Five of Australia's treasured islands


Ah, Australia. Partying the night away amid the bright lights of Sydney. Exploring the undersea extravaganza of the Great Barrier Reef. Watching the sun rise over wind-sculpted Uluru. A visit Down Under is never short of do-before-you-die moments.

But did you know that there’s a whole lot more to Oz than the mainland, and we’re not just talking about dear old Tassie? The Apple Isle might be the biggest and best known, but Australia has more than 8,200 islands within its maritime borders.

Here are five you really shouldn’t miss:

Kangaroo Island

Wilderness fans will want to catch the car ferry from Cape Jervis just south of Adelaide to Kangaroo Island. Not only do you get to cross a body of water memorably named the Backstairs Passage, but you also gain access to a veritable open-air zoo of seals, birds, dolphins, echidnas and, of couse, those eponymous ‘roos. Kangaroo Island has great swimming, surfing, snorkelling and diving, plus some sensational short bushwalks. You can stay overnight in a range of B&Bs, beach houses and self-contained cottages.

Related article: How to explore the Great Barrier Reef

Sealink runs at least three ferries each way daily between Cape Jervis and Penneshaw.

Bruny Island

Bruny is like Tasmania in miniature - rugged, beautiful, and a gourmet’s delight. Anchored off the south eastern coast of Tassie, this windswept and sparsely populated outpost offers miles of pristine, empty beaches and stirring wilderness walks in untamed South Bruny National Park. You’ll need to work up an appetite to do justice to the cheeses, oysters, and smoked seafood produced here, and you can wash it all down with a glass or two of Australia’s most southerly wines.

The car ferry from Kettering to Roberts Point on the north of the island runs at least 10 times a day. Significant queues for the ferry can form around summer weekends and around Christmas and Easter.

Fraser Island

Image by peterjoel1

Created from sand drifting off the coast north of Brisbane, Fraser Island is the biggest sand bar in the world. It’s also the only place on Earth where you’ll find rainforest growing on sand. UNESCO added it to their World Heritage list in 1992 and Fraser is home to all manner of bird, animal and marine life. The best way to experience this unique environment is the Fraser Island Great Walk, a 90km multi-stage trail that undulates through the interior, passing swathes of tropical rainforest, vivid blue lakes and enormous shifting dunes.

Several large vehicle ferries connect Fraser Island to the mainland. Most visitors use the two services that leave from River Heads south of Hervey Bay or from Inskip Point near Rainbow Beach.

The Whitsundays

Not one island, but a technicolour archipelago of more than 90 tropical gems studding the sea off Queensland, most of them mercifully untouched by the hand of man.

The Whitsundays lie within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area that extends from Cape York in the north to Bundaberg in the south. Dozens of operators based in Airlie Beach offer multi-night sailing trips through the archipelago, which has some superb snorkelling. Consider a stop at Whitsunday Island itself to check out Whitehaven Beach, one of the finest in all of Oz.

King Island

And here’s one for the fromage fanatics among you - KI, as the locals call it, lies in the blustery Bass Strait off the northwest tip of Tasmania. Blanketed in the sort of green pasture that would grace a butter commercial, it’s famous as the home of the fabled King Island Dairy. The dairy’s award-winning range of bries, cheddars and blue cheeses are exactly what you’ll need after a day battling against KI’s pounding surf, which is among the country’s best.

King Island Airlines flies to the island from Melbourne Moorabbin, Regional Express flies from Melbourne Tullamarine, and Tasair operates flights from Devonport and Hobart.