Escape to a remote island camping getaway in Queensland
There’s camping, and then there’s remote island camping in Queensland.
It might take a little more hustle to get there, but when you’re rewarded by fringing coral reefs and remote beaches at the foot of your tent, you’ll be glad you put in the effort. Plus there’s something about being surrounded by a moat of water to make you feel as if you’ve truly left everyday life, and all that goes with it, behind.
From Tropical North Queensland down to the Southern Great Barrier Reef and beyond, we’ve rounded up all the best spots for island camping in Queensland, from those with the best nearby activities (think snorkelling and feeding dolphins) to the most secluded locations for those private island feels.
Island camping near Brisbane
Moreton Island (Mulgumpin)
Only a 90-minute ferry ride away from Brisbane, Moreton Island has a lot of perks for first-time campers – you can access parts of the island without the need for a 4WD, there are three shops should you run out of supplies, and there are unique experiences like snorkelling 15 sunken shipwrecks right off the beach, sand tobogganing and feeding dolphins that will send you home with fond memories and a keenness to do it all again.
All the campsites are just off the beach so you can’t pick a bad spot. But if you do decide to leave the 4WD at home, The Wrecks is the closest campground to the barge landing point and the most easily accessed campsite on foot.
If you don’t feel like camping is complete without a fire, stay at the Comboyuro Point, Ben-Ewa or Blue Lagoon campground, as they all have pre-existing fireplaces or fire pits (you’re not allowed to light a fire anywhere else on the island, including on the beach).
Facilities: These vary per campsite but may include water (treat before drinking), cold showers, rubbish bins, hybrid toilets, septic toilets, and portable toilet waste disposal.
How to get there: The Micat ferry transports passengers and cars from the Port of Brisbane to Moreton Island up to five times a day during peak periods. If you’re travelling during the September, Easter or Christmas school holidays, you may need to book your ticket up to six months in advance for the best travel times (top tip: secure your camping permit before booking a ferry as campsite spaces can sell out during certain times of the year).
Permits: You must obtain a camping permit and vehicle permit, if applicable, before you arrive on Moreton Island. As of February 2020, permits need to be arranged through Mulgumpin Camping, which is owned and operated by the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC).
Double Island Point
While technically not an island per se, Double Island Point is located just south of Rainbow Beach in the Cooloola Recreation Area in the Great Sandy National Park, and even though you’re not really leaving the mainland to get here, it still kind of feels like it if you’re driving up from Noosa-way, because you’ll need to hop on the barge to cross the river.
This Sunshine Coast camping site is regularly frequented by locals keen for long weekends of surfing, fishing and beach 4WDing.
Bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales (between July and November) and turtles are regular visitors at Double Island Point so keep your eyes peeled while you’re enjoying that turquoise blue water.
For those wanting to stretch their legs, a climb up the steep track to the historic lighthouse reveals spectacular views over the headland, while the Double Island Point walk to Rainbow Beach is a great option for those up for a full-day hike.
Facilities: Composting toilet and picnic tables.
How to get there: Access by 4WD only from Rainbow Beach or Noosa (crossing the Noosa river with Noosa North Shore Ferries).
Permits: You can organise your camping permit (just $6.65 per adult) from Queensland National Parks & Wildlife Service.
Camping on Fraser Island
Fraser Island (K’Gari)
Fraser Island is one of the most popular spots for camping in Queensland for good reason. It has a diverse and spectacular natural landscape that’s earned itself World Heritage-listed status; it’s the perfect escape for adventurers (especially the 4WDing kind); it has dingos (read these tips before you go); and it’s not too far from Brisbane (drive three hours north to Rainbow Beach then jump on a 10-minute ferry).
There are 45 camping areas to choose from, so you’re guaranteed to find the perfect site to match your camping style. Want to stay in a secure dingo-proof fenced site? Waddy Point is beachfront, family-friendly and has most amenities, including coin-operated hot showers, flushing toilets and campfire facilities (make sure you bring your own untreated milled timber). Like to rough it? The Coolooloi Creek camping area on the southern side of the island is undeveloped, secluded and set back from the beach.
For more tips on choosing the best campsite, read this first-timer’s guide to camping on Fraser Island.
Facilities: It varies from campsite to campsite, but may include everything from water taps (treat water before drinking), rubbish and recycling bins, picnic tables, boat ramps, wheelchair access, camping areas with wongari (dingo)-deterrent fences and dingo-proof food storage lockers to camping ‘luxuries’ like flushing toilets, coin-operated hot showers, washing-up facilities and communal fire rings.
How to get there: If you plan on taking your car (a four wheel drive is essential for getting around the island), then catch the Fraser Island Barge at Hervey Bay or the Manta Ray Barge at Rainbow Beach.
Permits: These can be organised through Queensland National Parks. You will need to know the name for the camping zone or area you plan on staying in when you make your booking.
Island camping on the Southern Great Barrier Reef
Lady Musgrave Island
For that authentic off-the-grid island life vibe, camping on Lady Musgrave Island delivers. Albeit a small island (the coral cay is only 14 hectares in size), half the fun lies off the sandy shores. The island is surrounded by 1,192 hectares of reef that forms part of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.
Birdwatchers should be on the lookout for buff-banded rails, white and grey phases of the eastern reef egret, pied oystercatchers, sooty oystercatchers and Capricorn silvereyes, who call the island home year-round. During the warmer months of December to May, migratory wedge-tailed shearwaters come to Lady Musgrave to nest.
You’ll need to bring everything you need to be self-sufficient and take all your rubbish with you when you leave to help preserve Lady Musgrave’s untouched beauty.
Good to know: Lady Musgrave’s camping area is closed from the day after the Australia Day long weekend until the first day of the Queensland Easter school holidays for turtle-hatching season.
Facilities: Composting toilets.
How to get there: Just over two hours from Bundaberg, Lady Musgrave Experience provides daily island transfers. Due to its remote location (all part of the appeal!), expect to pay $440 return for adults and $220 return for children (4-14 years).
Permits: Secure your permit here. It costs just $6.65 per person per night, or $26.60 per family per night (children under five years of age camp for free).
For more must-visit Great Barrier Reef islands, check out this list.
Curtis Island (South End)
Four-wheel driving buffs should get acquainted with Curtis Island, because aside from the two epic national park camping spots (both a stone’s throw from the beach), the off-road tracks to get there are a treat in themselves.
Winding your way through red dirt and sand, you’ll stalk the rugged coastline and inland tracks of this relatively unknown island off the coast of Gladstone, before reaching the entrance to the National Park.
As well as bringing all your own supplies, make sure you’ve packed the rods and reels, and snorkelling gear to float over colourful fish and coral at Connors Bluff.
How to get there: Take the vehicle Curtis Ferry over from Gladstone Harbour. Access to campsites is by 4WD only and can be reached via the track off Refuse Tip.
Permits: Obtain your camping permit from Queensland National Parks. Tip: Book your ferry transfer before getting a camping permit.
Island camping on the Great Barrier Reef
Choose between eight sandy campsites (which allow for a max. of eight people each), and enjoy a slower pace of life.
But don’t get too comfortable. Covered mostly by National Park, there’s definitely some exploring that needs to be checked off: trek to the top of Mount Kootaloo, explore the island’s core on the round-trip circuit track through Palm Valley, and make friends with the fish snorkelling off Muggy Muggy and Coconut Beach.
Facilities: Drinking water, flushing toilets, hot showers, gas barbecues, picnic tables and rubbish bins.
How to get there: Catch the Mission Beach Water Taxi from Wongaling Beach or head over with your own boat.
Permits: Organise your camping permit through Mission Beach Water Taxi – as Dunk Island is a favourite camping spot for locals and there are only eight campsites available, you should book your permit as early as possible to avoid missing out.
You don’t have to win the lottery to rent your own island.
Say g’day to Coombe Island, Dunk Island’s lesser known (and more remote) neighbour in the Family Islands National Park, where you only have to spend a mere $6.65 per night to call the entire island yours.
With only one group permitted to camp at any one time, the island is basically a Cast Away camping dreamboat. Think long, lazy days frolicking in crystal clear blue waters, fresh oysters plucked straight from the rocks, and sunset hammock hangs from your beachfront camping site.
You’ll need to be completely self-sufficient, bringing everything you need and then some, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Facilities: Picnic table.
How to get there: Access the island via private boat or arrange an island transfer with Mission Beach Water Taxi, who will drop you off and pick you up.
Permits: Book your permit through Queensland National Parks.
Is this your first time camping on a beach? Read these beach camping tips before you go.
Island camping in the Whitsundays
South Molle Island
Another Whitsundays charmer, you’ll find South Molle Island on the opposite side of the camping spectrum – raw and back-to-basics.
Even though it’s located just 12km from Airlie Beach, you’ll feel like you’ve crossed into another world; the stark contrast between the bustling coastal town and this 4.6-square-kilometre island of pure nature is a breath of fresh air for adventurers.
Avid bushwalkers will be in their own little heaven over here, with both National Park campgrounds (Sandy Bay and Paddle Bay) connecting to the island’s walking tracks, traversing through sheltered rainforest gullies, open eucalypt forest, and past ancient remnants of the local indigenous Ngaro stone quarry.
Sandy Bay on the island’s south side features an open camp setting behind casuarina trees on the foreshore of a seemingly endless stretch of sand, while the smaller, sandy site of Paddle Bay located on the northern tip backs onto shaded rainforest, with a fringing reef located directly off the beach (don’t forget your snorkel!).
Facilities: Toilets and picnic tables.
How to get there: By private boat or island transfer with Scamper Water Taxi or Whitsunday Island Transfers in Airlie Beach. Good to know: You can also hire camping equipment through Scamper.
Permits: Book your camping permit (from $6.65 per adult per night) via Queensland National Parks.
For a Whitsundays holiday without the resort price tag, experience the joys of camping with the luxuries of home on Keswick Island.
The boutique campground on this Coral Sea knockout is nestled in a leafy hillside just a hop, skip, and get-me-in-that-water jump from Basil Bay, aka one of the most beautiful beaches in Queensland.
Setting up camp here is getting back to nature without the hassle – you can choose to either bring your own gear or hire from the island, and you’ve got access to a heap of facilities. You can even hire golf buggies!
Want to take it up a notch? Opt for one of their glamping suites, so the minute you arrive you can slip straight into holiday mode.
Facilities: Toilets, change rooms, showers (hot water shower bags available), fire ring with cooking plate, recycling and waste facilities, camp sink with fresh water, and access to nearby Basil Bay Hut (a powered facility with kitchenette, microwave, fridges, barbecue, and picnic tables, plus change room, toilet and beach shower).
How to get there: By charter or private boat from the Mackay coast, or fly over with Island Air.
Permits: Get in touch with Queensland National Parks to book your permit. It costs just $6.65 per person per night, or $26.60 per family per night to camp on Keswick Island.
Never heard of Keswick Island before? Here are more secret Queensland islands worth checking out, too.
Hook Island in The Whitsundays is the ying to South Molle’s yang – while the latter holds strong appeal to landlubbers, Hook Island is a sea-loving paradise, surrounded by coral reefs and plenty of diving and snorkelling opportunities from the National Park campgrounds.
You’ll have a hard time choosing where to set up camp, because all four campsites are top-notch contenders, from the pandanus-sheltered Maureens Cove (right near the pristine Manta Ray Bay) to the Steens Beach rainforest site with views overlooking Hayman Island.
Facilities: Composting toilet and picnic tables.
How to get there: By private boat or an island transfer with Scamper Water Taxi or Whitsunday Island Transfers in Airlie Beach.
Permits: Contact Queensland National Parks to secure your camping permit before you go.
Whitsunday Island has six camping sites, each one more stunning than the next; but perhaps none are more iconic than Whitehaven Beach. Waking up on Australia’s most beautiful beach and having it practically to yourself (a maximum of 36 campers are allowed at this site) before the tour crowds arrive is like a dream come true.
The campsite is nestled among lowland vine forest and eucalyptus woodland so it offers shelter from the sun, and Whitehaven Beach’s white, pure silica sand is just steps away.
The 1.3 kilometre return walk from the beach to Hill Inlet Lookout is a must-do. Hill Inlet is a culturally significant area to the Ngaro people and the uphill stroll rewards you with filter-free photos of the sweeping white sand beach and turquoise waters. Do the walk at low tide to see Hill Inlet at its best. For a longer bushwalk, take the easy seven kilometre return track across the southern end of the island to Chance Bay.
Facilities: Hybrid toilets and a sheltered picnic table (communal) at Whitehaven Beach; and composting toilets and picnic tables at all other campsites on the island. Bring your own gas or fuel stove (open fires are not permitted) and fresh water.
How to get there: Take a Scamper Water Taxi from Airlie Beach to any of the campsites on Whitsunday Island. Prices vary, but to be dropped off at Whitehaven Beach, it costs $155 return per person.
Permits: A tag with your booking number must be displayed at your campsite. Camping permits cost $6.65 per person per night, or $26.60 per family per night, and can be obtained here.
For help deciding which island best matches your camping style, read this guide.
If you want something closer to Brisbane, these are our top picks for camping in Brisbane and the surrounding area.