Australia’s Hidden Coastlines

From East to West, discover five of the most beautiful beaches in Australia to escape to...

 

PICNIC ISLAND, TAS

The luxury lodge at Picnic Island lies 800 metres off Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula, offering enviable views across the pink-tinted granite of The Hazards mountain range. One of Australia’s few private freehold islands, Picnic’s history is told via evidence scattered across the landscape, from shell middens left by Indigenous inhabitants to a sandstone quarry that was built by convicts. These days, however, Picnic Island belongs to the wildlife, with a colony of shearwaters and penguins nesting here. An environmentally friendly boardwalk encircles the island, allowing guests to see penguins returning to their burrows at night. Despite the feathered company, it’s the sense of seclusion — and also the island’s relationship with the elements — that really makes a trip here so special.

 

DIRK HARTOG ISLAND, WA

It may be one of the last places the sun touches in Australia, but Dirk Hartog Island was one of the first to leave its mark on European history. An inscribed pewter plate left on the island marked Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog’s landing in 1616. In 1699, navigator William Dampier sourced the first collection of botanical specimens from Australia here. Despite the island’s historic roots, it was only in the 1990s that it opened up to tourism, after being used for pearling, guano mining and cattle farming. Today, visitors to the island — whether staying at the island’s eco-lodge or taking their own 4WD on the purpose-built barge across to the island — find it’s Dirk Hartog’s natural beauty that appeals. Highlights include the blush-coloured hues of Rose Lake and the thundering blowholes that can be seen up to 20 kilometres away during a big swell.

 

COCOS (KEELING) ISLANDS, EXTERNAL TERRITORY

Life is in sync with nature on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (CKI), some 2750 kilometres north-west of Perth. Water pursuits are tide-dependent and seasons are named after sailing terms: the trade winds run from May through to October, and the doldrums, marking calmer weather, last from November to May. It’s blissful year-round, with air and water temperatures rarely dropping below an inviting 24 degrees. But those who know the islands warn against dismissing them as just another sun-drenched getaway.

CKI became an Australian territory in 1955. The islands are made up of two coral atolls, which encompass 27 islands, although only two of them are inhabited: West Island — the main tourist hub, home to about 100 people — and Home Island, or Pulu Selma, where the predominantly Islamic Cocos Malay community resides. Most tourist activities make use of the beautiful clear waters, home to 500 species of fish, as well as huge numbers of hawksbill and green turtles. Then there’s Kat, a much-loved local dugong, who can be found snacking on seagrass in the outer lagoon. Twice a week, a ferry departs West Island for the uninhabited Direction Island — its 300-metre white-sand Cossies Beach is regarded as one of Australia’s best.

 

HAGGERSTONE ISLAND, QLD

Haggerstone Island, 600 kilometres north of Cairns, is accessible only by private plane, and is as rugged as the surrounding waters are unspoilt. The island is surrounded by two beautifully clear lagoons, and the remains of an 1840s shipwreck can be spotted in a shallow reef garden.What makes the island stand out is its cuisine, with the majority of food grown in the orchard or plucked from the ocean.

 

TIWI ISLANDS, NT

A vibrant Indigenous art scene, barramundi fishing and Aussie Rules are what keep the Tiwi Islands ticking. An easy 80-kilometre sail from Darwin, the little-visited 11 islands of Tiwi were once connected to the mainland before rising sea levels changed that, creating pockets of culture in the process. Only two islands are inhabited: Melville and Bathurst. There’s not much here — a medical clinic, social club, an Asian takeaway, public pool and a school — but there is an incredible love of AFL. Tourism and accommodation are restricted, and guides are essential if you want to explore the islands. Visitors can create their own pieces with local artists, who have built an internationally renowned scene. It’s the wilderness that seems to surprise tourists most, however — there are waterfalls, swimming holes, thick forests and an abundance of animal and bird species.

 

GETTING THERE

Looking to experience these destinations for yourself? Book flights to all locations through our website or by calling 13 67 89 (in Australia).

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