5 islands to visit on the Great Barrier Reef

While some of Australia’s cities are heading into winter, the Great Barrier Reef is preparing for its peak season. With mild weather, average water temperatures of 25°C (77°F), the possibility of seeing whales and over 100 islands to choose from, it’s time to pack your bags and head to Tropical North Queensland for your own slice of paradise. 5 islands to visit on the Great Barrier Reef
Site Requires Javascript - turn on javascript!

5 islands to visit on the Great Barrier Reef

Head to Tropical North Queensland to visit these five stunning Great Barrier Reef islands.


While some of Australia’s cities are heading into winter, the Great Barrier Reef is preparing for its peak season. With mild weather, average water temperatures of 25°C (77°F), the possibility of seeing whales and over 100 islands to choose from, it’s time to pack your bags and head to Tropical North Queensland for your own slice of paradise.   

Daydream Island

Only 1km in length, Daydream Island is the closest to Airlie Beach of all 74 islands in the Whitsundays. You can get there by catching a 30 minute catamaran ride from Hamilton Island Airport or the Port of Airlie.

Once you're on the island, experience the Living Reef Lagoon at Day Dream Island Resort and Spa. This lagoon is one of the world’s largest man-made living coral reef lagoons. With more than 140 species of marine fish and 83 species of coral on display, visitors have the opportunity to take part in free educational feeding sessions. Alternatively, head to Lovers’ Cove where you can snorkel off the beach to the fringing reef and experience the beauty of the sea first hand.

Other activities to consider during your stay at Day Dream Island Resort and Spa include kayaking, jet skiing, sailing, rainforest walks and helicopter trips.

Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island is the largest inhabited island of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays and is a popular destination for a romantic getaway. It's also the only island on the Great Barrier Reef to have its own commercial airport. You can fly directly from Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns and Brisbane to Hamilton Island or enjoy a 30 minute ferry trip from Airlie Beach.

Visit the island in August to attend Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. This prestigious event is Australia’s largest offshore keelboat regatta and features food, markets, fashion parades and live entertainment.

There are many other activities available on the island including golf, kayaking, snorkelling, sailing and nature walks. You could even treat yourself to a luxurious stay at the award winning hotel Qualia, one of the Luxury Lodges of Australia

Dunk Island

Just 4km off the coast of Australia and opposite Mission Beach, is Dunk Island, the largest island in the Family Islands National Park. On this little piece of paradise you will find lush rainforests, pristine beaches and an abundance of wildlife including over 100 species of birds. The Island is just 10 minutes by boat from Mission Beach.

Dunk Island offers up to 13km of walking tracks to explore. You can take in the stunning views of the Island, the mainland and the Hinchinbrook Channel at the top of Mt Kootaloo, found at the end point of one of these tracks. 

Bird watchers will also be delighted on Dunk Island where they'll find olive-backed sunbirds, emerald doves, ospreys and more. You can also take to the water with a snorkel, surrounded by reefs, and see the beauty beneath. 

Hayman Island

Hayman Island, the most northern of the Whitsundays islands, is privately owned. To visit this haven in the Great Barrier Reef, you either need to be a guest of the luxury resort One&Only Hayman Island or you can visit for a day if you are sailing through the reef by private yacht.

You can fly to Hamilton Island from Sydney, Cairns and Brisbane and then organise a transfer (luxury launch, helicopter or seaplane) with the hotel.

With the Great Barrier Reef on your door step, you can explore local islands on a Sea Kayak Adventure and see reef fish, manta rays and turtles. Or you might prefer to try one of the other activities on the island including catamaran sailing, windsurfing, paddleskiing or simply relax with a treatment at their day spa. 

Magnetic Island

8km off the Queensland coast from Townsville is Magnetic Island, also known as ‘Maggie’ by the locals. A suburb of Townsville, the island features a large national park which takes up 70% of the island. Catch a 20 minute ferry ride from Townsville Breakwater to Nelly Bay Harbour and you've arrived.

Magnetic Island is home to around 800 koalas, the largest wild colony of koalas in Queensland. For the opportunity to see a koala in the wild, explore the Forts Walk (a 4km return trek in the National Park) and discover the WWII Fortress, a former Royal Australian Navy artillery battery.

Aside from getting to know the koalas, you can explore 23 beaches and bays on Magnetic Island, snorkel along the trails at Geoffrey Bay and Nelly Bay or spot a Rock Wallaby near Geoffrey Bay Jetty.  

Discover more holiday ideas on the Great Barrier Reef.

More Holiday Ideas

See what else there is near here to inspire your holiday planning.

Top 10 Things to Do on the Great Barrier Reef...

Top 10 Things to Do on the Great Barrier Reef

The 2,300-kilometre Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. Home to diverse marine life of the most vivid colours, experiencing the Reef is a life-changing adventure, whether you do it in luxury or on a budget. See the Reef by scuba, snorkel, glass-bottom boat, jet ski, semi-submersible, sail boat, from the air or even skydive to completely immerse yourself in this wonder of the world.

View more information

Add to your dream trip add favourite
Townsville

Townsville

Townsville is the largest city in North Queensland and is yet another gateway to the islands of the Great Barrier Reef. With more than 320 days of sunshine each year; World Heritage listed national parks; and historic gold rush towns, the Townsville region is home to some spectacular natural landscapes and attractions.

View more information

Add to your dream trip add favourite
Whitsunday Islands

Whitsunday Islands

The Whitsunday Islands is a group of 74 islands bordered by the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the sheltered waters of the Coral Sea. With palm-fringed secluded white sand beaches surrounded by clear blue waters, the Whitsunday Islands are the epitome of a tropical paradise.

View more information

Add to your dream trip add favourite
Australia's Islands

Australia's Islands

Australia is fringed by more than 8,000 islands, offering every type of holiday experience. Sail through the Whitsundays, 4WD to Fraser Island's rainforests and lakes or pick a tropical paradise in the Great Barrier Reef. Uncover the unique culture of the Torres Strait or Tiwi Islands. Explore the wildlife havens of Kangaroo Island in South Australia or French and Phillip Island in Victoria. Day trip to gorgeous Rottnest Island from Perth or cruise the remote, spectacular Buccaneer Archipelago, off the coast of Derby. Island hop around Sydney Harbour or fly to Lord Howe Island, home to the world's southernmost coral reef. Discover the wild beauty of the islands off Tasmania, itself Australia's biggest island.

View more information

Add to your dream trip add favourite