One of Australia’s most unique and picture-perfect travel destinations is an island paradise that most travellers have never heard of.
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are a holiday must for those who dream of escaping from life for a while to laze under a palm tree and make the only footprints on the entire beach as far as the eye can see.
Where are the Cocos (Keeling) Islands?
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are two small coral atolls made up of 27 islands situated in the Indian Ocean halfway between Perth, Western Australia and Sri Lanka. They are located 3600 km (approximately 2237 miles) due west of Darwin, and as such, takes the cake as Australia’s most distant and least-known territory.
The islands sit at latitude 12° south and longitude 96.5° east, which means balmy tropical temperatures that range between 20°C and 29°C, day and night, all year round.
Only two of the 27 islands are inhabited. West Island, which houses the airport, has a population of approximately 100 people who are mainly expatriate workers for the Australia Government. A 30-minute ferry ride across the lagoon will take you to Home Island, where a Cocos-Malay community of approximately 500 live. A ferry service runs throughout the day between both islands as workers and students cross to attend their respective workplaces and school. Visitors are welcome to explore both islands but should remember to wear the appropriate attire on Home Island out of respect for the Muslim community.
The third island that is most frequently visited is Direction Island – a yachting haven for world sailors. A ferry travels there twice-weekly and camping is permitted for a short time only. The island is famous for its snorkelling and swimming.
Things to do on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
The islands offer the opportunity to return to simple living; to sit quietly under a palm tree and breath. For the more active, there is the chance to try a host of water-based activities that include but are not limited to swimming, snorkelling, beach fishing, deep-sea trolling, surfing, kite surfing, kayaking and diving.
The islands are also very popular with bird watchers as they boast one of Australia’s smallest and most remote national parks that has a world-renown sea rookery. North Keeling Island lies 24 km north of the main atoll and can be accessed via boat if the weather and swell permit.
Getting to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Flights to the islands are serviced by Virgin Blue and depart from Perth International Airport on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Although deemed an international flight, Australian citizens to not need a passport but do need some form of photographic identification.
The flights loop through both Cocos and Christmas Island (the closest neighbour some 1000 km to the north-east.) Visitors may wish to tie in a stay on Christmas Island, which is very different to Cocos but unique in its own way. It is most famous for its red crab migration which sees millions of crabs move from the jungle floor to the sea to spawn. This usually occurs late in the year.