May 30, 2016
by MORAG KOBEZ, Writer
Nothing says romance like a tropical island paradise, right? Whether you’re into lazing in the sunshine or exploring coral reefs, there’s a Great Barrier Reef island for you.
Find blissful seclusion on Lizard IslandThe northernmost island on the reef, Lizard Island is blissfully remote and accessible only by charter flight from Cairns. Luxurious, secluded accommodation within the wilderness of a national park offers the ultimate in romantic experiences. By day, meander around the reef in your own little motorised boat; by night, indulge in a customised seven-course dégustation under the stars on your choice of private beach. Book now
Watch humpbacks from Heron IslandTwo hours by boat from Gladstone, Heron Island boasts dreamy sunrises and sunsets. Wander down to the jetty and spend a couple of lazy hours spotting humpback whales as they begin their northern migration in June. These majestic creatures, up to 16 metres long, can often be spotted passing through the waters around the island. Book now
Switch off on Long IslandA mere 20-minute boat ride from Shute Harbour, this national park isle has about 13 kilometres of graded walks, dramatic headlands and a plethora of birds, goannas and wallabies to spot. Hide away from it all at Paradise Bay Island Resort in the south of Long Island, where there are no TVs, phones, internet or children – and never more than 18 guests at a time.
SEE ALSO: Explore the Great Barrier Reef on the 10 Best Daytrips
Get stranded on Pumpkin IslandThis tiny, virtually unheard-of island is 14 kilometres off the coast from Yeppoon. If being a castaway on a deserted tropical island with your sweetheart is your dream, Pumpkin Island is about as close as it gets – without a shipwreck. There are no restaurants or shops and just a handful of humble wind- and solar-powered cottages amid pristine natural surroundings. You’re likely to spot more dolphins and turtles than you are other visitors.
Enjoy ultimate privacy on Bedarra Island
Accessible from Mission Beach, midway between Townsville and Cairns, this island paradise is sure to woo even the most fickle. With Bedarra Island’s eight very private villas hidden among lush rainforest – some boasting private plunge pools with spectacular views – why would you even need to venture out? Except perhaps for that intimate, once-in-a-lifetime picnic lunch for two on one of the nearby deserted isles.
Beach yourself on Whitsunday IslandThis is the largest of The Whitsunday Islands, accessible from the mainland ports of Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. Sure, beautiful beaches are a dime a dozen in these parts, but Whitehaven Beach takes the cake. As the name suggests, it’s the longest, whitest, prettiest beach in the Whitsundays and, arguably, the entire South Pacific region.
Be pampered on Orpheus IslandA 30-minute helicopter ride from Townsville sets the scene for a spectacular laid-back luxe experience for a maximum of 28 guests. Orpheus Island is renowned for its rich marine life but the exceptional food and the day spa make it a favourite of discerning couples. Think beach massages for two in the shade of palm trees with gentle waves lapping at the shore. Book now
Experience island life on HaggerstoneHaggerstone Island is a bespoke, family-run, Robinson Crusoe-style retreat located 600 kilometres north of Cairns, alongside Cape York Peninsula. For those who prefer their luxury barefoot, their hospitality personalised, their oysters harvested from nearby rocks and their tropical fruit picked fresh from an organic orchard, Haggerstone is a natural choice.
Love the natural beauty of Lady Elliot IslandAt the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, this coral cay is accessible from Hervey Bay or Bundaberg. Lady Elliot Island is a must for nature lovers. While humpback whales and manta rays swim in the surrounding waters, the island is home to a world-famous turtle rookery and nesting seabirds. Diving and snorkelling in the unspoilt coral reef here is the stuff that memories are made of.
Make it official on Hayman IslandHayman Island, the northernmost isle of the Whitsundays, is about 30 kilometres from Shute Harbour. Whether it’s time to take your relationship to the next level with a luxurious elopement or to reaffirm your vows in front of your loved ones, Hayman Island can make it happen in style. There’s a chapel high above the sea – or why not declare your love, barefoot, on the beach?
Pumpkin Island has been recently reimagined as a stylish, eco-conscious island escape – it’s the laid-back and secluded tropical getaway you’ve been dreaming of.
You’ll find no pumpkins in the waters off Yeppoon in the Southern Great Barrier Reef, just a low-slung wedge of land that’s shaped like a butternut cut in half and laid out horizontally upon the sea. But this impersonator is in fact Little Pumpkin, a rotund hillock tethered to Pumpkin Island itself by a ribbon of sand, which appears only during the lowest tides. The main island snakes squat and narrow – just 150 metres at its widest point and 450 metres at its longest – into the Keppel Islands region of the southern Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
SEE ALSO: Discover the Secret Islands of the Great Barrier Reef
In summer the caterpillars nibble pockmarks into the island’s tropical foliage; later in the season they retreat into their cocoons, hanging like tiny white sausages from the trees; and in early autumn – when the breeze blows warm and soothing across the bay – butterflies emerge in their thousands, decorating the island like confetti.
It’s a 45-minute cruise from Yeppoon’s Keppel Bay Marina across a choppy ocean and into the calm embrace of Pumpkin Reef. It’s an unassuming view from the water: a scattering of beach shacks peeping out from behind the palm trees; a headland rising in rocky, volcanic aggregations on the southern side; and Little Pumpkin looking over its big brother’s shoulder from the east. The solar panels, wind turbines and rainwater tanks that power and quench this island are hidden from view.
And the beach shacks are illusory, for although Pumpkin Island has been used by families and fishermen since 1964, it has been recently reimagined by managers Wayne and Laureth Rumble as a stylish, eco-conscious island escape. The couple has incorporated all the elements of a casual beach holiday – troughs in which to rinse your sandy feet, barbecues on which to grill freshly caught fish and shucking knives for easy dislodgement of oysters from the nearby rocks – without sacrificing any modern comforts.
Pumpkin Island’s seven self-catering cottages and bungalows (accommodating up to six people) are distinguished from one another by unique decorative touches: candy-striped deckchairs slung from hooks on a distressed weatherboard wall; linen bedclothes in this cottage, waffle-weave in that; mint-green accents here, blue over there. The theme is expanded with unobtrusively elegant touches, such as the driftwood towel rails and the pottery water filters in just the right shade of blue.
Hammocks and swing chairs hang temptingly from trees, the tideline just beyond reach. A pair of legs dangles from one – someone has fallen into a deep afternoon sleep.
The island’s accommodation is self-catering so we arrive with enough food for an army: supplies pre-ordered from award-winning restaurant The Waterline at Keppel Bay Marina and packaged by request. Inside the cold boxes we discover fresh prawns, tropical fruit, meze platters, salads, scones, jam and cream, along with fat steaks that come straight from Banana Station, a renowned Central Queensland beef exporter that permits just one Australian outlet to serve its produce: The Waterline.
We’re staying in the most luxurious of the cottages, Pebble Point, which is located in a secluded spot over the rise from the main beach with a view of North Keppel Island. From here we could launch ourselves off the island in a Perspex kayak, exploring the reefs at a thin remove. We could snorkel or paddleboard, go fishing or oyster harvesting or follow the boardwalk to the Sunset Lounge, which sits on the west-facing beach, ready to capture those exceptional tropical sunsets. Or we could loll in the plunge pool on our private deck, wondering how on earth this paradise was kept secret for so long.