More must-visit Queensland islands you’ve never heard of
Just off these golden shores, there are more amazing Queensland islands to visit than you can poke a coconut frond at. But it’s not all white sandy beaches and palm trees. (Although there’s plenty of those if they float your boat).
Secret islands, luxury islands, sustainable islands and islands in the heart of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. There’s something for everyone off the 7,000+ kilometres of Queensland coastline.
Maybe you’ve reached Queensland pro-level and you’re looking for your next adventure. Or you’re a fresh faced newbie with a love of islands in the sun.
Whatever your situation, put these under-the-radar islands to the top of your must-visit list right now.
Orpheus Island’s Greek god namesake was renowned for his ability to charm all living things, even stones. And this North Queensland gem has charm in spades.
Sharing turquoise real estate with Pelorus and Hinchinbrook Islands, Orpheus Island is 110 kilometres north of Townsville. The verdant 12-kilometre stretch is covered with eucalypt forests, a smattering of palm trees and fringed with teeming coral reefs. As you’d expect, bushwalking, snorkelling, diving and fishing are popular at this tropical star. Pick one, do them all – the choice is yours. Or you could explore neighbouring Pelorus on a unique Great Barrier Reef safari.
This Queensland island is an ideal place to visit for lovers of exclusive, sustainable and tranquil holidays. Only accessible by helicopter or private charter, you can stay in one of three National Park campgrounds, as well as one very luxe, very sustainable resort – Orpheus Island Lodge.
In September 2019, Orpheus Island Lodge became 100 percent powered by renewable energy. The Lodge also became less reliant on diesel fuel, decreasing use by 80%, or 600L per day. That’s 60 tonnes less carbon emissions, or the equivalent of 14 less cars on the roads per year!
The new approach is part of the lodge’s overarching sustainability strategy, which includes a host of other changes. Zero plastic straws, reusable water bottles for guests, an island fruit orchard and veggie garden plus a focus on sustainable seafood in the included meals. Guests are also encouraged to take part in beach and marine debris clean-ups to protect the precious ecosystem.
Curtis Island, with it’s slightly untamed, diamond-in-the-rough attributes, make it the perfect spot for an off-roading camping adventure.
Red dirt and sand, interspersed with rocky outcrops and a cover of wind-sheared shrubbery meets sparkling oceans all over the island. It’s the perfect backdrop for exploring the island’s rugged nature, salt flats, wetlands and secret fishing spots by day.
With the exception of camping and lodge accommodation in Southend near the ferry, there are three campsites. Turtle Street, Joey Lees and Yellow Patch are all only accessible by hiking or 4WD. In fact, if you plan on camping, be prepared; you’ll need to bring everything with you.
Step aside, Jurassic Park. With cloud-shrouded mountains standing sentinel and untouched landscapes, Hinchinbrook Island feels like paradise found. It’s a hiking Holy Grail, where rich biodiversity and prehistoric landscapes meet in spectacular fashion.
It’s hard to believe Hinchinbrook sits just eight kilometres off the coast of Townsville. But as Australia’s largest national park island, it has remained largely uninhabited since the first European sightings in 1770.
Serious – and self-sufficient – hikers visit Hinchinbrook Island for Thorsborne Trail, a rugged but rewarding 32-km hike through the island’s varied wilderness. You’ll have the trail’s mixture of mangrove-fringed creeks, lush rainforest and sandy beaches mostly to yourself, thanks to a 40-person limit. Meaning you can catch a glimpse of the more than 19 mammal, 32 reptile and 150 bird species, minus the crowds.
Hinchinbrook Island is known for its world-class sea kayaking and biodiverse waters, too. Take a break from discovering secret beaches and hidden waterfalls to paddle among the dugongs, dolphins and marine life.
Among all the things Noosa is known for, its islands are not high on the list. In fact, the Richard Branson joint-owned Makepeace Island has flown under the radar for years, even with Sunshine Coast locals.
Favoured by honeymooners and large groups, the heart-shaped island is nestled secretly on the Noosa Northshore. The all-inclusive resort features a range of environmentally-friendly design features. Organic produce, chickens and beehives plus a wastewater purification system are just the start. Local and ethical sourcing plus recycling and a farm-to-table approach add to the roster of sustainability measures.
The island’s three luxury villas and two houses (Island House and The Boathouse) channel breezy Balinese living, accommodating up to 20 people. Entertainment’s a breeze thanks to a massive lagoon-style pool, 15-seater spa, a theatre, a tennis court and pavilion. Plus a private riverboat for hitting the mainland to explore Noosa and surrounds.
What Pumpkin Island lacks in orange vegetables, it easily accounts for in incredible casuarina-brushed beaches and electric aquamarine waters.
A mere six hectares, and just 20 minutes from Yeppoon, Pumpkin Island has remained relatively untouched. The island is home to five eco-friendly, self-catering cottages and two bungalows, all powered by wind and sun.
Despite its diminutive size, there’s no shortage of the typical island life activities. Snorkelling, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, bushwalking and wildlife spotting will keep you occupied. A glass-bottomed kayak is also a great way to watch the turtles glide by. Or, make use of the odd hammock or two strung languorously between palms.
Another one for the reef lovers and divers, Pelorus is a part of the Palm Island group off the coast north of Townsville.
The coral reef here is a kaleidoscope of colours, soaked in a blue so intense that it makes the sky jealous. Dart in among the impressive coral formations as you snorkel or dive your way through the reef, accessible right from the beach.
If you plan to call Pelorus home for a night or two, permits are free but preparation is key. With no fresh water or toilets, this is camping like you mean it. Take everything you need, and then make sure to leave nothing behind when you’ve had your fun. If you’re not into DIY, check out the camp and dive safari you never knew existed.
If you’re looking for a more secluded Whitsundays experience, then Gloucester Island is for you. More no-frills than its neighbours – Hayman, Hamilton and Daydream Islands – Gloucester is all about the back to nature experience.
Take your pick from two campgrounds with varying facilities – Bona and East Side Bays – and get exploring. Boating, fishing, picnicking and bird-watching will keep you busy by day. When the sun sets, cast your eyes up to the night sky for stargazing out of this world. Keep an eye out for the island’s population of cute, but endangered, Proserpine rock-wallabies.