Australia has 8,222 islands – that’s a lot! From Fraser Island and the Whitsundays to the less known, but just as amazing, islands of Great Keppel and Fitzroy – each island paradise in Australia has its own unique beauty. So here it is, our Top 15 Islands in Australia that will blow your mind!
1. Whitsunday Islands
The Whitsunday Islands are by far the most popular of all the islands to visit along the East Coast of Australia. The Whitsundays are made up of 74 islands located within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The largest of the islands – Whitsunday Island – is home to the iconic Whitehaven Beach, a beach where the sand is so pure that you can actually brush your teeth with it!
There are numerous ways to see the stunning Whitsunday Islands from scenic flights, ocean rafting trips to day trips by boat, or 2 or 3-night sailing trips on a variety of different types of boats. See our guide to the Whitsundays for a full rundown of how to see these stunning islands and the things you can see there.
2. Rottnest Island
Rich with history, Rottnest Island is located on Australia’s West Coast just south of Perth. It was once used as a military base during the w.a.r. The Quokka, a unique Australian animal, can only be found on this island. Rottnest Island has a fantastic reef, plentiful beaches, and is great for swimming. The best way to explore the island is by bike! Inclusive packages can be booked (and are cheap) that include ferry transfers, Perth city transfers, bike & snorkel hire.
I think the best way to get to Rottnest Island is from Fremantle (or Freo as the locals call it), which is a small town close to Perth. Spend a day or two in Freo before getting the ferry to Rottnest Island for a day trip you’ll never forget!
3. Magnetic Island
Located just off the coast of Townsville in Queensland, Magnetic Island is fast becoming one of the most popular backpacking destinations on Australia’s East Coast! Why? Reef, Koalas, Walking Trails, Beach Front Bars, and Australia’s very own IslandLife Beach Festival! Ferry transfers are available from Townsville and the Greyhound bus will drop you off and pick you up right at the ferry terminal.
Explore Magnetic Island by open-top car, or just head out on foot and find some amazing spots for Instagram worthy photos. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for koalas, rock wallabies and much more. We recommend staying right on the beach at our very own Base Magnetic Island – we have amazing double rooms with spectacular views as well as dorm rooms for those on a tighter budget.
4. Fitzroy Island
Just a short ferry ride from Cairns, Fitzroy Island is off the beaten track and a little less crowded than the neighboring Green Island. There is a trampoline in the ocean, an n.u.d.i.s.t beach, a beachfront bar, kayaks, snorkels and paddle-boards for hire, and some fantastic rainforest walks – oh and of course we can’t forget to mention – the Great Barrier Reef.
Well worth a visit if you want to relax and go somewhere a little quieter than Cairns.
5. Fraser Island
Fraser Island is the LARGEST sand island in the world! The beaches surrounding the island are not great for swimming due to rough waters, but the lakes within the island are what make this paradise unique! Eucalyptus Forest, Dingos, Lookouts, and beautiful swimming lakes are all found here. The best way to explore the island is by a Tag-Along 4WD Tour that will have you driving along the beach made Highway!
You can visit Fraser Island on a day trip but we highly recommend an overnight trip, or ideally a 3 day, a 2-night trip so that you can see as much of the island as possible. Please don’t leave food out that the dingos might find or be attracted by.
6. Phillip Island
Located around 1.5 hours south of Melbourne and home to the famous Penguin Parade! Phillip Island is a favorite summer getaway for Melburnians and a popular surf spot. Day tours depart from Base St Kilda and Melbourne CBD.
Most of the trips that go out to visit Phillip Island from Melbourne will take you to some other great places on the way and great spots for photos. Please pay attention to the signage about no flash photography when you see the penguins as you could cause them harm.
7. Lord Howe Island
This absolute paradise can be found 600km southeast of Sydney. A volcanic remnant that boasts tall mountain peaks, coral pools, walking trails, and an abundance of wildlife. This island is Australia’s ‘prestigious’ island and the only way to get there is by plane – so it may be a little out of the normal backpacker budget. You will need to catch a flight from Sydney or Brisbane.
8. Kangaroo Island
Like nowhere else on the planet! The Aussie wildlife here is everywhere: Kangaroos (hence the name), seal colonies, Koalas, and Wombats. Other things to see apart from wildlife are the sand dunes of Little Sahara, rocky cliff formations, caves, and Flinders Chase National Park. How to get there? We recommend going on a 2 or 3-day tour from Adelaide.
9. Cockatoo Island
Ok, it may not be a ‘paradise’ but if you are interested in learning a little bit about Australia’s c.o.n.v.i.c.t history, a day trip from Sydney is worth your while! The island has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Listed Site and was once a convict penal settlement. Today, it’s a popular place to venture for a picnic, a history lesson, and a great place for a BBQ. Ferry transfers are available from Circular Quay or Darling Harbour, Sydney.
10. Great Keppel Island
Keen to explore beyond the backpacker trail? Great Keppel Island has 17 white sandy beaches and its clear waters make a great base to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Packages can be booked that include transfers from the Greyhound Bus, Ferry Transfers and accommodation at Emu Beach Backpackers. A great little stopover between Fraser Island and The Whitsundays.
11. Lady Musgrave Island
The second most southern island on the Great Barrier Reef and a popular spot for Aussie locals. Enjoy the walking trails, fantastic snorkelling and glass-bottom boat tours. Boat trips depart from the Town of 1770 – where the surf coast meets the reef. Another great spot to chill between Fraser Island and the Whitsundays.
12. Moreton Island
Moreton Island is located south of Fraser Island and takes on a similar shape. Unlike Fraser the beaches here are fantastic for swimming, sandboarding and dolphin spotting! Day ferry tours can be organised from Base Brisbane Backpackers. If you need to get out of Brisbane city after a hard week of work Moreton Island is the perfect place to relax.
13. Green Island
Home to Cassius – the world’s largest crocodile. Green Island sits upon the Great Barrier Reef and truly is absolute paradise! A fantastic place to experience a glass bottom boat tour, sip on a cocktail, snorkel or lounge by the pool. Ferry transfers depart from Cairns Marina.
14. Bruny Island
Sitting south of Hobart in Tasmania, Bruny Island is way beyond the usual tourist trail but well worth the visit. The best bit? It is as far south as you can go on land before hitting Antarctica! Spot the fairy penguins and seal colonies, go on rainforest walks, fantastic beach walks and see towering cliffs.
15. Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island is a luxury getaway for Australians far and wide and is a part of the Whitsunday group. However, they have in recent years designed a number of day packages suitable for the backpacker budget. Think infinity pools, cocktails, golf buggies and a day of absolute luxury! Day packages including lunch and transfers from Base Airlie Beach are available for as little as $130.