Your guide to exploring Brisbane's islands
Updated: 15 July 2021
Reach speeds of up to 60km/h as you rocket down from the top of a giant sand dune; dive into the crystal-clear waters of Moreton Bay; walk sandy trails dotted with relics of wartime Brisbane; and snorkel with dugongs, turtles, dolphins and other marine life.
You’ve probably heard of Moreton, Bribie and North Stradbroke Island – but what about Lamb, Coochiemudlo, Macleay and Peel? Or Karragarra, Russell, St Helena and King?
Visitors fly from around the world in search of islands as idyllic as those on Brisbane’s coastline. With paradise at your doorstep, what are you waiting for? Jump on a ferry, charter a boat, join a tour, set off on your own, drive across or wade out at low tide and discover a different side of Brisbane.
Explore the world’s largest sand islands…
Just 25km off Brisbane’s shore lies the third largest sand island in the world. Moreton is a mostly protected national park with less than 100 residents calling the island home. The world-famous Tangalooma Wrecks are sunk just offshore, plus there are surf beaches, fresh-water lakes, giant sand dunes, a historic lighthouse and wartime bunkers to explore, campgrounds to pitch a tent, Mt Tempest to climb and wild dolphin feeding nightly.
With no bitumen roads, either take your 4WD over on the Micat Ferry and tackle the sand yourself or join a tour company such as Australian Sunset Safaris, TangaTours or Australia See to get around plus go snorkelling, kayaking and more. Alternatively, catch the Tangalooma Ferry to Tangalooma Island Resort and enjoy 3.5-star facilities and activities.
More on how to access the island here, and 35 ideas for things to do on Moreton Island.
With seemingly endless white sandy surf beaches, scenic rocky headlands, quaint villages and the freshest of fresh seafood it’s easy to see why locals love it and visitors swear to go back again. It’s also the second largest sand island in the world and only 60 minutes from Brisbane CBD.
Straddie (as it is known to locals) is home to three villages (Amity Point, Dunwich and Point Lookout). Take your car across on the ferry that leaves from Cleveland or arrive as a foot passenger and use the local bus service. Must-dos are to walk the picturesque North Gorge Headland Walk (spot migrating whales from here in season), swim the beaches or take a surf lesson, grab a gourmet ice-cream, eat seafood at Rufus and take a dip at the imaginatively named Brown Lake or Blue Lake.
Drive across to…
The easiest to access, there is no excuse not to drive across the bridge to Bribie and experience a slice of island life. Bribie is separated from the mainland by a waterway known as Pumicestone Passage. This protected marine park is a safe haven for wildlife and runs for 35km alongside the island. Hire a barbecue boat, kayak or windsurf, bird watch, pump for yabbies, swim or just relax here.
Bribie is part suburbia and part national park. On the eastern side of the island, the township of Woorim is home to surf beaches and cafes; the south-west has the Bribie Island Seaside Museum, restaurants and parkland; and to the north is 4WD or boat accessible national park with camping facilities.
Explore history on…
Explore Queensland’s first penal settlement and experience tales of prison life and hardships on St Helena. This island is a national park 6km off the coast of Brisbane and two tour companies run entertaining day tours and night ghost tours that explore the 19th century stone ruins.
Choose from Cat-o-Nine Tails Cruises or Brisbane Cruises for the tours, or if you don’t join a tour you can moor a private boat and explore yourself.
Located between North Straddie and the mainland, Peel is a small heritage-listed island about 4km offshore. Known as Teerk Roo Ra National Park, the island has two spots open to the public – Horseshoe Bay and Platypus Bay. Horseshoe features spectacular sandstone outcrops, while Platypus is home to shipwrecks great for snorkelling around. Access to the island is by private boat and you can book a camping spot.
Sadly, most of the island is restricted access to help preserve interesting historic remains including the lazaret. Opened in 1907, it housed leprosy patients for the next 52 years and is the only intact example of a multiracial lazaret in Australia. Prior to this (1874-1890s) the island was a quarantine station.
Experience the Southern Moreton Bay Islands…
Off the shore of the Redlands region lie a group of five islands known as the Southern Moreton Bay Islands. The islands are serviced by the same ferries and water taxis, making it easy to island hop. These islands are fuss-free and simple, proving the perfect escape for many from the hustle bustle of city life. Fishing, boating and bird watching are major drawcards.
Just five square kilometres in size and 4km worth of safe beaches, Coochie is the perfect spot for families. Swim offshore or hire an aqua bike, canoe, kayak or tinnie to pop around the island on, or stay on dry land walking or biking the petite island. Coochie is just a 10-minute water taxi, ferry or barge from Victoria Point. There is accommodation on the island.
The largest of the Southern Moreton Bay Islands, Russell has it all including a medical centre, supermarket, library, museum, pool, RSL and bowls clubs. Pop over to this local island (home to some 3000 residents) for a relaxed stay, and be sure to pop by Aunty Alice’s Café.
A bowls club, boat club, golf course, skate park, restaurants and a shopping centre – Macleay has it all. Go for an art retreat at Timeless Gallery & Studio or pop into Haven Gallery or Macleay Island Arts Complex for a spot of culture. Every Wednesday (3-6pm) and Saturday (8am-2pm) head to the Lemon Farm Organic Market – here you’ll find locally grown fresh produce plus organic dry goods.
Hungry? There are plenty of spots to eat including The Blue Parrot Café, Mumma’s Pizza, Waters Edge Bistro and more.
Pack a picnic and ferry across to this tiny island. Just 2km long and half a kilometre wide, kids can swim in the pool near the jetty.
Join the laidback lifestyle on Lamb. The island has accommodation (including dog-friendly stays) plus a tennis court, licensed recreation club and general store.
Walk over to…
Walk to King Island from Wellington Point at low tide along a narrow sandbank. Throw a line from the jetty, climb the fig trees or just watch sailboats float by. Keep an eye out for blue soldier crabs and other marine wildlife.
Other islands in the area…
There are a few more little islands in the Moreton Bay area that are popular with those going boating and fishing for the diverse marine life they attract. Cobby Cobby, Short, Eden, Mud, Green and Crab fall into the category of islands you probably wouldn’t bother to anchor the boat and get out to explore.