Australia’s coastline is dotted with spectacular islands that make for boundless exploration.
While often providing the feeling of being a world away from everyday life*, an island escape doesn’t have to be a drawn-out exercise.
We’ve compiled a list of gem-laden islands that can be reached with relative ease from the Australian mainland – via ferry and even by road or foot.
It’s time to get marooned…
*Unless you already live on an island.
Planted within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, this little gem is bursting with charm. Variable landscapes create plenty of appeal: beautiful, secluded beaches, striking boulders, eucalypt woodlands, and pockets of rainforest can all be admired on a series of walking trails. Check out historical remnants covering themes of Indigenous culture and World War II or spot abundant bird life and wildlife, including koalas and rock wallabies.
Don’t miss: The 4km-return Forts Walk, which combines war history and sweeping views with koala-spotting ops.
How to get there: Regular daily ferry services depart from Townsville (passenger ferry 25min, vehicle ferry 40min).
How much treasure can be stuffed into one island? Plenty it would seem. Sparkling beaches excite swimmers and surfers, walking tracks lead to funky rock formations, and family-friendly attractions include mazes and a chocolate factory. Thrilling wildlife encounters abound: spy penguins, seals, or koalas, or visit a heritage farm. Add to the mix boutique wineries and breweries, museums and galleries, and a world-class motorsport track and you have an island with extensive appeal.
Don’t miss: A cruise to Seal Rocks where you can see fur seals up close and admire glorious coastal views.
How to get there: Phillip Island is 140km south of Melbourne and is linked to the mainland by a bridge.
Tucked away in the state’s southern reaches, Bruny is a beauty. A narrow isthmus called The Neck connects its northern and southern sections, which teem with treasure. Beaches and bays, sky-piercing sea cliffs, and ample wildlife and bird species are among the natural wonders. They combine with a cluster of boutique businesses that produces all manner of delicious local produce, including craft beer, wine, and whisky. Arrive with an appetite!
Don’t miss: The heritage Cape Bruny Lighthouse. Tours are available.
How to get there: Regular ferries depart daily from Kettering, 30km south of Hobart (20min crossing time).
Visit from: BIG4 Hobart.
A profusion of beaches that invites all sorts of water recreation, a series of free guided walking tours, and a cluster of engrossing historical attractions are among the many highlights of this Perth playground. Spot wildlife that’s led by seriously cute quokkas, take a train ride, cycle, or just relax while absorbing the breathtaking coastline. This is bliss.
Don’t miss: Did we mention those cute little quokkas?
How to get there: Regular ferries depart from three locations: Fremantle (25min), Hillarys Boat Harbour (north of Perth, 45min), or Perth (90min).
Visit from: BIG4 Perth.
A collection of white sand beaches, ample opportunity for water-based leisure, prized lookouts, sprawling bushland, and a relaxed vibe all make this Great Barrier Reef island an alluring destination. Follow a walking track to witness magnificent views and spot a hefty assortment of bird life that calls Great Keppel home, alongside various wildlife and marine animals.
Don’t miss: Shelving Beach. Swim, snorkel, or simply relax at this beautiful spot.
How to get there: Regular ferries depart daily from Rosslyn Bay, Yeppoon (30min journey).
Visit from: NRMA Capricorn Yeppoon.
The popular nature reserve is a must-visit when in Coffs Harbour. It’s a top pick for a scenic stroll, delivering breathtaking coastal vistas that often incorporate whales in season. The island – called Giidany Miirlarl by the Gumbaynggirr people – is steeped in Aboriginal culture. Uncover this connection on a captivating guided tour or with a visit to the outdoor learning space.
Don’t miss: The mesmerising vistas gifted from Eastern Side lookout.
How to get there: The island is accessed a stone’s throw from Coffs Harbour Marina.
Mighty Maria is a day-tripper’s delight, bursting with a stellar line-up of diverse attractions. Brilliant beaches, epic cliff faces, bike trails, and wombats and other wildlife all combine to make this an unforgettable destination. And that’s without mentioning the presence of Darlington Probation Station, a fascinating World Heritage convict relic.
Don’t miss: The visually stunning Painted Cliffs.
How to get there: Ferries depart several times daily from Triabunna, 85km northeast of Hobart (30min crossing time).
Visit from: BIG4 Hobart.
World Heritage status. Glittering beaches. Shimmering lakes. Colourful cliffs. Towering rainforest. Shipwrecks. There is so much to love about K'gari (Fraser Island). This is the largest sand island on the planet, covering well over 150,000ha, and offers an experience like nothing before it. Please note: vehicle access permits are required to drive on K'gari.
Don’t miss: The Maheno shipwreck, an icon of the island.
How to get there: Ferries depart a handful of times daily from River Heads, 25km south of Hervey Bay (50min crossing time).
A gob-smacking assortment of activities and attractions abounds on Australia’s third-largest island. Glistening beaches that rank among the nation’s best, gripping wildlife encounters, incredible rock formations, caves, and sand dunes are among the many goodies. With other drawcards that include a thriving arts scene, boutique wineries, and tasty produce, this is a truly enticing holiday haven.
Don’t miss: A stop at Remarkable Rocks. Remarkable indeed.
How to get there: Ferries run several times a day from Cape Jervis (45min crossing time).
Visit from: BIG4 Cape Jervis.