Featured image: Florence Bay, Magnetic Island
Longing for a romantic island holiday? Don’t worry, we hear those tropical cocktails calling loud and clear. So, we’ve dodged the crowds and chased the sun along the Queensland coast to find ten dreamy islands that may have slipped under your holiday radar. From Brisbane to the Great Barrier Reef, these low-key lovelies will have you swapping winter blues for sun-splashed beaches, stat.
Press play on your Queensland beach holiday, island adventure, or romantic honeymoon or minimoon right here. No passport required.
All photos: Tourism and Events Queensland except where noted
1. WILSON ISLAND, Great Barrier Reef
Imagine an island so secluded, it can only be reached via another island. Welcome to Wilson. A natural coral cay in the southern Great Barrier Reef, Wilson Island’s castaway charms are a 30-minute boat ride from neighbouring Heron Island.
Just nine beachfront Reef Safari Tents are nestled among the ancient Pisonia forest — offering a glamping-style escape with five luscious acres to call your own and precious GBR coral on your doorstep. Snorkel the gin-clear waters and meet the local reef fish, turtles, and rays. Unpack a picnic on the sand and comb the beach for treasures. Or doze the day away on a hammock. Tom Hanks never had it this good.
A seriously peaceful island paradise.
Getting here: Off the coast of Gladstone, Heron Island is accessible by air (30-minute heli-flight) or two-hour sea transfer. Then, take a 30-minute ‘passage to paradise’ to Wilson.
See 5 dreamy Queensland sand cays here
2. LONG ISLAND, The Whitsundays
When you’re wondering which Whitsunday island is best for couples, Hayman and Hamilton usually leap to mind. And rightly so, they are glorious. But dive a little deeper and you’ll find another must for your shortlist: Long Island.
Not only is it the closest Whitsunday island to the mainland, but this beauty is almost entirely national park, braceleted by exquisite bays and fringing coral reefs. Long Island is nine kilometres long but just 400 metres across at its widest point, with scenic walking trails and two boutique escapes.
Want secluded? See the barefoot luxury of Elysian Eco Retreat, home to ten adults-only oceanfront villas plus a magnesium swimming pool, and onsite day spa. Or enjoy the Balinese-style beachfront bungalows and bures of the self-catering Palm Bay Resort. Both have stellar views and oodles of island charm.
Don’t be surprised if you want to linger longer.
Getting there: Go the full celeb with a helicopter arrival from Hamilton Island, Whitsunday Airport, or Coral Sea Marina (10-20 minutes) to either resort. Palm Bay Resort also offers sea transfers from Shute Harbour or the option to moor your boat. The perfect excuse for a bareboating adventure.
3. FRASER ISLAND, Fraser Coast
How could you go past the world’s largest sand island for a memorable Queensland holiday? Fraser Island (K’gari to the Butchulla traditional owners) is 122 kilometres long and full of surprises. We’re talking rainforest growing in sand dunes, a 75-mile beach, and a hidden freshwater lake with the most astonishing sand this side of Whitehaven.
You could camp, but the best accommodation can be found on the island’s sunset-ready western edge at Kingfisher Bay Resort. This eco escape offers an excellent range of rooms, villas, and holiday homes plus a day spa, restaurants, and bars. You’ll also have ready access to the most glorious island walking trails.
Discover K’gari on a 4WD tour or Indigenous cultural tour, explore the Insta-ready shores of Lake McKenzie, or sink into the seafoam fizz of the Champagne rock pools. Just be back in time for gold-dipped sundowners at Kingfisher Bay’s Sunset Bar.
Cheers to that.
Getting there: Catch the Kingfisher Bay Ferry from River Heads and cross the Great Sandy Strait in just under an hour. Or you can touch down by plane from the Brisbane or Hervey Bay Airports
4. FITZROY ISLAND, Great Barrier Reef
Fancy throwing down a towel on Australia’s best beach? It’s a white-sand beauty called Nudey Beach, 45 minutes off the Cairns coast on Fitzroy Island. Framed by granite boulders, with gorgeous views of the Cairns highlands, Nudey topped Brad Farmer’s annual Best Australian Beaches list in 2018.
And don’t worry, you can bring your swimmers. “The only thing stark-naked at Fitzroy Island’s Nudey Beach is her offering of pure tropical assets,” said Farmer at the time. “Sitting just off Cairns, it’s a perfectly chilled island environment like few others, offering a truly great Barrier Reef immersion.”
The best bit? Fitzroy Island Resort has you covered if you want to stay and explore. There’s a beachfront bar (find it en route to Nudey Beach), restaurant, resort pool and swim-up bar, and a range of luxury suites and beach cabins. But this eco hideaway also offers heaps of on and off-island activities including reef cruising, glass-bottom boat tours, fishing charters, kayaking, and the chance to visit the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.
A Tropical North Queensland gem.
Getting here: It’s an easy 45-minute transfer from Cairns
5. MORETON ISLAND, Moreton Bay
Looking for adventure? See the soaring sand dunes and snorkel-ready shipwrecks of Moreton Island (Mulgumpin to the Quandamooka traditional owners). Right on Brisbane’s doorstep, this is one of the region’s most underrated escapes, encircled by marine park waters teeming with fish, turtles, and dolphins. Moreton is ideal spot to try sand tabogganing, beach quad biking, clear-bottom kayaking, or sea scootering. You can also drop by Queensland’s oldest lighthouse, picnic on a deserted beach at Honeymoon Bay, or seek out the island’s hidden freshwater lagoon.
Base your island adventure at the beachfront villas of Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton’s western side. The resort is renowned for its resident pod of wild bottlenose dolphins which guests can hand-feed each evening. But it’s also home to a sheltered calm-water beach and just a short stroll from the island’s sunken treasure: the Tangalooma Wrecks.
Pass the snorkel, please.
Getting here: Just 40 kilometres off the Brisbane coast, Moreton can be reached in around an hour aboard the resort passenger ferry.
6. BEDARRA ISLAND, Great Barrier Reef
Two magic words. Private. Island. Tucked away in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Bedarra Island is billed as ‘paradise without the people’, with no roads, capped visitor numbers, and a sublime sense of seclusion. Meaning it’s perfect for a romantic out-of-office escape. This GBR gem can be found just off Mission Beach (between Townsville and Cairns) with its two heavenly hideaways thoughtfully positioned on opposite ends of the island.
Take your pick of ten spectacular villas at the idyllic Bedarra Island Resort (and yes, there are private pools). Or embrace the full honeymoon experience at the just-for-two East Bedarra Island Retreat. It’s something special. Soak up the sun on your own palm-fringed beach with views to the Coral Sea and islands beyond. Bunker down in your exclusive beach villa (with an on-water concierge available to deliver daily gourmet feasts). And sip Champagne beneath the stars in a tidal rock pool that replenishes with the balmy waters of the Coral Sea.
A very private paradise.
Getting here: Take the private water taxi from Mission Beach. Or helicopter it in from Cairns Airport in under an hour.
7. NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND, Moreton Bay
Waves and wallabies set the tone on North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah to the Quandamooka traditional owners). This Moreton Bay gem is the world’s second largest sand island (see Fraser for the first) and home to wild surf beaches, secluded inland lakes, and a seriously laid-back beach town vibe.
Brisbane locals have kept ‘Straddie’ as their personal holiday playground for decades. But the secret’s getting out. Now architect-designed beach houses share the view with retro fibro beach shacks and a handful of local shops and pizza joints. Keen to get acquainted? Start with Point Lookout’s dramatically beautiful Gorge Walk for a fitting introduction to the island and its ultra-relaxed community of wallabies and kangaroos. And to discover Straddie’s other half, head off the Gold Coast mainland and into the national park beauty of South Stradbroke Island.
Shhhh, just don’t tell anyone else.
Getting here: From Cleveland (half an hour south-east of Brisbane),take the 50-minute barge transfer with your car to North Stradbroke Island. Or hop on the speedy passenger ferry then catch the island bus.
8. LIZARD ISLAND, Great Barrier Reef
Want to stay right on the Great Barrier Reef? See the reef’s northernmost resort, Lizard Island (Jiigurru to the traditional Dingaal owners), which occupies an expansive swathe of national park off the coast of Cairns. Home to 24 beautiful beaches and hidden coves, as well as superb snorkelling and dive sites, this is a natural paradise. Oh, and the accommodation is top-notch too.
Part of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, Lizard Island offers 40 rooms and villas including beachfront suites and decadent private pool hideaways. There’s also a day spa, two bars, and a lovely restaurant, Salt Water. Slip away to a private beach with a gourmet picnic hamper. Take a guided tour to the inner or outer reefs. Or look out for the island’s namesake, the monitor lizard, on a choose-your-own-adventure nature walk. Then drift back to Anchor Bay to catch the sunset and enjoy a degustation dinner in your own beach pavilion.
Ah, island life.
Getting here: The hour-long scenic flight from Cairns is all part of the experience, gliding right over the reef.
9. MAGNETIC ISLAND, North Queensland
Hiding in plain sight off the Townsville shoreline, Magnetic Island (Yunbenun to theWulgurukaba traditional owners) is still largely undiscovered as an Australian holiday island. Which is hard to believe when you consider this super-chilled Coral Sea beauty is home to 23 beautiful bays and beaches — and just 20 minutes from the mainland!
Two-thirds of the island is national park, gifting ‘Maggie’ its lush profile of white-sand beaches, hoop pine forests, distinctive granite boulders, and abundant native flora and fauna (look out for the sleepy resident koalas). Hike, sail, snorkel, dive, and fish your way around, or explore in a zippy topless car for the full holiday experience.
An easy-access island playground.
Stay: Maggie is dotted with holiday rentals, motels, and a handful of resorts.
Getting there: Leaving the car at home? It’s a 20-minute ferry trip from Townsville. Or 40 minutes on the car ferry.
10. CAMP ISLAND, The Whitsundays
If you’ve ever dreamed of booking an entire island, gather a few friends and check out Camp Island in the northern Whitsundays. Surrounded by the riches of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, this exclusive-use private island is a wonderland for snorkelling, kayaking, and fishing.
The four bungalows of Camp Island Lodge are just a stone’s throw from the ocean and kitted out with polished timber floors, king beds with luxury linens, ensuites, and large French doors. Watch for whales from your deck or commune with your besties at the firepit or Guest Lodge (the island’s kitchen and dining hub). If you’re feeling indulgent, the lodge can also organise a chef to whip up delicious holiday meals for your group. Perhaps a fresh seafood feast as the sun sets on your private island?
What a treat.
Getting here: The most scenic way to arrive is by helicopter from Townsville (40-60 minutes). Or transfer by boat from Guthalungra (just north of Bowen) in 20 minutes.