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There are hundreds of thousands of islands dotting our oceans and lakes—as many as 180,000 in Finland alone—but only 10 of these enticing, secluded spots get to crown Travel + Leisure’s annual World’s Best Islands list. 

No. 9 Great Barrier Reef Islands, Australia

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Score: 87.31

A vast, 1,600-mile sweep of coral reef unfurls from the northeastern tip of Australia, teeming with more than 400 species of marine life spanning from the great baleen whales to thorny urchins. Divers can be found year-round in this labyrinth of 3,000 plus individual reefs, one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and the largest living feature on Earth, made from billions of coral polyps. Of all the region’s castaway islands (approximately 900) it’s the Whitesundays, at the threshold of this coral paradise, that we love most, thanks in large part to the blinding-white strip of sand known as Whitehaven Beach. The spectacular biodiversity is reflected in the incredible mélange of resorts scattered amongst the Great Barrier Reef. While the enormous, 244-room Hayman Island has acres of marble flooring and a swimming pool seven-times the Olympic standard, modest Qualia has 60 intimate bungalows outfitted with private terraces and kwila hardwood.

Great Barrier Reef Islands

World's Best Islands

No. 9 Great Barrier Reef Islands, Australia

Score: 87.31

A vast, 1,600-mile sweep of coral reef unfurls from the northeastern tip of Australia, teeming with more than 400 species of marine life spanning from the great baleen whales to thorny urchins. Divers can be found year-round in this labyrinth of 3,000 plus individual reefs, one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and the largest living feature on Earth, made from billions of coral polyps. Of all the region’s castaway islands (approximately 900) it’s the Whitesundays, at the threshold of this coral paradise, that we love most, thanks in large part to the blinding-white strip of sand known as Whitehaven Beach. The spectacular biodiversity is reflected in the incredible mélange of resorts scattered amongst the Great Barrier Reef. While the enormous, 244-room Hayman Island has acres of marble flooring and a swimming pool seven-times the Olympic standard, modest Qualia has 60 intimate bungalows outfitted with private terraces and kwila hardwood.

© iStockphoto

World's Best Islands

Discerning readers have ranked their favorite island oases in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards, and this year’s results prove that no destination is too remote when pristine, white-sand beaches and exotic fauna await.

For the third time in the World’s Best Awards two-decade history, the wild islands of the Galápagos secured the No. 1 spot. Despite being 600 miles west of South America, this primordial sanctuary continues to lure travelers with the promise of encounters with playful sea lions and flamboyant blue-footed boobies.

With untamed Tasmania, the jagged mountains peaks of Moorea, and Australia’s vibrant Great Barrier Reef islands rounding out the list, this year’s selection is a clear departure from 2014, which reflected a certain national pride (Hawaiian islands filled four of the top 10 overall spots). Now, distant and unusual shores are back on travelers’ minds.

Not that there’s anything wrong with fulfilling fantasies of coconut palms and luaus. And for that reason, Maui and Kauai are back again, marking 20 consecutive years on the Top 10 Overall list.

Plot your next getaway to one of these incredible islands, where being encircled by water is only part of the appeal.  

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