Image credit: Ha’apai Beach Resort
Torn between sipping cocktails on a beach and cramming as many family activities into your itinerary as possible? Find balance on the friendly islands of Tonga. Direct flights from Sydney to Nuku’alofa take less than five hours. After exploring the main island of Tongatapu, take a plane to Lifuka Island and lie back on the golden sands of Ha’apai Beach Resort while the kids entertain themselves watching for passing humpback whales or snorkelling the serene waters.
Image credit: New Caledonia Travel
Nouméa, New Caledonia2/16
Only three hours east of Sydney, New Caledonia is the island paradise you’ve been waiting for. Spend your days lazing on white-sand beaches by shimmering turquoise waters in Nouméa, the capital city, but take a break to visit Port Moselle Market for a decadent eclair or baguette. Activities like whale watching, snorkelling and kayaking make this a perfect destination for families.
Image credit: Max and Faye
Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory3/16
Flights from Darwin to the Tiwi Islands take just 30 minutes but this under-the-radar gem is full of surprises. Marvel at the islands’ red cliffs and immerse yourself in the culture of the Tiwi people, who have inhabited the island for more than 40,000 years. On Bathurst Island lies the Tiwi Island Retreat, where luxury glamping tents can comfortably accommodate five guests and feature private beachfront spas.
Image credit: James Stone
Lord Howe Island, New South Wales4/16
Get close to the biota that earned Lord Howe Island its spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list by joining a bird-watching expedition or hopping onto one of Islander Cruises’ glass-bottomed boats to view coral reefs teeming with colourful fish. At day’s end, unwind at Capella Lodge, which overlooks the island’s iconic Gower and Lidgbird mountains. It’s all just a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Sydney.
Viti Levu, Fiji5/16
If your heart races at the thought of a spontaneous island getaway, the golden shores of Fiji are calling your name. Take a 6am flight out of Sydney and you could be in Seventh Heaven (a luxury floating bar) sipping fruity cocktails by lunchtime. Check into Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort, where you can indulge in couples’ massages and bubbles by the beach.
Image credit: Adam Gibson
King Island, Tasmania6/16
It’s easy to live like royalty on King Island. Not only does it abound in natural beauty, it’s also a food lover’s paradise. Everything from fresh seafood, locally produced cheese, beer and spirits are waiting to be sampled. Make yourself at home at Kittawa Lodge, where you’ll take in views of the rugged coastline while enjoying a private chef-prepared meal.
Image credit: Norfolk Island
Norfolk Island’s remote location, historic colonial buildings and the gently undulating waters of Emily Bay make the two-and-a-half-hour flight from Brisbane more than worthwhile for travellers seeking a relaxed pace away from frantic crowds. After sunset, turn your gaze to the sky; thanks to its minimal light pollution, the island has been designated a Gold Level Dark Sky Town, assuring you panoramic views of the cosmos.
In this tropical paradise, a seven-hour direct flight from Sydney, you’ll find an incredible rainforest and coral reef to explore. Make your way to To Sua Ocean Trench and reserve a beachfront villa at the Saletoga Sands Resorts, a seven-minute drive from the natural wonder. In the evening, follow the Main East Coast Road into Apia to experience Paddles Restaurant, which serves classic Italian and local Samoan fare.
Kangaroo Island, South Australia9/16
Whether you’re bobbing in the calm waters of Emu Bay, brunching at Millie Mae’s Pantry, or tumbling down sand dunes after the kids at Vivonne Bay, it’s hard to deny the feeling that once you set foot on Kangaroo Island, time slows down. The island, which is a 40-minute flight from Adelaide, has a laid-back spirit perfect for extended family gatherings. The luxurious Hamilton and Dune holiday houses can accommodate up to 12 guests (six in each house).
Hawaii’s capital Honolulu checks all the boxes for an unforgettable group getaway: buzzy nightclubs like The District, delicious food, relaxed beachy atmosphere and an abundance of group activities. Flights from Sydney take 10-and-a-half hours to reach Oahu and you can’t go wrong splashing out on a suite at the Ritz-Carlton Residences overlooking Waikiki Beach.
Image credit: Tropical North Queensalnd
Horn Island, Queensland11/16
Independent travellers can diverge from the major tourist crowds by visiting Horn Island, a two-hour flight from Cairns. The main jetty is a popular fishing spot and crystalline waters offer an unparalleled backdrop for casting a line and waiting for fish to bite. Join a Peddells ferry and bus tour to Thursday Island, where you can immerse yourself in the region’s rich cultural, military, maritime and pearling history.
Appropriately dubbed the “Island of the Gods”, Bali’s verdant landscape and sun-soaked beaches make this paradise a popular playground for holidaying Australians. Avoid the crowds by visiting Ubud, an hour and a half’s drive north of Kuta, and explore the island’s cultural heart. Wander through the thousand-year-old Elephant Cave, explore the serene Saraswati Temple and shop for local handcrafted wares at the Ubud Traditional Art Market before retiring to your private pool and villa at Viceroy Bali.
Image credit: Sharyn Cairns
Hamilton Island, Queensland13/16
The Great Barrier Reef is home to more than 900 islands and Hamilton Island, a two-and-a-half-hour direct flight from Sydney, is a haven for romantic getaways and family holidays alike. Book a Windward Pavilion at Qualia, on the northern tip of the island, and embark on a private helicopter tour of postcard-perfect Heart Reef. Then it’s decision time: explore the surface of those dazzling waters on kayak, dive deep with a snorkel or chill by your private plunge pool. No stress.
Dolphins and reef sharks are just some of the cruisy creatures you might come across when snorkelling in the Solomon Islands. A three-and-a-half-hour flight from Brisbane, these islands were a major outpost during World War II, so a stop at the Vilu Military Museum near Honiara is a must, as is a yacht expedition and diving in historic shipwreck sites.
Rarotonga, Cook Islands15/16
A seven-hour flight from Sydney, Rarotonga is the beating heart of the Cook Islands and boasts epic rainforests to hike and pristine waters to explore, all watched over by the island’s highest mountain, Te Manga. Beachfront dining is a must, as is sipping cocktails by the pool, when you stay at the intimate 17-villa Nautilus Resort.