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Top eco-friendly island destinations in Australia for the conscious traveller

3 people on Segways at Rottnest Island

Australia is blessed with national parks and millions of years-old heritage sites that still hold clues to some of the world’s biggest mysteries. It's no surprise that Australia ranked #3 on the 50 best countries in the world for ecotourism. This combined with the ancient knowledge passed down by the First Nations people makes Australia one of the most sought-after eco-tourism destinations in the world.

From protected reefs of far North Queensland to Rottnest Island, where only bikes, segways, and walking can take you places, these are Australia’s most sustainable island destinations. Because at these Australian island destinations, eco-consciousness is not a trend but it is a way of life.

These are Australia's best sustainable island destinations

1. Rottnest Island, Western Australia

Rottnest Island Lighthouse
Rottnest Island, Western Australia

Wadjemup/Rottnest Island is a Class A Reserve and a protected sanctuary for native wildlife. When you book your SeaLink ferry to Rottnest Island, it is recommended to add bike hire to your booking. Rottnest Island is a car-free destination which means you can get from one place to another by walking or a bus tour, but it is best discovered by bike to explore the beauty of the whole island.

A number of strategic initiatives are in place to secure the future of the Island, from the development of marine sanctuaries and walking trails, desalination plants for water supply, to sustainable energy production via solar and wind power.

Rottnest Island even has its own nursery where native seedlings are propagated to maintain the unique island ecosystem, and community initiatives are in place to educate school children on the importance of caring for the environment. Rottnest Island truly champions sustainability, ensuring the island is left in its pristine form for generations to enjoy.

How to get there: SeaLink Rottnest Island

2. Magnetic Island and Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

The World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is an Australian icon and a living global treasure. Here sustainability meets luxury with several luxe experiences and stays on offer. As the Great Barrier Reef is a popular holiday destination, the impact of tourism becomes an important conversation. Operators across the Great Barrier Reef ensure minimal impact on this living masterpiece through various activities.

Ask your operators about the sustainability practices undertaken on-site. It is our responsibility to protect this dazzling marine eco-system for the enjoyment and learning of future generations.

Learn about marine ecosystems and their cultural significance to the traditional owners with SeaLink’s eco-certified Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling Day Tour. On this tour you can also discover eight Ocean Sentinel sculptures blending art, science, culture and conservation.

How to get there: SeaLink Magnetic Island

3. K’gari (formerly Fraser Island), Queensland

K'gari (formerly Fraser Island), Queensland

Located in the Great Sandy National Park, K’gari (formerly Fraser Island) is a world-class eco-destination. When on K’gari, you can stay at the Kingfisher Bay Resort, an award-winning eco-resort nestled along the west coast of the island. Kingfisher Bay Resort is an established operator with Advanced Ecotourism Certification and Green Travel Leader status from Ecotourism Australia.

From an on-site nursery and composting station, water filtration plant, a dedicated recycling team as well as refillable shampoo, conditioner and hand soap in all accommodation, there are heaps of eco practices put in place, which is probably why this resort is recognised as a pioneer of sustainable tourism in Australia.

How to get there: SeaLink K'gari

4. Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Kangaroo Island, South Australia

With more than 40 per cent of Kangaroo Island remaining covered in natural habitat, Kangaroo Island is home to some of the most authentic nature experiences in the world. With a number of eco-certified tours and eco-stays for you to experience, this award-winning destination delivers on every level.

From Exceptional Kangaroo Island wildlife experiences, consistently recognised as one of Australia’s leading eco-certified operators for over 20 years, swimming with wild dolphins in the expert care of eco-certified Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures, walking the Kangaroo Island wilderness trail to the guided koala and bushfire ecology tour at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, there are many experiences to uncover. Kangaroo Island takes sustainability seriously. With major conservation projects spanning flora and fauna, reef restoration and citizen science projects to get involved in, this destination offers an incredible opportunity to truly engage with nature.

How to get there: SeaLink Kangaroo Island

5. Bruny Island, Tasmania

Bruny Island
Bruny Island, Tasmania

Bruny Island is an island off an island. It is not only beautiful but is also a natural habitat preserved for centuries and home to one of the oldest continuing cultures in the world. And the one thing that binds everyone on this island, may it be the residents or tourists is their determination to continue to protect Bruny Island for generations to come.

Bruny Island is known for its local produce and incredible nature experiences. From the famed Bruny Island Cheese, wine, and chocolates to the bakery, to eco-tours such as the Bruny Island cruises, there will never be a dull moment during your stay here.

How to get there: SeaLink Bruny Island

6. Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory

tiwi islands
Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory

Tiwi Islands are situated in the Top End and are the gateway to ancient aboriginal cultures, art, and the famed footy. Surrounded by pristine waters, the Tiwi Islands consist of 11 islands with Bathurst and Melville making up the largest parts.

Immerse in indigenous art and culture on the Tiwi by Design tour, head off on eco-fishing tours or just relax at the Tiwi Island Retreat with this Tiwi Islands Escape.

Being an eco-conscious traveler does not only mean picking the right destinations and the right accommodation, it’s also about the small, conscious steps that you take during your travels. This remote island paradise is completely off the grid and set amidst a pristine marine sanctuary.

How to get there: SeaLink Tiwi Islands

7. Whitsundays, Queensland

Whitsundays, Queensland

Sustainability is at the heart of The Whitsundays with its numerous eco-initiatives such as reef protection, the coral gardening project, and more. One of the best ways to explore the beautiful region is with SeaLink Whitsundays, which has achieved Ecotourism Australia’s ECO certificate. Conservation is a big part of all sustainability efforts at SeaLink – from using only non-disposable items for service to setting up recycle bins on vessels and protecting the natural habitat through education.

How to get there: SeaLink Whitsundays

Best tips to enjoy a low-impact holiday in Australia

  1. Consider an eco-friendly destination: Look for regions and destinations that promote greener practices. Look up official certifications and awards given to destinations in their pledge towards sustainability.
  2. Visit popular destinations outside of peak season: Often the shoulder season can offer a great travel experience when you’re not putting pressure on the habitat.
  3. Opt for second-city travel: Travel to lesser-known destinations or destinations that offer similar features to a popular destination. It's a good way to avoid mass tourism or over-tourism of popular destinations.
  4. Travel to regions that need support: With climate change threatening the existence of many natural habitats, it’s even more important to offer support in the wake of natural disasters.
  5. Opt for sustainable accommodation: Look for certifications, awards, and research on sustainable practices undertaken on the property.
  6. Travel sustainably: Always carry your toiletries, a reusable bottle, travel-sized reusable cutlery, and straw.
  7. Use reef-safe sunscreen: Avoid using sunscreen with harmful chemicals. Always check the label and avoid harmful substances such as parabens, triclosan, oxybenzone, etc.

What is sustainable tourism?

The World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities".