The Great Barrier Reef's Top 8 Islands and Natural Attractions

Great Barrier Reed

1. Wilson Island

No TVs. No phones. If you’ve ever dreamed of being shipwrecked on deserted island in style, Wilson Island is your answer. A small coral cay in the Great Barrier Reef just 72 kilometers from the Queensland mainland, Wilson will win you over quickly. Watch newly hatched turtles clumsily meander down to the ocean. Snorkel in the surrounding reefs, witnessing manta rays, triggerfish and reef sharks cruising by. And, when you need to take it even slower, enjoy gourmet dining then retreat back to your designer-style luxury tent, just one of six on the whole island.

2. Heron Island

Even if you’re not a diver, Heron Island will impress you: 10 Great Barrier Reef dive sites are within 15 minutes of the island. And the Heron Island Research Station takes advantage of this location. It’s one of Australia’s most prestigious marine research stations and even trains students in marine sciences. Topside, a perfect white-sand beach surrounds you on all sides where you can truly immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. Among the music of seabirds, tracks of turtles and multi-colored clouds of fish, the feeling that you're a guest of nature itself is inescapable. For even more indulgence, visit the Aqua Soul Spa for massages, facials and more.

3. Hamilton Island

You’ve seen those iconic, aerial images of the Whitsunday Islands dotting the Great Barrier Reef. And Hamilton Island, set among the Whitsunday’s 74 perfect islands, combines over-the-top indulgence with spontaneous adventure. Spend your days sailing, out on a bushwalk, playing golf or relaxing at the spa. Plus, with more than 20 dining options, you’ll satiate your pallet, no matter what you’re craving.

4. Hayman Island

Set to reopen in August 2011 following renovations and enhancements to the property, this five-star luxury resort occupies its own private island in the Great Barrier Reef. Read our full resort review here.

5. Daydream Island

Just a 30-minute catamaran sail from the Great Barrier Reef Airport, Daydream Island is great for families. For the kids, the Skippers Club caters to kids from 6 weeks to 12 years old. From planned island explorations and fish feedings to treasure hunts and nature walks, Daydream is a getaway that children will never forget. Daydream Island is home to the Living Reef, one of the world's largest man-made living coral reef lagoons. Guests can get up close and personal by hand feeding resident stingrays, sharks and barramundi. And, while the kids are away, parents can de-stress at the Rejuvenation Spa and eat a romantic, ocean-front meal at Mermaids.

6. Lizard Island

Twenty-four white-sand beaches call Lizard Island home. That’s almost one beach per resort room. When you’re not trying to decide which beach is your favorite, Lizard’s restaurant, Ospreys, offers creative, indulgent meals. And, their menu changes daily, so you’re guaranteed get the freshest local ingredients available.

7. Orpheus Island

Currently closed for renovations, Orpheus is set to re-open in October 2011. New beachfront, 2-bedroom villas will be ideal for families. And, even better, three new luxury eco-tents let you experience the island without leaving a heavy footprint on the environment. For an extremely romantic experience, a new infinity pool will overlook a private beach.

8. Haggerstone Island

If you’re looking for one of the most unique resorts, then Haggerstone is for you. Owners Ray and Anna Turner have spent the past 20 years handcrafting the perfect mix of authenticity and comfort. From drift wood beach huts to open-air showers, when you stay at Haggerstone, you’ll feel as if you’re a part of the Turners’ family staying at their home.