Australia has over 8,000 islands dotted around the coast, making it a real challenge to plan your next island holiday. We’ve found 17 of the best when it comes to planning Australian island holidays that are perfect for families.
Green Island, Cairns QLD
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 Green Island Resort.
Fitzroy Island, Cairns QLD
Fitzroy Island’s sheltered waters are ideal for snorkelling and just messing around on the beach and in the calm waters. Stay a few days at Fitzroy Island Resort and enjoy dining overlooking the sea at the resort restaurant or casual dining at Foxy’s Bar. There’s also a shady campground with BBQ’s and bathroom amenities if hotel stays are not your thing. There’s plenty to do on Fitzroy, such as viewing corals from the glass bottom boat, hiking trails and visits to the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.
Day trips are available from Cairns if time is short.
Magnetic Island, Townsville QLD
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.
Daydream Island, Whitsundays QLDAs well as the natural fringing reef and great swimming beaches, Daydream Island has its very own Living Reef. Easily reached from Shute Harbour or Airlie Beach on the Whitsundays mainland, with over 140 species of fish including sharks and rays, kids can get really close and learn first-hand about the inhabitants of the Great Barrier Reef.
Hamilton Island, Whitsundays QLDYou’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. For the ultimate adventure, take a scenic helicopter flight over the islands and Great Barrier Reef
Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef QLDHeron Island is on the Great Barrier Reef, so snorkelling, bird watching and reef-walking are literally just a few steps from your accommodation at Heron Island Resort. 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.
North and South Stradbroke Island (near Brisbane) QLD
‘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, sunbathing or book a kayak tour at Stradbroke Island.
Fraser Island (near Hervey Bay) QLD
Fraser Island is 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. Take a 4WD tour of Fraser Island through rainforest pockets, to see the famous lakes and drive on 70 Mile Beach.
Moreton Island, (near Brisbane) QLD
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.
Lady Elliot Island, Great Barrier Reef QLD
Lady Elliot 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.
Cockatoo Island (Sydney Harbour) NSW
Cockatoo Island is Sydney Harbour’s own UNESCO World Heritage-listed island. Hop on a ferry from downtown Sydney and explore Cockatoo Island on a day trip or stay overnight in a cabin or a tent, and join the spooky Haunted History night tour.
Montague Island (near Narooma) NSW
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. Get to Montague Island from Narooma where the family can book an EBike tour along the coastal trail.
Lord Howe Island NSW
Lord Howe Island is 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.
Phillip Island (near San Remo) VIC
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.
Kangaroo Island (near Fleurieu Peninsula) SA
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. Take the ferry to Kangaroo Island to see 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 Island (off Perth) WA
Take a ferry from Perth or Fremantle to Rottnest Island (known by the locals simply as Rotto). The island 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 of Rottnest Island 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! Explore the main settlement by segway and stay overnight at beachfront Discovery Parks new accommodation option.
This little island in the Indian Ocean will surprise even the most adventurous wildlife fan. Snorkel Flying Fish Cove and count the approx. 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!)