The delicate Great Barrier Reef is the earth’s most extensive coral-reef system, supporting more than 1,600 species of fish, along with whales, rays, octopuses, dolphins and more. Nestled in the heart of this world wonder are the 74 Whitsunday Islands, all but four of which are protected national parklands. Bask in luxury at a high-end resort like Hamilton Island, and book a seaplane or helicopter flight to admire sights like Heart Reef and the swirling silica sands of Whitehaven Beach’s Hill Inlet.
Despite all those staycations, the Channel Islands are as close as you get to the UK when it comes to water-surrounded land masses: you prefer to cast your net wider, to the warmer Indian Ocean, Caribbean or Mediterranean – and, increasingly, as far as the Philippines, which has more than 7,600 islands to choose between. The Greek Islands were the classical winners though, and this year’s overall number one, scoring highly for scenery and people, though Sicily’s food was tastier and the Maldives has better places to stay.