Great Barrier Reef islands you can camp on

Can you do the Great Barrier Reef on a budget? Yes, you can. We’ve found a bunch of Great Barrier Reef island camping spots that cost less than $30 per family.

Great Barrier Reef Heart Reef
Heart Reef off the Whitsundays Queensland. Picture: Alison Godfrey

These are basic island camping options. But hey, for this price, why not get back to nature with the kids for a weekend? What more do you need than a beach, your swimmers and a towel?

Whitehaven Beach camping area, Hamilton Island

Why spend a fortune on a fancy hotel on Hamilton Island? You can stay right next to the pure-white silica sand of Whitehaven beach for next to nothing.

Beautiful Whitehaven Beach with turquoise water, white sand and greenery
Whitehaven Beach looks like it has fallen straight off a postcard Picture: Damien Dempsey

Explore the island eco-system of Hamilton Island. Catch a boat out the heart island and the Great Barrier Reef. Grab a kayak and paddled the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea trail which winds through several of the islands. Keep your eyes open for lace monitors here – make sure you lock all food away.

Getting there: Fly to Hamilton Island and get a taxi or Uber to the picnic ground

Staying there: The campground has flushable toilets and picnic tables. The site surface is sand and dirt. Space for tents only. 

Essentials to bring: food, rubbish bags, insect repellent.

Price: $26.20 per night for two adults and up to six children.

Boat Port, Lindeman Island Whitsundays

Lindeman Island was once home to Club Med. A new luxury resort is due for completion in 2021. But you can camp there now for next to nothing. The Boat Port campsite is basic, with picnic tables and toilets. But what it lacks in facilities it makes up for in nature.

Great Barrier Reef island camping
You can camp on Lindeman Island for less than $30. Picture: Queensland Tourism

Walk along the stunning white sandy beaches at sunset or sunrise. Hike across more than 20 kilometres of walking tracks linking grassland and rainforest. Our favourite track is through Butterfly Valley. It offers stunning views from the top of Mt Oldfield. The best beach is Gap beach. It’s fantastic for snorkelling and has colourful reefs close to shore.

Getting there: Access is by private or commercial boat from Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour. Some commercial transfer companies drop off and collect campers.

Staying there: This is true beach camping on the sand. There are toilets and picnic tables but not much else. Open fires are prohibited.

Essentials to bring: Drinking water, rubbish bags, insect repellent.

Price: $25.40 per night for two adults and up to six children.

Watsons Bay Camping Area Lizard Island

Pass on the luxury resort and get stunning views for just over $25 a night. 

Coral reefs, mangroves and white sandy beaches surround Lizard Island. Inland you’ll find grasslands, woodlands and wine-sheared heaths. 

Watson’s Bay is one of the best beaches on the island. When the tourists from the luxury resort hike over to this bay – they can’t believe how beautiful it is. And that you can stay here so cheaply.