christmas island Tourism Association

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Brad Farmer tells us how he picked Australia's best 101 beaches

Brad Farmer Dolly Beach 11

This month we were delighted to hear that Dolly Beach had been chosen in the Top 10 in a list of 101 Australian Beaches by Brad Farmer, Tourism Australia’s official Beach Ambassador. We always knew Dolly was special, but being chosen in the Top 10 out of the 11,000+ beaches that line Australia’s coastline, is pretty special.

We asked Brad about his arduous task of assessing Australia’s beaches…

CI. How long have you been researching Australia's best beaches?

BF: 50 years, if you count that I was digging into the beach sands of this big sandbox as a kid… but just over 30 years since I began formally researching beaches with the publication of my first book on Best Australian Surfing Beaches in 1985 when I was 24.

Brad Farmer Ethel Beach beach track

CI: How did you become an expert on beaches?

BF: Simply by travelling to thousands of beaches of all sorts in numerous countries over the years, most often with a notepad tucked into my beach pack. Speaking with all manner of beachgoers and stakeholders, later collaborating with coastal academics and policy makers, most recently on a benchmark book - 101 Best Australian Beaches, with eminent coastal geomorphologist, Professor Andy Short OAM.

Forming many coastal conservancy groups over the years, writing articles and publications, developing beach management plans and just dedicating all my time to understanding what makes a best beach and protecting those under threat from human impact. It’s been a privilege to engage with grass roots communities right through to being a coastal adviser in the Australian Senate. Some say it’s the world’s best job – the pay may be lousy but the office is at the beach.

Brad Farmer at Lily Beach

CI: Why is it important to you to promote Australia's beaches?

BF: When a nation has the most diverse coastline and best managed of any in the world, it’s worth not only preserving, but letting the world know it. Australians, by choosing to live by the coast, have made Australia what it is today – the world’s foremost beach culture. I think it’s incontestable we have the world’s best beaches.

CI: What is it about Australia's beaches that fascinates you?

BF: I think anyone who truly immerses themselves into the ocean lifestyle can’t help but be totally fascinated and somewhat humbled, by the immense opportunity to celebrate the senses and embrace the zone where life itself began. The point where land meets sea has fascinated humans for thousands of years. If you live near it, as most Aussies do, it becomes part of your DNA and of course very much the central narrative of the Australian way of life.

Brad Farmer at lookout

CI: Do Australians appreciate their beaches enough?

BF: Appreciation of our beaches is increasing yes, but many take it for granted; especially those who have not seen other – much less beautiful and cared for beaches around the planet. In my role as Tourism Australia’s Beach Ambassador, it’s a fairly easy sell though! Beaches, and primarily aquatic and coastal experiences is the #1 attraction we have and the greatest generator of pleasure and income for Australia. Last year, some $38.1b was derived from tourism.

CI: What do you look for in a beach to include it on your list? What are the criteria to make the Top 101?

BF: Well essentially the ‘wow’ factor and in the popular context, a beach you’d recommend to a friend. The scientific criteria is more complex; ranging from environmental considerations to social engagement factors. We can cross many beaches off the list if, for example, they are in some way polluted in every sense of the word or are developed in a way that is unsympathetic to the natural beachscape and the community. Of course, not everyone will agree with the experts’ choices as most locals love their own local beach or have a memorable favourite. But that’s part of the conversations we have as Aussies who are rightly proud of our beaches.

Brad Farmer Dolly Beach 1

CI: How did you hear about Christmas Island's beaches?

BF: From early documentaries and later on the largely negative media around the arrival of so called ‘boat people’ some of who perished on its shores. More recently, when I realised that as an Australian territory it had been very much overlooked as a beach destination in its own right. I saw an advert in a magazine and the penny dropped to make the journey to assess it first-hand. In November, I spent six eye-opening days exploring the island from its jungle interior to its remote beaches and had some great conversations with the locals along the way.

CI: What made you decide on Dolly Beach? What makes Dolly special?

BF: Merrial, Lily, Ethel, Winifred, Greta and some other female-flavoured named beaches took my interest at first glance, but it was my five-hour trek (raking thousands of migrating crabs at the time) to adorable Dolly which stole my heart for its sheer natural beauty. From the fresh water streams amid coconut-lined golden sands to the natural spa rock pool. The only hazards were stepping around a few red and robber crabs, fresh turtle digs and freshly fallen thirst quenching coconuts. Dolly may be the most remote beach in Australia (literally) but the journey is certainly rewarded.

Brad Farmer Dolly Beach 3

CI: Is this the first time you've visited Christmas Island? What are your first impressions?

BF: Yes, my first visit making me think perhaps I’ve left the best till last. The island is world class for its outstanding natural beauty and stands alone in Australia - and the world - as potentially a first class naturally intact, eco-tourism destination. Few other islands I’ve visited or researched have as much going for it as this nature-blessed gem. As Australia’s largest rain forested island surrounded by reef, it is unique. Its fascinating allure starts below the surface, available up close with an abundance of diverse marine life. The diversity on land extends from jungle track environments to sublime isolated beaches and a harmonious blend of cultures and varied cuisines. To top it off, the ever-present soaring of birds of all manner in the skies above you, makes for a holistic experience like no other

CI: What did you know about the island before you arrived?

BF: Like most Australians and many around the world, the island was for some time known only for its remarkable red crab migration, then as a controversial Australian Detention Centre for thousands of refugees.

Brad Farmer beach track

CI: What was it like witnessing the crab migration?

BF: Just fascinating. As Sir David Attenborough has said, nowhere else in the world will you witness such a natural phenomenon. The fact that islanders value each and every crab so highly is testament to the preservation of the species – and all species endemic to this magic spot.

CI: And finally, your overall impressions of the island?

BF: Christmas Island is one of the world’s best kept secrets whose time to shine has arrived as an internationally acclaimed ecotourism destination. The nature and marine based activities and adventures are too numerous to list. Its attraction is indeed its isolation and genuinely pristine environment. The environment is vibrating with life for every discerning visitor to experience. CI is still in a natural state in a world increasingly exploited by human and touristic impacts.

 Brad Farmer Dolly Beach 4

Christmas Islander Rochelle Lessing shares her Red...
Australia’s best beach named…. (drum roll).

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  • Airport Transfers

    Airport Transfers may be arranged direct with Indian Ocean Experiences on +61 (0) 439 215 667

    $25 one way
    $35 return
    Minimum 2 people
    Book here

    Taxis For bookings, please call +61 (0)439 215 644
  • Communications


    The internet service on Christmas Island is provided through a satellite system and at times the service may be slower than you may be used to and may drop out during rainy periods. WIFI hotspots are available at various locations around the settled areas and your accommodation may offer WIFI. No data (internet) is available through the mobile phone system (Telstra 2G).


    The Christmas Island Post Office provides a range of unique Christmas Island stamps just waiting for the postcard. The Post Office provides a full range of postal services and philatelic items, some banking services, mobile phones, SIM cards and a range of stationary and other items. Contact the Christmas Island Post Office on Ph: +61 (0)8 9164 8495 or Fax: +61 (0)8 9164 8494 E-mail:


    There is full phone access to and from the Australian mainland and internationally. A Telstra 2G GSM Mobile Telephone Service (no data services) operates on the Island. Telstra SIM cards are available at various shops including the Christmas Island Post Office. Christmas Island numbers are listed in the "Great Northern WA" phone book and in the Australian directories on the internet. Public phones are located at various locations. Contact the Christmas Island Post Office on Ph: +61 (0)8 9164 8495 or Fax: +61 (0)8 9164 8494 E-mail:


    Christmas Island receives Australian Digital Television Stations. As stations are broadcast through a satellite service, interference may occur due to rainfall. Radio 6RCI is the local radio station staffed by volunteers and transmits on 105.3FM from Rocky Point and 102.1FM from Drumsite. The schedule is advertised in the local paper, The Islander, and includes English, Malay and Chinese programs. Other radio stations are broadcast on the FM frequency including Red FM - a commercial station based in West Australia as well as ABC Radio National, ABC NorthWest WA and JJJ.
  • Taxis

    The Christmas Island Taxi Service is available:

    Tue-Thur: 6:30am - midnight
    Fri & Sat: 6:30am - 2:00am
    Sun: 7:30am - 11:00pm
    (Closed Monday)

    For bookings, please call +61 (0)439 215 644
    Airport Transfers may be available upon request.
  • Health

    Travel insurance to cover medical needs is strongly recommended.  Routine medical services are provided free to Australian citizens & permanent residents.  International travellers may be covered under reciprocal arrangements or through travel insurance.  If you have specialist health needs it is recommended to check with the Indian Ocean Territories Health Service prior to arranging your visit and to bring a supply of any medication you may use.  This should be carried in your cabin luggage with a copy of any prescriptions.

    Health care is available at the Christmas Island Hospital through the Indian Ocean Territories Health Service.   The facilities are modern and well equipped and includes GP and dental services and an accident and emergency department.  Patients requiring specialist care are assisted in their travel to the mainland, and emergency cases are evacuated to Perth through the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It is important that all visitors to the Island have appropriate travel insurance to cover their health needs and emergency evacuation from Christmas Island. 

    A pharmacy operates on Christmas Island and supplies a large range of medicines and other health supplies. 

    Christmas Island is a tropical environment.  It is recommended to drink plenty of water, wear a hat and use sunscreen. Tap water is safe to drink. 

    Contact the Indian Ocean Territories Health Services on Ph: +61 (0)8 9164 8333 or Fax: +61 (0)8 9164 8338
    Contact the Christmas Island Pharmacy on +61 (0)8 9164 8337

  • On Arrival


    ABF House (formerly Customs House) Christmas Island - 3 Tong Chee Road - The Australian Border Force protects the Australian border and manages the movement of people and goods across it. ABF House at Christmas Island undertakes the functions associated with the arrival and departure of commercial vessels, small craft, aircraft, crew, passengers, air and sea cargo. It also deals with the import or export of motor vehicles, vessels and aircraft for the residents of Christmas Island. Operators and owners/masters of arriving and departing craft are required to report certain information to ABF, within specified time periods, prior to the actual arrival or departure occurring. Residents can report suspicious activity to the ABF. ABF House Christmas Island does not deal with visa or citizenship inquiries, and for most over the counter transactions and payments, you should contact ABF House (formerly Customs House) at Perth Airport. ABF Christmas Island can be contacted via email on, Telephone +61 (0) 8 9164 7228 or Fax +61 (0) 8 9164 7205.


    The Australian Federal Police are responsible for providing police services to the community of Christmas Island. A team of sworn police officers and locally engaged 'special constables' provide the full range of community policing services, including land and marine search and rescue coordination, within a small, diverse and multicultural community. No firearms are allowed on Christmas Island. Further information about the Australian Federal Police can be found by visiting
    Contact the Christmas Island Police (AFP) on:
    Phone +61 (0)8 9164 8444 or Fax: +61 (0)8 9164 8440


    Christmas Island is an island with some unique endemic species of wildlife. It is also free of many pests and diseases that are found in other parts of the world. Quarantine is the border agency charged with the task of protecting the environment and human health from pest or disease incursions. The department's objective is to facilitate the movement of passengers, cargo, aircraft and vessels in a way that minimises any inconvenience to the people involved while maintaining the quarantine integrity of the island. This is achieved through various reporting, screening, inspection and treatment mechanisms. Certain products are prohibited on the island while other items may require some form of treatment before they may be released.

    Any persons wishing to know more about the quarantine requirements on Christmas Island should contact the Christmas Island Quarantine Service on Tel: +61 (0)8 9164 7456 or Fax: + 61 (0)8 9164 7468 or via E-mail on
  • Banking

    Westpac Banking Corporation have a branch located at Canberra Place, Settlement offering banking services  including foreign currency exchange.   
    Contact Westpac-Christmas Island on Ph: +61 (0)8 9164 8221 

    An ATM is available at the Poon Saan Shops.  

    Many shops and restaurants accept credit cards and electronic payments. Some may offer you to take out cash when purchasing items. However, it is recommended that you travel with some Australian cash.

  • Education

    The Christmas Island District High School provides education from pre-school level through to Year 12 secondary level. For further information on the education services provided on Christmas Island, please see Contact the Christmas Island District High School on:Ph: +61 (0)8 9164 8546 or Fax: +61 (0)8 9164 8544

    Indian Ocean Group Training Association
    Indian Ocean Group Training Association (IOGTA) is the main employment provider on Island. IOGTA also runs many training courses for more information on current training course please contact: Phone: +61 (0)8 9164 7220 or Fax: +61 (0)8 9164 7129

  • Other Services


    The island electricity (consumer voltage 240V, 50 cycles) is generated by diesel plants in the power station located on the island.

    Australian plugs are in use - international visitors may need to bring an adapter.


    Water is pumped from several springs and underground streams. The water is treated and supplied in accordance with West Australian standards and is tested periodically. The water is safe to drink.

    Note: Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) are now available for hire from the Christmas Island Police Station (Tel : +61 8 9164 8444). PLBs are designed to be carried by bushwalkers or solo adventurers and are actviated in the event of an emergency when immediate search and rescue assistance is required. It is recommended that any person exploring Christmas Island in the National Park, or in areas where there is no mobile phone reception, that a PLB is carried to alert authorities in the event of a serious emergency.

  • Driving

    Driving on Christmas Island

    Some tips for those visitors planning to drive whilst on Christmas Island
    - drive on the left side of the road
    - bring a valid drivers licence.  If you are an international visitor, you are able to drive with your foreign licence for three months.  If your licence is not in English, you will need an International Drivers Permit (IDP) from your home country
    - wear a seatbelt
    - follow the speed limits and traffic signs
    - do not drive while under the influence of alcohol
    - do not use a mobile (cell) phone  while driving
    - wear a helmet when riding a motorbike or bicycle
    - road conditions vary, particularly after heavy rains and you should check conditions first and then proceed with caution on some of the tracks
    - slow down and go around crabs on the road when safe to do so
    - some roads will be closed during the red crab migration.

    Cars are available for hire

    Mountain bikes are available for hire at ExtraDivers

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