Not only is the Great Barrier Reef one of the most breathtaking natural structures to explore on planet Earth, it is also dotted with a number of stunning tropical islands on which you can pitch your tent and soak up the beauty of Queensland, Australia.
The Great Barrier Reef is so large, in fact, that it can be seen from outer space! This magnificent natural phenomenon is comprised of 2,900 individual hard and soft coral reefs and is home to some of the most spectacular sea wildlife in the world (think more than 1,600 different species of beautiful fish alone!). More than 2 million people visit the stunning Great Barrier Reef each and every year, from all corners of the globe.
If you are a nature and ocean lover, you just can’t beat camping by the Great Barrier Reef. Is there anything better than crawling out of your tent in the morning, grabbing your snorkelling gear and jumping straight into the ocean for a morning snorkel on the Reef? Sounds like a dream!
Thanks to its enormous length (the Great Barrier Reef is a whopping 2,300km or 1,430 miles long), the tropical islands dotted along the Great Barrier Reef are situated off the coast of Queensland all the way from nearby Bundaberg in the south, up to Australia’s most northern point, Cape York.
Let’s take a look now at four of the most incredible tropical island locations amongst the Great Barrier Reef that welcome campers.
Magnetic Island, near Townsville
Magnetic Island is located remarkably close to the Tropical Far North Queensland city of Townsville and sits just 8km off the mainland coast. Magnetic Island is one of the larger islands dotted along the Great Barrier Reef (approximately 2,500 people live on the island) and is home to over 20 beautiful bays and beaches, including a number of fabulous snorkelling spots. There are also a variety of scenic walking trails to explore, too.
If you wish to set up camp (for up to 7 nights) and enjoy the beauty of Magnetic Island, you can do so by hiring a grassed camping site at the Bungalow Bay Koala Village. Both powered and unpowered sites are available, and who knows, perhaps you might spot some of Australia’s most famous and unique native animals during your stay, including koalas, wallabies and possums!
Getting to Magnetic Island is made easy, by taking a 25-minute ferry ride. Getting around the island is made possible by taking local bus services or taxis. You may also be able to drive your own/hire car on the island (size/insurance restrictions apply).
Image Credit: queensland.com
Fitzroy Island, near Cairns
Situated just 45 minutes from Cairns (the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef) via Fast Cat, you shall find the stunning tropical island paradise that is Fitzroy Island. Fitzroy Island welcomes campers (with a maximum of 20 tent sites) and is an adventure lover’s paradise.
Covered 97% by National Park vegetation (a mix of tropical rainforest and coastal woodlands), Fitzroy Island is one of the most picturesque islands scattered along the Great Barrier Reef, making the perfect backdrop for pitching your tent under the stars.
Facilities for campers on Fitzroy Island include beachfront BBQs, a pergola-covered eating area and an amenities block. You shall need to bring along your own tent and relevant equipment, with each tent limited to 3x3m (and each site 2 adults and 2 kids).
If you love adventure activities, you are going to love Fitzroy Island! On Fitzroy Island, you have the opportunity to go snorkelling and/or scuba diving right from the shore of Welcome Bay or Nudey Beach (awarded the number one spot in Australia’s Top 101 Beaches Awards for 2018). While exploring the waters that surround Fitzroy Island, you will have the chance to see majestic sea turtles, stunning tropical fish, different varieties of coral and giant clams.
Additionally, you might like to enjoy walking/hiking the island’s many gorgeous trails, try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding or sea kayaking (be sure to hire gear with a glass bottom for something truly amazing!), take a glass bottom boat tour, bounce around on the Giant Ocean Trampoline or take part in a tour of the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, located right on Fitzroy Island.
Great Keppel Island, near Yeppoon
Great Keppel Island, located just 15km from the Central Queensland coastal town of Yepoon, is home to 17 pretty beaches and nice, calm waters, making it great for snorkelling the surrounding Great Barrier Reef (give Shelving Beach and Monkey Point a try). A large number of unique bird and turtle species call Great Keppel Island home and dolphin sightings are very common.
There are two different options when it comes to camping on Great Keppel Island, both of which are available at Great Keppel Island Holiday Village: Camping Sites (six in total, restricted to 2-person tents, BYO tent) or Decked Tents. Decked Tents sit upon a cosy wooden deck among the island’s vegetation, and include comforts such as beds, linen, fans and lighting. Facilities at Great Keppel Island Holiday Village include an amenities block, a full camp kitchen and the hire of snorkelling gear (included in the cost of your stay).
Image Credit: zenbeachretreat.com
Lady Musgrave Island, near Gladstone
Lady Musgrave Island is another fabulous place for camping along the Great Barrier Reef. Located off the coast of Gladstone (amongst the southern end of the Reef), camping on Lady Musgrave Island is made possible by pre-booking a camping permit (with Queensland National Parks and Wildlife). In order to protect the island and its beautiful native wildlife, Lady Musgrave Island welcomes a maximum of 40 campers at any one time.
Unlike many other tropical island camping locations on the Great Barrier Reef, Lady Musgrave Island has only very basic facilities, including composting toilets and an emergency radio. Fresh drinking water and all food supplies need to be brought with you to the island.
Lady Musgrave Island’s deep-water reef lagoon is a drawcard for campers who enjoy snorkelling and diving (with the chance to see turtles, colourful coral and lots of tropical fish).