For backpackers touring Australia's East Coast, tear up the usual itinerary, get adventurous and explore these top five East Coast islands
1. Heron Island
Resting within the Capricorn Group of islands on the Great Barrier Reef, Heron Island is a haven for an abundance of wildlife. Between October and April, thousands of wedge-tailed shearwaters and black noddies breed here. The island is also a major nesting ground for green turtles. With over 900 fish species and 72% of the coral species found on the Great Barrier Reef, it is also incredibly popular with divers and snorkelers. Despite its name, Heron Island isn’t home to many herons at all – the white-necked heron can be seen occasionally waiting patiently for a fishy dinner from time to time.
2. Frankland Islands
About 45km south of Cairns, enter the lesser-known, but strikingly beautiful, Frankland Islands. Join a day-tour to discover all the secrets Frankland has to offer. Most day-tours include a guided snorkelling trip around the island’s vibrant bommies (an area where sea waves break over shallow waters of the reef) for close-up encounters with sea turtles, as well as a semi-submersible tour and an island walk.
3. Fitzroy Island
Can’t get enough of sea turtles? Take a 45-minute ferry ride from Cairns to Fitzroy Island where you’ll find the volunteer-run Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. This place cares for injured turtles before releasing them back to the ocean and has one of the highest success rates in Australia, with 85% of the turtles returned to the wild. With most of the island established as a national park, the must-do activity is to complete the hike to the island’s summit. There is also plenty opportunity to kayak and snorkel around the island. After a long day of exploring, head to Foxy’s Bar to unwind and sip cocktails in a stunning setting.
4. Low Isles
Comprising of Low Island and Woody Island, the pristine and pintsized Low Isles provide the perfect island getaway from Port Douglas. Low Island and its surrounding reef, with over 150 species of coral and a myriad of colourful inhabitants living among them, offer superb snorkelling opportunities. Day trips can be arranged from Port Douglas and typically include a diving or snorkelling experience.
5. Fraser Island
The biggest draw of the world’s largest sand island is seeing dingoes in their natural setting. Remote beaches, ancient rainforests and pristine creeks also make Fraser Island a backpacker’s paradise. There are over 45 camping zones available – from remote sites to more comfortable grounds with hot showers, you can always find a place to rest your head after a full day of adventure. For something more luxurious, stay at the beautiful Kingfisher Bay Resort. Here you can enjoy ranger-guided eco walks and pampering spa treatments.
Before you go, check out: