Discover the best family-friendly islands in Queensland
With over 2,000 islands dotted along the coast, finding the right one to fit your family is easy. We’ve sifted through our archipelagos and found the softest sand, the safest beaches and all-round best family-friendly islands in Queensland.
Family-friendly islands on the Southern Great Barrier Reef
For an island that’s as close to nature as you can be without having flippers, scales or fins, these options are sure to make your little nature lovers flip.
Lady Elliot Island hovers off the Southern Great Barrier Reef. It’s home to many marine creatures, but the all-round family favourite sea turtle is a regular local. If your kids know their turtles, they’re likely to spot Green, Hawksbill and possibly even a Loggerhead turtle species here. Female turtles return to the beach where they were born to nest, and because Lady Elliot Island is a bit like turtle heaven, they have a good chance of seeing them nesting from November.
If watching their offspring erupt from the sand is on your Queensland island family holiday wish list, baby turtle time is usually from February to April. With a range of family-friendly accommodation and activities run by marine biologists, your little Attenboroughs will feel right at home here.
On nearby Heron Island, also sitting in the cooler waters of the Southern Great Barrier Reef, Sir David himself has pulled on some flippers and snorkelled the reefs he has claimed as his “most magical place on earth.”
With snorkelling suited to beginners and beaches buzzing with fish, turtles, and rays, there’s something for every little sea lover. But to discover the inner workings of the reef, the marine life that calls it home, and how we can do more to protect it, enlist your future reef custodians in the Heron Island Junior Reef Rangers program for guided lessons with resident marine biologists.
Did we forget to mention that both Lady Elliot Island and Heron Island are both bird nests too? The nesting grounds of thousands of migratory sea birds in fact. And while it can get a little noisy (earplugs are provided in-room), to feel the beat of nature’s breeding ground and to see its circle of life turn, this is one family holiday your little explorers will never forget.
Family-friendly island on the Fraser Coast
Naturally the world’s largest sand island – Fraser Island – has no shortage of places to tote a tiny bucket and spade. Arrive by the Kingfisher Bay passenger ferry for a fun start to your Queensland island holiday. Explore over 250 kms of shoreline sitting amidst the Great Sandy National Park, where there are plenty of places to build an epic sandcastle. Or, whip out the boogie board to slide down dunes straight into the cooling waters of Lake Waddy.
But for the perfect place to float, Eli Creek – just behind 75 Mile Beach – is a shaded oasis of pure crystal bliss pumping out an incredible 80 million litres of freshwater a day. Be sure to include a visit to nearby Maheno Shipwreck to impress your little seafarers, and dip in the crystalline waters of Lake McKenzie with its pure silica sand and ombre turquoise-to-sapphire waters.
Family-friendly islands near Brisbane
Tangalooma Island is known for its abundance of sand. But more so, another island resident, the wild dolphins of Moreton Island – a short ferry ride from Brisbane. Here, every day around dusk an inquisitive bunch of wild bottlenose dolphins gather to enjoy human interaction.
They only receive a very small portion of their daily fish allowance to preserve their natural hunting abilities, which if you’re lucky, you might get to witness. They like to show off and often race off to catch a fish and then bring it into shore to show everyone how clever they are.
North Stradbroke Island is another sand island (yes, we have a few), a little under an hour from Brisbane on Stradbroke Island Ferries. It’s home to not only sand but scampering wildlife and plenty of marine life too.
During whale season, Point lookout is one of the best places to spot them. You can also catch a glimpse of turtles and dolphins if you take the family-friendly North Gorge Walk. For a refreshing dip (and to make good use of all that sand), Amity Point and Cylinder Beach are both suitable for kids.
Family-friendly island near Yeppoon
Holidays how they used to be when you were a kid. Remember that barefoot freedom? Living in swimmers, swimming ‘til dusk, meeting new friends at the beach, and how holidays felt so much longer when you were little, too.
Let the nostalgia kick in, and let your kids make their own fond holiday memories at Great Keppel Island. This is the largest of the Keppel Islands off Yeppoon, and an island spoiled for beaches, with 17 to choose from. Your kids will love Monkey Beach – by name and by nature; the snorkelling is great for beginners.
Family-friendly islands in the Whitsundays
When it comes to the most islands in one beguiling cluster, the Whitsundays wear the crown. 74 emerald islands dot the sapphire-coloured waters of this region that can be reached from Airlie Beach or by flying direct to Hamilton Island, home to the region’s second airport outside of Proserpine.
Hamilton Island is a family-friendly island favourite in Queensland. Choose from plenty of accommodation options to suit a range of budgets, from Palm Bay Bungalows, to the Reef View Hotel, and private luxury homes and boats. Island transport is by way of a golf buggy, or take the rambling bus for an equally fun family ride.
With resort pools and the cooling waters of the Coral Sea to choose from, swimming is a staple, but there is also mini-golf, tennis, go-karting and breakfast with koalas to fit in too. “Hammo” as it’s affectionately known by locals, is also a great base for day trips to Whitehaven Beach, Hardy Reef and the other islands connected by the Cruise Whitsunday ferry network.
One such island is Daydream Island, which sports a smaller footprint than some of the bigger islands in the Whitsunday group, but a big heart when it comes to reef education and conservation.
It’s home to a ‘Living Reef’ – a 200m man-made tank that wraps itself around the main resort building. It replicates real-life reef conditions, flushing 1.5 million litres of seawater in to support itself.
Kids are also invited to go behind the scenes to join marine biologists in learning about corals, crustaceans and climate change. Hands-on activities include feeding the stingrays and fish.
Family-friendly islands near Townsville
Magnetic Island off Townsville is easy to reach by ferry. It’s home to the family-friendly Mini Moke mode of transport, plus one of Australia’s largest colonies of koalas in the wild. Beautiful bays to swim and hike around, a butterfly sanctuary, horse riding and lots of inquisitive wildlife add to the easygoing natural vibe that places “Maggie” in the hearts of those that visit.
Kids are encouraged to ditch their devices on Orpheus Island and connect instead with family and the world going on beneath the surface. Teeming with coral and fish, the warmer tropical waters are a perfect place for beginners to learn to snorkel, and there’s even a giant clam garden to explore. Your youngsters will be thrilled with the 30-minute rock star arrival (helicopter transfer) from nearby Townsville and the chance to spot marine life from a birds-eye perspective.
Family-friendly islands near Cairns
Further north and just a short 45-minute cruise from Cairns, Green Island is a small island surrounded by a reef that can be visited as a day trip or a longer stay. Little snorkellers will discover an array of marine life and coral. And when they tire of being in the sea, a 20-minute walk around the island (yes, that small) will have them finding a rainforest twitching with birds.
Similarly, and only a 45-minute cruise from Cairns, Fitzroy Island is a nearby neighbour. Bigger in footprint than Green Island, with more beaches and rocky outcrops to explore, Fitzroy is equally beguiling for its easy-to-snorkel fringing reef and abundant marine life that call these warm tropical waters home.
Don’t be confused by the name of Fitzroy Island’s famous beach – Nudey Beach – it’s not for nudists. The winner of Australia’s best beach amongst its many accolades, it will welcome your little beach buffs with open arms.
Been dreaming of an emerald isle in a sea of azure blue, ringed by white sand beaches and sitting right on the Great Barrier Reef? Then we’ve found your family’s happy place. Lizard Island is regarded as one of Australia’s best, and at certain times welcomes families with children over the age of 10 to indulge in Lizard life.
Snorkelling, clear kayaks, stand up paddleboarding, swimming through clouds of fish and hovering over coral is all part of the fun. It’s all-inclusive, so you can relax and just concentrate on spending time with the ones you love.