The islands of Victoria: the forgotten paradises you can visit

An aerial shot of Raymond Island

Nicola Dowse

Posted June 24, 2022

Victoria might not seem like the tropical haven our cousins to the north get to enjoy, but Victoria actually has dozens of islands hiding in plain sight.

When you think of island hopping in Australia, you probably don’t think of Victoria. 

You may not know that there are dozens of islands dotted along Victorias coastline, many of which you can visit during the day or stay at overnight. 

Sure, you’re unlikely to find palm trees, coconuts or coral reefs on these islands, but for those interested in wildlife, camping, fishing, and other outdoor pursuits, Victoria’s islands present a bounty of opportunities.  

8 Victorian island paradises

French Island

What is it?  

Victoria’s largest island located in Westernport Bay, north of Phillip Island. It’s teeming with life but very few humans, with 70 per cent of the island being a national park. 

Best for?  

If you enjoy hiking, camping, bird-watching or mountain biking, there’s something for you on French Island. If you don’t feel confident tackling the wilderness on your own, you can also book a tour. 

French Island also has a winery you can visit if that’s more your style.  

Can I stay overnight? 

A small number of operators offer boutique accommodation, or you can camp at the Fairhaven campground – it’s free to stay (but must be booked) and is only accessible by foot.

How to get there 

Catch a ferry from either Stony Point or Cowes on Phillip Island. 


People walking along the beach on French Island

Catch the ferry to French Island and spend the day out in nature. Photo: Parks Victoria.

Herring Island

What is it?  

Melbourne’s own secret island, located in in the middle of the Yarra River near South Yarra (adjacent to Alexandra Avenue near Como Park). The island has only existed since the 1920s when it was created artificially following river-straightening works. 

Best for?  

Enjoying an underrated corner of Melbourne. Herring Island is a good picnic destination if you don’t want to leave the city, with free-to-use electric barbeques and shelters, plus public toilets. 

There’s also a sculpture park and sculpture trail to explore. 

Can I stay overnight? 

No, this island is for day-trips only. 

How to get there 

A punt service from Como Point runs from January to Easter. You can also access the island via boat, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard.  

Phillip Island

What is it?  

Victoria’s best-known island, famous for its seals, penguins and the Phillip Island MotoGP. 

It’s one of the only permanently populated islands in the state with around 7,000 residents, most of which live in the main township of Cowes. 

Best for?  

A little bit of everything. Phillip Island is a terrific family-friendly island destination thanks to its adorable nightly penguin parades where you can watch dozens of little penguins waddle up the beach and back to their burrows. 

The island also offers tours out to Seal Rocks (home to one of Australia’s largest fur seal colonies) and koala spotting. 

Can I stay overnight? 

There’s plenty of accommodation available on Phillip Island, ranging from camping and cabins through to hotels. If you’re visiting during peak holiday times book well in advance to avoid missing out.

How to get there  

Phillip Island is connected to the mainland by bridge meaning you can drive there directly. You can also take a coach to Cowes or hop a ferry to the island from Stony Point. 


An aerial image of Herring Island in Melbourne

Herring Island is located in the heart of Melbourne and can be accessed by punt or private boat. Photo: Parks Victoria.

Gabo Island

What is it?  

A pink granite island off the coast of Mallacoota.

Best for?  

Enjoying your very own slice of deserted island paradise. Gabo Island has a lighthouse (the only functioning island lighthouse in Victoria), an old cemetery, and other points of cultural interest. Other than that, it’s a good location to relax and unwind, watching little penguins come ashore at dusk or potentially seal or whale spotting. 

Can I stay overnight?

Accommodation is available at the assistant lightkeepers cottage, which can house up to eight guests at a time. You must book in advance and a minimum two-night stay is required. 

BYO food or be prepared to fish for your dinner – there are no restaurants on the island, but the cottage has a fully equipped kitchen.

How to get there 

You can take your own boat out to Gabo Island, or you can charter one from Mallacoota. If you’re in NSW, you can also take a plane from Merimbula. 


Gabo Island at sunset, with the lighthouse and cottages in the background

For a truly remote island experience, book the assistant lightkeepers cottage on Gabo Island. Photo: Parks Victoria.

Raymond Island

What is it?

An island in the Gippsland Lakes region, just off the coast of Paynesville. Oh, and it’s filled with koalas.

Best for? 

Want to see a koala in the wild? Come to Raymond Island. The koala population is booming here thanks to the relative safety that comes with isolation.

Hire a bike on the island or enjoy the 1.2km Koala Walk on foot. There’s also beaches for swimming and the possibility of seeing other wildlife such as echidnas, birds, kangaroos and the local Burrunun dolphin. 

The island is also an important site for the Gunaikurnai traditional owners, who call the island Gragin.

Can I stay overnight?

There are boutique accommodation options available on Raymond Island. 

How to get there 

A free ferry service runs out of Paynesville regularly for those travelling to the island on foot or with a bicycle. 

Other islands to explore in Victoria

Churchill Island 

Churchill Island is Phillip Island’s little sister, located just off Newhaven. There are cultural and historical experiences (think blacksmithing and whip cracking demonstrations) to enjoy alongside walking and cycling tracks, and a café to relax at.  

Snake Island 

Snake Island is more about cattle than snakes, with the island having been used by farmers as a grazing location for about a century. You can only access the island by boat but once there, it’s a good remote camping spot providing fishing, kayaking, bushwalking and bird watching opportunities. 

Mud Islands 

No trip to the Mud Islands is quite the same. The islands form part of the largest sandbank in Port Phillip Bay (prudently known as the Great Sands), with the landscape often changing due to weather. The islands are a good location for snorkelling and birdwatching but are only accessible by boat. 


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