For people already from an island nation, Australians sure love island holidays.
And while well-loved spots like Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands will always draw us in, there is a massive variety of other idyllic island destinations dotted around Australia’s coast, both near and far, for us to explore.
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From sea-carved patches of rugged wilderness to idyllic tropical paradises, these are some of the best, little known and most underrated Australian islands waiting for our visit.
COCOS KEELING ISLANDS
This destination is often billed as Australia’s last unspoilt paradise.
The Cocos Keeling Islands are Australian external territory in the Indian Ocean, about halfway between Perth and Sri Lanka. And it’s a classic tropical paradise, surrounded by brilliant blue water and dazzling white sand beaches.
There are 26 islands that make up the Cocos but only two – West Island and Home Island – are inhabited, with a combined population of about 600.
The Cocos are a world-renowned destination for kitesurfing, and snorkelling is another popular activity because the water is an ideal temperature – between 26C and 29C – and home to thousands of aquatic species.
Be sure to visit the Big Barge Art Centre, a gallery of local works that also sells art, textiles, carvings and jewellery, and where outdoor movie screenings are held.
There are also plenty of places to enjoy a drink and a meal, like Salty’s Grill & Bakery, where the fresh-baked goods are made with a pinch of Cocos Islands pure sea salt.
It doesn’t get any much better than that.Source:News Limited
A variety of accommodation is available on West and Home Islands, from beachside villas to magnificent heritage-listed homes. Virgin Australia flies to the Cocos Islands direct from Perth or via Christmas Islands.
TROUBRIDGE ISLAND, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Troubridge Island, off the South Australia’s stunning Yorke Peninsula, is one of the state’s best kept secrets and the perfect place to retreat from city life.
Visitors can swim, snorkel, fish or simply stroll their days away on the peaceful island, which lies just 8km from the fishing town of Edithburgh.
Troubridge Island is one of South Australia’s best kept secrets. Picture: Walk the YorkeSource:Supplied
The island’s most notable feature is a prominent red-and-white striped lighthouse, and the only accommodation is the charming, heritage-listed lighthouse keeper’s cottage, which can hold up to 12 people from a single visiting party.
The local residents are of the winged kind: Troubridge Island is home to a large colony of little penguins, black-faced cormorants and crested terns, and there are plenty to meet as you explore the scenic landscape.
The distinctive Troubridge Island Lighthouse. Pictures: Vertigo High Access SpecialistsSource:Supplied
Visitors will need a permit to visit as the island is a conservation park, and permits are available at Innes National Park.
Make sure you stock on up supplies before arriving on the island – there’s no local grocery store, so you’ll need to bring your essentials with you.
Sitting 1000km off Australia’s east coast, this Australian territory in the South Pacific has been considered one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
An island paradise with a beauty that belies its dark and fascinating history, Norfolk Island is a must-visit for holiday-makers looking to mix up their cocktails-by-the-beach routine – although there’s plenty of that to enjoy here, too.
Picture-perfect Anson Bay on Norfolk Island. Picture: Norfolk Island TourismSource:Supplied
Twice a former penal settlement, with a long history of shipwrecks, the island was once dubbed “hell in the Pacific” – and some believe it’s haunted, with more ghosts per square kilometre than anywhere else in Australia.
Visitors can revel in the fascinating history by touring local sites like the old jail in Kingston and the island’s picturesque cemetery, which carries all kinds of macabre stories.
Norfolk Island is the perfect island escape. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
For something lighter, you can’t go past a swim – Emily Bay Lagoon and Crystal Pool come highly recommended – or a visit to the Strawberry Fields hedge maze or Ferny Lane Theatre for some local entertainment.
The local food scene is vibrant. Picture: Norfolk Island TourismSource:Supplied
Norfolk Island is also a notable food destination. A local highlight is Two Chimneys Winery, which serves delicious local wines and generous platters of local produce.
Norfolk Island is a 2.5-hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane.
FITZROY ISLAND, QUEENSLAND
If you’re looking to tick the Great Barrier Reef off your list, the idyllic tropical island of Fitzroy Island is the perfect base spot, whether for a family holiday or a romantic getaway.
Less than an hour by boat from Cairns, Fitzroy Island is picture-perfect – but also boasts a fascinating history.
Glorious Nudey Beach on Fitzroy Island. Picture: iStockSource:The Cairns Post
It served as a quarantine station for migrants bound for the Queensland goldfields, a mission school, World War II coast watch station, and lighthouse base before becoming an ideal holiday spot.
Today, it remains one of Queensland’s most unspoilt islands, with 97 per cent of its 339 hectares reserved as a national park.
A happy former patient at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.Source:Supplied
Whether you’re staying at the resort or dropping in for a day trip, visitors can spend time at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, where sick and injured turtles are cared for before being released back into the wild, and explore the tropical rainforest and perfect beaches – including Nudey Beach, which has been voted one of the best in Australia – via its network of walking tracks.
The lush island, less than an hour from Cairns.Source:Supplied
Other activities include snorkelling, diving, kayaking, ocean trampolining and fishing, and tours to the Great Barrier Reef.
But for something a little more relaxed, you can simply soak in the spectacular surroundings over a cocktail at Foxy’s Bar, a popular spot for sunset drinks.
BRUNY ISLAND, TASMANIA
On the other end of Australia is Bruny Island, a wonderful patch of rugged Tasmanian wilderness – and home to some of the state’s best food and drinks.
Just a quick boat trip off Tasmania’s southeast coast, Bruny Island – the last stop to Antarctica from Australia – isn’t far but feels incredibly remote.
The iconic Bruny Island Lighthouse.Source:istock
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Famous for dramatic sea cliffs, rich forest wilderness and the famous Bruny Island Lighthouse, Bruny Island is in fact two islands, connected by a narrow strip of land called The Neck.
The famous Neck that connects both islands. Picture: iStockSource:istock
The island offers plenty to do, from a variety of walking tracks through the picturesque wilderness – including to the historic lighthouse – to galleries and museums.
A local highlight is the Bruny Island Quarantine Station, which is due to reopen next month, and offers a fascinating insight into the site’s long history, from early Aboriginal occupancy, the internment of German nationals during World War 1 and the Spanish flu pandemic.
Get Shucked on Bruny Island is a must-visit spot for amazing Tasmanian seafood.Source:Supplied
But one of the best parts about a visit or stay on Bruny is the local produce.
There are plenty of goodies to eat and drink, including artisan cheese and breads from the Bruny Island Cheese Co, fresh oysters from the Get Shucked Oyster Farm, jams, ice-cream and freshly plucked berries from the Bruny Island Berry Farm, and a souvenir or two from the Bruny Island House of Whisky.
MACKEREL ISLANDS, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
A short boat trip off the West Australian coast lies one of the country’s best kept island secrets.
The Mackerel Islands, a series of 10 islands fringed by coral reefs just 22km from Onslow in the remote Pilbara region, is an island paradise — especially for lovers of marine wildlife.
One of the magnificent Mackerel Islands. Picture: Tourism WASource:Supplied
Two of the 10 islands offer visitor accommodation: Direction Island, where guests can rent the entire island for themselves and stay on the only beach shack, and Thevenard Island, which offers beachside cabins ideal for families and couples.
The islands are a dream destination for fishing.Source:News Corp Australia
You can’t visit the islands without getting up close and personal with the extraordinary local marine life, whether by snorkelling or scuba diving, or on a whale watching or turtle tour. And if you’re a keen angler, good news – the islands are known as an excellent fishing spot, home to a massive variety of species including coral trout, marlin, red emperor, rankin cod, yellowfish tuna and of course, Spanish mackerel.
Right now, until the end of October, visitors can catch the most popular event on Thevenard Island – a casual beach dinner known as Dinner Under the Stars, held on Tuesday and Friday nights.
March to October is considered the best time to visit the Mackerel Islands, however it’s worth considering the quieter months – especially during very special turtle hatching season from December to March.
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