Feb 10, 2016
Whatever your holiday preference — luxury, budget or something in-between — there’s a Queensland island perfect for you. We round up the best.
Luxury: Hamilton Island
The island that simply has it all, Hamilton boasts a yacht club, marina, 18-hole golf course, bars and restaurants aplenty, and an airport that welcomes daily flights direct from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Still, the jewel in this shimmering Queensland paradise is Qualia, Bob Oatley’s multi-award winning A-list escape. It’s not cheap, but the luxe resort’s ‘Pavilion’ rooms are simply outstanding, almost completely private and boast peerless views of the Great Barrier Reef.
Adventure: Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island’s appeal lies not so much in the small, plucky island itself, but in the dizzying array of things you can do there, including mountain biking, horse riding, jet skiing, kayaking, knee-boarding, rock climbing, sailing, kite surfing and scenic flights. All this before you consider the exceptional diving spots that skirt its shores. There are numerous accommodation options — from the relatively secluded guesthouse rooms at CStay to something a little more comfortable with Peppers Blue on Blue Resort. The island’s easy accessibility, via water taxi (25 minutes) or car ferry (40 minutes) from Townsville, only sweetens the deal.
Budget: Great Keppel Island
Until now a little overlooked by Queensland’s tourism trade, Great Keppel Island’s virtues shouldn’t be underestimated: terrific hiking trails, beautiful snorkelling (to corals that can be accessed straight from the beach) and long stretches of deserted coast. The island’s under-the-radar status means it’s cheap and accommodation is similarly efficient: try Great Keppel Island Holiday Village for dorms and doubles or Svendsens Beach for affordable glamping options. Keppel Konnections offer cheap return tickets, the ferry trip from Yeppoon barely taking half an hour.
Family-friendly: North Stradbroke Island
Stradbroke rarely makes the holiday short-list for winter-weary southerners. And that’s their loss. Ten kilometres from Brisbane’s bayside suburbs as the crow flies, Point Lookout, the beguiling township on the far side of the island, might as well be in a different state. Warm year-round with Pacific breakers crashing on its expansive beaches, ‘Straddie’ strikes the perfect balance between seclusion and accessibility. A stack of comfortable holiday rentals doesn’t hurt either — go via Dolphin Accommodation for everything from thrifty to fancy. If you want to take a car, Stradbroke Ferries runs a regular and reliable ferry service from Brisbane.
Nature: Heron Island
If you get low like Jacques Cousteau, Heron Island is arguably the Great Barrier Reef’s finest diving spot. The resort boasts more than 20 sites within 15 minutes of the shore (including Cousteau’s iconic Heron Bommie). It hardly lets up elsewhere either, with breeding season for turtles and myriad species of birds in the summer, and a winter marked by the annual humpback migration north. Accommodation at Heron Island Resort ranges from simple, comfortable twins to a standalone beach house; transfer from Gladstone by either boat or seaplane.
Romance: Bedarra Island
For honeymooners, there’s simply no better tropical Queensland getaway than Bedarra Island. The all-inclusive luxury resort, which was refurbished after 2011’s Cyclone Yasi, has eight immaculately appointed and sustainability-focused villas. Bedarra is known for its service so, while it’s tempting to sit around and enjoy the opulence, staff happily arrange private excursions to the island’s secluded beaches and coves. Guests have the option of a helicopter transfer from either Mission Beach or Cairns.
See also: 7 romantic getaways around Australia
Foodie: Orpheus Island
Queensland’s tropical islands are beginning to appeal to the cuisine-oriented traveller and Orpheus Island is leading the way. A menu that draws on local ingredients—and changes each day—ensures the resort’s signature Dining With Tides experience is never boring, with four specially tailored courses served by candlelight on an elegant pier. The resort also has cooking classes and conducts tours of the kitchen’s expansive herb garden. Orpheus’s seclusion — transfer is by helicopter only from either Townsville or Cairns, and you’ll be sharing with just 27 other guests — only adds to the magic.
Singles: Fraser Island
Fraser is more-or-less a backpacker’s rite of passage when it comes to navigating the Australian east coast. Fraser’s wilderness — with its 75 Mile Beach gazetted highway, ancient rainforests and pristine freshwater lakes — is perfect to explore solo, or a great place to make friends on the fly. A Fraser Explorer two-day tour is a good way to go, but if you’re organising your own accommodation try Eurong Beach Resort, which has comfortable dorm rooms. Eliza Fraser Lodge is where you head if you’re after something more salubrious.
Eco-friendly: Lady Elliot Island
A tiny coral cay located at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, Lady Elliot Island doubles as a sanctuary for more than 1,200 species of marine life. Manta rays, turtles, whales and sharks all call the place home at different times of the year, making it a sublime snorkelling and diving destination. Lady Elliot Eco Resort is the only place to stay, a small, unpretentious and environmentally focused collection of 41 rooms. The hotel offers day trips if you’re short on time.
Images: Hamilton Island, Fraser Island, Lady Elliot Island, Magnetic Island and North Stradbroke Island