Aerial view of Cocos Keeling Islands

Credit: Ryan Chatfield for Cocos Keeling Islands

Located a half-day flight from Perth, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are Australia’s most remote group of 27 coconut-palm fringed islands. 

With warm, crystal clear waters and white sand beaches, Cocos (as it’s known to locals) offers the epitome of a tropical island holiday, without the crowds. A drop in the Indian Ocean that’s just 14.2 sq km, the islands can host up to 144 visitors at any one time  - offering an off-the-beaten-path escape for those seeking ocean adventures in the azure lagoon or simply to relax away from it all.  

Here’s our round up of some of the best things to do to while away a break on this idyllic atoll that’s dubbed Australia’s last unspoilt paradise. 

 

1. Spend a day (or more) on  Home Island     

Bike outside a home on Home Island

Credit: Rachel Clair for Cocos Keeling Islands

You have two islands to choose from when booking accommodation on Cocos: West Island or Home Island.

West Island has the most options to stay - from beautiful bungalows to simple beachfront holiday houses - with a handful of great eating out options, while Home Island offers a cultural world away with local homestays or accommodation at 1880’s mansion Oceania House. 

Home to around 450 Cocos Malay residents who follow the Sunni branch of Islam, the kampong (village) features rows of cute houses surrounded by stunning foreshores of white sand beaches, coconut jungles and the brightly blue-hued lagoon. Do as the locals do and hire an electric buggy to get around and join Ossie for his cultural tour which includes meeting elders and learning traditions like basket weaving and sea salt making, and sitting down for a shared homemade feast. 

Local cooking on Cocos Keeling Islands

Credit: Cocos Keeling Islands

If you’re not staying on Home Island, simply hop on the $2.50 public ferry which offers return trips to and from West Island six days a week.

2. Get into the lagoon

Snorkelling with turtles on Cocos Keeling Islands

Credit: Cocos Keeling Islands

The waters surrounding Cocos form one of the largest protected marine parks in the world, covering over 465,000 square km. It’s a scuba diver’s paradise with over 20 sites teeming over 500 species of tropical fish, magical mantas, dolphins and vibrant underwater gardens. With just one operator on the islands, Cocos Dive, the experience is extra special with just your boat and wildlife in the water, but this means spaces can fill up quickly so be sure to book well ahead. 

For snorkellers, on West Island you can simply wade across the lagoon at low tide to Pulu Maraya which offers a gentle rip with an abundance of marine life to spot or head down to favourite swimming beach Trannies with your kit for frequent sightings of friendly reef sharks, wrasse and more. To see some of the blooming coral reefs and species out in the lagoon, consider hopping on a boat with a local skipper like Pete from Cocos Blue Charters or Dan from Cocosday

During the trade-wind season, from May-June to September-October, Cocos is a kitesurfing mecca with perfect conditions for beginners or experienced kiters keen to have a play. 

 

3. Island hop the southern atoll 

Aerial view of southern atoll

Credit: Cocos Keeling Islands

Skim across the lagoon on your very own motorised canoe to visit some of the uninhabited islands on Cocos, including Pulu Belan Madar which was voted one of Australia’s Top 10 Beaches in 2024. 

Run by Dan, Penne and his family from Cocosday, this iconic safari includes gourmet treats and drinks, spotting fat Green and Hawksbill turtles and endangered skinks, as well as snorkelling, beach walking and hermit crab races. 

 

4. Laze on Direction Island 

White shores and clear blue water at Direction Island

Credit: Cocos Keeling Islands

A must-do on every Cocos itinerary. Hop on the public ferry for a short, scenic ride to Direction Island and find a pondok (shelter) to park up for a day on one of Australia's most idyllic beaches. 

Don your snorkelling gear and walk to the tip of the island to float down the incredible natural rip that’s full of wildlife, then plop down on your towel for a nap or two under the palms. 

There are eco toilets here, wood fired BBQs, a heritage walking trail and shelters with tables and benches but nothing else except sand and sea. Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water, food, and suncare for a full day. 

The ferry runs return trips to Direction Island from Home and West Island on Thursday and Saturday, or you can visit any day of the week by chartering your own boat with a guide.

 

5. Explore West Island 

West Island, Cocos Keeling Islands

Credit: Cocos Keeling Islands

Home base for many travellers, West Island covers more than 10 kilometres end-to-end. 

To reach some of the island’s best swimming beaches or spots to cast a line, you’ll need to hire a car as walking the distance in the tropical heat is no mean feat. There are a few local operators like Happy Jacks, Hello Backing or Cocos Autos with a range of vehicles  including utes for surfboards or fishing gear, but numbers are limited given the island’s remote location so it’s important to pre-book before you land. 

Another fun way to get around is by e-bike and a tour on the beaches at low tide and through the island’s jungle tracks with Johnny Clunies Ross or Rose Cummins is a fun morning or afternoon activity (tide dependent). After you ride, an excellent way to balance out this light exercise is with a gourmet spread prepared by Cocos Picnics. The mother and daughter team, Mardi and Ash, will set up beautiful rugs, cushions and a mix of delicious snacks for you on your own private beach. 

For eating out on West Island, check the blackboards at Salty’s for their homemade pizza and straight-from-the-sea fish n chips nights, or book a table at Surfer Girl Brewery for specials like handmade Italian pasta. There’s also the Cocos Malay run restaurant called Tropika, which is open seven days a week and serves a mix of traditional and western dishes. On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings,, you can also visit the beautiful Big Barge & Sula Sula Cafe, home to a gallery of local creative works and a cute window cafe serving up coffee, iced coconuts and homemade treats.  

 

6. Cast a line for dinner 

Aerial view of clear blue water on Cocos Keeling Islands

Credit: Cocos Keeling Islands

With its far-flung location and warm waters, the fishing on Cocos is some of the best in Australia. Explore the lagoon’s blue holes with local guides from Hello Backing Fly and Sports Fishing, Cocos Blue Charters, or Cocosday to bring home huge GTs, bonefish, triggerfish, coral trout, bluefin and more.

There are also plenty of spots that the locals will share for shore fishing where there’s no one around except for a few curious hermit crabs. 

 

Virgin Australia flies to Cocos Keeling Islands via Christmas Island from Perth twice per week, book here