Which of these luxury islands is for you?
Just like Harry Winston graces the stars, a stronghold of luxury islands embellishes Queensland’s coastline. Some shine brightly, others shimmer gently and again others sparkle unexpectedly when hit by the sunlight.
Yet, they all embody a feeling of indulgence if paired with the right occasion.
Whether you prefer to wake up in a villa on a tiny coral cay in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef or a billionaire’s home with a choice of restaurants, cafes and boutiques at your fingertips, this guide will guarantee you find the right luxury islands for you.
FOR BEACHCOMBERS WITH A SENSE OF ADVENTURE: HAGGERSTONE ISLAND
If you daydream about leaving your worldly possessions behind in pursuit of mindfulness (without abandoning the creature comforts), the answer to your pursuit is Haggerstone Island, a tiny 42-hectare jewel that almost kisses the New Guinea coast.
Haggerstone’s owners, Anna and Roy Turner know a thing or two about finding your zen. In 1985, these modern-day Robinson Crusoes cast away from the mainland with no more than a few pieces of timber, chickens, fruit trees and provisions to carve out their own happiness hundreds of miles from civilisation.
Here, your daily routine is prescribed by the sunlight, your diet by the catch of the day, and your holiday activities by Mother Nature.
From the moment you set foot on this peaceful island, you will shed those endless-to-do lists and do just one thing: Be. With that new space, your mind will fill with images of colourful fish and turtles as you snorkel past them, your veins will pump with the adrenaline of catching your own crab and your soul will be flooded with a sense of discovery as you chase waterfalls, sand dunes and sandy cays in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef.
Departing the island, you will have gained new friends, memories to last a lifetime and the course of your life firmly set in the direction you’ve imagined.
FOR THE ULTIMATE REEF REPOSE: LIZARD ISLAND
Lizard Island was perhaps Australia’s first ever island refuge. Ever since Captain Cook took shelter on the island way back in 1770 to chart his path through the maze of surrounding reef systems, this island has been a haven and a passage for Great Barrier Reef adventurers.
With the colourful underwater world fanning out right in front of you, you couldn’t get any closer to the Great Barrier Reef if you tried. Lizard Island Resort is perched on a small coral cay putting you a snorkel and pair of fins away from one of the world’s natural wonders.
World-class dive sites like the Cod Hole are just a small boat ride away and if you need to rest your sea legs, 24 private beaches are yours to explore. Take a gourmet picnic hamper and hop into a dinghy or glass-bottom kayak to find your own slice of snow-white heaven.
Keep fit by retracing the steps of Captain Cook on a tough 4km hike to the island’s summit or opt for an educational tour of the Lizard Island Research Station where the resident coral reef researchers invite you to learn more about the local environment and current challenges.
For a little more R&R, let the resort pamper you with their Healthy Lifestyle package that includes yoga and meditation classes, spa treatments and a specially-crafted healthy menu.
FOR BAREFOOT LUXURY HUGGED BY QUEENSLAND RAINFOREST: BEDARRA ISLAND
With only 10 guest villas, Bedarra Island Resort is one of Queensland’s most private luxury island retreats. And possibly one of its most humble. Because boasting about its incredible natural assets, sheer beauty, attentive service and excellent eco-credentials is just not within the nature of this island’s character.
A stay on this rainforest island is polished but not pretentious. More barefoot luxe than glamorous. Genuine rather than contrived. And that’s exactly what makes Bedarra Island so charming.
Retreat to your own private villa nestled into 45 hectares of emerald green rainforest, and lounge on a plush daybed overlooking a beach fringed by coconut trees and pandanus palms. Or plunge into your own private pool. There’s also the option to venture further afield to the magical underwater world of the outer Great Barrier Reef for diving or snorkelling.
If this sounds too strenuous, explore Bedarra Island’s own fringing reef by kayak or stand-up paddleboard, plan a gourmet beach picnic to one of the neighbouring islands via dinghy or explore the rainforest on a self-guided walk. Here, you can do as much or as little as you like. No judgement.
FOR A CHARMING GREAT BARRIER REEF ADVENTURE: ORPHEUS ISLAND
Just like the Greek legend, Orpheus Island Resort will charm you with cerulean blues, Michelin-star worthy dinners against a sun set over the Coral Sea and a reef experience so understated, it will leave you with a deep sense of appreciation for this underwater heaven.
While this kind of private island interlude hints romance, families with children of all ages are welcome at Orpheus. You will arrive by chopper from Townsville or Cairns with the island’s outline and iconic jetty slowly forming out of the blues in the distance, proclaiming your imminent arrival.
A stay on Orpheus Island revolves around reef adventures – snorkel or dive the outer Great Barrier Reef with fellow underwater enthusiasts, take a guided educational tour of the island’s reef research station or snorkel over Orpheus’ own giant clam garden (the chinchilla-lipped relics of an ‘80s science project now happily chatting away on the seabed, it seems).
Tap into 40,000 years of knowledge to slow your body and mind with an Indigenous-inspired treatment at Gwandalan Spa (Gwandalan translates to ‘rest and peace’ in the local Aboriginal language). At night, gather around the bonfire and watch specs of starlight dance on the water’s dark surface as you reminisce about the day’s adventures.
FOR WORLD-CLASS WITHIN EASY REACH: QUALIA ON HAMILTON ISLAND
Wake up and whisk yourself away to a world-class resort on a tropical island before lunchtime. Your destination: qualia on Hamilton Island (just a two- to three-hour flight away from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne).
The resort has become synonymous with Australian luxury islands after winning more than 50 awards in the past 10 years. And it’s easy to see why. Once you descend on this tropical paradise, world-class experiences and more than a handful of restaurants, cafes, galleries and shops are at your doorstep.
Spend the mornings cocooned in the 375 thread-count sheets of your private pavilion facing the sparkling waters of the Whitsundays or plunge into qualia’s climate-controlled infinity pool before choppering over the turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef to spot stingrays, sharks and turtles as they glide through the shallow water. The sheer size and colour of this natural wonder will leave you speechless.
In the afternoon, relieve all tension with a hot stone massage using 300-million-old stones at qualia’s spa, play a round of golf at the 18-hole Hamilton Island Golf Club on neighbouring Dent Island or learn how to carve the perfect sashimi and taste the world’s oldest sake during qualia’s Talk & Taste culinary class.
FOR SECLUSION WITH A SIDE OF SEASIDE CHIC: MAKEPEACE ISLAND
If you yearn for an island refuge without the remoteness, Makepeace Island in the middle of the Noosa River – just a gentle 15-minute boat ride from the fashion boutiques and Chef-Hatted restaurants of Noosa – is the place for you.
Here, you’ll enjoy rare insight into a billionaire’s mind. Owned by Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Australia Co-Founder Brett Godfrey, the island is filled with treasure troves and quirks: From the 500,000-litre lagoon pool lined with runway lights (a nod to the owners’ airline ties), to bathtubs carved out of volcanic rock and open-aired Balinese buildings that were purchased in Indonesia, dismantled and carefully stacked into no less than 130 shipping containers before making their way across to Australia.
It’s a home rather than a hotel and is reserved for Branson and Godfrey’s friends, families and the fortunate few that rent the entire island.
Laze on one of the hand-crafted teak day beds in the Balinese-inspired wantilan, chase childhood memories by casting a line in the Noosa River and fill your body and soul with dishes created by Head Chef Lisa Mahar. At the end of the day, sink into the puff pillows and cosy blankets in front of the outdoor cinema. From beach picnics to sunset cruises, wine tasting and cooking classes, there is plenty to do (or not).