Whitsunday Islands


It’s easy to think that staying in a resort-like location anywhere around the Great Barrier Reef will cost a fortune. Thankfully Australia has ample islands and national parks where you can camp for a really low fee. Camping is a great way to enjoy the pristine environment the Great Barrier Reef has to offer while having a low-cost holiday.

You should know that you will have to be pretty much self-sufficient if you are going to stay at any of these locations. And that includes bringing plenty of water. Fires are also not allowed so you will need your own portable cooking stove or something similar if you want to eat anything warm.

Here are some ideas to get you started.


It’s easy to stay at Fitzroy Island on a budget. Just head the Fitzroy Island Camping Ground. This is one place where you can get a shower, a clean toilet and have a barbeque ready to go. Don’t be mistaken by the name of Nudey Beach, clothing is required. There is plenty to do around this national park. There are a number of short walking trails and coral beaches to explore. The Secret Garden Walk is a leisurely way to experience a rainforest while the Lighthouse and Summit Trail is a workout on the legs right up to the lighthouse on the island.


Who would have thought staying on the Whitsunday Islands didn’t have to cost an arm and leg? There are around 12 camping areas to be found on Hook, Henning and Whitsunday Islands. Hook Island is mainly comprised of a national park that is protected for everyone. There are a number of beaches and camping sites available. This is a great place to get close to the Great Barrier Reef and try no-frills snorkelling. With a set of flippers, a snorkel and a set of goggles you can experience the Great Barrier Reef up close.


Camping sites for a maximum number of 40 campers are available on these coral cays. That includes Masthead, North West and Lady Musgrave Island. I highly recommend applying ahead for a permit if you want to stay on the popular Lady Musgrave Island. It is an extremely popular destination for snorkelling and watching wildlife.


Not all of Dunk Island is a resort. The other half is a national park with plenty of places to enjoy hiking and swimming in the Great Barrier Reef.


While it is a bit harder to get to these islands off Cairns, it is no more expensive to stay inside the Frankland Group National Park. There are 5 islands in total. You are allowed to camp on High Island and Russell Island. They have spectacular rainforests to experience. Camping is limited so make sure you check the details out well in advance.

These are just a few suggestions. You can find out more about camping permits and the rules and regulations for staying in national parks in and around the Great Barrier Reef from the Queensland National Parks & Wildlife Service.

You can even get permits online. You book and pay for your camping space and then receive your camping permits and tags. These tags need to be printed out and displayed when you are camping because rangers are on the lookout for anyone trying to buck the system.

Just make sure you get in early.


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John Steele
John Steele

John loves cooking at home and outdoors, travelling, fishing and discovering a new life. He's got loads of experience he wants to share while he adventures through retirement.