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.
How long does it take to get to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns? It very well may seem like a simple and easy question to answer, however, there are so many variables that make the answer not quite as straight forward as you may have initially thought.
No matter whether you are a snorkeller or a certified scuba diver, there are number of amazing Great Barrier Reef experiences that are a once in a lifetime absolutely ‘must do’. And a Minke Whale snorkel and dive Expedition is one of those that should be on your list!
Thinking of becoming a Certified Scuba Diver and looking to do your learn to scuba dive PADI certificate? Do you wish to learn to dive with a high quality professional company that has an outstanding reputation for not only skill but also safety and can match this with some of the best liveaboard dive boat fleets on the Great Barrier Reef?
This tour is special in so many ways, and is unrivalled to all other reef tours in Far North Queensland. First of all, it has the shortest open water crossing to get to the Great Barrier Reef. Fantastic news for anyone prone to motion sickness. Although this tour is a ‘Reef’ tour, it includes a ‘River Cruise’ on the journey there with Island activities on arrival. And a huge PLUS to guests that like to avoid the crowds, it has one of the lowest passenger capacities of all the island tours with a maximum of 100 guests. The destination is to an uninhabited continental island called Normanby in National Park which is part of the archipelago of Frankland Islands. It is located 10km offshore from the mouth of the Russell and Mulgrave Rivers at Russell Heads, which is approximately 45km South-East of Cairns. The Normanby Island has an abundance of wildlife not only in the water, but also on the island itself. The island is pristine, and has its own rainforest and a fringing reef not far out from its sandy shores. There are also coral gardens located further out from the island for the those that want to explore the deeper waters.
This is not a blog, it is a pitch on how good this Great Barrier Reef 2 day 1 night liveaboard dive trip from Cairns is such good value. One of our team members wrote it because she thinks it is such an amazing good value Great Barrier Reef tour, she wanted to write about it and put it on our Barrier Reef Australia blog page. We were not sure it was appropriate to pitch a single tour but we decided on free speech and free opinions so read more if you are inclined, or go to another page now. From our wonderful Great Barrier Reef Tour Specialist Chelsea Are you looking for a good value liveaboard Great Barrier Reef scuba diving adventure from Cairns without the crowds? Do you want the best dive deal money can buy in Cairns? If your answer is yes, then check out what deals we have on offer with our Great Barrier Reef Tour 2 Day 1 Night Sail, Snorkel and Scuba Dive tour!
If you are scared of the water and the creatures that live there or have never been exposed to an aquatic life in your younger years, but still wish to live out that lifelong dream of seeing the iconic wonders of the world the Great Barrier Reef, then that is okay, we have a tour that will enable you to see the coral reef from above the water and also below the water’s surface without you even getting your hair wet!