A world away from resort-style islands, Brampton, Newry, Carlisle, Keswick, St Bees and Scawfell Islands are remote, uncrowded and bursting with wildlife both in and out of the water.
There are several charter companies in Mackay that can offer trips for fishing or snorkelling around the islands off Mackay.
If you want to explore or camp on the islands, you may need to source your own transport. Once there you can enjoy many walking tracks or great fishing both off the island and in a boat.
Note: If you are planning to camp on the islands off Mackay, be sure to obtain permits prior to arriving on the islands. You can check which islands require permits and obtain them online at Queensland National Parks or phone 13 74 68. Most campsites on the islands require you to be self-sufficient.
Brampton Island features rocky headlands and hoop pines, open grassland, sheltered bays and long sandy beaches, making it one of the most scenic islands off the Queensland Coast.
The island is 32 kilometres north of Mackay and was once home to a popular resort, which since closed in 2011. The public can still gain access to the island by boat, but the resort is no longer accessible.
A great feature of this island is Brampton Peak, a 6.6-kilometre return walk from the jetty on the north side of the island. At the top catch the views (and your breath) and take in the neighbouring Carlisle Island and the mainland. It can be steep in places so prepare for a moderate to challenging walk.
Western Bay is also a nice walk (5.2km return from the jetty), is a great place for a swim or lunchtime stop and has a shelter shed and toilet.
Visitors should note that the island circuit track and tracks to Dinghy and Oak bays are closed.
Tip: Keep an eye out for small populations of koalas on Brampton Island, as well as lace monitors and sand goannas.
To the northeast of Brampton Island is Carlisle Island, which is dominated by thick eucalypt forests and takes on a rugged, mountainous appeal.
Like Brampton, you can gain public access to the island by boat and there is camping available for up to 12 people at one time at Neil’s campground, which is on the southwest side of the island.
Tip: Turtle nesting and hatching happen on islands off Mackay, including Carlisle, from October through to March.
Voted one of Queensland’s 'Most Beautiful Beaches', Basil Bay on Keswick Island are what dreams are made of!
A white sandy beach leading to water so crystal clear that you can see the reef, enveloped within a gorgeous bay area with national park surrounding it.
There are a few accommodation options on Keswick, including a luxurious self-contained holiday house, glamping or camping.
Located 32km northeast of Mackay, you can access the island by plane or boat and buggies are available to hire once you get on the island to make sightseeing easier.
Once on the island, there are a number of activities to enjoy including snorkelling and fishing, kayaking, bushwalking and whale watching.
The island is a protected national park and is home to a number of native wildlife including the spectacular Tiger Blue butterfly, fire flies, koalas, birds, monitors and goannas and flying foxes.
Keswick Island is also home to thriving hives of purebred Caucasian bees.
Tip: Grab a jar of the Keswick Island Honey from the Keswick Kiosk, it’s a delicious blend using the honey produced in hives on Keswick Island.
Just five kilometres from the coast of Seaforth is a cluster of eight islands called the Newry group. Being so close to the mainland makes these islands perfect for camping and day trips, although having experience in boat driving is recommended due to the shallow waters.
Newry Island is the most popular for camping and fishing, and has some enjoyable bushwalking tracks, with lookouts. The remains of a resort which had been opened from the 1920s to early 2000s (now closed) is accessible for public viewing.
Close to Newry Island is Rabbit Island and Outer Newry Island, bigger in size but only capable of holding a small numbers of campers.
Fact: The Newry group have been designated as a dugong protection area – go slow if you are travelling in a boat.
Scawfell Island is the largest national park island in the South Cumberland group. Located 60 kilometres north-east of Mackay, Scawfell is surrounded by pristine coral gardens and ancient reef, making it a prime location for keen fisherman who are willing to make a trip out there. Granite cliffs line the coast and large areas of rainforest perch on steep mountain slopes.
A camping area with basic facilities at Refuge Bay can accommodate up to 12 campers at any one time.
Note: Larger vessels are recommended when visiting Scawfell and it is a popular spot for the fishing charters to take visitors.
St Bees is an island, about 1100 hectares in size, that is mostly national park and home to a small koala population.
There is suitable camping at Turtle Beach, at the northern end of the island, and it can accommodate up to 24 campers however no facilities are provided.
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