Cast away on Wilson Island, a coral cay in the southern Great Barrier Reef and one of the best island escapes in Australia.
Wilson Island, QLD
It’s glamping, off-grid
A stay at Wilson Island resort is as much about what isn’t there as what is. A blip about 80 kilometres off the coast of Gladstone, Wilson has neither phone reception nor wi-fi but it does have nine Reef Safari Tents nestled in the salty scrub (and shared bathroom facilities, though it never feels a hardship). Go large on local produce and fresh seafood in the timber-clad dining area. Later, settle on the sand with a cheese hamper and a glass from your tailored drinks package to watch the sunset. With only tides to set your watch by, spend the hours drifting between your tent’s kingsized bed, hammock and verandah.
You’ll see turtles hatching
Wilson Island might only accommodate 18 human guests at any one time but a spring or summer stay is often in the company of hundreds of endangered green and loggerhead sea turtles. As evening falls, the gentle marine reptiles quietly haul themselves onto the beach to nest before returning to the sea the next morning. Come January, hatching season begins and thousands of tiny hatchlings emerge and scurry across the sand for the shelter of the reef.
Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland/Mark Fitz.
Snorkel with rays
The warmer months are not the only time to see Wilson Island’s diverse array of wildlife. Turtles are always there, swimming only a short distance from the beach alongside cowtail and whiptail rays, reef sharks, Maori wrasses and parrot fish. In the shallow waters beyond the shoreline, conditions are ideal for exploring the dramatic coral escarpments. Most impressive is the huge Wilson Bommie – this coral column, just 30 metres offshore, measures five metres high by five metres wide and teems with turtles, eagle rays and clownfish.\
Tiwi Islands, NT
Take a trip beyond the Top End to this archipelago 80 kilometres north of Darwin in the Timor Sea – a place of extraordinary natural beauty. Tiwi Island Retreat ( on the western shore of Bathurst Island elevates the typical Tiwi fishing lodge, with its relaxed, barefoot indulgence and array of memorable experiences. Sure, you can spend the day barra fishing and pulling crab pots out of the estuaries (and debriefing over beers by the pool afterwards) but the retreat also offers beach-buggy trips, helicopter adventures to remote swimming holes and Indigenous art and culture tours.
Image credit: Tourism NT/Elise Cook 2019.
Picnic Island, TAS
Draw up a short list of your nine closest mates because just 10 guests can stay on this private Coles Bay islet at one time. A five-bedroom property constructed with reclaimed Tasmanian-oak finishes and floor-to-ceiling windows, Picnic Island abounds with natural wonders that make staying in feel like missing out. Busy yourself fishing for flathead and squid, foraging for mussels and diving for abalone and crayfish or just gazing across the water at Freycinet National Park. After dark, retire to the Birdhouse, the communal dining and lounge area, for a night of local food and wine enjoyed around the fire.
Lord Howe Island, NSW
After a two-hour flight from Sydney, the chosen few (only 400 visitors are allowed here at any one time) could be wandering on an empty beach, scanning the horizon from Kim’s Lookout or slipping on a snorkel and mask to see colourful coral, turtles and a rainbow of tropical fish on the reef’s fringe.
While the island’s World Heritage-listed beaches, reefs, mountains and biodiversity are the drawcard for some, the less intrepid can while away the hours over a threecourse dinner and sunset cocktails at eco-resort Capella Lodge.
Image credit: Tom Archer.