Blessed are those that live on or near the Queensland coast that can take advantage of the amazing islands near Brisbane that are suitable for families. You can easily take public transport or charter a boat to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the serenity of one of the many beautiful islands off Brisbane.
Our complete guide will detail all the islands near Brisbane, what there is to do around the on the islands, how to get to each island as well as all the best accommodation options for families.
A brief history of Moreton Bay
The Quandamooka people are an Aboriginal Australian group that live around Moreton Bay and the Brisbane islands in Southeastern Queensland. They are composed of three distinct tribes, the Nunukul, the Goenpul[a] and the Ngugi, and they live primarily on Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands, that form the eastern side of the bay.
Moreton Bay got its name by accident! The name Morton’s Bay was given by Captain Cook when he passed the area on 15 May 1770, honouring Lord Morton, president of the Royal Society. The spelling Moreton was an error in the first published account of Cook’s voyage and it has been known as Moreton Bay ever since.
The island off Brisbane are in the bay that extends some 125 kilometres (78 mi) from Caloundra in the north almost to Surfers Paradise in the south. The bay is 35 kilometres (22 mi) across at its widest point. The islands around Brisbane and a great place to have a beach holiday – keep reading!
What animals live near the islands around Brisbane?
The bay is also home to other abundant wildlife, including whales, dolphins, dugong, sharks and turtles. The loggerhead turtle population in the bay is the most significant in the country. Moreton Bay is the only place in Australia where dugong gather into herds feeding on the sea grass.
How many islands are in Moreton Bay?
Moreton Bay consists of around 360 islands. However, there are around a dozen islands near Brisbane that are suitable for families to easily visit that have great activities for kids.
So come on… let’s claim them as Brisbane islands and dive right in! (Pun intended!)
Moreton Island is probably the most famous of the islands near Brisbane, and has around 242 people living there full time. Moreton Island is the third largest sand dune island in the world and a protected national park. There are no sealed roads on Moreton Island, so a 4WD is essential if you are planning on journeying around the isaland.
On the leeward side of Moreton Island, Tangalooma is a resort that offers a wealth of tours and activities all year round, all within a pleasant ferry trip from Brisbane. A visit to Tangalooma can make an awesome day out or a fantastic family holiday with memories to cherish forever. You can read our detailed review about our trip to Tangalooma here.
How do I get from Brisbane to Moreton Island?
There are several boat transfers fro Brisbane to Moreton Island each day. Times can vary so check the website to see what time suits you best. Departures can be as early as 7am, getting you into Moreton Island approximately 75 minutes later.
What are the things to do on Moreton Island?
- discover unspoilt beaches including surf beaches,
- swim in the Champagne Pools
- slide down giant sand dunes,
- historic lighthouse,
- wartime bunkers,
- WWII relics,
- Mt Tempest,
- ship wreck tours,
- wild dolphin feeding at night,
- 4WD tours including Australian Sunset Safaris,
- scuba diving,
- hiking and much more.
We like the look of this full day tour to Moreton Island including transfers, lunch, swimming and more!
Best accommodation on Moreton Island for families
There is accommodation to suit all budgets on Moreton Island including:
North Stradbroke Island
Located approximately 30 km southeast of Brisbane, North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) is the second largest sand island in the world, and it has something for everyone in the family. From crystal lakes, towering lookouts, cliff-side journeys and secluded beaches to fascinating wildlife, a captivating cultural side, and a friendly community, ‘Straddie’ delivers on every level.
How do I get from Brisbane to North Stradbroke Island?
Water ferries depart from Cleveland 7 days a week, all year round, making the island very accessible for vehicle and pedestrian traffic. The ferries depart between 5:30 am and 5 pm from Monday to Sunday, with additional trips available from Friday to Sunday. The trip itself takes from 45 to 50 minutes, with air-conditioning and cafes on board. See the full timetable on the Stradbroke Island website. Alternatively, leave the car in Cleveland and take the water taxi for a quicker crossing.
What are the things to do on North Stradbroke Island?
If you’re looking for a fairly relaxed getaway, make your way to the island’s social hub, Point Lookout, to enjoy relaxing spas, delicious eateries, beautiful views, and pristine beaches. Or take the kids down to Dunwich to explore lush bushland and fresh lakes, keeping an eye out for the island’s diverse bird and wildlife.
We wrote a detailed review of everything you need to know about visiting the island including all the best things to do on North Stradbroke Island with kids, so do read that before making your choice!
Best accommodation on Stradbroke Island for families
North Stradbroke Island’s accommodation comes in all shapes and sizes, making it easy to find a spot to suit the whole family. The best option will obviously depend on your budget, how many people are staying, and the experience you’re looking for.
Most of the island’s accommodation is situated throughout Point Lookout, where the wide range of attractions and facilities make the day-to-day aspects of a holiday very convenient. Options include
- holiday homes and apartments,
Bribie Island is the easiest to access as it has a bridge that joins it to the mainland! It might be the smallest and most northerly of three major sand islands in Moreton Bay Bay, but is is packed with family friendly activities. It is a perfect holiday destination at any time of the year too!
How do I get from Brisbane to Bribie Island?
It is an easy 1 hour 30 minute drive from the Brisbane CBD up the motorway to Bribie Island. Turn left at the Bribie Island turn off and follow the signs to the island across the Pumicestone Passage. Once on the island, you can enjoy the calm beaches immediately over the bridge or travel and additional 10 minutes to the surf beaches.
What are the things to do on Bribie Island?
Once on the island, you can enjoy the calm beaches immediately over the bridge or travel and additional 10 minutes to the surf beaches.
Our favourite things to do on Bribie Island:
- dolphin spotting,
- hiking in the National Park,
- bird watching,
- Woorim Beach,
- Bongaree Beach,
- Bribie Island Butterfly House,
- and much, much more.
Best accommodation on Bribie Island for families
When staying at Bribie, you generally have two choices in terms of location – the “calm side” or the “surf side”. It doesn’t really matter that much which you choose as they are generally only a 10 minute drive apart!
You can choose from resorts/apartments, holiday homes, hotels and camping.
St Helena Island
St Helena Island is a heritage-listed island in Queensland, Australia, 21 kilometres east of Brisbane and 4 kilometres east of the mouth of the Brisbane River in Moreton Bay. Originally used as a prison, it is now a national park and tourist attraction.
St Helena has a history encompassing a century and a half of European settlement and thousands of years of Aboriginal use. St Helena Island is a perfect day trip for families with kids. Whether you’re a history buff or just interested in seeing a stunning national park just four kilometres from the heart of the Brisbane CBD, St Helena provides an unforgettable day out and it one of our favourite islands near Brisbane.
How do I get from Brisbane to St Helena Island?
There are two tour companies that run entertaining and informative day tours as well as night ghost tours, which explore the 19th century stone ruins and will take you to the island.
Peel Island (Teerk Roo Ra) is a small heritage-listed island located in Moreton Bay and at just 4kms off Brisbane (Cleveland), it is one of the closest Brisbane islands to visit. With a history of being a quarantine station as well as a leper colony, it was declared Teerk Roo Ra National Park and Conservation Park in 2007.
How do I get from Brisbane to Peel Island?
Peel Island is only accessible by boat. Don’t know anyone with a boat? We do! Book a sailing charter with:
- Brisbane Yacht Charters,
- Aria Cruises.
What are the things to do on Peel Island?
Horseshoe Bay on the southern side is the only beach on the island with sand and that makes it the most popular with day trippers and people out for a swim. Platypus Bay is also open to visitors and has a large historic shipwreck, but the rest of the 519 ha island is surrounded by mangroves and closed to the public for the preservation of historic remains.
The only facility located on the island is a composting toilet at Horseshoe Bay, so ensure you bring everything you need (hat, sunscreen, first-aid, drinking water, insect repellent) and take your rubbish with you.
Animals lovers will be excited at the opportunity to spot dugongs, turtles, and dolphins around the island. But be warned that there are often thousands of jellyfish following the currents, as well as sharks that are known to inhabit these waters. Up to 74 bird species have been identified.
Accommodation on Peel Island
It is possible to pay a small fee and camp overnight on Peel Island. The island is a popular overnight anchorage for sailors and is considered by many to be Moreton Bay’s best shelter from northerly winds. Sea kayakers also use the island for overnight stays. If you plan to camp you need to contact and book with the National Parks website.
Russell Island is the largest of the South Moreton Bay islands that are listed below. This beautiful island is home to about 3000 people, many of whom commute daily to work in Brisbane. The island lies between the mainland and North Stradbroke island. It’s approximately 8 km long and 3km wide. It was first settled by Europeans in 1866 and became a major supply of fruit and vegetables to the Brisbane market and supplied Australia with oysters from the many oyster farms throughout the area.
How do I get from Brisbane to Russell Island?
Russell Island is a short 15 minute express water taxi ride from Redland Bay or as the locals call it “around the world“ trip if you include the other 3 islands (Macleay, Karragarra and Lamb Islands) within the Southern Moreton Bay region. If you wish to take a leisurely 45 minute boat trip north from Russell you will pass Peel Island to North Stradbroke Island where you can often watch the whales as they migrate north to the warmer waters to give birth to their young.
Find the journey planner on Translink.
Things to do on Russell Island
Being reasonably populated (Russell Island even has a school!) there are plenty of things for families to do on the island including:
- swim at the jetty,
- swim at the school pool (it is open to public),
- play in the Pioneer Children’s Memorial playground,
- fishing, birdwatching, wildlife spotting,
- enjoy their cafes, coffee shops and bakery,
- grab fish and chips and eat them on the beach.
Where to stay on Russell Island
The Island offers a range of accommodation options including pet friendly choices that will rent you bikes and kayaks!! An island holiday just got so much easier!!
Macleay Island is the second largest of the southern Moreton group of islands. This secluded secret is fast becoming a growing residential hotspot in the Redlands area! With just over 3, 500 people, Macleay Island has everything you could ask for – it’s almost like a cute little country town on the water!
How do I get from Brisbane to Macleay Island?
Bay Island Ferries and barges run seven days a week and connect Macleay to the other Bay Islands and to the mainland at Weinam Street in Redland Bay. Residents receive discounted barge fares.
What are the things to do on Macleay Island?
Pat’s Park at Potts Point is a popular spot, with bbqs, swings, toilets and a swimming enclosure.
Dalpura Beach, located on the western side of the island, is the perfect place to relax on the beach, have a family bbq or go swimming. There is also a boat ramp for recreational boats. This is the best place to check out the beautiful sunsets!
On Macleay Island you will also find:
- a skate park,
- a public pool,
- bicycle ride,
- a heritage trail,
- and places to eat.
Where to stay on Macleay Island
Fancy chilling out on Macleay Island?
Karragarra Island, between Russell and Macleay islands, is a great day-trip destination with a family-safe beach and netted enclosure. This is the smallest of the southern islands, approximately 500m wide and 2km long and is a top spot for picnics.
The island has sandy beaches and a protected swimming area near the jetty with barbecues, picnic tables and shady trees as well as public amenities and a playground.
Everything here is within easy walking distance, which means there is virtually no traffic. This is a great place to chill and escape the rat race and inter-island transport is free!
Coochie! Coochiemudlo Island is a really short ferry ride from Victoria Point and an awesomely quirky vibe that you’re sure to love. You can even kayak with your family on this island!
King Island has to be seen to be believed. At low tide, you can walk across (a kilometre or so) and check out this little slice of history for yourself. On the walk you can watch sailboats float by, spot wildlife, including keeping an eye out for the soldier crabs as well as other marine wildlife. When you arrive you can climb the fig trees and swim in the calm waters. Keep an eye on the tides, though – you don’t want to be stranded!
Lamb Island is the second smallest of the South Moreton Bay Islands. (It’s population is around 432!) Lamb Island is easy to walk around and has some really beautiful outlooks.
The best islands near Brisbane for families
So! How many of these have you been to? How many are now on your bucketlist? I have just added Peel to mine… how beautiful does that water look?? I hpoe we get to see a dugong!
Rememer, you can use your translink Go-Card on many of the ferries to the southern moreton bay island and if you are looking for cheap weekend things to do with the family, kids travel FOR FREE on public transport (including ferries and City Cats) all weekend long! Woohoo!
Want more day trips from Brisbane? Check out these:
We love day tripping out of Brisbane. So much, that we have written a tonne of articles about it!
South / Gold Coast day trip ideas
North / Sunshine Coast day trip ideas
Go west to these day trips
This article was featured in Issue 56 of our printed magazine on 1 March 2023