Island Paradise: 9 of Queensland’s Best Islands
From exploring UNESCO-protected coral reefs to swimming with sea turtles and riding in 4WD safaris — discover every type of adventure in Queensland’s islands.
Discover 9 of Queensland’s Best Islands
Find paradise in the Whitsundays
Whether you come for Coral Sea sunsets, underwater adventures or family fun, the Whitsundays’ 74 islands promise an escape for every type of traveller.
Hamilton Island is where romantic and family holidays exist side-by-side. With direct flights from most major cities, Hamilton invites you to dive underwater, fly over Heart Reef and visit the neighbouring world-famous Whitehaven Beach.
For premier snorkelling, head to the Whitsundays’ most northerly island, Hayman Island. On the north-western side, you’ll find Blue Pearl Bay, known to have some of the archipelago’s best beach snorkelling (safe for explorers of all ages). If you’re looking for family-friendly luxury, Daydream Island is a true paradise with a unique on-island Living Reef, where kids can shake fins with baby stingray and spot star fish.
But remember, you’re not restricted to one island. The Whitsundays is a sailor’s paradise and one of the only places in the world where you can rent a catamaran or yacht without a license, so you can charter your own adventure.
Easily accessible paradise on Fitzroy Island
Few islands are as accessible (and often over-looked) as Fitzroy Island: it’s only a 60-minute ferry ride from Cairns and is made up of breathtakingly beautiful rugged rainforest. That wilderness is fringed by coral reef and beautiful beaches, including Nudey Beach (previously ranked among Australia’s best), all of which have the tropical tick of approval: white sand, azure waters, and pure peace and quiet.
One morning, you’ll snorkel alongside vibrant coral and marine life with the first glass-bottom boat tour of the day; on the next, you’ll turn your attention to the island’s granite headlands, open woodland and rainforest. If you opt to hike the Lighthouse Road trail (3.6km, two-hour roundtrip), you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views around the island, including Green Island in the north
While you may have seen the island from beneath the waves and atop the summit, nothing compares to an intimate (maximum 20 guest) sunset sail of the island onboard the luxe Eye Spy catamaran, capped off with evening champagne and canapés.
Get back to nature on Magnetic Island
Located just off the coast of Townsville — a short 20-minute ferry ride — Magnetic Island is not your quintessential flop-and-drop island. Over half of ‘Maggie's’ majestic 52sqkm is made up of national park: an adventurer’s paradise of coastal walking trails, picturesque lookouts, gum trees full of dozing koalas and bright turquoise waters.
With 23 majestic bays and beaches bound by granite boulders, where native rock wallabies play and soaring eucalyptus trees stand, Magnetic Island invites you to reconnect with nature. Take your time walking the trails to Radical or Balding Bay — just over an hour from Horseshoe Bay — hire a 4WD to enjoy sunset at West Point and join a personalised Aquascene discovery tour to secluded beaches and bays. Don’t miss the self-guided underwater snorkel trail in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Just off the island’s coast, one of Australia’s most famous wreck dives await: the SS Yongala shipwreck. Join a guided diving tour to visit this 100-year-old shipwreck and come face-to-face with giant gropers, massive marble rays, turtles, eagle rays and more.
Diver's mecca on Lady Elliot Island
At the secluded Lady Elliot Island, a 25-minute flight from Hervey Bay near Bundaberg, the only people you’ll likely encounter are the ones who travel with you — the island hosts a maximum of 100 day-visitors at any one time. A diver’s mecca in the highly protected ‘Green Zone’, Lady Elliot is an animal sanctuary, home to Australia’s greatest concentration of birdlife and over 1,200 species of marine life.
This means that seasonal encounters with mantra rays and majestic humpback whales (during winter) are all on the cards. Underwater gardens are accessible right off the beach and the coral edges on the island’s western side are ideal for swimming alongside dolphins and turtles.
The crystal-clear waters can be explored by paddling in a clear kayak, snorkelling the shallow lagoon or scuba diving, but the real magic happens when the tide is out. Hire a glass-bottomed boat and take a guided reef walk through this underwater wonderland.
4WD adventure on Fraser Island
Known as ‘K’Gari’, meaning paradise to the Butchulla people, and heralded as ‘a place of exceptional natural beauty’ by UNESCO, Fraser Island is not your typical beachfront resort haven.
Located just off the coast of Hervey Bay, a short ferry ride from the mainland, and stretching more than 123km in length, the world’s largest sand island is a 4WD enthusiast’s haven. Armed with the right set of wheels, you could discover the rainbow-coloured cliffs (which are sacred to the local Indigenous people), tackle the sands of 75 Mile Beach, marvel at the above-water SS Maheno Shipwreck and swim in the stunning Lake Mackenzie — which boasts pure white sand and crystal clear waters.
Driving aside, the island is flush with Champagne pools (naturally formed rock pools), 90km of hiking trails, wild dingoes and front-row whale watching between August and October. But these aren’t the only animals on Fraser.
Join a nocturnal night tour and you might spot rare acid frogs on the edge of lakes, crabs scampering on the sand, flying foxes and adorable sugar gliders.
Secluded couples’ escape on Lizard Island
Secluded beach escapes can be hard to come by, but not on Lizard Island. Accessible only by private 60-minute scenic flight from Cairns, this tranquil island is home to a guest-only resort and 23 beaches.
For fishing and marine-wildlife enthusiasts, as well as lovers of seclusion, the island offers direct access to the coral reef’s unimaginable beauty, turtles and vibrant marine life right off the beach. It’s likely you’ll have the coast all to yourself. To explore this patch of paradise, hire a private dingy and reel in mackerel on the inner reef, moor at Mermaid Cove and flop on Watsons Bay.
In the water, snorkel over the island’s Clam Gardens, admiring their neon blue and royal purple mantles, passing schools of fish and vibrant coral. For those who don’t want to get their hair wet, the glass-bottom boat experience from Anchor Bay to the Clam Gardens is simply unmissable.
Bonus: If you do reel in your catch, Lizard Island Resort’s executive chef will prepare it for dinner.
Adrenaline-fuelled adventure on Moreton Island
Leaving the world behind is easy at Brisbane’s most underrated island, Moreton Island. Located just 40km off the coast and a short 75-minute ferry ride from Queensland’s capital, Moreton is an adrenaline-fuelled adventurer’s paradise made up of 98% heritage-protected forest, sand dunes, 4WD terrain and history.
Sandboard down Mount Tempest, the world’s tallest coastal sand dune, wander the Rous Battery track – affording views over WWII remnants, 4WD or quad bike on the pristine white-sand beaches and, if you want to delve beneath the surface, snorkel the acclaimed Tangalooma Wrecks. Dive between the rusted bones of these 15-deliberately sunken WWII ships and discover a jade-tinted world of kaleidoscopic fish.
This iconic sight is truly something to behold during the day, but it’s night kayaking that will change your perspective of it forever. Glide through the normally luminous Coral Sea in a transparent kayak fitted with LED lights and spot the vibrant coral, wobbegongs, turtles and parts of the shipwreck through the inky water.
Adults-only hideaway on Wilson Island
An escape to Wilson Island is what being stranded on a tropical island is meant to feel like. Nestled just off the coast of Gladstone, a short 40-minute boat or helicopter ride from Heron Island, this tiny cay on the Great Barrier Reef is a romantic adults-only castaway retreat.
Covering just five acres and easily walkable within 15 minutes, Wilson Island offers romantic seclusion with an all-inclusive guest-only resort and nine generously spaced safari-style luxury tents, with just 18 guests on the island at any one time.
Settle into a gentle oscillation between swimming in the luminous waters, snorkelling the coral cay directly off the beach, seasonal turtle watching (between October and April), dozing off in a tropical hammock and self-guided nature walks — the onsite chef will happily prepare a picnic hamper for you.
This is a place where you can discover off-the-grid tranquility — there’s no mobile or Wi-Fi reception — and enjoy nightly champagne, fine cheese and beachfront stargazing. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, you can reserve the whole island exclusively for yourself and loved ones.
Animal haven on Heron Island
You’ll find more wildlife than people on this tiny piece of paradise — up to 100,000 varieties of birdlife take up residence on Heron Island. The white coral sands act as a homing beacon for hundreds of green turtles and beneath the turquoise water, over 20 dive sites are within a 15-minute boat ride.
Located off the coast of Gladstone in the Southern Barrier Reef, Heron Island is a beautifully remote animal- and marine-life sanctuary, accessible only by seaplane, helicopter or boat. Ideal for animal lovers, the Heron Bommie signature dive offers the perfect opportunity to spy manta and eagle rays, reef sharks and Fatty — the resident flowery cod.
But the underwater world isn’t just for snorkellers — thanks to the clear water, you can spy black-tip sharks on a hike towards Shark Bay, eagle rays in North Beach’s shallows and, between November and March, green and loggerhead turtles laying eggs on the beach.