Best of the Great Barrier Reef Islands
The lowdown on the best island resorts from north to south
Did you know that there are over 900 islands in the Great Barrier Reef? After a week exploring the jungle, deserts or outback of Australia, a sand encircled tropical island could be the perfect end to your Australian adventure, and luckily the Great Barrier Reef has a huge choice. But first, take a geographical journey with us, from north to south, and find out which Great Barrier Reef islands get the Bailey Robinson seal of approval.
Dive in Paradise
When you visualise a map of Australia, a sharp pinnacle outlines the far north of Queensland, and it’s here, off the northernmost tip of the Barrier Reef and enveloped by the Coral Sea, that you’ll find Lizard Island. Not only is Lizard a convenient 45-minute hop from Cairns and the Daintree Rainforest, the luxe island offers near-total privacy, astonishing diving and snorkelling, and an incredible 27 snow-white beaches.
Whether you take an oceanfront, beach or garden room, you’ll feel very much at home in the stylishly designed suites, some of which come with private plunge pools. Spend your day meandering sandy tracks to deserted beaches or take to the seas on your own dingy for snorkelling in the renowned waters of Cod Hole alongside manta rays, barracudas and the huge potato cod. Life doesn’t get much better than this.
“Fresh air and a day on the ocean will give you an appetite. Thankfully, the five-course dinner at Lizard’s restaurant doesn’t disappoint, paired with smooth Australian wines.”
Make your lunch a luxury picnic in a secluded cove. Take a dingy out with your loved one, stop for a snorkel before choosing a private spot and enjoy ice-cold champagne, lobster and crab sandwiches.
Bedarra Island Resort
With just ten villas sprinkled around 45 acres of lush tropical foliage, Bedarra Island is an all-natural hideaway surrounded by translucent turquoise waters that lap the island’s powdery white beaches. Located 10 kilometres off the coast of North Queensland, in between Cairns and Townsville, Bedarra is an easy hop by helicopter or launch. On arrival, you’ll discover a curvaceous island, each rocky headland revealing another sensational beach, backed by smooth boulders and overhanging palm trees.
Verdant rainforest tops the island and conceals the accommodation. Choose a treehouse, a beachside villa, or a hilltop retreat, all slightly different, featuring outdoor bathrooms, plunge pools and private sundecks. Spend your day exploring the island along rainforest trails, kayak to secluded beaches, or snorkel the reefs surrounding the resort. Come back for a candlelit dinner for two on the beach – the perfect finish to another day in paradise.
“Bedarra Island is made for romantics with its secluded beaches, pristine water and sunsets that set the sky aglow.”
Charter a fishing boat for a deep sea, outer reef fishing trip to try your luck at reef, pelagic or sport fish. Then have the chef prepare your catch for dinner.
PRIVATE ISLAND BLISS
Orpheus Island Lodge
Eleven kilometres of curved coastline embrace Orpheus Island, a private island lodge fringed by pristine reef just a few steps from the beach. For divers and ocean-lovers alike, Orpheus, set within 1,000 hectares of national park, is an unspoilt haven where you can get up close to the Great Barrier Reef to spot a dazzling array of marine life.
Accessible only by helicopter, Orpheus has an exclusive yet welcoming feel. This is very much your paradise to enjoy, and a generous all-inclusive programme means delicious buffet breakfasts and just-caught seafood for lunch, followed by four-course dinners with the best Australian wines and beers. Head out on aquatic adventures by day – take a dinghy to an isolated cove for a picnic, or paddleboard through the mangroves. For active types a hike up to the island’s research station will reward you with an educational eco-tour of a facility that helps protect this marine wonderland.
“This island paradise has a smart, nautical decor with spacious white-on-white bungalows that have colour accents taken from the sea and gorgeous bathrooms with free-standing tubs.”
Don’t miss ‘Dining with the Tides’ where you and a loved one are treated to a six-course tasting menu, served on the pier, where sharks and rays swish underneath and stars twinkle overhead.
InterContinental Hayman Island
Fresh from a multi-million-dollar overhaul, this iconic resort is located on the wispy sands of Hayman Island – one of the Whitsundays’ most northerly and beautiful isles. Modern and contemporary, Hayman is a private island that offers a glamorous, smart way to experience the Whitsundays, attracting well-heeled couples and families from around the world.
This may well be a tropical idyll, but Hayman has everything you need and more. With three restaurants, two bars, a spa, a variety of water sports and an absolutely huge pool, you’ll find your days easily filled. Plus Hayman’s northerly position within the 900 islands that make up the Whitsundays means easy access to Whitehaven Beach, regularly voted as the most beautiful in the world. Sail around its whiter-than-white sands where ribbons of aquamarine water weave around the shallow lagoon.
“Come to Hayman Island for luxe resort living on one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the world: the Whitsundays.”
We recommend choosing one of the beach bungalows. As well as opening out onto a private patch of pristine beach, the rooms are more spacious and secluded, and some have plunge pools.
QUALIA - Hamilton Island
Qualia is one of the Great Barrier Reef’s most elegant and immaculate resorts. Built by a billionaire, the resort feels lavish – with seemingly no detail overlooked. Located on the northern tip of Hamilton Island, qualia is a collection of luxury pavilions built around tropical foliage, facing a wide expanse of the Coral Sea. We recommend booking the generously appointed Windward Pavilions that come with plunge pools and heavenly views of the Barrier Reef.
As qualia neighbours the Whitsunday Islands, take this chance to get up close to the wonder of Whitehaven Beach and admire the beauty of shockingly white silica sand as it meets iridescent blues in the shallow lagoon. Make time for explorations on the ocean too – snorkel and dive the surrounding Great Barrier Reef or be dropped at a deserted beach and be picked up as the sun sets.
“Hamilton Island is mostly car-free and you can explore by golf buggy. Swing past the marina and head to the hills for a cooling cocktail.”
For the ultimate romantic gesture, visit Heart Island. Gaze at this auspiciously shaped island from above by helicopter, before landing on Heart Island’s pontoon for a snorkel around its reef.
Have questions? Our knowledgeable team of experts are on-hand to take your call or if you prefer by Zoom. Talk to us about your holiday dreams or challenge us with your travel conundrums.Get in touch
Enjoy reading our colourful collection of travel blogs, insider journeys and first-person insights. Our articles are designed to fuel your wanderlust. Feeling inspired? Give us a call and our experts can start planning your next travel experience.
Into the Outback
Into the Outback
Booking with Bailey Robinson means access to the finest travel experiences. When planning your holiday we do all the hard work – in-depth research and meticulous organisation. You can be confident in the individual care for your holiday from your dedicated and experienced Personal Travel Designer and Concierge.