From the Tropics to the Wilderness

Australia is the world’s largest island. Four-fifths the size of the United States, and with only eight percent of the population, it is both vast and predominantly empty, with almost the entire population living within an hour of the coast.

Though suggesting that it is an archipelago is perhaps a little misleading, with over 8,000 islands scattering its shores, it remains technically correct. Ranging from tropical cays to the chillier southern island state of Tasmania, their diversity is extraordinary, with a variety of offerings to suit a wide range of travelers.

The mainland of Australia has its own almost limitless spectrum of climates, topography, and attractions, but venturing offshore, one can discover fascinating wildlife, wonderful culture, superb cuisine, and absolute solitude.

While many of the islands are remote, uninhabited, protected, or of little interest, a select few provide exquisite opportunities for discerning travelers.

Journeying from north to south, we take you on an island-hopping adventure along the coasts of Australia:

Lizard Island

Secluded within the Great Barrier Reef and a designated national park, Lizard Island is as picture-perfect as you could imagine of a tropical island. Tall palm trees reach for vibrant, blue skies, swaying gently in the cooling ocean breeze, fringing pure-white sands that melt into a turquoise ocean; turtles languidly glide across vibrant corals teeming with fish; white-sailed yachts glide effortlessly across the calm seas, and the serenity is ubiquitous. Nestled into a quiet cove on the leeward coast lies Lizard Island Resort, an intimate collection of villas and lodges impeccably catered for a luxurious escape from the world.

Guests can wander from exquisite beach to verdant forest, snorkel from the sand, or take to the ocean by kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or boat to find isolated bays for romantic picnics. A gourmet restaurant, spa, swimming pools and a wealth of activities make Lizard Island an idyllic haven of luxurious tranquility.

Pelorus Island

At the southern end of the Barrier Reef, Pelorus Island isn’t dissimilar to Lizard, with one distinct difference. Pelorus residence is an exclusive-use property, catering to up to 11 guests, with a host of facilities at one’s disposal. Pelorus is a venue of absolute luxury, staff catering to a single group in every conceivable way. Private yacht charters explore the reef and surrounding islets, while a dedicated helicopter provides access to destinations further afield and scenic flights across the localized archipelago and hinterland of the mainland.

Four king suites and a triple-share villa accommodate a multi-generational party impeccably, allowing for group excursions and activities or the scope to take some private time as a couple or smaller party. Paddleboards, jetskis, and sub-aquatic ‘seabob’ skis provide access to the aquatic realms, while on land, yoga, and massages are available. Guests can find their own intimate space, with private beach picnics or a transfer to Hinchinbrook Island – Australia’s largest island national park and home to a dramatic waterfall and plunge pool. For the ultimate exclusive island escape, Pelorus is globally unparalleled. 

Makepeace Island

The diminutive Makepeace Island lies in the Noosa River, an exclusive retreat just a short boat ride from the cosmopolitan coastal town of Noosa Heads. 

The ideal combination of solitude and diversity, Makepeace is the former holiday residence of Sir Richard Branson, now open for private use or cohabitation with a small handful of fellow guests. Residents will enjoy superb catering, with in-room massage services, a private chef and numerous activities at their disposal. Five minutes away, Noosa River’s terrace of shops and restaurants provides a wide array of entertainment and dining choices, while the main town of Noosa Heads has a gamut of world-class restaurants and breathtaking beaches. 

Makepeace Island Heart, Noosa, Noosa Heads, Australia, Queensland, Australian Islands
Photos: Makepeace Island

Fringing the eastern cape, a protected national park encourages scenic strolls with the chance of spotting koalas, echidnas, and bush wallabies, while dolphins frolic in the waves and, in the right season, humpback whales breach in the deeper ocean. Further inland, the region is a hub of artisan cuisine, and a culinary safari through the mountain ranges uncovers boutique wineries, handcrafted cheeses, decadent chocolateries, and panoramic views from hinterland to coast.

Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe is the jewel of the Tasman Sea, with Australia 375 miles (600km) to the east and New Zealand 1,100 miles (1,750km) westward. The protected island has a permanent population of less than 350 people – many of whom cater to visitors – and a host of rare and endemic wildlife. Cooler than the tropical islands of the Great Barrier Reef, Lord Howe is breathtakingly spectacular, swathed in lowland forests and with mountains towering over its northern shores. 

The island lends itself to beach strolls and day hikes, but there is so much more that draws visitors. The alluring ocean is a marvel of nature, brimming with life. Water activities open this aquatic domain to guests, while the island boasts a golf course, tennis courts, superb birdwatching, yoga, and indulgent spa treatments.

Far from the mainland, Lord Howe is one of Australia’s most remote protectorates, inspiring the truest sense of escapism. Flights from the mainland’s major cities take between two and four hours, allowing a weekend retreat to be incorporated into a greater Australian itinerary. While the previous islands mentioned cater to luxury and seclusion, Lord Howe is a sanctuary particularly suited to nature lovers.

Secreted away on a stretch of forested coastline lies Capella Lodge, its nine private villas reflecting the impression of barefoot luxury and surrounded by captivating unspoiled wilderness. Capella is a sensational home-from-home to explore the island at large from. Guided walks take guests to its furthest reaches and lofty vantage points from which to survey the entire island; superb catering provides gourmet dining in-house, with the opportunity to take a serene picnic in secluded environs; and the local knowledge of staff allows guests to enjoy the quintessential Lord Howe experience, taking in the very best that the island has to offer.


Australia’s Apple Isle is by far the largest of the country’s islands and forms one of its eight states and territories. Despite being considerably more populated than other islands, Tasmania’s 26,400 square miles (68,400km²) is, for the greater part, designated protected wilderness. The capital of Hobart is a thriving fishing port, and seafood plays a large part in the renowned culinary culture of Tasmania. Creative residents are equally revered for their foodcraft, farms rearing world-class cattle, and producing cheeses, preserves and other produce. Locally-made beverages range from craft beers to wines and spirits, providing delicious tipples along picturesque road trips.

On the eastern shores, Freycinet National Park allows one to escape into the rugged wild, multi-day hikes and bushland strolls revealing secluded bays and an abundance of flora and fauna. Tasmania has one of the most prolific populations of wombats and elusive platypus, as well as being the only habitat of the endangered eponymous Tasmanian devil. While luxury is prevalent, the southern state is distinctly rural and considerably cooler than the mainland, an ideal destination for some who may struggle in the oppressive heat of the north, or those searching for gastronomic revelry.

Kangaroo Island

Also off Australia’s southern shores, Kangaroo Island is a spectacular sanctuary for wildlife, with profuse nature thriving due to a lack of predators. The foremost destination for koalas, one can also find echidnas, platypus, wallabies, penguins, seals and, of course, kangaroos – including an endemic sub-species.

Widely acclaimed as Australia’s Galápagos, Kangaroo Island was decimated by wildfires in 2020. A joint task force has enacted an admirable rehabilitation, and the island, though still bearing the blackened scars of bushfires, has rejuvenated magnificently.

With this has come the redevelopment of Southern Ocean Lodge, a stunning property crowning the majestic limestone headlands of its southern coast. Spectacular vistas across the ocean gracing each of its twenty-five glass-fronted luxury suites, Southern Ocean Lodge provides distinctive solitude and a collection of bespoke experiences. Guided coastal walks, epicurean adventures, hikes to the majestic Remarkable Rocks, and visits to the wildlife sanctuary that has diligently aided the recovery of the island’s mammalian residents are just a few of the stunning pastimes available to guests.

Additional Islands

Hamilton Island: Hamilton Island is a haven for divers, and several SCUBA businesses have established themselves here with direct access to the Great Barrier Reef. Though significantly frequented by a wide range of tourists, Qualia Resort, hidden away in a less populated corner of the island, offers exclusive and tranquil luxury. For those wishing to incorporate an underwater aspect to their itinerary, Hamilton Island will provide more than enough opportunity.

Wadjemup: Very much a tourist destination and not particularly appealing to the more discerning traveler, Wadjemup (Rottnest Island) nonetheless holds one specific and almost completely endemic attraction: its adorable quokka. For wildlife lovers, Wadjemup’s enchanting mini marsupials more than justify the day trip from Perth on Australia’s west coast.

Australia’s islands present a collection of experiences rarely achieved by its more accessible and iconic destinations.

Stepping from the shore, one is whisked away to another realm; one of solitude and tranquility, absolute wilderness, quaint culture, and absolute escapism.

Discover the island’s islands and you will be transported into a luxurious haven of peace and serenity.