Top 5 Tropical North Queensland island idylls
With more than 1000 islands, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) offers plenty of chances to turn dreams into reality. And you don’t have to be a millionaire to make it happen. There are island experiences to appeal to most budgets, from the very top of the scale to accessible islands lying just off the coast, which have budget camping spots and convenient ferry services.
Camp on a deserted island
Lying off the tropical north Queensland coast, the Family, Barnard and Frankland island groups offer unique private camping experiences. Great Barrier Reef Safaris can drop you on an island with everything you need to set yourself up, or if you’re more the glamping type, they can set it all up and pack it away for you.
Rainforest-clad Fitzroy Island, just a 45-minute boat ride from Cairns city, is home to the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and the Great Barrier Reef’s first ocean-based coral nursery. The resort overlooks Welcome Bay where guests regularly encounter green sea turtles while they are snorkelling. There is just as much to do on land with rainforest walks and the stunning summit hike.
The most accessible stable vegetated coral cay on the GBR, this 1.3ha national park is just 27km from Cairns. The underwater observatory at the end of the pier, opened in 1954, was the first of its kind in the world. There’s great snorkelling off the beach as well as semi-submersible and glass-bottom boat tours.
This stunning group of six isles around an impossibly blue lagoon is serious bucket-list territory. Visiting yachties moor in Watsons Bay, which is also where the camping ground is located. The island can be reached either by private boat or boat charter, or visa scenic flight, which takes about an hour. Air transfers are organised through the resort. The Lizard island Research Station conducts weekly tours.
The Low Isles
These picturesque coral cays, 15km, or a one-hour sail, from Port Douglas, are among the most incredible places to snorkel with green and hawksbill turtles in Queensland. It’s not uncommon to swim alongside numerous turtles here on the pristine reefs surrounding Woody and Low islands, which can also be enjoyed from glass-bottomed boats or explored from the beach. The Wavedancer (full day) tour is a must.