Surrounded by water on all sides, Australia offers island destinations with climates perfect for those looking to dive, sight some wildlife or just relax and escape from the daily grind for a few days. You won’t need to stray far from home or bother with visas, money exchange or language barriers. Below are our top picks for island adventures.
Four or five days is the ideal length of time to visit Hamilton Island. You’ll be able to relax and see most things without feeling like you’ve exhausted your to-do list. Hamilton Island boasts a tropical climate year round, so there’s no bad time to visit, but the island can become crowded with families during school holidays. In the summer months, be careful of jellyfish that thrive in warmer water.
Best holiday for: A short break, families with young kids -- a lot of restaurants and hotels offer kids-stay-and-eat-free and kids club programs.
Must-do: Take a full-day cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef -- you can’t visit north Queensland without taking in this World Heritage-listed natural wonder, made up of billions of coral polyps. Whitehaven Beach is also worth a stop.
Be prepared: For the exorbitant price of groceries (expect to pay up to 40% more than mainland prices).
Off the coast of Western Australia, Rottnest Island is just a 25-minute ferry ride from Fremantle. It’s an easy day trip from the mainland, and you’ll cover most sightseeing within a day, but there are accommodation options as well for those who want to stay overnight. The island is a bird lover’s paradise, where you can catch sight of ospreys, terns, gulls and other seabirds, and has been named an Important Bird Area by BirdLife.
Best holiday for: Day trips, nature lovers and divers. There’s a snorkel trail where you can see shipwrecked boats under water.
Must-do: Hire a bike or bring your own from the mainland. Rottnest Island is a car-free zone, making cycling a safe and convenient way to get around.
Be prepared: To see the face of an inquisitive quokka peering out of the scrubs at you. They may look adorably furry, but the island authorities advise guests not to feed them.
Like New Zealand, Bruny Island just off Tasmania is actually made up of two islands. The north island is drier and beachy, while the south island is home to South Bruny National Park, which is well worth a visit for its walking tracks and pristine landscape. Some people try to cram everything into a day, but with plenty of boutique cheese makers, oyster farms, wineries and smokehouses to visit, plan to stay a few days.
Best holiday for: Foodies, hikers, a short break away from city smog.
Must-do: Buy a dozen freshly shucked oysters, a bottle of Bruny Island wine and enjoy the two together as you gaze over the rugged, windswept scenery.
Be prepared: For unsealed roads and a lack of shops.
Fraser Island received some bad press a few years ago when some dingoes reportedly attacked some visitors and the Queensland government razed the dingo population. But this shouldn’t detract from the stunning beaches and the attraction of diverse wildlife on this World Heritage-listed island. Whales, dolphins and dugongs are often spotted off the coast.
Best holiday for: Day trips, families, camping, to see the dingoes.
Must-do: Visit Lake Mackenzie and drive along the beach in your 4WD. Fun.
Be prepared: To get bogged in the sand when driving around -- it is the world’s largest sand island, after all.
Lord Howe Island
Part of Lord Howe Island’s charm is that only 400 visitors are allowed at any one time. Another World Heritage-listed site, this tiny island offers everything -- temperate weather year round, rainforests, coral reefs, volcanoes and beaches.
Best holiday for: Water sport enthusiasts, a romantic getaway.
Must-do: Snorkel off the shore to spot the bright coral and glimmering fish.
Be prepared: To pay well for flights; Qantas has a monopoly on the route, being the only carrier that services the island.
Connected to the mainland by a regular ferry service and flights, Kangaroo Island is the place to visit If you want to spot wildlife in their natural habitat up close. Visit in summer to see seal pups, sea lions, wallabies and goannas. Food lovers can also take the food and wine trails and explore some hidden gems, such as Emu Bay Lavender (offering lavender-flavoured ice cream) and Island Pure, a sheep farm which produces cheesy goodness from sheep’s milk.
Best holiday for: Photographers, foodies, wildlife spotting.
Must-do: Buy some honey produced by one of the world’s last colonies of Ligurian bees.
Be prepared: For strong winds -- a wind-proof jacket won’t come amiss whatever time of year you visit.
Phillip Island is best known for its little penguins, who waddle up to shore every dusk after feeding at sea for the day, but there’s much more to the island. For starters, motorheads converge every October to see the likes of Lorenzo and Rossi rev down the MotoGP circuit. Then there’s the Pyramid Rock Festival that takes place over New Year’s Eve. You can also visit the chocolate factory, Rhyll Trout and Bush Tucker Farm to catch your own dinner or take a variety of wildlife viewing cruises.
Best holiday for: Families, motor sport lovers, wildlife spotting.
Must-do: Buy front row seats to the Penguin Parade.
Be prepared: To make your own way around the island, as there’s no public transport.