From feasting on some of the world’s best wine and cheese while falling stars streak through the sky, to waking up on an island right in the heart of Sydney Harbour, these Australian isles are totally worth getting stranded on.[listicle]
Maria Island, Tasmania
Home to screensaver-worthy beachscapes, resplendent birdlife and a night sky full of shooting stars, world heritage-listed Maria Island is out-of-this-world beautiful.
Located off the east coast of Tasmania, Maria Island has no permanent human population but visitors can head over for the day on a ferry, stay overnight at a campsite where wombats often trundle past tents or delve in deep on the iconic four-day Maria Island Walk.
With luxury eco-campsites set in forested country, expert guides who are accustomed to walking on the wild side and a gourmet menu featuring the all-stars of Tasmanian produce, wine and boutique brewing, the award-winning Maria Island Walk isn’t consistently rated one of the best walks in the world for nothing.
Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour
Only got one night to spare? The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Cockatoo Island is an ace mini-break for time-poor folk who want a fun weekend getaway but can’t manage to wrangle the time off work.
In the past, this historic island was used to house convicts, rough-around-the-edges shipbuilders and ‘wayward’ girls who were shipped off to a reform school housed on the island. Nowadays things are way less grim for visitors to these parts.
Lord Howe Island, New South Wales
A mere two hours flying time from Sydney, the wild paradise of Lord Howe Island is the ideal place to castaway, drop out and tune in to another frequency for a while.
Because nature is the ultimate elixir, time spent on Lord Howe Island is a bit like hitting reset on your life. Hike where the mountains meet the sea, hand feed schools of fish in the shallows, surf some of Australia’s least crowded breaks, or take a dip in a secluded lagoon on this island where tourist numbers are restricted to 400 at a time.
Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory
A short ferry ride from Darwin lies a cluster of islands that are home to some of Australia’s most prolific and skilled artists, yet most Australians have never visited this corner of our country.
With the work of Tiwi Islanders being celebrated in galleries both nationally and internationally, travellers are now beginning to cotton on to the merits of a day trip from Darwin to Tiwi.
The ochre-rich work that depict creation stories and the coastal country that connects the community can be viewed and bought in workshops and galleries here. From the paintings, pottery and carvings of Munupi Arts to the bright textiles at Tiwi Design, put an Indigenous art odyssey on your list next time you’re up north.
Kangaroo Island, South Australia
With a modest population of about 4,600 humans, the native wildlife reign supreme on windswept Kangaroo Island.
Easily accessible by ferry from Cape Jervis, Australia’s third largest island is home to more than 250 species of birds, a huge colony of sea-lions, and of course, a motherload of kangaroos. While the wildlife and dramatic coastal rock formations are popular draw cards for visitors, the food scene isn’t to be overlooked, with unpretentious dairy, wine, olive oil and honey producers providing farm gate and cellar door tastings.
No visit to the island is complete with sampling honey from a local apiary that specialises in rare breed bees. First brought from Italy to Kangaroo Island in the 1880s, the bees on Kangaroo Island are believed to be the world’s last remaining pure stock of Ligurian Bee. One of Australia’s biggest organic honey producers, Island Beehive is the place to try honey ice-cream and stock up on hunks of fresh honeycomb. When it comes to accommodation, the truly ridiculous ocean views offered at Southern Ocean Lodge can’t be beaten.
Fitzroy Island, Queensland
No island story would be complete with an entry from Queensland, and Fitzroy Island is a top pick because it embodies exactly what Queensland is all about.
Covered in rainforest, Fitzroy Island boasts that it’s accessible, affordable and friendly, and after you’ve enjoyed a 45-minute ride from Cairns aboard the awesomely-named ‘Fast Cat’, Fitzroy Island’s snorkelling, swimming, hiking and Vitamin D-procuring opportunities are yours for the taking. Home to a campus of the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, visitors can see where injured and sick turtles are cared for before being released back in the wild.
PSA: Queensland is the only state without a legal nude beach, which is pretty strange when considering the Sunshine State’s climate is perfect for getting naked, and Fitzroy Island is home to a place actually called Nudey Beach (which is clothes on, apparently). Come on now. You can legally nude it up in the frigid waters of Tasmania but not in balmy Queensland? Australia, you’re weird.
Rottnest Island, Western Australia
In a game of word association, Rottnest Island would almost always be associated with one of Australia’s happiest little creatures, the adorable quokka. While visitors can do everything from stand-up paddle boarding to cycling, diving and swimming, quokkas are one of the biggest reasons people ride the ferry from Freo to Rottnest. With cute little black noses, a stumpy, furry torso and a sociable temperament, who wouldn’t love this precious macropod endemic to Rottnest? Dutch explorers once mistook quokkas for giant rats, but nowadays tourists clamber for a chance to take a selfie with them – if that isn’t one of the biggest Cinderella stories of the animal world, we don’t know what is.[/listicle]
(Lead image: Lord Howe Island)
Jo is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist who knows that the best stories are yielded from time spent on the road, not behind a desk. She writes about travel, pop culture, sustainability, nature and indigenous issues for a bunch of Australian newspapers, magazines, journals and websites. Her work reporting on scientific expeditions means she has lived and worked in some of the harshest environments on the planet including Antarctica, the Simpson Desert and the means streets of Sydney.