Gloucester Island Guide

Situated at the northern end of the Whitsunday Islands, Gloucester Island is one of the most accessible in the region from the mainland.

Secluded beaches, crystal clear water, undisturbed reef, and hectares of rainforest – it sounds too good to be true, right? Welcome to Gloucester Island.

Situated at the very northern end of the Whitsundays group, Gloucester Island is one of the larger islands in this area of the national park, large enough for camping with the right permits. Gloucester Island refers to a small group of islands close to the Queensland mainland at Bowen, which includes the likes of Armit Island and Saddleback Island. First seen and named ‘Cape Gloucester’ in 1770, Gloucester Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and is protected.

Home to a colony of endangered Proserpine rock-wallabies, sandy and coral rubble beaches, dense rainforest, and secluded coves, Gloucestor Island and the Gloucester Islands National Park (the group of islands surrounding) offer a tranquil retreat from the tourism of the Whitsundays.

Within this guide, Wings are here to outline how to get to the main island in this group (Gloucester Island), what to do on the island, accommodation, and tips for adding Gloucester National Parks to your sailing itinerary.

Where is Gloucester Island?

As the northernmost island in the Whitsundays, Gloucester Island is close to the towns of Bowen to the West and Airlie Beach to the Southwest. The island is the 3rd largest island by size in the Whitsundays.

How to Get to Gloucester Island

Generally, access to Gloucester Island is by private or commercial boat. If you’re sailing through the Whitsundays, you may be able to moor at Gloucester Island, depending on free moorings available.

Gloucester Island Guide

You’ll find wind protection from South East, South, and South West directions. Be wary when navigating through Gloucester Passage – at low tide, there is a submerged outcrop that extends out from the island.

Boats typically depart from nearby Dingo Beach and Hideaway Bay. Gloucester Island can be visited as part of a broader Whitsunday charter expedition and is located a short distance from Saddleback Island, Olden Island and Gumbrell Island, and Armit Island.

What Is There to Do on Gloucester Island?

As one of the larger islands, Gloucester is one of the few islands in the group where visitors can camp on designated campgrounds near the ocean. There are just two sites on the island where camping is legal - Bona Bay and East Side Bay.

Bona Bay is the more accessible site of the two, with a lovely sandy beach and plenty of space for anchorage. This site boasts a more favourable westerly outlook, and even some facilities like a compost toilet, picnic table, and access to the area at all tides. Thirty-six campers are permitted at this area of the Gloucester Island national park at any one time.

East Side Bay, on the other hand, is for more rugged adventurers. A bit more exposed, the spot still offers spectacular views of the Coral Sea, but is for the more experienced campers who are more self-sufficient. A much smaller site than Bona Bay, East Side Bay can take a maximum of six campers at a time.

All campsites require a permit to stay – you can buy campaign permits (adult / family per night $6.55/ $26) online from Queensland Parks & Wildlife before visiting the island.

There are some sections of Gloucester island where there are picnic tables and toilets for visitors to enjoy and share quality time with their travel groups.

Important Information About Gloucester Island National Park

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Islands, which includes the Whitsundays, are some of the most pest-free islands in the world. Before your visit, make sure to clean your camping gear and clothing from soil and natural matter that you bring from your last destination.

Check your footwear for excess soil as well as clothing for loose seeds that may contain harmful bacteria. Gloucester Island's pristine condition is due to the tireless effort of park workers and diligent visitors, so make sure you uphold this standard to keep the area beautiful.

As well as biological threats, other things like open fires and ash-producing stoves are not permitted on any National Park islands or intertidal lands adjacent to the national park islands. The state government recommends all visitors use gas or fuel stoves for cooking.

From October 1st to March 21st, seasonal bird restrictions apply. This means that you must observe a 6-knot speed limit within 200m of the high water mark and there is no beach access within searbird areas on south beach (Armit Island), west beach (Double Cone Island), south beach (Grassy Island), Little Armit Island, and Old Rock.

Gloucester Island Fishing

The secluded northern zone of the Whitsunday Islands has plenty of stunning fishing spots where you'll often find yourself in complete peace on the azure waters. Gloucester Island is surrounded by reef areas. To the north, you've got the deeper areas that are home to fish like Spanish Mackerel. Closer to the headlands, there are more typical reef species like Coral Trout.

The ocean is teeming with sea life, fish, turtles, dolphins, and even whales in the right season. If you're lucky, you might even get yourself a fish that is big enough to eat, which you'll be able to cook up on a barbeque. Try the deeper Northern area for a Spanish Mackerel or any of the headlands for typical reef species like Coral Trout.

For the afternoons, beach fishing is also possible right outside your campsite, and is the perfect way to finish a day on the western shores watching the sunset.

Gloucester Island National Park with Wings

The best place to experience the beauty of the Whitsundays is by boat. Gloucester Island is ideal for lovers of camping that want to visit the area for some time on dry land within their tour of the island chain. With a bit of luck, you might have the entire island to yourself!

Wings offer a wide range of chartered boat options for you to explore the natural wonders of the Whitsundays. From half-day charters all the way up to five-day charters, you can experience the Whitsundays at a pace that suits you and your holiday. Fishing holidays, romantic getaways, or more party-focused boat trips, there's something for everyone on the Whitsundays. Let Gloucester Island be one stop of many on your journey. Sail to, around, and from Gloucester with Wings.