Australia has over 8,000 islands dotted around its huge coastline. Some you could easily swim to whereas others take hours by boat or plane to reach. Many Australian islands are on Crown land that can only be leased and not owned. However, this has not deterred hoteliers from developing hotels and resorts on some of Australia’s most spectacular islands. So where are the most exclusive Australian islands that you should add to your ‘must visit’ list? Perhaps surprisingly, in most cases it’s not the accommodation which makes a stay on the following islands so exclusive (and so eye wateringly expensive). Start reaching for your credit card, you’re probably going to need it, but these five Australian islands are worth the spend.
This island retreat located in D’Entrecasteaux Channel in the south of Tasmania is a private island oasis with the choice of a small wooden house with wrap around veranda or designer boatshed when it comes to accommodation. A stay on Satellite Island involves the chance to explore the stunning landscape which includes native bush land filled with ancient blue gums, sheer sea cliffs that descend into pristine clear water and pebble beaches that are perfect for a picnic with a glass of Tasmanian wine. Bring books, walking shoes and a wetsuit if you want to swim and totally unwind from the world. The island also has snorkels, fishing equipment, and kayaks for exploring. Dining comes with gourmet breakfast provisions, a fully stocked pantry with gourmet essentials plus a virtually endless supply of wild oysters. It takes five minutes by boat to reach Satellite Island from nearby Bruny Island. Rates begin at $1,800 per night for two guests with a minimum two-night stay.
Cocos Keeling Islands
The Cocos Keeling Islands are a collection of 27 islands, although only two of them – Home Island and West island – are inhabited. Perhaps one of the best islands is Direction Island, an island paradise that has one of the best beaches in Australia (and wi-fi so you can upload photos to social media while you’re there and make all your friends insanely jealous). Get dropped off at Direction Island with a picnic and snorkelling gear and enjoy the beach, reef and huge array of fish which call these waters home. The Cocos Keeling Islands are home to a Malay society of about 600 people who have been together for more than 150 years due to geographical isolation, shared religious beliefs, strong family loyalty and a unique version of the old ‘Trading Malay’ language of the East Indies.
This rich culture is an important part of the island and influences its traditions, food and religion. Visitors are encouraged to explore the culture and can participate in cooking classes that focus on the Cocos Malay cuisine. Accommodation is modest but affordable at around $250 a night for two people. It is cost of getting to the Cocos Keeling Islands which makes this island experience so exclusive. Don’t expect change from $1,200 flying return from Perth. It is even more expensive to reach these islands from other destinations.
Lord Howe Island
This UNESCO listed island is part of New South Wales and a true island paradise with palm trees, secluded beaches, mountains, rainforests, the southernmost tropical reef in the world and great weather provided you choose a time to visit that suits you. In short, Lord Howe Island is so beautiful it will take your breath away. Another bonus is the fact only 400 tourists are allowed on the island at any one time. Add about 300 residents and you will still likely have those beautiful beaches to yourself most of the time. The island is like a small Australian country town that has been transported to a tropical paradise with friendly locals and loads of great retro accommodation. There are also two high-end luxury resorts which are priced accordingly.
Prices for accommodation range from about $200 a night for a comfortable self-contained studio room to $1,000+ per person per night at one of the luxury resorts. Lord Howe Island’s exclusivity is more about the price of getting to the island than the cost of staying there. QANTAS runs the only regular flight to the island at about $1,400 return from Sydney for just two hours flying time. Cost wise, this is equivalent to a Sydney/LA return ticket. While this laid back, beautiful and unique island is arguably worth the spend, a stay here is not something everyone will be able to afford. We love Lord Howe Island but the expense of visiting here is becoming a major problem for many travellers.
Christmas Island is perhaps best known for its red crab migration when thousands of crabs cover the island and head to the sea. But there’s more to Christmas Island than these famous crustaceans. Located in the Indian Ocean off Western Australia, Christmas Island is closer to Indonesia than Australia and has some truly amazing sights from coral reefs and whale sharks to diverse fauna and flora, secluded beaches and a culture that blends Chinese, Malay and European heritage.
Accommodation on Christmas Island is basic although a luxury eco lodge should hopefully be opening soon. Flights from Perth start at around $1,200 return. In fact, it is cheaper to fly from Jakarta for around $780 return and closer too with flights only taking an hour compared to three hours from Perth. At least the accommodation is affordable when you arrive, with rates starting at around $120 per night.
Situated in the far northern section of the Great Barrier Reef off Cooktown, Lizard Island is one of only three island resorts situated right on the Great Barrier Reef. With 24 private beaches and a high-end resort with just 40 rooms and villas, this secluded island is a haven for the rich and famous seeking privacy mixed with luxury. Go snorkelling or diving on the reef in the morning then enjoy a day spa in the afternoon following by sunset drinks on your private patio overlooking the bay and a romantic dinner for two. Lizard Island Resort is all inclusive so meals plus all non-alcoholic drinks are included.
All alcoholic drinks you will also have to pay for along with additional activities such as snorkelling trips. The price tag for all this luxurious privacy is over $1,000 per person per night plus $700 per person for transfers via Cairns on a chartered plane. There is no other way to reach the resort unless you have a friend with a yacht or take a cruise with Coral Expeditions. Yes, Lizard Island expensive, but that it why it’s not overrun with tourists. You can camp on the island for A$6.25 per day but you will have to BYO all supplies, including everything from your accommodation to water, and take all of your rubbish off the island with you when you leave.
Disclosure: These islands are expensive to visit but there is no denying they’re worth the spend (even though your credit card will probably take a while to recover after your trip).
Want something different? How about these gorgeous Australian Island Resorts?