Australia has some of the best destinations in the world for island holidays. With endless stretches of white sand, amazing marine life, and a laidback lifestyle, an Australian island holiday can be filled with activities or relaxed and lazy. It all depends on what you want to do during your time off!
1. Magnetic Island
Just off the coast of Townsville in Queensland, Magnetic Island is a place of pristine natural beauty and endless beaches. If you’re looking for an Australian Island holiday, you can’t get better than this island. It’s beautiful at any time of year, but between October and April, it can be sweltering. If you’re sensitive to the sun, it’s usually better to visit between May and September when the weather is more moderate.
There are loads of things to do on Magnetic Island:
- Cuddle a koala at Bungalow Bay Koala Village
- Go hiking on Hawkings Track or one of the many other popular hiking trails like the Forts Walk
- Go snorkelling or diving to discover the SS Yongala wreck
- Go horse riding on the beach
- Watch the sun go down from West Point
Nearest airport: Townsville Airport
Best time to visit: Perfect for a winter sun holiday Magnetic Island with daytime averages of 27 degrees celsius.
2. Fraser Island
Fraser Island is world heritage listed, and one of the world’s largest sand islands. It’s filled with diverse landscapes and sometimes quirky wildlife, which is why it’s one of the most popular destinations for Australian Island holidays. The island is 360km north of Brisbane in Queensland and is pleasant in any season except summer when it can get brutally hot.
Our favourite things to do on Fraser Island are:
- Go four-wheel driving on the famous Seventy Mile Beach.
- Go bird watching or whale watching
- Explore the surprising tropical rainforest
- Take a swim in Lake McKenzie, Lake Wabby, or Eli Creek for pure, fresh water and a cooling rush
- If you have the time, take the 6-day Fraser Island Great Walk past the island’s most interesting sites
Nearest airport: Hervey Bay,
Best time to visit: Summer is the perfect time to visit although crowds are at a peak during the Christmas and New Year holiday period. Spring sees good weather and fewer visitors
3. Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island has a lot to offer for your Australian Island holidays. It has beautiful wildlife, a thriving food scene, incredible wineries, and activities for every member of the family. It’s located off the coast of South Australia, around 112km southwest of Adelaide.
You can visit this island at any time of year, but it’s particularly good in winter when there are more animals around, and the weather is cool but not freezing. Summer is the busiest time, so expect crowds when you’re exploring the island at this time of year.
Here are a few of the best things to do and see there:
- Go quad biking, swimming, or snorkelling
- Take one of the island’s hikes like the Return Road Hike or Curly Creek Hike
- Make sure you head up to see the views at sunset or sunrise from the Remarkable Rocks
- Look for wildlife at the Flinders National Park
- Check out the shops and restaurants in the small town of Penneshaw
- Get some sun at Stokes Bay or Emu Bay
Nearest airport: Adelaide
Best time to visit: Kangaroo Island is a year-round destination although spring is ideal for both wildflowers, weather, and wildlife.
4. North Stradbroke Island
North Stradbroke Island – otherwise known as Straddie – is off the coast of Queensland in Moreton Bay. It offers a welcome break from the bustle of Brisbane city and is the kind of island where you can relax and chill or have an active holiday.
Straddie has warm summers and mild winters, so it’s pleasant at any time of year. However, the height of summer can get very hot, making it uncomfortable to lay on the beach all day.
Here’s what to do when Straddie is part of your Australian Island holiday:
- Go shopping and explore work by local artisans
- Look out for cool local events like the Straddie Assault, Point Lookout Markets, or the Quandamooka Festival
- Visit Dunwich Cemetery
- Take a bush tucker garden trail at Terra Bulla Leumeah
- Go swimming at Adam’s Beach or crabbing at Bradbury’s Beach
- Visit Blue Lake, a place of special significance for the local Indigenous culture, the Quandamooka people
Nearest airport: Brisbane
Best time to visit: The weather is great year-round however the island is very popular from Sept to Dec and in the Aussie school holidays. March to May is perfect.
5. Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is located off Western Australia and is perfect for a quick side trip from Perth during your Australian island holidays. The smiling quokkas are why most people visit Rottnest. These little creatures have become popular on Instagram lately because of their naturally smiley faces.
But this isn’t all there is to do on Rottnest. This is one of the most popular Australian islands to visit because there are enough activities and sites to keep you busy for days. Just make sure you visit on a weekday if you want to avoid the crowds, and try not to visit the island in the depth of winter as it gets too cold to swim.
Here’s what to do and see on Rottnest:
- Take photos with the smiling quokkas
- Grab a bicycle and explore the island under your own steam
- Check out some of the stunning local beaches like the Basin or Pinky’s Beach
- Take a tour up to the Wadjemup Lighthouse
- Explore the island on foot via the Wadjemup Bidi, a series of trails that pass by the coast and amazing hidden lakes
Nearest airport: Perth
Best time to visit: October and November are ideal times to visit Rottnest Island however summer is also lovely, but decidedly more popular.
6. Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island is part of the Whitsundays Islands, 512 km south of Cairns in Queensland. It’s the largest island in the group, which is why it can offer more activities to suit a wide range of travelers. Whether you’re on your own, with family, or with friends, there’s something for everyone on this island, including spas, shops, incredible beaches, and activities.
You can visit Hamilton Island at any time of year, but if you go between April and June, you’ll enjoy warm but not hot weather with less rain.
Here’s what to do on Hamilton Island:
- Explore the Great Barrier Reef by swimming, snorkelling, diving, or boating
- Eat as much of the legendary local food as possible
- Try some local walking trails like Saddle Junction, Hideaway Bay, or the Escape Beach Trail
- See the reef from above in a helicopter or seaplane
- Get involved with local sports like golf, marathons, ocean swims, or beach races
- Stretch out on the beautiful beaches like Catseye Beach or Whitehaven Beach
Nearest airport: Hamilton Island
Best time to visit: Another great winter beach holiday spot with ideal temperatures between April and June.
7. Bruny Island
Bruny Island isn’t often talked about, but simply must be part of your Australian Island holidays. Located just off the coast of Tasmania, it has some of the most beautifully preserved natural landscapes you’ll ever see. The island is around 50km long and is a haven for endangered and rare animals. Just remember that Bruny Island is south of Australia, so it does get frigid in winter.
Here’s what to do on the island:
- Check out South Bruny National Park for amazing bushwalks and cliffs with stunning views
- Try the local produce such as cheese, oysters, and chocolate
- Hire a local guide with the botanical and zoological knowledge to make bird and animal watching really special
- Visit Cape Bruny Lighthouse, the second oldest lighthouse in Australia
- Visit the Neck, an isthmus connecting south and north Bruny Island and an important animal habitat with stunning views.
Nearest airport: Hobart
Best time to visit: It can get mighty cold here so a summer visit is ideal, however, be sure to plan your visit early as this is peak season.
8. Lord Howe Island
If you hate crowds, you need to visit Lord Howe Island during your Australian Island holidays. It’s located in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, northeast of Sydney and is a World Heritage-listed South Pacific paradise.
Lord Howe Island is home to fantastic wildlife, marine life, and some of the best birdwatching in Australia. Only 400 people at a time are allowed on the island, which is why it’s so beautiful and pristine. You should time your trip for winter if you want warm days and lots of unique animal experiences.
Here’s what to do on this island:
- Get a guide and take a day hike to Mt. Gower, the tallest mountain on the island
- For less experienced hikers, try Malabar Ridge
- Go birdwatching
- Have a swim and feed the fish at Ned’s Beach
- Go snorkelling or diving to check out the local tropical fish
- Try some fresh produce at the local restaurants
Nearest airport: Lord Howe Island – a 2-hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane
Best time to visit: A year-round destination but if you want beach weather try to visit in Spring or Summer.
9. Norfolk Island
This tiny island between Australia and New Zealand was originally a penal settlement and became the home of the mutineers from the Bounty. Over the years, their descendants have settled there and even developed their own language. But of course, it’s not a penal colony anymore: instead, the island is a laidback tropical paradise, with beautiful beaches, towering cliffs, impossibly blue water, and dense forest.
Norfolk Island has a mild winter with a lot of rain, so avoid this time of year if possible.
Here’s what to do on Norfolk Island:
- Take a 4WD tour through the island
- Try as much of the delicious local produce as possible and shop in local stores
- Go on one of the local historical tours to learn more about the island’s penal history
- Visit the Norfolk Island Museum
- Go fishing, kayaking, or take a glass-bottom boat tour
Nearest airport: Norfolk Island is 2.5 hours from Sydney
Best time to visit: Visit between October to March for the best weather
10. Tiwi Islands
The Tiwi Islands are off the coast of the Northern Territories in Australia and include Melville and Bathurst Islands, home to a population of around 2,500. The Aboriginal culture on these islands is strong, making them a haven for indigenous arts, crafts, rituals, and history.
When you make the Tiwi Islands part of your Australian Island holidays, be prepared to see unique animal species. The Tiwi Islands are isolated and experience lots of rain, so the flora and fauna are can’t be found anywhere else.
Here’s what to do on the Tiwi Islands:
- Visit in March for the Tiwi Football Grand Final and Art Sale, the only time you don’t need an entry permit for the islands
- Take a cultural tour and meet the locals
- Go fishing
- Explore the local arts and crafts scenes at Tiwi Design or join a tour
- Visit Munupi Arts on Melville Island for a traditional painting or woodcarving
Nearest airport: Darwin International Airport and a ferry or flight to Bathurst Island
Best time to visit: Perfect for a winter vacation in the sun with the added bonus of lower humidity in the winter months.
Australian Island Holidays – The Takeaway
It’s hard to beat an Australian island holiday for luxury, relaxation, animal experiences, or natural beauty. Basically, the only difficult thing is trying to decide which Australian islands to visit!