Brisbane is blessed with an abundance of beautiful natural resources, like our celebrated mountains, beaches, city, and bushland. But for an adventure that offers something a little bit different, why not try exploring one of the many Brisbane island destinations dotting the coastline?
There are isolated islands only accessible by boat, islands you can walk to at low tide, and everything in between. Here’s a list of some of Brisbane’s best island destinations to visit.
Top 10 Brisbane Islands
As simple as a drive across the bridge, Bribie has all the charm of island living with the convenience of easy access. With patrolled beaches for swimming and surfing, parklands to explore, and a wide range of exciting activities, you won’t lack for something to do. Wildlife abounds, with great fishing and fantastic birdwatching. Bribie Island caters for all types of visitor, from luxury apartments to campsites, and plenty of options to entertain day visitors. When you need a break from exploring, try out one of the many cafes and restaurants, or browse the shops dotted around the island.
As you arrive on Russell Island, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful mosaic and the lovely island itself. The largest of the southern bay islands, you can find great places to swim, fish, and relax on the beach. For a break from the sun, visit the Southern Moreton Bay Islands Museum or one of the shopping destinations. When it’s time to eat you can choose from one of the restaurants, or the island offers a great choice of picnic areas to make the most of the scenic outdoors. You’ll be able to spot a wide range of wildlife as you take advantage of the picturesque walking tracks, especially the birds that flock to this world renowned sanctuary.
Immerse yourself in some Brisbane history at St Helena Island. As Queensland’s first penal settlement and later a maximum security prison, you can explore the island’s dark past with day tours or even a night ghost tour around the 19th Century stone ruins. With restricted access, your best option is to take advantage of one of the tour companies who can help guide you around the 6km island. Otherwise, you can explore some of the short walking tracks at the southern end of the island without a guide, and enjoy the beautiful bushland dotted with relics from the past.
King Island is a great option for an island day trip with a difference. Located just off the beach at Wellington Point, you’ll need to look into tide times if you want to visit the tiny island. At low tide, a narrow sand causeway emerges that links King Island with Wellington Point and is easily accessible on foot. As you walk along the 2 km stretch of sand, look out for wildlife and don’t forget to stop along the way to let the kids paddle in the water. Once you get to the island, there are fig trees to climb and more wildlife to spot. As the tide rises the sandbank is covered again, so it’s time to head back to Wellington Point where you can take advantage of the jetty, the café, the parks, and fantastic picnic areas.
Moreton Island is truly breathtaking. Only accessible by boat, you can hop on a ferry and head over to experience the island’s beauty for yourself. Once you’re there, you’ll need a 4WD vehicle if you plan to venture from the ferry landing points as the island is mostly sand with very few roads. The beaches on the ocean side offer fantastic surfing and fishing, while on the other side of the island the sheltered waters are the ideal spot for swimming and snorkelling. There are accommodation options from spectacular camping sites to luxury villas at the Tangalooma Island Resort. You’ll be able to experience your own slice of paradise, taking advantage of the pristine beaches, incredible wildlife, and historic relics as you explore this incredible island.
The world’s second largest sand island, Straddie is only 60 minutes from Brisbane CBD but feels like a real escape to another world. The white sand beaches and beautiful walking tracks provide plenty of outdoor entertainment, and the island is the perfect place for a swim – either in the ocean or one of the two main lakes. There is an abundance of places to get fresh seafood when it’s time to take a break, along with cafes dotting the island and offering delicious food and drinks. You can take your car over on the ferry, or arrive as a foot passenger and use the bus service that operates on the island.
Heritage listed and with restricted access to some areas, Peel Island is rich in history as well as natural beauty. At different times in the past, Peel Island has been the location of Brisbane’s lazarat (leper colony), asylum, and quarantine station. There are two main areas that are open to public access, with the rest of the island closed to protect historic remains. Horseshoe Bay offers a sandy beach, showcases incredible sandstone outcrops, and has the island’s only toilet facility. Platypus Bay has a large historic shipwreck and is perfect for snorkelling. You’ll have to bring everything you need with you, and don’t forget to leave only footprints when it’s time to head home.
A great day-trip option for families, Coochiemudlo Island is only ten minutes by ferry from Victoria Point. The island has 4km of safe beaches, and plenty of opportunities to hire a boat or utilise the many walks to explore the natural surrounds. Keep your eyes open, and you’re sure to spot some of the migratory birds, dolphins, soldier crabs, and even dugongs that make the waters around the island their home. Main Beach, where the ferry comes in, offers quiet, safe waters that are perfect for swimming with children. Visitors love to picnic on the beach, fish, and kayak around the lovely little island.
Macleay Island has a distinctly artistic, bohemian vibe to complement the beautiful natural surroundings. A popular retreat for artists, writers, and musicians, the island is accessible by passenger or car ferry from Redland Bay. The island hosts a golf course, bowls club, and boating club, as well as an Arts Complex that offers a studio, gallery, and pottery shed. There are also several beaches that are great for families, with picnic facilities and plenty of places to enjoy the outdoors. Take advantage of a heritage walk, explore an art gallery, enjoy swimming and fishing at the beach, and then head to a restaurant for a delicious meal to make the most of your stay at Macleay Island.
The smallest of the Southern Moreton Bay Islands, Karragarra Island makes for a lovely little day trip that will give the whole family the chance to explore. Located between Russell Island and Macleay Island, it’s a tiny slice of perfection that will have you feeling relaxed and refreshed after your island adventures. There are no shops on the island, so you’ll have to plan ahead. Pack a picnic before you come and then visit a park, swim at the enclosed swimming area, use the BBQ facilities and go for a walk to make the most of what the tiny island has to offer.
Airtrain will get you quickly and comfortably from the airport to Brisbane City in 20 minutes. You can disembark at your chosen city station – Airtrain runs express from the airport, but stops at FortitValley, Central, Roma Street, and South Brisbane stations.
Most of these Brisbane island destinations will require you to catch a passenger or car ferry. You can get to these ferry points using Brisbane’s extensive public transport system. Brisbane is connected by an extensive bus network and the river is crisscrossed by the CityCat ferries. All Brisbane public transport uses a smart card for travel, or you can purchase a paper ticket. You will need to purchase a separate ticket to use the ferries across to the islands.
While you’re in Brisbane, short term visitors should check out the go seeQ card, which allows you unlimited travel for 3 or 5 consecutive days on buses, trains, ferries, and trams. It also includes 2 Airtrain journeys to/from the Brisbane Airport. For longer stays, travel like the locals with a go card – just touch on at your station of departure and touch off when you arrive at your destination.
Brisbane Island Destinations
Whether you’re a local who has yet to make the most of their backyard or a visitor planning a day trip to remember, escape the rat race and head across to one of Brisbane’s beautiful islands. You will be amazed at how many pristine beaches, incredible wildlife, delicious dining, and memorable experiences are waiting for you.
If you’re heading to Brisbane, choose the best way to get there, on time and in comfort. Start your journey well – travel with Airtrain.