Lady Elliot Island calls itself the Home of the Manta Ray, but you’re just as likely to see turtles and (in winter) hear whales around this island sanctuary within the Great Barrier Reef’s Green Zone. Whether snorkelling, reef-walking or aboard a state-of-the-art glass bottom boat, this eco-resort’s activities also include plenty of bird watching, with nesting shearwaters around your feet, noddies in the trees and crested terns in the air.
Perfect for a day trip from Cairns (or even a weekend) this protected coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef has white sandy beaches, safe swimming, amazing snorkelling and a kid-friendly resort. Find out more.
Fitzroy Island’s sheltered waters are ideal for snorkelling and just messing around in the water. Stay a few days at the resort and enjoy the fine dining, or even camp and enjoy a BBQ. See the corals from the glass bottom boat and be sure to tour the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.
If your kids are into water sports, Magnetic Island offers plenty of opportunity to dive, snorkel, kayak, fish, swim, stand-up paddleboard and sail. Koalas were introduced to the island in the 1930s and with no natural predators, you are almost guaranteed to spot one as you stroll along the well-marked trails through the national park. Kids will love the bright pink mini-mokes and beach buggies for hire to drive around the island.
You’ll need at least a week to sample everything Hamilton Island has to offer. Try the Quads for Kids (6-14yrs) or Jet Ski for older kids. Take a day trip to the famous Whitehaven Beach, go snorkelling and meet a few turtles, cuddle a Koala or bush walk to one of the many secluded bays.
Heron Island is on the Great Barrier Reef, so snorkelling, bird watching and reef-walking are literally on your doorstep. Kids (7-12yrs) can join the Junior Rangers with nature-based activities designed to nurture a sense of exploration. Between November and February watch turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, and if you’re lucky, see the hatchlings head off back to the ocean.
Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, offers plenty of adventure activities for kids. Junior Eco-Rangers (5 -14 yrs) get to try the low ropes course, experience canoeing, and go bushwalking to see and learn about the mangrove colonies and inter-tidal zones. Kids will also enjoy the aboriginal storytelling around the campfire and cooking damper, followed by spotlighting for nocturnal wildlife through the dark forest, and amazing stargazing.
Moreton Island’s Tangalooma Resort is the only place in the world where you can hand-feed bottle nosed dolphins. Take a desert safari tour and go sand tobogganing, then cool off with a snorkel or Banana Boat ride.
‘Straddie’ as the locals call it: two sand islands where you can really get back to nature and camp by one of the many beaches. Relax and spend some down time fishing, swimming or just sunbathing.
Cockatoo Island is Sydney Harbour’s own UNESCO World Heritage-listed island. Hop on a ferry and explore the island for the day or stay overnight in a cabin or a tent, and join the spooky Haunted History night tour.
A World Heritage-listed island paradise that’s easily explored by bike, you can also snorkel with turtles at Settlement Beach, feed the fish and snorkel with baby reef sharks at Ned’s Beach, or hike up into the rainforests of Mount Gower for spectacular views. More information.
Montague Island is famous for its seals and Little Penguins. Snorkel with the seals and watch the nightly penguin parade when 12,000 Little Penguins come ashore at dusk.
A popular day trip from Melbourne, spectators gather daily at sunset on Summerland Beach to watch the Penguin Parade, when Little Penguins come ashore in groups. Nobbies outcrop is the viewing site for Seal Rocks, home to a large colony of Australian fur seals.
It’s not just kangaroos you’ll find on Kangaroo Island – it’s home to all kinds of native wildlife like sea lions, penguins, koalas and a variety of bird species. Visit the striking coastal rock formations, like the sculpted Remarkable Rocks and the stalactite-covered Admirals Arch where fur seals play in the rock pools below.
Rottnest is best known for its population of quokkas. They might look cute and even smiley but – beware – the little marsupial critters do bite! On the north western tip there’s also a colony of New Zealand fur seals, so where do you think the Australian sea lions hang out? On Dyer Island in the south east, of course!
This little island in the Indian Ocean will surprise even the most adventurous wildlife fan. Snorkel Flying Fish Cove and count 200 fish species, wander through the rainforest and be outnumbered by crabs – by 50 million to one! Explore the caves and the Christmas Island Grotto (though Santa’s rarely there!)