7 Secret Queensland islands you’ve never heard of
It may seem counter-intuitive to share a list of the most secret Queensland islands but really, it would be rude not to. This is Queensland after all, where friendliness is in the water and there’s no shortage of beauty to go around.
Plus with so many islands off the coast – almost 2000 diverse beauties, actually – the secret is probably safe anyway. From uninhabited coral cays to luxe private bungalow-dotted isles, the sheer amount will leave your island-hopping appetite well and truly sated.
Whether you’re a card carrying Queensland islandophile or just starting out on your journey to true fandom, put this lineup of secret Queensland islands on your list.
For the Queensland island bundle deal: Frankland Island National Park
Looking for a quintessential Great Barrier Reef experience (who isn’t?). Then hop aboard a Frankland Island Reef Cruise to this bevy of coral-fringed islands. Just 10km offshore and 45km south east of Cairns, this uninhabited and World Heritage-listed archipelago – consisting of Russell, Normanby, High, Mabel and Round Islands – is the definition of pristine.
Whether day-tripping or staying for a while (self-sufficient campers can stay on Russell and High Islands only) the Frankland Islands are perfect if you want untouched beauty in an accessible package.
Sink below the surface on a diving or Skoo Do adventure for an audience with the Great Barrier Reef’s star attractions. Hard and soft coral, manta rays, turtles, dugongs, whales and giant clams will be the main event. But the islands’ rocky outcrops, coastal vegetation and dense rainforest also set the scene for a staggering diversity of flora and fauna experiences (including an array of bird species) you won’t find anywhere but Queensland.
The gateway to the Whitsundays: Keswick Island
Queensland’s very own Treasured Island at the start of the Whitsunday Islands, as it’s nicknamed, Keswick Island boasts a bounty of island gold just a short sea or air journey from Mackay, only 32kms north. Diversity is this island’s middle name.
Walk through the beautiful coral gardens or dive into reef caves to see teeming marine life such as turtles, manta rays, dolphins and hundreds of tropical fish species. For divers, Keswick Island has three shipwrecks all within 30 minutes of the island, offering world-class diving and a history lesson in one.
If you like your bushwalking with a generous side helping of spectacular, hit the trails that snake their way across the island. You’ll wind through tropical vegetation, alongside private coves and fringing reef beaches and underneath a bevy of birdlife. Between June and October, keep an eye out for pods of humpbacks on their annual migration north – one for the bucket list!
Don’t forget to taste the sweetest part of Keswick Island – its honey. Home to a healthy population of Caucasian bees, the colony produces a unique honey that can only be sampled and bought from the Keswick Kiosk.
Take nothing but memories island: North West Island
It’s not a misnomer. North West Island sits (you guessed it) north west of Gladstone by 75km in the heart of Capricornia Cays National Park. Easily accessed via Curtis Ferry, once you’re at this nature-lover’s haven you’ll be spoiled for choice. Canoeing and diving are no-brainers here thanks to crystalline waters and an impressive array of marine species. Bushwalking, reef walking and fishing also make a compelling case for your attention.
Campers, come prepared (bookings and permits are essential). You’ll need all your gear including fresh water, toilet paper and a fuel stove. But the payoff comes in the form of seemingly endless unforgettable moments. Memories such as waking before dawn for a sunrise turtle hatching session, or sleeping under the Milky Way’s star-studded night sky will stay with you long after you’ve dusted the sand from your swag.
The not-so-secret, tiny Queensland island: Thursday Island
Clocking in at a diminutive 3.5 square kilometres, and part of the 274 islands dotted across the Torres Strait from Gulf of Carpentaria to Papua New Guinea, Thursday Island (TI) may not technically be the most secret of Queensland islands, but in the scheme of things it’s certainly underrated. Significant to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that have been its custodians for thousands of years, explore the connection between land, sea and culture at Gab Titui Cultural Centre.
History buff? Head to Green Hill Fort to discover the island’s strategic military WWII history; learn about the region’s pearl farming and shell trade; or simply have a beer in Australia’s northernmost pub. Whatever you do, the abundance of things to do in Torres Strait is sure to beckon you back once you leave.
The luxury adventure island: Haggerstone Island
Channelling Robinson Crusoe on a yoga retreat, Haggerstone Island is everything you’ve ever wanted in a private luxury island escape nestled into the stunning wilderness of Cape York. The intrepid custodians of this Queensland island gem, Roy and Anna Turner, came here in 1985 with little more than some basic supplies, a tent and a few chickens. Now the relatively unknown island has been transformed into an adventure retreat gilded with just the right amount of luxe.
Stay in one of only four lodgings – Lagoon, Kwilla and Beach Huts plus The Lighthouse. Here, by night you’ll be immersed in the verdant jungle that you’ve likely been exploring during the day.
Everything here is tailored to you. Adventure, wellness or a combo of both – the island (and its attentive staff) provides exactly what you’re searching for. It’s time to play tropical choose-your-own-adventure.
The one for the eco-warriors: Wilson Island
If nature and seclusion had a romantic tryst, Wilson Island would be the resulting, sustainability-focused love child when it comes to secret Queensland islands. Part eco-reserve, part luxe glamping getaway, come here for the modern-life detox – there are no phones, TVs or internet – and stay for the planet-friendly living.
There’s no single-use plastic on the island, bedding and linen is all organic cotton and bamboo, and bathroom amenities are 100% biodegradable and native Australian plant-based. Local and sustainable are preferenced when it comes to dining and beverages, and recycled resources are used through the design and decor. There’s also consideration to the island’s vulnerable species, with elements such as turtle-friendly lighting and an annual closure between 28 January to 1 April, so the resident bird population can nest.
Closed to day visitors and only recently reopened for bookings, Wilson Island is home to nine permanent luxury tents with a limit of 18 guests total at anytime, guaranteeing those secret Queensland island vibes remain intact.
But if you can’t even bear the thought of neighbours as you swing languidly in your hammock, and your budget is more baller than bargain-hunter, you could even hire the whole island to yourself.
Looking for even more off-the-radar islands? Take a peek here.