The continent of Australia is referred to as an island because it is surrounded by ocean. However, Australia is actually made up of more than 8,000 islands, including the island state of Tasmania. As an island, Australia is a natural quarantine zone. This means we are able to keep out many of the pests and diseases, such as rabies and papaya fly, that ravage other parts of the world. It also means we have some of the most unique animals and plants in the world. Many of our islands feature animals and wildlife that are unique to the islands due to their isolation from threats.
Off the coast of Arnhem Land, Bremer Island is a back-to-basics option. Visitors sleep in tents and there are shared showers and a composting toilet. In return for a touch of roughing it, however, they get to experience one of Australia's most unexplored corners.
Shh, don't tell the people flocking to nearby Bruny Island, but just around the corner - a 10 minute boat ride away – someone is holed up on their private piece of paradise. It could be you. The privately-owned Satellite Island features a single luxury boat shack where you can savour the solitude of this sea-fringed wilderness. After a day spent hiking or kayaking, light a fire on the beach and shuck some wild oysters to enjoy with a wine as the sun goes down.
With its towering cliffs, tranquil lagoons, soaring tree ferns and pines, this South Pacific island's landscape is almost as dramatic as its history. Originally a penal settlement, Norfolk Island then became home to descendants of the Bounty mutineers, who still speak their own hybrid language, known as Norf'k. These days, its laidback atmosphere, extensive national parks and reserves and its farm-fresh dining make it an ideal weekend getaway.
If you like being spoiled for choice, you're going to love Hamilton Island . From nautical adventures at the yacht club to teeing off at the 18-hole championship golf course – located on its very own island – there's always something to do. The fun doesn't stop at sunset; no other island has such a wide selection of bars and restaurants.
Wildlife spotters will love a day trip to the Albrolhos archipelago, 122 uninhabited islands just off Geraldton. Fed by the warm Leeuwin Current and surrounded by coral reefs, the ocean here teems with life, from frolicking sea lions and giant Samson fish to migrating humpback whales. Birdwatchers will marvel at the large seabird colonies, including white-breasted sea eagles.
The best view in Sydney doesn't belong to a Packer or a Murdoch: it belongs to anyone who wakes up on Cockatoo Island. In the middle of the harbour, this island is full of relics of its fascinating history, from convict silos to the massive turbine hall left over from shipbuilding days.
Nine hundred residents, 120 beaches and 200,000 wallabies and pademelons. Do the numbers on Flinders Island and what it adds up to is acres of untouched wilderness. From the wetlands of Cameron Inlet and the trek up Mount Strzelecki to a quiet afternoon fishing off the wharf in the town of little town of Whitemark, you will be surprised how much there is to do.
For blow-the-budget romance, Bedarra Island is the place to beat. Each of the island's eight villas is tempting enough to hole up in – some even have private plunge pools – but the staff are experts at organising excursions for two, from a picnic on a deserted island to a candlelit dinner on a sandy beach.
It is usually the local detention centre that makes headlines, but for naturalists such as David Attenborough, Christmas Island is a natural wonder. Thanks to its remote location, this ancient volcanic peak, closer to Java than Australia, has developed a number of unique species. David Attenborough described the annual spring/summer red crab migration, when a tide of 50 million crabs pours out of the rainforest to spawn in the sea, as one of his most memorable experiences.
Who you meet on Phillip Island depends on when you go. In October, the revheads meet up for the Motor Cycle Grand Prix. In summer, families flock here. But in between, there's plenty of time to enjoy this island's many delights – from the southern surf beaches and northern bay beaches, to winery visits and the famous Little Penguins.
There's a lot to explore on the world's largest sand island , from hardwood and eucalypt forests to more than 100 freshwater lakes. The rugged terrain means much of the island is perfect for four wheel driving – Seventy Five Mile Beach, in particular is pedal-to-the-metal territory. The island is also popular with families and birdwatchers, with 354 recorded species.
Together with its neighbour, Bathurst Island, Melville Island forms the Tiwi Islands, known for the locals' beautiful art and traditional lifestyle, as well as superb fishing. A stay on Melville gives you access to the community of Milikapati. Worth checking out: the interesting museum and art centre, and the nearby waterfalls.
Roos aren't the only things running wild on Kangaroo Island : koalas, sea lions and fur seals are all there for the spotting. This pristine island offers more than Australia's best wildlife viewing, however. The island's artisanal food scene is thriving, and there are also 18 wineries, including the excellent Islander Estate.
It's just a quick boat ride from bustling Fremantle, but tranquil Rottnest Island is a break from the big-city buzz. Cars are banned, so grab a cycle to explore the island's many secluded bays and beaches. Snorkelling and surfing are also popular, as is snapping a shot of the island's quokkas. Avoid the schoolies' and end-of-uni celebrations.
At this Great Barrier Reef resort , it's all about what lies beneath. There are more than 20 dive sites within 15 minutes of the shore, including the famous Heron Bommie, named by Jacques Cousteau as one of his top 10 dive sites in the world. On any given dive, you are likely to see rays, reef sharks, turtles and eels. There are plenty of colourful corals too, particularly at Coral Cascades and Coral Canyons.
Sometimes, you return to a favourite place, only to discover it overrun with people. That's never going to happen on Lord Howe Island , where there is a limit of 400 visitors at a time. So each time you return to this lovely island of pristine forests and translucent waters, you can hike your favourite track or visit that special little bay, knowing there will be barely anyone around.
Tranquil bays, dramatic cliffs and verdant rainforests are among the many landscapes to discover on this beautiful Tasmanian island. The entire island is a national park, so there's not much in the way of accommodation; those who sign up for the four-day Maria Island Walk, however, sleep in comfortable bush camps with gourmet meals.
Never heard of Bigge Island? You're not alone. Part of the Bonaparte Archipelago off the Kimberley Coast, Bigge is one of our best-kept secrets. It is home to some of the country's most spectacular rock art, with examples from both the Wandjina and Gwion Gwion (or Bradford) styles. It's likely that these magnificently preserved images are more than 50,000 years old, which makes them possibly the oldest art on the planet.
For many people, the TV series Lost put an end to their Robinson Crusoe fantasies. If you are still yearning to experience a private tropical paradise, however, this island off Cape York is the place to be. On the island, guests sleep in airy, elegant pavilions; in the ocean, they snorkel over beautiful coral gardens and watch turtles glide past. Meals are fresh seafood: oysters steamed with ginger and lemon grass, or whole barbecued lobster.
Norfolk Island is located far off the east coast of Australia. It is 1610 kilometres ENE of Sydney and 1456 km ESE of Brisbane. The Island is a volcanic outcrop 8km long and 5km wide.
The Torres Strait separates the land masses of Australia and New Guinea. Torres Strait Islanders are of the Melanesian grouping of people and are traditionally mariners. They have a long history of trade with both Aboriginal and New Guinean people.
Macquarie Island lies 1,500 kilometres south-east of Tasmania in the Southern Ocean. The island is the exposed crest of the enormous Macquarie Ridge and is the only place on earth where rocks from the earth's mantle (6 kilometres below the ocean floor) are being actively exposed above sea level.
Some of Australia's best-known islands are in Queensland. With the Great Barrier Reef following the coast from north to south, these tropical islands comprise the holiday playground of Australia.
Like Queensland, the West Australian coast boasts hundreds of islands and island groups. To the south is a group of more than 100 islands, including Woody Island, which are home to fur seals, penguins and many water birds. These lie within the Archipelago of the Recherche, commonly known as the Esperance Bay of Isles. Off the central west coast are the more than 100 tiny islands that make up the Houtman Abrolhos Islands. The most significant feature of these islands is the Acropora coral which surrounds the islands and which has been the cause of many shipwrecks, including the Batavia (1629) and Zeewijk (1727).
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are located 2,800 kilometres north-west of Perth in the Indian Ocean. The group, which consists of 27 coral islands, became an Australian Territory in 1955. The first permanent settlement on the islands was in 1826, with a second settlement the following year. This second settlement was led by Captain Clunies-Ross, who was keen to use the island's coconut supplies to produce coconut husks and oil. In 1886, Queen Victoria granted all land on the islands to George Clunies-Ross (the third descendant of Captain Clunies-Ross) and his heirs for eternity. Western Australia’s idyllic island getaways offer blissful escapes to World Heritage listed wonders, Class A reserves, world-class fishing, diving and snorkelling, amazing marine life encounters and castaway adventures. Add these top Western Australian islands to your wish list.
Just a short ferry ride fromPerth or Fremantle , Rottnest Island is a world away from city life. This little car-free Class A island reserve is Perth’s island getaway, where the locals come to play, swim, snorkel, dive, surf and fish. Bus or cycle around the island, coo at Australia’s cutest marsupial, the quokka, and choose your own little patch of paradise from 63 beautiful beaches and bays.
WA’s largest colony of little penguins invites you to their home on Penguin Island to get nearer to nature. A short ferry ride across the Shoalwater Island Marine Park , near Rockingham , brings you to the Penguin Island Discovery Centre to learn more about these little guys and meet their neighbours – nesting seabirds and rare Australian sea lions. Pack a picnic, your snorkel gear, or even a kayak.
One of 110 pristine islands that make up the Esperance , Woody Island is a true ocean wilderness adventure. Cruise here on a day trip or camp overnight in safari tents and snorkel among sea dragons, meet the playful dolphins and sea lions and spot rare sea eagles.
Rich in marine life and surrounded by 19 shipwrecks, the Abrolhos Islands are rated among the world’s top fishing spots and Australia’s best diving destinations. Sitting just 60 kilometres west of Geraldton , you can access these 122 coral fringed islands aboard a fishing or diving charter, or view their splendour on a scenic flight.
In the aquamarine waters of the World Heritage Shark Bay area you’ll find the island getaway of Dirk Hartog Island National Park . Renowned for its fishing, diving, snorkelling and four-wheel-drive adventures, it’s also a top spot for wildlife spotting. Keep eyes and ears open for rare burrowing frogs and white fairy wrens. Take your own boat, bring your 4WD across by barge or charter a flight.
The 42 islands of the Dampier Archipelago form the most biodiverse marine environment in Western Australia, and lie just 45 kilometres off the coast from Dampier . Come fish, dive and snorkel the islands, or embark on a castaway adventure by renting your very own island paradise, Direction Island in the neighbouring Mackerel Islands .
Hop aboard a luxury Kimberley cruise or take to the air on a scenic flight and join the privileged few to have cast eyes upon the world’s only Horizontal Waterfalls in the Buccaneer Archipelago north of Broome . If you’re travelling by boat, you’ll also get to experience some out-of-this-world snorkelling and fishing in this spectacular untouched seascape of 1,000 tiny islands.
Any fishing, diving or snorkelling enthusiast who makes the overnight trip from Broome to the Rowley Shoals will tell you it’s worth the wait and effort. Here, on the edge of the continental shelf, more than 680 species of fish have made their home among 230-plus varieties of coral.
The islands larger than 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) are: