19 December 2016
NSW boasts 2,000kms of coastline, dotted with chains of tropical and native bush islands, six of which offer island getaways with a unique twist.
NSW offers travellers some of the most unique island holiday experiences in the world, including the chance to stay on two UNESCO’s World Heritage-Listed islands – Lord Howe Island, home to the world’s most southerly coral reef, and Cockatoo Island which houses some of Australia’s most important convict sites.
Travellers on all budgets can enjoy an island stay while visiting NSW, be it at a luxury eco lodge, a family-friendly guest house or a picture perfect campsite.
Here are some ideas for island holiday getaways:
An idyllic paradise, Lord Howe Island welcomes just 400 visitors at any time. The island, with its rugged volcanic peaks, lush forests, rolling surf and serene lagoons, is encircled by the world’s most southerly coral reef and the crystal clear waters make it perfect for swimming, snorkelling, diving, kayaking, fishing, surfing and paddle boarding.
The unique ecosystem is home to endemic and rare flora and fauna including 113 plants found nowhere else in the world, 207 different bird species and over 500 species of fish and 90 different corals. The island features one of the world’s best day hikes, Mount Gower at 875m. Dining on the Lord Howe Island kingfish is the local speciality, which can be enjoyed at beachside BBQs or at one of island’s impressive restaurants. Accommodation ranges from luxury eco lodges, to family-friendly guesthouses and modern self-contained apartments.
Just 15 minutes by boat from Lord Howe rests an intriguing group of volcanic formations, the Admiralty Islands. Large pinnacles, coral reefs and larger schools of fish attract divers to the 25 dive sites scattered around the atolls and which are considered some of Australia’s best diving spots.
Cockatoo Island offers waterfront camping in the heart of Sydney. Easily one of the world’s most picturesque campsites, the waterfront glamping and camping sites provide unobstructed views of Sydney. The largest island in Sydney Harbour, Cockatoo Island forms part of the UNESCO world-heritage-listed Australian Convict Sites. With a fascinating history, it has become a regular site for movie filming. The island has plenty of activities to keep you entertained – cafes, audio tours, events, kayak and boat hire, and swimming in the slipway. Accessible by ferry and water taxi, the island also offers accommodation in self-contained heritage houses in the heart of the island.
For an ‘off the beaten track’ camping experience, pitch a tent at one of just five campsites on the beautiful Broughton Island, off the coast of Port Stephens. Camping at Little Poverty Beach is truly special as it is the only place in NSW where you can camp among an active seabird colony. Offering plenty of opportunities for scuba diving, fishing and snorkelling and swimming at the sandy beaches within Esmeralda Cove. Accessible by private boat only, tour operators in Port Stephens can drop you off and pick you up. With only five campsites, make sure you book ahead through NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Off the coast of Narooma on the South Coast is Montague Island, a National Park where visitors can spend a night in the restored Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage. Accessible via tour boat from Narooma, the operator will drop you off and pick you up the next day so you’ll have the island all to yourself for the night. Enjoy discovering NSW’s largest colony of Australian and New Zealand fur seals, Montague Island is home to hundreds of seals and more than 90 bird species along its shoreline. Tour operators can arrange snorkelling with seals, and visiting the lighthouse and penguin and seal colonies.
In the middle of the Hawkesbury River, just an hour’s train ride from Sydney and accessible by ferry is Dangar Island. A perfect weekend away, the island has plenty of luxurious ‘river access only’ properties to choose from. Home to just one café and a bowling club, spend your days exploring by foot or bicycle, and swimming, fishing and kayaking in the sparkling waters.
On Sydney’s Northern Beaches is the beautiful Scotland Island on Pittwater. Accessible by the Church Point Ferry, book a stay in a holiday house and enjoy bushwalking to secluded bays. Alternatively hire a yacht and bareboat your way around Pittwater and the Hawkesbury stopping in at islands along the way.