Ten of the best great island drives

1. BRUNY, TASMANIA

An island off the coast of an island off the coast of an island. You can drive the 100km top to toe in a couple of hours, but allow at least two days to see the highlights, which include dramatic coastal scenery from viewpoints like The Neck in the middle of the island and Fluted Cape in the south. You'll also want to spend some time foraging on the food trail: wine, whiskey, cheese, oysters, smoked fish and quail, hand-made berry ice cream and chocolate fudge covers all the essential food groups.  Get there via car ferry from Kettering, south of Hobart. See brunyisland.org.au 

2. KING, TASMANIA

Shipwrecks, lighthouses, windswept beaches and uninterrupted cliff-top views, calcified forests, penguins and seals: King Island is another Tasmanian island that over-delivers when it comes to scenic roadtripping – not to mention famous beef, cheese and crayfish. There are no vehicle ferries to the island so you will need to hire a car if you want to explore the 480km of roads that criss-cross the island. Fly from Melbourne (rex.com.au) or Tasmania (sharpairlines.com.au). See kingisland.org.au

3. FLINDERS, TASMANIA

History and wave-washed wilderness converge on Flinders Island. Visit Wybalenna  to learn about the tragic forced resettlement of most of mainland Tasmania's indigenous people in 1835 and the Furneaux Museum for tales of shipwrecks, sealers, mutton-birding and an collection of exquisite Aboriginal shell necklaces, used as currency until relatively recently. With its spine of steep granite mountains and necklace of more than 100 white sand beaches, a road trip on Flinders is also about getting back to nature.  Fly from Melbourne or Launceston (sharpairlines.com.au) and hire a car on the island. See visitflindersisland.com.au

4. CHRISTMAS

This rocky speck in the Indian Ocean gets a bad rap, thanks to its infamous immigration detention centre, but it really is one of Australia's most underrated island paradises. The island's nowhere-else-in-the-world attraction is its crabs (60 million red land crabs and quite a lot of robber crabs, the world's largest) but it also has more birds than you can count, remarkable coral reefs, monsoon forests, waterfalls, swimmable sea caves, cliff-top lookouts and beautiful beaches. Most of the roads to scenic spots are 4WD, which you can hire on the island. Fly from Perth (virginaustralia.com). See christmas.net.au. 

5. NORFOLK

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Buy an accommodation package on Norfolk Island and more often than not you'll get free car hire thrown in. The island, made notorious as a brutal convict settlement before being gifted to the descendents of HMS Bounty mutineers, may only be eight kilometres by five kilometres, but driving it will take longer than you think, mostly because cows have right of way and waving at everybody is mandatory. There is lots to distract you on your way round, too, with World Heritage-listed convict ruins, quirky museums and stunning beaches at the top of the list. Fly from Sydney or Brisbane (airnewzealand.com.au). See norfolkisland.com.au

6. KANGAROO, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Our third largest island is also one of our wildest. Close to half of the155km-long island is either natural bushland or national park, and it is home to some of the most diverse wildlife you'll find concentrated in one area anywhere in Australia, with large colonies of penguins, fur seals, rare Australian sea lions, koalas, kangaroos, birdlife and somewhere in between 500,000 and one million tammar wallabies. If you can't spot wildlife here then you simply aren't trying. Fly from Adelaide (rex.com.au) or vehicle ferry from Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula. See tourkangarooisland.com.au

7.  PHILLIP, VICTORIA

Depending on who you ask Phillip Island is either the place to see penguins (the penguin parade at Summerlands Beach attracts thousands of visitors each night) or fast bikes (the Australian Motorbike Grand Prix is held here each October, along with a host of other races throughout the year), but it's a fantastic place for a driving holiday. Its compact size means you're never in the car for that long (good for families) and the scenery is superb. Step out on one of several cliff-top walking trails, check out the koalas in the Koala Conservation Centre near Cowes and the thousands of birds at Rhyll Inlet. The island is connected to the mainland by bridge at San Remo, 142km south-east of Melbourne. See visitphillipisland.com

8. FRASER, QUEENSLAND

The largest sand island in the world, 123km long and 22km wide, Fraser is a World Heritage wilderness with towering rainforest, massive sandblows, beautiful freshwater lakes and one very long beach, which is also the main road. Swim in lakes and creeks so clear they are almost invisible, camp beside the beach or live it up at Kingfisher Bay Resort. Access is via barge at Inskip Point on the northern end of Rainbow Beach and River Heads or ferry from Hervey Bay. All roads on the island are 4WD only: BYO or hire on the island. See visitfrasercoast.com

9. MORETON, QUEENSLAND

Not quite as big as Fraser, but still one of the worlds' largest sand islands, Moreton Island is just 38km long but 98 per cent national park with an extensive network of sandy 4WD tracks. Many of these are on the beach, and all will challenge your off-roading skills as they lead you to historic lighthouses, WWII bunkers and gun batteries, super-sized dunes, secluded fishing and whale watching spots, lagoons, natural pools and shipwrecks. You can hand-feed wild dolphins at Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort each evening. BYO 4WD on the barge from Brisbane or hire at the resort. See visitbrisbane.com.au/moreton-island

10. MAGNETIC, QUEENSLAND

As far as fun on four wheels goes, it's hard to beat pootling about in a tropical paradise with the wind in your hair in a pint-sized convertible. Just ask anyone on Magnetic Island (Maggie to the locals) and they'll agree. Eight kilometres offshore from Townsville, the island has 23 beaches, the Great Barrier Reef on its doorstep, lots of koalas and loads of charm. You can bring your own car across on the ferry from Townsville, but hiring a convertible, classic moke or scooter on the island is much more fun. See magneticislandtourism.com

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