Best Close-to-Home Island Holiday Destinations in 2022

Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island is a quiet paradise, often overlooked yet unforgettable once found. Discover for yourself why visitors return time and time again.

Take a short flight from Sydney or Brisbane and you will find yourself in one of Australia's most fascinating and historical destinations. Settled by descendants of mutineers who speak a mix of Tahitian and 18th century English, it's a friendly place where giving a small ‘Norfolk wave’ as cars pass each other is practically mandatory, cows have right of way and everyone knows everyone else.

Highlights

Emily Bay Lagoon - Swim in the perfectly clear water amongst the coral and marine life living in Emily Bay Lagoon, a gloriously curved crescent of golden sand, backed by an expanse of grass and shaded by majestic Norfolk Pines.

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History - Wander around the beautiful stone buildings of Kingston built during the convict settlement, visit the convict cemetery, or explore the four incredible museums with a knowledgeable and passionate guide.

Great food - Visit the charming clifftop property at The Hilli Goat for a tour of this unique family-run micro-farm. Meet the resident goats, visit the milking sheds and learn how the sought-after goats milk cheese and skincare is created.

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Golf - Set within the Kingston and Arthurs Vale Historic Area, this nine-hole, 18-tee golf course offers stunning views from every hole, including the notorious fourth and thirteenth, where the green is tucked into a rock face.

Beautiful scenery - There is no shortage of incredible spots for witnessing the vibrant and colourful sunsets on Norfolk Island. Join the locals at Sunset Bar for sundowners and live music with a view at the home of Les and Pip Quintal.

Nature - Explore the rolling green hills and towering pine trees residing in Norfolk Island’s National Park. Take the bridle track from Captain Cook Monument and Lookout and see the towering rock formations that erupt from the crashing seas below.

Wine - Sip one (or five) of the splendid varietals at Two Chimney’s Winery, Norfolk Island’s only winery. Take a glass and cheese platter through the cellar door onto the large verandah overlooking the vines where you can easily while away an afternoon.

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Bird watching - Spend a morning with Margaret Christian, author, researcher and former Park Ranger. With exclusive access to some areas, this bird watching tour is great for seeking out the beautiful and often rare endemic bird species who call Norfolk Island home.

Fishing - Drop a line off the pier, cast out from the beach or jump on a charter to fish the surrounding reefs with a local guide. Often called “catching” for how easy it is, you'll quickly see why this area is so well renowned for its abundant waters.

Suggested Norfolk Island Tour - Sage Travel's Norfolk Island Experience

Tiwi Islands

With a thriving Aboriginal arts culture, secluded fishing lodges and a passion for football, the Tiwi Islands promise a holiday like no other.

A unique part of Australia, the Tiwi Islands are an off-the-beaten-track destination for intrepid travellers. The islands are renowned for the excellent fishing opportunities and the locals are welcoming. Almost 90 per cent of residents are of Aboriginal descent and you can meet some of them on a range of cultural tours.

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Highlights

Culture - The Tiwi Islands have deep cultural roots, with most of the island residents of Aboriginal descent. The only way to truly understand these islands is to experience their culture. Tiwi By Design, AAT Kings and SeaLink all offer cultural day tours.

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Fishing - Rushing rivers, winding creeks and plenty of coastline make the Tiwi Islands an incredible fishing destination. Toss a line and you can catch more than 40 species of fish like barramundi and snapper. Hop aboard your perfect fishing tour.

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Hidden retreat - Hidden away on the western side of Bathurst Island, Tiwi Island Retreat is the perfect place to relax and enjoy all that the island has to offer. More than accommodation, the retreat offers unforgettable experiences.

Art - The Tiwi Islands have a thriving Indigenous arts scene, and Tiwi Design is a great place to start learning about ancient art practices, browse locally made artworks and support the local community. Find out more about Tiwi Design.

Like a local - Visitors of Clearwater Island Lodge have the opportunity to experience the island like a local. The lodge offers a range of experiences like crocodile spotting, bushtucker sampling, bird watching and even golf.

Lord Howe Island

Leave the pace of modern life behind when you visit World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island.

The lush natural paradise of Lord Howe Island is less than two hours by plane from Sydney and Brisbane but you will feel worlds away. With only 400 tourists permitted on the island at any one time, you can soak up the solitude or mingle with friendly locals, peppering your stay with indulging spa treatments, incredible food and wine and adventures in the stunning natural landscape. With nothing but clean air and lush mountainous terrain surrounding you, you're in for a relaxing, nature-filled escape.

Highlights

Amazing accommodation - Lord Howe Island is beautiful, so of course it has stunning accommodation to match. Capella Lodge overlooks beaches and volcanic peaks and boasts a gorgeous pool and eco-friendly solar power system.

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Great walks - The six-day Seven Peaks Walk gives you the chance to get to know the island’s incredible scenery on foot. Along the way, you’ll encounter palm forests, rugged sea cliffs and a variety of marine life. Learn more about the guided Seven Peaks Walk.

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Gourmet - Capella Lodge is a five-star luxury haven with a seasonal menu to match. The menu is designed to make the most of the amazing local and regional produce, and all you have to do is enjoy sunset drinks and canapes with views of Mount Gower.

Cruise around - Lord Howe curls around a beautiful bright blue lagoon, full of fish, coral and other marine life. You can swim the lagoon from the beach, but to see some of the more spectacular snorkel sites, take a two-hour glass bottom boat tour.

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Hiking - If you’re up for some adventure, hiking to the summit of Mount Gower belongs on your list. The 14-kilometre (8.7-mile) return hike takes about 8.5 hours (complete with rope-assisted climbs) and must be undertaken with a registered guide.

Diving - If you're a scuba diver, head to Balls Pyramid with Pro Dive to enjoy the caves and waters at the base alongside dolphins, turtles, marlin, and rare species like Spanish dancers, Galapagos whalers and Ballina angelfish.

Fauna & Flora - Bird watchers flock to Lord Howe for the island’s 130 bird species. After a volcanic eruption seven million years ago, the newly formed island became a haven for plants and seabirds. Find out more about birdwatching on Lord Howe.

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Hamilton Island

White sands, green palms and a coral reef on your doorstep. Hamilton Island just might be paradise.

Hamilton Island is one of Australia’s most desirable holiday destinations. ‘Hamo’ – as it’s affectionately known to locals – is the largest island in the Whitsundays, an archipelago of 74 scenic islands that make up just one part of the Great Barrier Reef. Luxury resorts, scuba diving, beaches and scenic flights – this is a place with beauty both above and beneath the water.

Highlights

Whitehaven Beach and Heart Reef - Some of Australia’s greatest natural wonders lie near Hamilton Island, and Whitehaven Beach and Heart Reef are two of the most beautiful. You’ll be blown away by the blue water and white sand.

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Explore the reefs - The world’s largest coral reef has to be seen to be believed. The Whitsundays are full of coral gardens and aquatic life like sea turtles, clownfish and even the odd visiting dolphin or whale.

Awesome resorts - Pure luxury – that’s what you’ll find at Hamilton Island’s qualia. This resort is located at the secluded northern tip of the island, and with panoramic views and spa treatments, you’ll feel like you have found the ultimate hideaway.

View from the top - If you think the scenery around Hamilton Island is beautiful from the ground, just wait until you see the epic aerial views from the sky. A scenic flight gives you a whole new perspective of the Whitsundays, from the azure waters to the white sands.

Wildlife - If you love Australia’s native animals, then head to Hamilton Island Wildlife. A wildlife park near the centre of the island, this park has everything from koalas to crocodiles. Book ahead for up-close encounters with dingoes, reptiles and more.

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Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island is a nature-lover’s bonanza, with prolific native wildlife, dramatic coastal sightseeing, and bountiful farmlands.

Kangaroo Island, 13 kilometres (eight miles) off the coast of South Australia and 30 minutes by plane from Adelaide, is one of the best places in Australia to see wild native animals, like koalas, kangaroos, sea lions and seals. Throw in some incredible geology and an easily accessed local food and beverage scene, and Kangaroo Island is a magnificent place for a self-drive holiday.

Highlights

Wildlife - At Seal Bay, walk among the Australian sea lion colony, watching mothers rest, pups playing and males squabbling. Stroll the short boardwalk independently, or join a guided tour to learn about these endangered animals.

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Great food - With fertile farms and pristine ocean, the island is a foodie’s delight. Sample pure Ligurian-bee honey, taste a ‘Chatter Platter’ from Millie Mae’s pantry, or local oysters and King George whiting at The Oyster Farm Shop.

Adventure - Visit the sand dunes of Little Sahara to explore your way. For thrills and spills, slide down on a toboggan or sandboard. Try a guided tour on a fat bike, or strap in for an open buggy tour through the dunes, spotting koalas in trees.

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Luxury accommodation - Right on a secluded beach, One KI is a fully-hosted five-bedroom eco-retreat. Relish the incredible beach views with your family and friends and, after your chef-prepared dinner, relax in the private outdoor bathtub under the stars.

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Enchanted fig tree - A fig tree planted on Kangaroo Island more than 100 years ago has grown to become an enchanting dinner destination. From December to April, savour a delicious meal surrounded by gnarled branches and dazzling fairy lights for a magical experience.

Lavender field - Visit Emu Bay Lavender, a working farm where you’ll find over 7,500 lavender plants grown to produce essential oils for handmade therapeutic goods. Stop in at the farm café for breakfast, lunch or over-sized lavender scones.

Swim with the dolphins - Jump in with the wild bottlenose dolphins as they choose to interact with you, swimming right up for a close inspection. Tours run all year and include morning tea on a remote beach. Tours often spot seals, rays and sea eagles.

Drinks - Kangaroo Island is home to a diverse array of wineries, with a handful of breweries, a distillery, and a cidery thrown in for good measure. Drop in to some of the cellar doors and meet the characters behind the drinks.

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Geology - Explore the island’s incredible physical features, like the aptly named Remarkable Rocks. Don’t miss the Admiral’s Arch, an open-ended cavern to the sea where New Zealand fur seals play, and the beaches, like glittering Stokes Bay.

Hiking - For those with adequate fitness, the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail traverses the island’s southwest. Supported by a guide, you’ll see some of the most spectacular landmarks while learning about the bushfire regeneration occurring.

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