Put away the passport and shelve the idea of Bali or Bora Bora; there is an idyllic island holiday just off Australia’s Coral Coast that awaits.
The waters off Geraldton are home to the 122-island-strong Houtman Abrolhos archipelago, famed for its white sand beaches, endemic Tamar wallaby population, and bountiful (but historically dangerous) coral reefs. Fly over the islands and islets to see remnants of up to 20 different ships that ran aground on the shallow reef, the most famed being that of the Batavia.
Not all islands are accessible, but you can reach East Wallabi Island easily by plane or boat. Spend the day sifting through shells on the shoreline, snorkelling the tropical coral reefs and temperate seagrass meadows, and wallaby spotting in the scrub. Remember: the island is a national park with no facilities, so take all your rubbish and belongings with you when you leave.
Just 22 of the 122 islands have been inhabited over the years, the huts and shanties that remain reserved for the commercial fishers and aquafarmers in the region. With no overnight accommodation for visitors, it’s day trips or liveaboard cruises to the Abrolhos only.
How to get there:
Return tickets for the fast ferry are $299/adult and $249/child 2-12 years old
Charter flights start from $330
A 15-minute ferry ride across the South Passage from Steep Point in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Dirk Hartog Island (Wirruwana to the Malgana people) is the most western point in all of Australia. Spend your days on the island fishing for Marlin, watching the powerful spray at the blowholes, or gently paddling through the aquamarine waters of the sheltered Homestead Bay. The island is dirt tracks and gravel roads only; if you want to explore the further reaches of the island, bring your 4WD across on the barge or join a guided tour.
After a big day of activity, rest up and recuperate at the beachfront Dirk Hartog Island Eco Lodge or the sheltered Homestead Camping Grounds.
How to get there:
Road trip from Perth to Denham (823km) before taking your own 4WD across on the barge, boarding a charter boat, or flying in a light plane across to Dirk Hartog. Don’t have the time to drive? Regional Express Airlines (REX Airlines) fly into the nearby Monkey Mia airport daily.
Return adult barge transfers are $35, and children $22
In the off-season (Sept-Nov), one-way 4WD barge transfers start from $195. Come peak season (Mar-May), prices are $340 one-way
Charter boat and flight prices will be quoted on enquiry.
You don’t have to fly to the Maldives to stay in a waterfront bungalow. Just head to the Mackerel Islands, an island chain on the Pilbara Coast. While they’re not quite the over-the-top luxury of the famed Maldivian stays, the modest, self-contained cabins on Thevenard Island (the landing point of the ferry from Onslow) have plenty of appeal. There’s nothing quite like waking up to a view of the turquoise water outside your bedroom window, or watching the sun set from your private porch. It’s the laid-back beach holiday of your dreams.
Stay a few days for countless hours of fishing, turtle spotting, whale watching, and coral reef snorkelling. Remember to pack plenty of food with you as there are no stores on shore.
How to get there:
Driving the 1377km from Perth to Onslow takes around 14.5 hours. Alternatively, you can fly from Perth with either Qantas or Virgin. Once in Onslow, opt to bring your own boat across to the islands, board the 45-minute ferry, or charter a light plane to Thevenard Island.
The ferry is $160/adult return, $60/child (3-12 years), or $300/family (2 adults, 2 children)
Sate both your hunger and your appetite for adventure by discovering the best of the Coral Coast’s islands at one of the food-focused events held on their shores throughout the year.