A quick guide to visiting South Molle Island in the Whitsundays. Includes how to get here, what to expect, and photography from my trip.
South Molle Island is a small 4.5 square kilometer island located just a few hours from Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour.
The island was a popular tourist attraction in the 50s and 60s that would attract many visitors to the now-abandoned Bauer Bay Resort. These days, the island is very quiet, offering visitors a unique Whitsunday Island experience away from the crowds.
I visited this island as part of my East Coast Australia sailing trip, and have included information from my visit including how to get here, what to expect, and things to do on the island. Also, there is now also a great camping tour that you can book below!
By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.
How to Get to South Molle Island
For a long time, this island was only accessible via private boat. However, there is now a great camping boat transfer available to book on BackpackerDeals (use code OLLY5 to get $5 off).
This trip includes:
- 1-hour scenic return boat transfers from Airlie Beach
- Option to choose one of four scenic campsites on the island
- Option to explore the island paradise at your own pace and to stay as many nights as you like
These trips depart from Shute Harbour Marine Terminal at Airlie Beach and must be booked online in advance.
About the Molle Island Group
The Molle group of islands is conveniently located in the heart of the Whitsundays. South Molle is the largest of the four, with North Molle and Mid Molle just to the north.
During low tide, the water drops and you are able to walk across to Mid Molle Island.
Daydream Island is located just to the west and was in fact once named West Molle Island. I guess the name did the trick. Daydream is still a bustling luxury hotspot, while the rest are practically abandoned.
However, I'll hopefully convince you that if you have the means to get there, this island is a much better alternative close to Airlie Beach.
Sailing and Anchorage Information at South Molle Island
South Molle Island provides the best anchorage location for people sailing or cruising the Whitsunday Island. The best anchorage during developed South-East trade winds is on the North end of South Molle Island, known as Bauer Bay.
There are several buoys on the East side of this bay. These buoys were previously used for boats wanting access to the resort.
The best anchorage location in the bay is just beside these buoys. The stretching cliffs of Spion Kop provide good protection but can generate some powerful bullets in high winds.
Featured in:Sailing log Week 3
What to Expect When Visiting South Molle Island
South Molle Island has three tall points and is surrounded by hilly grasslands. There are several secluded bays with fringing reefs to explore.
Most travelers and backpackers tend to head straight for Whitsunday and Hamilton Islands. However, if you have the time and want an entire tropical island to yourselves, then make sure you stop by at South Molle Island.
Exploring the South Molle Island Abandoned Resort
The once bustling resort in Bauer Bay is now completely abandoned. The South Molle Island resort was destroyed during Cyclone Debbie in 2016.
A few months prior, during the same year, the resort was sold to new Chinese owners for a total of $25 million. This included the resort and a land lease.
I'm sure they weren't too happy after being forced to shut down and abandon it. However, while we were on South Molle Island, the owners landed via chopper. We were told that they were already planning the reconstruction.
Hikes and Bushwalks on South Molle
The resort takes up a large portion of Bauer Bay beach, however, the rest of the Island is National Park.
There are several hikes to check out on the island, some stretching to the viewpoint peaks and others to small, secluded bays.
The terrain is mostly grassy hills with pockets of dense rainforest. The QLD National Parks authority do a great job of keeping the tracks open. There are even some old signs for mountain bike trails, which are wide and upkept.
All tracks on the island start on the Western end of Bauer Bay Beach. There are National Park signs and weathered hike information boards at the start.
1. Spion Kop Lookout
By far, the highlight of viewpoints and hikes on South Molle Island is Spion Kop Lookout. It will take you roughly 1-2 hours each way from the beach to the lookout.
This large, vertical cliff face sticks out from the North-Eastern tip of the island. The rock face is topped with native shrubs and some lonely pines.
The track winds up the back of the abandoned resort, through dense rainforest and up and over some rolling, grassy hills. The end of the hike has a boardwalk, but you will be rewarded with the best views at the top of the rock.
From the top, you can see over Bauer Bay, Middle, and North Molle Islands, and even over to the mainland. On the other side, you have sweeping views of Hook Island and the Whitsunday Islands.
Related:Guide to Hiking Whitsunday Peak
2. Balancing Rock Lookout
Balancing Rock Lookout is another epic viewpoint located on South Molle Island. This walk is much closer to the resort beach, taking only 30-40 minutes to reach.
Follow the signs up and around the bay until you reach a rocky outcrop which you can scramble to the top of. Keep walking and climbing around the corner to have views of both Bauer Bay, the resort and Daydream Island on the other side.
Camping on South Molle Island
While we didn't camp on the island as we had our boat, there are camping locations on Paddle Bay and Saddle Bay. However, keep in mind that it is a National Park, and camping permits and fees do apply.
Check out the maps and details for up-to-date information about camping on South Molle Island.
More Whitsundays & Airlie Beach Travel Guides
I hope you've enjoyed this updated guide to visiting South Molle Island in the Whitsundays. Before you head off on an adventure of your own, check out some of my other detailed guides to the region below.
- 60+ Things to do in Cairns - my ultimate Cairns and FNQ travel resource covering the best activities, hidden gems, and unmissable experiences.
- Cairns Hiking Guide - a huge list of epic rainforest, waterfall, and lookout hikes in Cairns.
- Cairns Waterfalls - a huge list of epic waterfalls that I've visited in Cairns and the surrounding tropics.
- Cairns Islands - discover my favorite Great Barrier Reef islands near Cairns and Port Douglas.
- Cairns Tours - my roundup of the best tours you can book in Cairns and FNQ, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Daintree Rainforest.
- Cairns Packing List - tips on what to pack for a trip to Far North Queensland.
- Top Things to Do in Port Douglas - a comprehensive guide to the sleepy Far North Queensland town of Port Douglas.
- Epic 5-Day Cairns Itinerary - my suggested adventure itinerary if you only have 5 days to spend in Cairns.
- Cape Tribulation Travel Guide - discover where the rainforest meets the reef at one of my favourite places in Australia.
- Magnetic Island Travel Guide - your ultimate resource for visiting "Maggie" near Townsville.
- Best Things to do in the Atherton Tablelands - my guide to one of Far North Queensland's most underrated adventure destinations.
- Accommodation Resources: Discover where to stay in Cairns, the best hotels in Port Douglas and my Cape Tribulation accommodation guide.