Island, which is practically a city compared to Coochiemudlo. Aside from the 1800 residents, there's a host of accommodation here, from private holiday homes to motels and hotels. Check out the Gooramundra Trail walking track on this island.

Bribie Island
Bribie is the only of Moreton Bay's sand islands that is accessible by car from the mainland and has long been a favourite with day trippers from nearby Brisbane – after all, it's a short 65km drive north of the CBD.  Aside from the attractions of four-wheel-driving, fishing and beach life, Bribie's cultural heritage includes shell middens and other evidence of Indigenous Australian's traditional use of the area, and weathered structures remaining from the World War II coastal defence system.

You'll find more holiday inspiration on our blog: 

*Operators included are representative of the range available. This list is not fully-inclusive and individual operator information may be subject to change without notice.


Word Count: 1600 Author: Tourism and Events Queensland.

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