12 more Queensland islands you’ve never heard of
It may beggar belief that there are even more islands you’ve never heard of, but what can we say? It’s true. These golden shores are dotted with more secret islands than you can poke a coconut frond at. And while it would be easy to keep them all to ourselves, that would be kind of mean.
Here’s the thing though: it’s not all white sandy beaches and palm trees, although there’s plenty of that if it floats your boat. These islands are as varied as they are unknown, home to everything from ‘roughing-it’ camping and hiking adventures to luxurious resort escapes.
Grab your sunscreen, a good book and get ready for under-the-radar #islandlife. Here are 12 Queensland islands you’ve never heard of.
Never was the name of a Queensland island more apt. Orpheus Island’s namesake – as Greek myth tells it – was renowned for his ability to charm all living things and even, stones. And charming is exactly what this North Queensland beauty is.
Sharing cerulean real estate with Pelorus and Hinchinbrook Islands 110 kilometres north of Townsville in the Coral Sea, Orpheus’ 11-kilometre length is covered with eucalypt forests, a smattering of palm trees and fringed with teeming coral reefs.
The island is an ideal destination for lovers of exclusive and tranquil holidays; only accessible by helicopter or private charter, you’ll find three campgrounds on the island, as well as one very luxe resort. If drop and flop ain’t your style, there’s plenty of bushwalking, snorkelling, diving and fishing to keep you busy.
Thanks to our hyper-connected lives, there are few islands that feel really, truly secluded. Tropical North Queensland’s Bedarra Island, though? It’s so secluded you might forget you even have a smartphone. And you certainly won’t want to leave this palm-fringed island in a hurry… or ever.
Only 10 kilometres off the coast of Mission Beach, Bedarra’s private, all-inclusive resort – which sleeps just 16 at any one time – is all about maximum relaxation.
Swing the days away in a hammock, laze by the pool, or splash in the warm aquamarine waters of the private beaches before retiring to the lounge and library.
Need more adrenaline? Take the less chilled-out route with sea kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkelling, fishing, tennis or self-guided interactive walks through the 45 hectares of rainforest. The team at Bedarra can also organise dive and deep sea fishing trips out to the Great Barrier Reef.
The Southern Great Barrier reef is a trove of island treasures and Curtis Island is a shining beacon of this area’s virtues. It’s slightly untamed, diamond-in-the-rough attributes make it the perfect spot for an off-roading camping adventure – which is exactly what those that know of it head to the island for.
Just a short ferry ride from Gladstone, the mixture of red dirt and sand, interspersed with rocky outcrops and a cover of wind-sheared shrubbery certainly adds to the deserted, Robinson Crusoe vibe sported by Curtis Island.
With the exception of the sleepy beach town at the island’s southern end, there are two national parks – Turtle Street and Joey Lees – and their respective campgrounds are only accessible by 4WD. In fact, if you plan on camping, be prepared; you’ll need to bring everything with you because there’s no facilities of any kind at either location.
Pack all the usual gear plus fresh water and food, lighting, garbage bags (tough and wildlife proof), and good lighting. Then kick back and enjoy the starry nights and long days filled with plenty of fishing, swimming and rock pool hopping.
Lady Musgrave Island
Surrounded by 3000 acres of living reef, Lady Musgrave Island is another gem hiding in plain sight in the middle of the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
While staying on the island is restricted to just 40 campers at any one time, the island is popular with day cruisers and glass-bottom boat tours from Bundaberg and the Town of 1770. To get there, hop aboard a day trip with the Lady Musgrave Experience or take dive into the deep blue with Lady Musgrave Cruises.
Explore the stunning underwater world – full of turtles, manta rays and 1300 species of reef fish – while snorkelling or diving in the calm lagoon; or book yourself into a sailboat or luxury cruise to float above the surface in style.
Home to an annual turtle nesting site, if you visit between November and March, you could be lucky enough to watch turtles lay their egg clutches in the sandy shore (November to January) or see hatchlings taking their first flippered steps towards the sea (January to March). If above water wildlife is more your thing, then Lady Musgrave delivers with excellent bushwalking and birdwatching, too.
Although this pristine Tropical North Queensland island throws the charm from all angles, Hinchinbrook Island is like the holy grail of the state’s hiking and kayaking experiences.
Serious hikers have the 32-kilometre Thorsborne Trail firmly on their bucket-list owing to the rich biodiversity and lush rainforest. Luxury this is not; there are few facilities along the trail so come prepared to rough it. Check out this nifty guide on what to pack.
The wild, untouched nature of Hinchinbrook is steadfastly protected by national park status – making it Australia’s largest national park island – which is precisely what attracts the surprisingly small number of visitors. But if you’re a committed camper and hiker, then it will be a walk in the park.
The island’s also known for its world-class sea kayaking so grab a paddle and take a break from discovering secret beaches and hidden waterfalls.
Among all of the things Noosa is known for, its islands are not high on the list. In fact, the Richard Branson-owned Makepeace Island has flown under-the-radar for years, even with Sunshine Coast locals.
Favoured by honeymooners, the heart-shaped island is available for hire. Yes, you read right: the whole island can be yours.
With room to sleep and entertain 20 guests, the island’s accommodation channels breezy Balinese living underlined by seriously luxurious touches. There’s also a 500,000-litre lagoon pool, spa facilities, a theatre, a tennis court and pavilion plus a private river boat for hitting the mainland to explore Noosa and surrounds.
It’s easy to come down with a case of ‘beautiful beach blindness’ in Queensland. But Fitzroy Island, just a 45-minute fast ferry ride from Cairns, will make you see and feel its beauty as soon as you spy it on the horizon.
Brilliant white sand meets striking azure waters all framed by the green fringe of mangroves and palm trees. Sitting smack bang in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, it’s little surprise that the coral reef here is off the charts good but there’s way more than snorkelling (off Nudey Beach) to keep you busy on a day trip or campout.
Hit walking trails the Secret Garden Walk or Light House and Summit Trails, paddle around in a sea kayak, go for a swim, relaxing on the beach or bounce around on an ocean trampoline. (Yes, this is a thing that exists, and it’s awesome!) Or go upscale by booking into the Fitzroy Island Resort for relaxation and poolside hangs, cocktail in hand, of course.
While you won’t find any pumpkins here, what Pumpkin Island lacks in orange vegetables, it easily accounts for in stunning, casuarina brushed beaches and retina-popping aquamarine waters.
Formerly the island home of Queensland’s ‘official’ beer, XXXX, Pumpkin Island has remained relatively untouched, save for a number of beach-shack style bungalows and the odd hammock strung languorously between supportive palms.
The entire island can be booked for between 25 and 34 people, if high flying is your game. If you prefer your island escapes on the more budget friendly end, then the bungalows are also for hire individually.
Part of the Keppel group of islands, and just 20 minutes from Yeppoon, there’s no shortage of the typical island life activities like snorkelling, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, bushwalking and wildlife spotting to keep you occupied. Or just put those hammocks through their paces with a good book and plenty of dozing.
Another one for the intrepid explorers, Pelorus is a part of the Palm Island group (and not far from Orpheus Island) not too far off the coast from Townsville. Which is to say, it’s drop dead gorgeous and jam-packed with both aquatic and landlubber fun.
The coral reef here is a kaleidoscope of colours, soaked in a blue so intense that it makes the sky jealous. Dart in amongst the ancient formations as you snorkel or dive your way through the reef, accessible from the beach.
If you plan to call Pelorus home for a night or two, permits are free but preparation is key. With no fresh water or toilets, this is camping like you mean it. Take everything you need and then make sure to leave nothing behind when you’ve had your fun. If you’re not into DIY, check out the camp and dive safari you never knew existed.
Incorrectly dubbed Cape Gloucester by Captain Cook, Gloucester Island sits at the northern end of the Whitsundays Island group. Gloucester Island does secluded like none of its more-visited neighbours; no frills is the name of the game.
Take your pick from two campgrounds with varying facilities – Bona and East Side Bays – and get exploring. Boating, fishing, picnicking and birdwatching will keep you busy by day; and when the sun sets, cast your eyes up to try and count the stars. Keep an eye out for the island’s population of endangered Proserpine rock-wallabies.
Wearing the mantle of being the only Moreton Bay island you can drive to, Bribie Island sits just 45 minutes drive north of Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane. Cross the Pumistone Passage (with views up to Glass House Mountains on the left and dugongs and dolphins below) to find yourself in a sleepy seaside community.
As far as islands in the sun go, Bribie’s got game. Despite the relative development of the bayside, 86% of the island is national park.
The surf side of the island is where most adventurers find themselves headed, owing to the stretches of uninterrupted beaches perfect for 4WD, fishing, surfing, boating and camping.
Of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays, there’s bound to be one or two that keep things on the down low. While the Haymans and Daydreams of the world flounce about in the sun confident in their regalia and bells and whistles, Shaw Island takes the less assuming route, content to let its natural attributes speak for themselves. And speak they do.
This emerald isle, ringed with ivory silica sands is popular with sail groups and bareboaters looking for a calm place to moor (check out Billbob Bay); the granite rock formations rise bulbously above the palm-dotted tree line as day trippers splash in the clear waters below.
Part of Lindeman Island National Park, the island is also home to the third highest hill in the Whitsundays and a plethora of feathered friends making it very popular among both bushwalkers and birdwatchers.