See & Do

The islands of Australia

Did you know that Australia has more than 8,000 islands? Most people probably only think of the main continent and perhaps Tasmania. Some of Australia’s islands are just off the coast, in bays, and have small towns, shipyards, or are wildlife areas. Many are uninhabited. Let’s look at a few islands of Australia.

Tasmania is the largest of Australia’s islands and it’s also a state. It has a population of about 507,626 and half of them reside in and around the capital city of Hobart. I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Tasmania. It’s very beautiful, clean, and peaceful. It’s easy to get to Tasmania if you’re in Melbourne. You can take the overnight ferry or a short flight. It’s the only one of Australia’s islands I’ve visited, but there are others on my list.

Macquarie Island coast.
Macquarie Island by M. Murphy, public domain.

Sitting almost halfway between Tasmania and Antarctica, Macquarie Island is literally one of the gloomiest places on the Earth with an average of only about 850 hours of sunshine per year and sometimes it snows during the summer. So why would anyone want to go there? Because adventurers want to go everywhere and this is an interesting place. Macca, as it’s known, is a sub-antarctic island named a World Heritage Site due to its unique features such as that is has no trees and it’s the only place in the world where rocks from the mantle are exposed at sea level. It’s also home to penguins, more than 80,000 seals, and supports 3.5 million breeding seabirds. The island’s only human inhabitants are 20-40 people that work at Macca’s research base.

Seals on the beach of Kangaroo Island.
Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island by Didier B (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest island. Separated from the mainland about 9,000 years ago, I really want to go here because of its unspoiled natural beauty and it’s not that far from Melbourne. One third of the island is protected as conservation and natural parks. It’s a popular tourist destination, but I’ve been told it’s not crowded (is anywhere in Australia crowded?) and you can get a better wildlife experience here than some other places such as Philip Island. The attractions include a penguin parade, walking among seals on the beach, spectacular sand dunes in the bushland, beautiful caves, and the island’s gourmet produce. Kangaroo Island is just a 30-minute flight south from Adelaide or less than 2.5 hours by car or ferry.

Hill inlet on Whitsunday Island.
Hill inlet on Whitsunday Island by Ester Inbar (user:ST, Wikimedia Commons).

Whitsunday Island is the main hub of a collection of more than 70 islands off the coast of Queensland. There’s actually some debate about which islands make up the Whitsundays, but there’s no question about why people come  here – the Great Barrier Reef and pristine golden beaches. It’s a year-round aquatic playground perfect for swimming, snorkelling, diving, sailing, fishing, and getting yourself marooned on one of its many uninhabited islands with a special someone.

Christmas Island Red Crabs.
Christmas Island Red Crabs by National Geographic.

Christmas Island is closer to Indonesia than Australia. It’s on this list because Theo wants to go there and see 65 million red crabs slowly march from the forest, through the towns, and to the beach to mate and lay eggs in the sea. Then he wants to see their gazillion babies march from the shore to the forest a few weeks later.

Norfolk Island Jail.
Norfolk Island Jail by Steve Daggar (CC BY 3.0).

Norfolk Island is in the Pacific between Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. Originally settled by Polynesian seafarers, like Port Arthur in Tasmania, the remote Norkolk Island became a British penal settlement. After it was abandoned, the island was resettled by descendants of the Tahitians and the HMS Bounty mutineers. The climate is subtropical and mild and Norfolk Island is said to be very beautiful with its rolling plains, sloping cliffs, and beautiful pines.

Have you visited Australia’s islands?