Australia and Oceania, an isolated and yet unexplored part of the world. It is an ideal region for tourists who are tired of typical journeys and want to venture to the edge of the earth. Here, numerous secluded corners seem to have been created to tidy up the whirlwinds of thoughts stirred by the frantic pace of life. Beach relaxation and extreme adventures, unique flora and fauna, excellent service, and untouched places free from civilization – a perfect combination awaits. You can spend an entire day on the beach or hop into a rented car and find yourself in a cosy hotel within an hour.
Oceania is the largest cluster of islands in the central and western parts of the Pacific Ocean. The western boundary is commonly considered to be the island of New Guinea, and the eastern boundary is Easter Island. There are approximately 10 thousand islands in Oceania. Of course, visiting all of them is impossible, but we have prepared an online guide for you featuring the most interesting places in Australia and Oceania.
1. Heron Island is a coral island administratively belonging to the state of Queensland. It measures approximately 800 by 300 metres, with a coastline of 1.8 kilometres. The island’s history is as follows: in 1843, an expedition led by the navigator Francis Blackwood discovered the island but did not fully explore it as it was not part of their plans. In 1932, Captain Christian Polson realised that the island could become an excellent resort destination, so he purchased it for 290 pounds sterling. Until 1977, Christian and his descendants organised paid excursions on the island.
The name “Heron” translates as “heron” due to the abundance of these birds nesting along the coastline. On the northwest part of Heron Island, you’ll find the popular Heron Island Resort, which gained attention in 2012 when it was featured in a BBC series about the Great Barrier Reef, thanks to its scientific research complex dedicated to studying local fauna. Today, the island of Heron is managed by the American company Delaware North, offering tourists diving and snorkelling experiences, attracting many enthusiasts of these activities. Since there are no sources of drinking water on the island, a desalination plant operates here.
2. The small volcanic island of Lord Howe is part of New South Wales. It has a boomerang shape and stretches for ten kilometres. It is one of the oldest volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 20 million years old. The island was formed by the merging of two volcanic islands, composing its northern and southern parts, while the central part consists of accumulated coral sand. Its fascinating history has shaped an interesting landscape, along with diverse flora and fauna. Lord Howe is often referred to as paradise on Earth.
Tourists are drawn to this place for its untouched nature and purity. There are no power lines or tall buildings on the island, only vast jungles inhabited by flying foxes, Australian stick insects, and rare species of snails. Lord Howe is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its cliffs are nesting grounds for petrels, shearwaters, terns, and muttonbirds. Diving enthusiasts can admire colourful fish in the azure waters. Besides diving, tourists can enjoy other activities such as cycling, mountain treks, fishing, and kayaking. There is even a small village on the island with only 350 inhabitants. Due to the island’s delicate ecosystem, only 400 visitors are allowed at a time, so it’s advisable to plan your trip in advance.
3. Located at the southernmost point of the Great Barrier Reef is Lady Elliot Island. It acquired its name from Captain Lady Elliot, the skipper of the schooner “Lady Elliot,” and its date of discovery is considered to be 1816. The island’s territory is divided into three parts. One of them is a bird sanctuary zone, closed to tourists. Only 120 people are allowed to stay on the rest of the island, so consider booking early to secure your spot. Accommodation is available at a small hotel located in the southeast of the island. The beach on Lady Elliot Island is quite good, although there might be some discomfort due to coral debris. However, snorkelling enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy it.
From June to October, you can observe the migration of humpback whales. Divers with scuba gear often hear the songs of marine mammals underwater along Lady Elliot Island. We also highly recommend climbing one of the oldest lighthouses, built in 1866 and reconstructed after its collapse in 1873. Though it stands at just 15 metres, it offers a view of approximately 30 nautical miles, all the way to the horizon. Thanks to its climate, Lady Elliot is ready to welcome tourists year-round. But do keep in mind that the rainy season lasts from January to March.
4. Off the coast of Australia lies Magnetic Island, which you can also visit. It covers an area of 52 square kilometres. This is the only island on the northern coast of Queensland that combines the stunning landscapes of the National Park, a vast number of resorts, and a relatively large permanent population (around 2500). Why is it called “Magnetic”? It got its name due to the “magnetic” effect it had on Captain Cook’s ship’s compass when he explored the eastern coast of Australia in 1770. The majority of the island’s territory (54%) is a reserve, mostly located in mountainous terrain. Magnetic Island is considered the northern boundary of the koala habitat.
Magnetic anomalies around the island have led to several shipwrecks nearby. Vessels would veer off course and remain stuck on the shallows. If you wish to see them, diving with scuba gear is available on the island. Snorkelling is also popular here, as there are many beautiful and interesting fish swimming around the island. Cultural festivals are regularly held here as well. Do not worry; the tourist infrastructure is well-developed, and there are hotels for overnight stays.
5. Bruny Island is located in the Tasman Sea, separated from Tasmania by the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. Geographically, the island is considered one entity, but geologically, it consists of two parts connected by a narrow sandy isthmus. It was named after the French explorer Joseph-Antoine Bruny d’Entrecasteaux. Initially, Bruny was inhabited by a secluded community of Aboriginals, hardly in contact with Europeans. In 1642, Abel Tasman landed near the island, and in 1773, Tobias Furneaux’s ship did the same.
The island’s population is only 620 people. It boasts a beautiful landscape diversity – rocky shores gently transitioning into green hills, which, in turn, give way to tranquil forests close to the snow-white beaches. You can admire the meadow vegetation and eucalyptus forests and visit the national park in the south of the island. Tourists often head to Adventure Bay. There are bowling clubs where you can order delicious cocktails, and cruises depart from here. Car rental in Australia is a very popular service, but it’s not available on Bruny. However, you can rent a car in Hobart, which is 83 km away from Bruny.
6. Christmas Island was named thanks to its discovery on Christmas Day in 1643. The island was first described by the British navigator William Dampier. The island has a volcanic origin, being the actual summit of a previously extinct volcano. The area of the island is approximately 135 square kilometres, with the highest point reaching an elevation of 361 metres above sea level. Christmas Island has a tropical climate with distinct dry and wet seasons. The humidity is around 90%, and the average annual temperature is about 27°C.
Christmas Island serves as a “coordination centre” for migratory birds. 70 northern species rest on the local shores before migration, while about 10 species remain on the island for breeding and nesting. In November, the island becomes home to a large number of red crabs. They spawn among the coral reefs, covering the entire coastal zone with their bodies. It might seem as though one is walking on a crimson living carpet rather than a beach. This island is considered one of the best for ecotourism, with 63% of its area designated as a National Park.
7. On the southeast coast of Queensland, lies North Stradbroke Island, the second-largest sand island in the world after Fraser Island. The island is approximately 38 kilometres long and 11 kilometres wide. North Stradbroke Island features a subtropical climate with mild winters and humid summers. The island is home to three towns, with the largest being Dunwich, where tourists can find the most familiar services. It has a school, a museum, a medical centre, and a marine research station. North Stradbroke Island is renowned for its pristine white beaches and tranquillity, owing to its prolonged isolation. Tourists on the island can enjoy a wide range of activities, including lookout points for observing whale and dolphin migrations. We recommend taking a walk along the one-and-a-half-kilometre gorge upon arriving at North Stradbroke Island. At the end of such a walk, you will reach the unique Blowhole mountain formation, resembling a group of whales. The only hotel is located in Point Lookout.
8. Rottnest Island lies 18 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia. It covers an area of 19 square kilometres. It is one of the few places in the world where the quokka, a short-tailed kangaroo, has survived in the wild. From 1838, the secluded island was used as a penal colony for Aboriginal prisoners, and the penal prison remained operational until 1931. Since then, colonial buildings such as a lighthouse, underground tunnels, and casemates have been preserved. Later, Rottnest Island became a destination for recreational tourism, and during the peak season, it can host up to 15,000 people simultaneously.
The forests of the island are home to three tree species that are not found anywhere else in the world — Rottnest pine, skunkbush, and Rottnest tea tree. When foxes were introduced to Australia, the population of these creatures significantly declined. However, as the island lacks typical predators, these furry animals now dominate the region and fearlessly roam the open spaces. Tourists on the island can visit numerous historical, natural, and other attractions. For example, the salt lakes of Baghdad, the beaches of Little Armstrong, the Wadjemup Lighthouse, and the New Cathedral Rock Lookout.
9. Fraser Island is located off the eastern coast of Australia. Its length is about 120 kilometres, and its width varies from 7 to 23 kilometres. Before being settled by Europeans, it was known as “K’gari,” which translates from the local dialect as “paradise.” We agree with this name because upon arrival, you will witness a combination of dark, majestic cliffs and a bright beach. In 1992, Fraser Island was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a unique natural monument. The island boasts a rather rare phenomenon for Oceania’s islands – over a hundred freshwater lakes. The largest among them is Lake Bottmingen. Some of these lakes are referred to as “hanging” lakes because their water level is noticeably higher than the sea level.
Besides the lakes, the island features sandy dunes. They formed around 400,000 years ago and can reach heights of up to 240 metres. The fauna here is highly diverse – you can encounter flying foxes, possums, kangaroos, and wild dingoes, while several species of turtles inhabit the waters. We recommend every tourist to explore Fraser Island from a bird’s-eye view. You can do so by purchasing a plane flight ticket and enjoy breathtaking views from the cabin.
10. Moreton Island is situated off the southwest coast of Queensland. The island’s area is approximately 186 square kilometres, with a length of 37 kilometres. In 1799, thanks to Matthew Flinders, the island received its name from the nearby Moreton Bay, washing its western shores. Imagine, 98% of the island falls within the Moreton National Park. Remember, for most of the year, the island’s beaches are devoid of people, leaving only jade waters glistening with all the colours of the rainbow. We suggest renting a canoe and paddling towards the shipwreck graveyard on Moreton’s western side. The remains of ships appeared here in 1963 when a group of boat owners demanded the creation of an artificial port near the island for safe anchorage. Today, about 15 old ships rest near the island’s coast.
Not only ships but dolphins entice visitors to linger on Moreton Island. They swim up to swimmers and enjoy treats directly from their hands if they bring a bag of fish with them. Moreover, tourists can participate in quests on the island. Tourist companies provide maps with marked key locations and hints, turning the mundane island trekking into a fun and engaging search for hidden treasures.
11. Kangaroo Island is the third-largest island in Australia. Its area is approximately 4405 square kilometres, making it a distinct region. The island’s length is 145 kilometres, and its width varies from 900 metres to 57 kilometres. More than half of its territory remains untouched by humans. The most protected areas include the Flinders Chase National Park, Seal Bay Conservation Park, Cape Gantheaume, Cape Borda, and Des Casuarées Valley. Visiting Kangaroo Island, every tourist will get a chance to witness unique fauna. Here, kangaroos, wallabies, brown bandicoots, Rosenberg’s monitors, possums, echidnas, and New Zealand fur seals reside.
To truly experience Kangaroo Island’s life, we advise not just settling into a hotel room and relaxing on open terraces with ocean views. Take a stroll along picturesque bays, pristine beaches, and immerse yourself in the warm waters of the Great Australian Bight. The highlight of all resorts on the island is their ecological approach. They cultivate produce without the use of pesticides and nitrates on “green” farms. Be sure to try these products. If you dive with a scuba, you may encounter giant cuttlefish, colourful fish, and seahorses underwater.
12. The Cocos Islands are among the first islands discovered by Europeans. It is an archipelago of 27 coral origin islands in the Indian Ocean. Their alternative name is the Keeling Islands, named after William Keeling, who colonised them in 1609. The total area of the Cocos Islands is 14 square kilometres. The archipelago consists of the southern part and a separately located uninhabited island called North Keeling, situated 25 km to the north. The climate here is tropical, and there is very little freshwater resource – rainwater is collected in underground natural reservoirs.
We highly recommend the Cocos Islands for limitless recreational opportunities. Primarily, it attracts those who enjoy relaxation on tropical beaches. For active tourists, there are canoeing, diving, snorkelling, and group sea tours available. It is preferable to arrange a comprehensive sightseeing tour through an agency to cover a greater number of attractions. The Cocos Islands are very popular among surfers, with the Northern Lagoon being the most favoured spot for surfing and kite surfing.
13. Shark Island is another vacation spot located in Sydney Harbour, New South Wales. The name of the island does not stem from the presence of terrifying sea predators around it. The location owes its name to its peculiar geometric shape. The island covers an area of 1.5 hectares, with dimensions approximately 250 metres by 100 metres. Since 1879, the island has served as a quarantine zone for animals. About 15-20 metres from the northern part of the island stands an ancient pile lighthouse, constructed in 1913 after numerous shipwrecks occurred nearby. We recommend visiting this lighthouse. On one side, you’ll have a view of the harbour and the bridge of Australia’s largest metropolis, and on the other side, you’ll see the Sydney Opera House. The island is frequently used for hosting wedding ceremonies.
How to find the time to see all the islands of Australia
Surrounded by water from all sides, Australia comprises around 8,000 to 10,000 islands. It’s logical that seeing them all is impossible. However, many of these islands are resorts that every tourist would want to experience. If you’re flying to Australia and want to make the most of your time, we have prepared not only a list of interesting islands but also tips on how to make your vacation productive.
— Plan your itinerary in advance
Conduct an analysis of all the islands available for tourism and prioritise them. Create a list of the places you absolutely want to visit. Consider not only their popularity but also your personal preferences. After listing the islands, chart your travel route. This will help you save time on planning upon arrival and allow you to fully enjoy your vacation.
— Rent transportation
Having a car will expedite your island visits and allow you to see more places during your trip to Australia. Renting transportation is convenient, quick, comfortable, and cost-effective. You no longer need to depend on public transportation schedules. Cars in Australia can be rented on the website of LocalCarRents, which offers a wide selection of vehicles to fit any budget and preference.
— Be flexible
Unexpected situations can arise during any journey. The weather might suddenly change, or a landmark could close just before your arrival. The key is to be prepared for any situation and not get disappointed. Try to include additional places to visit in your list at home in case of unforeseen circumstances. This way, you will not waste precious vacation time in Australia.
— Explore the islands
Before travelling to an island, it’s crucial to conduct some research about the place. Find as much information as possible on the internet or refer to our article. Include visits to National Parks in your list; they provide more insights into the ecosystems of Australia’s islands. When possible, do not hesitate to talk to local residents. They can tell you much more about the island than websites on the internet. Nevertheless, your vacation should not be solely about exploring the islands. Relax and enjoy your time off.
— Allow time for downtime
Despite your strong desire and efforts to see as many islands as possible in one trip, it’s essential to give yourself some downtime. Spend more time in one location if you feel like it. Travelling always tires you out, so find time to relax. Instead of chasing quantity, focus on quality. Show interest in the places you visit, take photographs, and plan your next trip to Australia. This country will reveal more of its beauty with each new journey.
The islands of Australia are stunning and unique. They attract tourists with their nature, landscapes, and the diversity of flora and fauna. Devoting your vacation to Australia will allow you to explore its ecosystems, enjoy beautiful beaches, and discover cultural landmarks. Regardless of which islands you spend your time on, each will offer unforgettable experiences that will stay in your memory forever.