The best luxury islands in Queensland you need to visit
In Queensland, it’s almost considered rude not to visit our luxury islands.
And, with so many to choose from, it can be hard to know which one (or two) to visit.
Whether you want to wake up in a villa on the Great Barrier Reef or a billionaire’s home, we’ve saved you a spot on the sand at the best luxury islands in Queensland.
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 sheer beauty, attentive service and excellent eco credentials are just not within the nature of this island’s character.
Why it’s special: 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.
Perfect for: Retreating to your own private villa nestled into 45 hectares of emerald green rainforest, and lounging on a plush daybed overlooking the beach. Or plunging 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.
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.
How to get there: Travel in style 10,000 ft above the Reef in Bedarra’s private helicopter from Cairns or Mission Beach. Or, catch the 20-minute water taxi from Mission Beach straight to paradise. Either way, your chariot of choice awaits.
ELYSIAN RETREAT ON LONG ISLAND
A newcomer to the scene, Elysian Retreat on Long Island is nothing short of pure luxury. A seemingly typical tropical haven where the palm trees hug the secluded coastline, this is the first luxury resort on the Great Barrier Reef that is entirely solar-powered.
Why it’s special: Everything has been designed to minimise environmental impact, with renewable energy powering the island.
Perfect for: Total connection to the environment and disconnection from the hustle. From saluting the sun at sunrise to paddling through the blue waters in a glass-bottom kayak, you won’t be short of things to do here.
You can even hop on a boat and travel to the most photographed beach in the world, Whitehaven, and then snorkel at Chalkies Beach.
How to get there: Take a 15-20 minute helicopter ride from either Hamilton Island or Prosperine airport over the Whitsundays Islands.
If you daydream about leaving your worldly possessions behind in pursuit of mindfulness (without abandoning the creature comforts), Haggerstone Island is for you.
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 to carve out their own happiness hundreds of miles from civilisation.
Why it’s special: From the moment you set foot on this peaceful island, you will shed those endless-to-do lists and do just one thing: be.
Here, you can snorkel with the colourful fish and turtles that call this place home in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. Hop on a boat to feed your appetite for adventure and catch your own crab. Or, fall under the spell of the waterfalls hidden deep within the tropical rainforest.
Perfect for: A daily routine that is prescribed by the sunlight, your diet by the catch of the day, and your holiday activities by Mother Nature.
How to get there: Getting here is part of the adventure. To get to Haggerstone, you first need to fly to Cairns. From there, you can either take a two-hour private charter direct to the island or catch flight via Weipa with Qantas and board a private charter.
Welcome to a place where serenity is non-negotiable and unparalleled beauty a given. The most northerly of the Whitsunday Islands, InterContinental Hayman Island Resort is a retreat for the body, mind and heart surrounded by lush mountains, sparkling beaches and a generous serving of experiences designed to rejuvenate and reset. Here, there is plenty to do (or not).
Why it’s special: From the moment you step off the seaplane, you’ll feel like you’re another world away with nothing beyond the verdant cliffs reaching into an endless sky. Think of this pocket of paradise as the launchpad to discover the Great Barrier Reef, which is so close, you can touch it.
Perfect for: Hayman is diverse as it is beautiful. You can spend your day basking in your private pool or tasting the salty air as you sail the Coral Sea. Fuel your body with fresh seafood or indulge in a hot stone massage. You can even obtain your scuba diving certification with Hayman’s PADI Open Water Dive course.
The young at heart are also welcome here and can learn about the Great Barrer Reef marine life in the Planet Trekkers Kids’ Club.
How to get there: Fly into Hamilton Island and board an hour’s ride to the island shore via a luxury boat (complimentary champagne included).
Lizard Island was perhaps Australia’s first-ever island refuge. Ever since Captain Cook took shelter on the island way back in 1770, this island has been a haven and a passage for Great Barrier Reef adventurers.
Why it’s special: 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.
Perfect for: 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.
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.
How to get there: Lizard is accessible only by private charter from Cairns. But this isn’t just any scenic flight. Glide above the brilliant blues of the Great Barrier Reef and feel yourself unwind as reality melts away from your mind.
If you yearn for a luxury island refuge without the remoteness, Makepeace Island in the middle of the Noosa River, is the place for you.
Why it’s special: Here, you’ll enjoy a 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 lagoon pool lined with runway lights (a nod to the owners’ airline ties), to open-aired Balinese buildings that were purchased in Indonesia, this place is truly unique.
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.
Perfect for: Lazing 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.
How to get there: Despite being totally secluded from the hustle and bustle, Makepeace is a few minutes away from the hub of Noosa. You can access the island by private boat from Noosa Marina or if you prefer, helicopter.
Just like the Greek legend, Orpheus Island Resort will certainly charm you. Don’t believe us? How about Michelin-star worthy dinners against a sunset over the Coral Sea? Or a reef experience so understated, it will leave you with a deep sense of appreciation? We won’t say we told you so.
Why it’s special: 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.
Orpheus has been renewably powered since September 2019 and is working towards a bigger sustainability plan which includes championing sustainably-fished seafood and marine debris clean-ups.
Perfect for: A stay on Orpheus Island revolves around reef adventures. Snorkel or dive the outer Great Barrier Reef with fellow underwater enthusiasts or take a guided educational tour of the island’s reef research station.
Rejuvenate after exploring the reef 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 specks of starlight dance on the water’s dark surface and reminisce about the day’s adventures.
How to get there: Board a helicopter from Townsville and take a 30-minute scenic helicopter ride over the iconic Great Barrier Reef to paradise.
QUALIA ON HAMILTON ISLAND
Wake up and whisk yourself away to a world-class resort on a luxury island before lunchtime. Your destination: qualia on Hamilton Island (just a two- to three-hour flight away from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne).
Why it’s special: 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 restaurants, galleries and shops are at your doorstep.
Perfect for: Spending the mornings cocooned in the 375 thread-count sheets of your private pavilion facing the sparkling waters of the Whitsundays. Plunge into the climate-controlled infinity pool before choppering over the Great Barrier Reef to spot stingrays, sharks and turtles.
In the afternoon, relieve all tension with a hot stone massage or learn how to carve the perfect sashimi during the Talk & Taste culinary class.
How to get there: Fly direct to Hamilton Island from any of Australia’s major domestic and international airports. Then, jump on a passage ferry from Shute Harbour and Port of Airlie on the mainland and find your way to qualia.