Did you know there are 8,222 islands within Australia’s borders? You could easily spend your entire life hopping from one to next. So next time you want to get off the mainland, narrow down the bucket list to these exclusive island holidays, suggests Natarsha Brown.
Magnetic Island, QLD
If you are after outdoor adventures, then Magnetic Island is pretty hard to go past. Sitting almost within swimming distance offshore from Townsville, over half of this mountainous, 52-square-kilometre island is national park and the masses of granite boulders and eucalypts give this tropical ‘paradise’ an Australian feel. Inviting beaches, over 24 kilometres of hiking trails, snorkelling and abundant wildlife spotting – including large allied rock wallaby and koala populations – will easily fill the days.
Where to stay: Although the rest of the island may have a low-key charm, things at Peppers Blue on Blue are much swankier. Set right on the water’s edge and overlooking the pretty marina at Nelly Bay, accommodation ranges from studios to the four-bedroom penthouse, which comes complete with a wraparound balcony boasting vistas of the ocean and mountains beyond. Sign up for a horse ride along the beach at Horseshoe Bay, before indulging in a hot rock massage at the on-site Endota Spa.
Lord Howe Island, NSW
A speck in the ocean at just 11 kilometres long and two kilometres wide, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed paradise comes complete with swaying palms trees and secluded beaches – all surrounded by the southernmost tropical reef in the world. Often called “Australia’s Galapagos”, Lord Howe is a naturalist’s dream – there are more than 200 recorded types of birds and 1,600 terrestrial insect species to be discovered here. Although just a two-hour flight east of Sydney, Lord Howe is easily explorable over a long weekend, and you won’t have to worry about the crowds: only 400 visitors are permitted at any one time.
Where to stay: Choose between the nine contemporary beach-luxe suites overlooking the pretty Lovers Bay and the island’s two imposing mountains at Capella Lodge. By day, explore rainforest tracks with the resident naturalist, take a guided climb of Mount Gower (often considered one of the world’s best days walks) or head to the crystal-clear waters for some fishing, diving and snorkelling.
Satellite Island, TAS
Never heard of Satellite Island? That’s because those in the know want to keep it that way. Privately owned by Melbourne couple Kate and Will Alstergren, the Robinson Crusoe-style retreat originally belonged to Will’s uncle, who bought it in the 1960s as a base for his creative pursuits. After an extensive overhaul – overseen by stylist Tess Newman-Morris – it reopened in 2013. Yet, covered in native bush and encircled by dramatic cliffs, it still boasts one impressive setting.
Where to stay: Nestled in a sheltered pocket of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, this 34-hectare landmass can only be reached by private boat from nearby Bruny Island and caters to a maximum of 12 guests across its clifftop, three-bedroom Summer House, the converted and cosy Boathouse (where you can fall asleep next to the sound of lapping waves) and glamping tent in the warmer months. Though encouraged to bring along the essentials – aka a bottle of local wine – guests have access to the organic veggie patch, orchard, eggs from the free-range chickens, and oysters and fish off the jetty.
Lizard Island, QLD
Actress Kate Hudson referred to far-flung Lizard Island as “the most romantic place on Earth”, and she couldn’t be more right. The ideal launching pad for exploring the Great Barrier Reef – as one of the only places where guests can simply slip out of bed and wade into the coral-filled ocean for a pre-breakfast dip – Australia’s northernmost island resort is cut off from the rest of the world by languid emerald waters and one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Where to stay: Although most of the island is national park and teeming with wildlife, most visitors come for the opulent accommodation and superb modern Australian cuisine by chef Mark Jensen at the ultra-exclusive Lizard Island Resort. Host to just 40 rooms and villas, this quiet haven is for the rich and famous seeking coveted solitude with their snorkelling, diving and tropical fish. Choose from 24 private powder-white beaches for a romantic picnic or hand-feed colossal potato cod at the famed Cod Hole, followed by a couple’s treatment and sunset drinks on your private patio.
Haggerstone Island, QLD
This ‘castaway’ abode was uninhabited before Roy and Anna Turner arrived in 1985, and they’ve since transformed the remote island – accessible only by charter flight – into an acclaimed resort. The 42-hectare sanctuary can only be reached by chartered aircraft, a boat ride or by seaplane. Carpeted in lush jungle and peppered with the classic sandy beaches and blue lagoons that rule Tropical North Queensland, the birdlife is abundant and the fishing – by rod, reel, spear or fly – outstanding. Adventures to private waterfalls, sand-cays, untouched river systems and mountainous sand dunes by boat or helicopter are on the menu daily, alongside exploring shipwrecks and beachcombing for World War II artefacts. Freshly caught seafood, coconuts plucked from the surrounding trees and papaya, banana and grapefruit courtesy of the on-site orchard are served up come mealtime.
Where to stay: Spread sparingly along the island’s long beach, guests can choose from five beachfront villas, all with incredible ocean views, an expansive deck and tropical gardens. Haus Mawu is the cream of the crop, located hillside above a gorgeous lagoon and designed exclusively by Roy, it comes complete with two queen bedrooms, two starlit bathrooms, an open-plan lounge area with a stone fireplace, library and loft. For guests wanting the ultimate private island experience, it is possible to book the entire island for groups of up to 12 people.
Bremer Island, NT
Lying about 13 kilometres off the coast of Nhulunbuy – a 15-minute flight from Gove, a town that itself is an hour by plane from Darwin – the beguiling Bremer Island is pure isolation and remains largely untouched by modern life. Come for barefoot luxury with a touch of history and culture: home to the Yolngu people, who partner with the island’s only accommodation, Banabanu Beach Resort, guests get a fascinating glimpse into local indigenous traditions and customs through various guided experiences, alongside activities such as scenic flights, fly fishing and assisting with turtle hatching season.
Where to stay: With just six glamping tents, this little pearl is low on foot traffic. Opt for the “penthouse”, which comes with a spacious sundeck with beach views and an outdoor shower.
Kangaroo Island, SA
Often touted as “a zoo without fences” thanks to its bountiful roaming wildlife, Kangaroo Island is paradise for animal lovers – think sea lions, fur seals, little penguins, echidnas and, of course, the ‘roos that give the island it’s namesake. Simply jump on a 45-minute ferry from Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula and you will find yourself surrounded by 509 kilometres of rugged coastline, dotted with small villages brimming with friendly locals and charming farms and cafes offering up delicious fresh produce (gourmet must-stops include: Clifford’s Honey Farm, False Cape Wines, Kangaroo Island Brewery and Millie Mae’s Pantry).
Where to stay: While Southern Ocean Lodge is currently out of action due to the summer bushfires, it’s next incarnation SOL 2.0 is currently being designed by architect Max Pritchard and is anticipating to reopen in late 2022 or early 2023. In the meantime, Hamilton & Dune’s two beach houses at Emu Bay make for a stunning alternative. Nestled on the crest of a protected sand dune, Dune House houses up to six and its circular design means each room is light-filled and offers lovely views, while Hamilton House is better suited to those who want easy access to the jetty and beach.
Bedarra Island, QLD
A long-time favoured hideaway for the rich and famous, attracting the likes of Russel Crowe and Fergie, the Duchess of York in its time, Bedarra Island offers easy access to the many sights of the Great Barrier Reef alongside guaranteed seclusion: accommodating a maximum of 20 guests at one time. Draped in 100 hectares of thick rainforest and ringed by huge granite boulders, most visitors arrive via a 30-minute speedboat from Mission Beach or by the resort’s private Gucci-style helicopter from the port of Cairns. The ethos is very much centred on relaxation, yet if remaining sedentary the everyday isn’t your style, guests can effortlessly fill the hours with kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkelling, rainforest walks, helicopter tours or deep sea fishing charters.
Where to stay: Choose from just 11 guest villas, each hidden among the greenery and boasting water views – some infinity-edge plunge pools and outdoor rainforest bathrooms – and well and truly escape civilization for a week or more.
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Lead image © Destination NSW/tom-archer.com