Our Favourite North Queensland Islands From Townsville

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Located in North Queensland, the sleepy city of Townsville is a key departure point for several of the Great Barrier Reef's most stunning islands. Here’s three of our favourites, which are perfect for a romantic getaway or a day trip of adventure, each one with a unique flavour of its own. 

Orpheus - The Indulgence Island

As our seaplane banks left on the approach to Orpheus Island, below us coral reefs poke out of the turquoise water which fringes almost every island in this part of the world, while a kilometre or two in the distance, a whale breaches as if to complete the Great Barrier Reef cliché. The descent and water landing at Orpheus Island - which is just a 30 minute flight from Townsville - adds to the sensory overload, and it’s a memorable beginning to a romantic getaway at one of the most perfect couples’ focussed destinations in the world. There are no televisions, no phones, and no children under 15 years on this island paradise, and everything is geared towards total indulgence with an elegant touch. From the private accommodations including luxury villas, which are fringed by palm trees on the beach, to an incredible multi-course private degustation dinner for two on the pier with manta rays and mackerel swimming right below, Orpheus Island is a secluded paradise with an other-world feel. There are plenty of places to escape to on this island also, and one of the highlights is a chef-prepared seafood and champagne picnic lunch and a private motorised dinghy which can access the remote beaches. Ringed by reef, the entire island is a snorkelers’ dream, and the only problem is that at times you’re left wondering: “Where is everyone else?”  

Magnetic - The Adventure Island

With Blackjack setting the pace out front, Bonnie settles into a rhythmic canter with her best mate, Clyde, tucked in behind. The horses obviously know the beach is close which means a cooling swim is the reward for their two-hour trail ride through the bush. We manage to slow the horses down to a walk as we arrive on the white sand of Horseshoe Bay Beach, and after removing the saddles, the animals are ready to be ridden bareback into the water. Most of the horses don’t need any encouragement to go, while some need a little kick along, and within minutes all riders are up to their waists in cooling water. A bush and beach trail ride from Bluey’s Horseshoe Ranch is just one of the reasons Magnetic Island, or “Maggie” as it’s called by the locals, as a well-earned reputation as a unique adventure and wildlife destination. It’s a World Heritage listed island with stunning headlands which link 23 bays and beaches and two thirds of the island is National Park, 24 kilometres of stunning bush walks providing access to remote swimming spots, and abundant native wildlife including koalas, rock wallabies and more than 100 species of birds. Even if you don’t manage to spot wildlife out on the trails, Bungalow Bay Koala Village is a eco-resort and one of the few places in the world where you can cuddle one of the cute animals and have your photo taken with one, and enjoy a real a bush tucker breakfast cooked over a camp fire. It’s also a great place to check out other native Australian wildlife up close including crocodiles, lizards, snakes, echidnas and cockatoos. And once you’re tired of hiking, exploring, snorkelling, kayaking, fishing, or jet skiing, a relaxing way to take in the natural beauty of the island and its beautiful beaches is a day-trip on the Providence V, a 62-foot-gaff-rigged schooner which operates full day and sunset cruises with snorkel stops at quiet locations. 

Hinchinbrook - The Wilderness Island

It’s just after 10am and the sun is finally burning off the last of the cloud which has covered the island, and in the distance Mt Bowen is finally revealed in its full grandeur at 1121 metres, lined with lush forest. The herons and cockatoos celebrate the improving weather with an overhead display of cartwheeling and the temperature rises 10 degrees within a few minutes. Hinchinbrook is Australia’s largest island National Park, and it stands out from the “Barrier Reef crowd” thanks to stunning volcanic mountains which cut through the clouds. With walking trails crisscrossing the island, this is a hiker’s dream with 39,000 hectares of National Park featuring spectacular granite peaks, 11 sandy beaches and tropical mangroves on the southwestern end, and an abundance of bird life. While the former resort is still in ruins, there are plenty of camp grounds dotting the island if you want to get up close with nature, but you’ll need a permit. However many say that the world-famous Thorsborne Trail, a 32 kilometre trek which which runs along the eastern side of the island and takes in all of the island’s natural attractions, makes the effort of camping worth it. But if you’re not keen on roughing it, or hiking is not your thing, you can still visit and enjoy the island on a commercial ferry or island tour.

Joanna Hall


  • 4
    Magical Maggie

    Posted by Kate Phelan on 8th Feb 2021

    My hubby's cousin invited us to. Maggie for a long weekend and a big birthday celebration and we loved it. Just a bit expensive everywhere but i guess that's island life!

  • 3
    Nice Trip

    Posted by Louella M on 8th Feb 2021

    Orpheus was lovely but very expensive and we thought the service was a bit hit and miss compared to places like Bali or Thailand where it's 5* all the way for less money.

  • 4
    Great Islands

    Posted by Denny R on 8th Feb 2021

    Went to Hinchinbrook before it blew away, and it was great. Townsville is okay for an overnight.