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Australia’s Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports

by Jonathan Green

Australia is vast. So vast that you could fit the United Kingdom into Australia around 32 times. Yet, despite accounting for 5 per cent of the world’s total landmass, just 25 million people live in the land down under. Being one of the least densely populated countries in the world has its perks and its cons. A perk is that you’re always far away from people. A con is that you’re always far away from people. In this list, you will discover some of the worlds most remote commercial airports. These airports are situated in the aridest of deserts and the most idyllic stretches of sea. Some of these airports are so far off the grid that it can take half a day to fly to the nearest major city.

Although, from great distances comes great innovation. From the Australian royal flying doctor service to satellite launch pads and multi-billion dollar aircraft graveyards, Australia’s most remote commercial airports may surprise you with what they’re capable of.

Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Cocos Keeling West Island Airport

© Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock

1. Cocos Island West Island Airport, Western Australia (CCK)

Situated in the Indian Ocean, Cocos Islands are officially part of Western Australia. Amongst the most idyllic islands in the world, they boast unspoilt beaches, tropical flora and fauna, and pristine turquoise water. The tiny but mighty airport that serves the West Island was initially built during World War II to support allied aircraft in the war against Japan. This spot of paradise played an essential role, as did many Australian external territories, in the fight against Japan and the reconquest of Singapore. Cocos Airport served as a base to the No. 136 Squadron, which utilised aircraft such as the Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIIIs.

  • Nearest Major City: Perth, 2’932 km
  • Longest Runway: 2’441 metres (8’009 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: 14’896 (2018)
  • Airlines: Virgin Australia, Toll Global Express
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Christmas Island Airport

© Christmas Island

2. Christmas Island Airport, Western Australia (XCH)

From Russian satellite launch pads to a 60 million-year-old basalt volcano and red crab infestations, there is nothing ordinary about Christmas Island. Yet another Indian Ocean outpost of Australia, the island sits 480 km off the coast of Indonesia and was formed out of an ancient volcano that rose 5,000 metres up from the ocean floor. The Island famously houses an Australian Immigration Detention Centre, which recently made headlines when returned Aussies were quarantined on the Island after the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. While the airport is now mainly used for larger commercial aircraft due to elevated fees making it hard for smaller aircraft to utilise the airport, the site nearly became an Indian ocean satellite launch pad. The Asia Pacific Space Centre, now known as Soft Star Aerospace Pty Ltd, took over the former casino site with a proposal to build a satellite launch facility on Christmas Island. With significant financial support from the Australian Government, the site was due to be fully operational by 2004 with up to 400 Russian rocket scientists and engineers. Componentry would have been flown in by Antonov An-124 and Boeing 747 freighters, and the runway would’ve seen a 600-metre extension to accommodate the aircraft. The proposed site barely made it past general earthworks, and funding was withdrawn officially in 2006.

  • Nearest Major City: Perth 2’608 km (Jakarta 488 km)
  • Longest Runway: 2’103 metres (6’900 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: 26’723 (2018)
  • Airlines: Virgin Australia, Toll Global Express
Australia's most obscure and remote commercial airports

@ King Island Tourism Tasmania

3. King Island Airport, Tasmania (KNS)

A patch of forgotten land between Victoria and Tasmania, King Island is a lesser-known island located in the Bass Strait. However, King Island was not always an island. Some 12,000 years ago, it served as a land bridge between Tasmania and the Australian mainland before being swallowed by rising sea levels. The Island now has a commercial airport serving its small 1,500 population as well as its very own airline based at Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne. Sadly, the airport was the site of a small crash in 1998 when a Piper Lance hit a strong wind after taking off for Moorabbin, killing three Melbourne nurses.

  • Nearest Major City: Melbourne 246 km
  • Longest Runway: 1’585 metres (5’200 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: Unknown
  • Airlines: King Island Airlines, Regional Express, Sharp Airlines

4. Alice Springs Airport, Northern Territory (ASP)

As commercial airports go, Alice Springs Airport is remote. So remote that it’s a straight 16-hour drive from any major Australian city. But don’t let its secludedness fool you into thinking it has no significance. This mighty desert airport has been through everything, from being the destination of Australia’s first-ever domestic aircraft hijacking to the 1977 pilot suicide attempt that killed five. It’s home to the Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage facility, which in pandemic times hit the news more than once when major airlines started offloading their A380s for safekeeping. The current airport was only founded in 1940 when it took over from a town centre-based aerodrome, now a museum honouring the outback towns aviation significance using the old Connair air hangers. Connair, formerly known as Connellan Airways, was an airline based in Alice Springs serving the Northern Territory. In 1958, after military operations died down, the airport previously known as Seven Mile Aerodrome was renamed Alice Springs Airport. 1961 saw the airport receive a runway extension to its current length of just shy of 8’000 feet. This means the airport can accommodate the landing of A380s, Boeing 747s and 777s. However, none of them can take off fully loaded as the temperatures reduce the planes ability to take off. It can get as hot as 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer, with runway temperatures frequently exceeding 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit).

  • Nearest Major City: Darwin 1’496 km
  • Longest Runway: 2’438 metres (7’999 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: 617’186 (2017)
  • Airlines: Airnorth, Alliance Airlines, Qantas, Virgin Australia
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Mildura Airport

@ Phil Vabre/Airliners

5. Mildura Airport, Victoria (MQL)

Mildura is home to the busiest regional airport in Victoria and it’s no stranger to winning awards for being the best regional airport in Australia. Known for its wine country and location on the famous Murray River, Mildura has seen an increase in tourism this century. In 2012, the airport received a A$6.4 million passenger terminal upgrade to modernise the airport and allow for future air travel growth. QantasLink operates the de Havilland Dash-8 400 aircraft, and Regional Express utilise their Saab 340, with Sydney and Melbourne being the main destinations. Rex also flies infrequently to Broken Hill, a remote New South Wales town.

  • Nearest Major City: Adelaide 334 km
  • Longest Runway: 1’830 metres (6’004 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: 207’422 (2011)
  • Airlines: Regional Express, Qantas
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Broome International Airport

© Broome International Airport

6. Broome International Airport, Western Australia (BME)

For this remotely situated airport, we head back to the Indian Ocean to the postcard destination of Broome. Broome Airport is one of the main commercial airports serving the Western Australia Kimberley region, a vast wilderness with unique biodiversity. Broome is largely regarded as the gateway to the Kimberley, famous for red sands and dream-worthy turquoise beaches. It is multicultural at heart with close proximity to the Asian continent. The Aussie town attracts workers from all around the world, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Japan and Europe. Asian heritage is so prominent here that the town has its very own Chinatown! Broome airport was a central figure in World War II for Australia, with the RAAF using the airport as a base. However, in 1942, the airfield was attacked by the Japanese, resulting in the loss of 88 people and 22 aircraft. The airport also finds itself on the flight path of many international flights heading for major Australian cities, which came in handy for a number of aircraft over the years. In May 2019, a Qantas A330 travelling from Denpasar, Indonesia to Sydney landed in Broome following an electronics failure on flight QF44. To date, this is the largest commercial aircraft to have landed at the airport.

  • Nearest Major City: Darwin 1’112 km
  • Longest Runway: 2’368 metres (7’769 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: 409’663 (2011)
  • Airlines: Airnorth, Aviair, Qantas, Skippers Aviation, Virgin Australia
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Broken Hill Airport

© Phil Vabre/Airliners

7. Broken Hill Airport, New South Wales (BHQ)

Broken Hill is a frontier city in the far, far west of New South Wales. With a rich mining history, this legendary outback city is as close to the American wild west as you will get in Australia. While the mining city may not have to deal with Cowboys and Indians, it does have to deal with extreme temperatures like much of the Australian outback. This is why the runway is significantly longer than most regional airports, especially considering the runway is mainly utilised by the small Regional Express aircraft. However, the airport also serves as a base for the southeastern branch of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, a world-famous remote air medical service.

  • Nearest Major City: Adelaide 424 km
  • Longest Runway: 2’515 metres (8’251 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: 63’098 (2011)
  • Airlines: Regional Express
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Norfolk Island Airport

© Tourism Media

8. Norfolk Island International Airport, New South Wales (NLK)

Norfolk Island is a paradisiacal oasis in the South Pacific, just 2.5 hours by air from Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. Mixing the best of an Australian and Polynesian lifestyle, the Island’s laid back approach to life involves great farm to plate food and ultra-friendly locals. The Pacific Island is famous for its many pine trees, exquisitely unspoilt beaches, steep cliffs and luscious greenery. You can also find some of Australia’s best-preserved coral reefs, which give the water surrounding the island its distinctive turquoise colour. Despite all this beauty, the airport’s initial construction came at a destructive cost. The airport was built by a New South Wales parliament contingent requested by the United States Army Air Force in Word War II. Building the airport required hills to be flattened and valleys filled. There was virtually no flat land on the Island, so Pine Avenue, a local landmark consisting of 500 Norfolk pine’s reaching more than 170 ft tall, was cleared to make way for the airport. Most regional commercial airports in Australia have their roots in Word War II. However, the site saw no action and was home to the Royal New Zealand Air Force until they left in 1946. The airport now serves a few flights a week to mainland Australia using Airbus A320s. Air New Zealand previously operated the services to Sydney and Brisbane, but due to Covid19, Qantas took over the routes. Initially, Qantas agreed to operate the Sydney and Brisbane routes until August 30th, 2021. However, that has since been extended to June 30th, 2022.

  • Nearest Major City: Brisbane 1’471 km
  • Longest Runway: 1’950 metres (6’398 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: 57’758 (2011)
  • Airlines: Air Chathams, Air New Zealand, Qantas
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Birdsville Airport

© Birdsville Hotel

9. Birdsville Airport, Queensland (BVI)

Commercial airports don’t get more remote than Birdsville airport in far west Queensland. It takes multiple days to drive to Birdsville from the towns and cities on the Queensland coast, and more sand dunes surround the airport than people inhabiting the town it serves! This toasty desert town is far from quiet, though. Every year, the town plays host to some of Australia’s biggest events, such as the Birdsville Races and the Big Red Bash, a rock festival comprised of Australian rock legends. Keeping with the recurring theme, the Big Red Bash is officially the world’s most remote music festival. Named after the “Big Red”, a 40-meter tall sand dune. The festival nestles up against the dune, creating mother natures largest natural amphitheatre. However, aviation fanatics will feel right at home in Birdsville, providing you can withstand 50-degree-Celsius summers. Yes, it really does get that hot. In fact, December and January temperatures rarely drop below 40.

Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Birdsville Airport

Birdsville Races © Air Link

Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Birdsville Big Red Bash

© Big Red Bash

Every September, the town hosts the Birdsville races, the desert equivalent to the Melbourne Cup. During this one week, the airport sees up to 200 light aircraft movements with aviators allowed to camp under the wings of their planes. Ironically, the Birdsville Hotel is right next to the airport. In less than 100 steps, you can go from your hotel room to the aircraft parking bay. Recreational flyers and aerial tour operators frequent the airport, given the town’s proximity to some of Australia’s vastest natural wonders. Regarded as the gateway to the Simpson desert, tour companies frequently run flights over the lifeless desert as well as Australia’s largest salt lake, Lake Eyre. Due to an explosion in aviation-related tourism, the Queensland Government and the Diamantina Shire Council completed a A$1.5 million upgrade on the airport in 2011. This included resurfacing the runway, constructing a new terminal building, and installing edge lights on runway 14/32.

  • Nearest Major City: Brisbane 1’369 km
  • Longest Runway: 1’732 metres (5’682 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: Unknown
  • Airlines: Regional Express
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Onslow Airport

© JJ Ryan Consulting

10. Onslow Airport, Western Australia (ONS)

Onslow, aka cyclone city, is a sleepy town in Western Australia. Why is it dubbed “cyclone city”, I hear you ask? Since the town was established in 1883, it has experienced 12 major cyclones where winds have exceeded 200 kilometres per hour. The 1963 cyclone registered devastating winds of 232 kilometres per hour. Pilots landing at this regional airport must have the biggest kahunas in aviation! Thankfully, no major or minor crashes have been caused by extreme wind at the airport. Even heat can prove problematic here as summers commonly hit 40 degrees Celsius. The all-time record stands at just short of 50 degrees Celsius! Despite weather extremes that grace the area every year, the town has a long-standing history of sheep farming, which produced wool for hundreds of years. Due to how vast northwest Australia is, there are several commercial airports littering the Indian Ocean. The airport is primarily used by Virgin and the Royal Flying Doctor Service with up to eight scheduled flights a week.

  • Nearest Major City: Perth 1’376 km
  • Longest Runway: 1’600 metres (5’249 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: Unknown
  • Airlines: Qantas, Virgin Australia
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Mornington Island

© Mirndiyan Gununa/Mornington Island

11. Mornington Island, Queensland (ONG)

Unlike most commercial airports, you have to apply to the Mornington Shire Council up to six weeks before visiting. Even when you do apply, you aren’t guaranteed to gain permission to land. This is because an aboriginal community inhabits the Island. Resources and facilities are extremely limited on the Island, and even permission to land applications have to be sent by postal mail. Commercial airports don’t get any more remote than this! For any Australian’s here, you would have to travel 444 kilometres for your nearest woolies in Mount Isa. Despite how far out of the way this Island is, Regional Express operates five flights a week from Cairns and Mount Isa.

  • Nearest Major City: Cairns 679 km
  • Longest Runway: 1’515 metres (4’970 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: Unknown
  • Airlines: Regional Express
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Ayers Rock Uluru Airport

© Duty-Free Information

12. Ayers Rock (Uluru) Airport, Northern Territory (AYQ)

Ayers Rock is another significant airport in Australia’s red centre. Ayers Rock Airport serves its namesake (Ayers Rock Resort) and Yulara. The red rock’s airport may be the most remote airport on this list, with the nearest major city lying 1’579 kilometres away. Alice Springs, the nearest large town, is over 450 kilometres away. Funded by Edward Connellan, the airport shares close ties with its neighbouring town, Alice Springs. Edward Connellan founded Connellan Airways in 1942 in Alice Springs. Tourism infrastructure began appearing in the 1950s, which raised environmental issues and worries about disrupting traditional landowners. To this day, the airport is somewhat opposed by aboriginal communities due to the impact tourism has had on Uluru. In 2021, the Mutitjulu community that lives adjacent to the sacred rock temporarily blocked the gates to the national park in protest against tourists getting off flights from Covid-ridden Sydney. Virgin Australia announced its first route to the rest centre in 2010 with a flight between Sydney and Uluru. The airline pulled out of Uluru in 2020, opening up the opportunity for Qantas to hold a monopoly on major routes. Since then, Qantas announced it would resume its Sydney flights for the first time since April 2013 in March 2022.

  • Nearest Major City: Adelaide 1’579 km
  • Longest Runway: 2’599 metres (8’527 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: 309’089 (2011)
  • Airlines: Jetstar, Qantas
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Lord Howe Island Airport

© Destination NSW

13. Lord Howe Island Airport, New South Wales (LDH)

National Geographic ranked Lord Howe Island among one of its best destinations for 2021 as part of the annual Best of the World list. Any destination making a best-of list is worth visiting, but Lord Howe Island is special for so many more reasons. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site of global natural significance as most of the Island is entirely untouched. Covered in unique forests, plants and animals exclusive to the Island and found nowhere else in the world, the Island also features the world’s southernmost barrier coral reef. For those fortunate enough to visit, there are just 342 friendly locals on the Island and pristine beaches, which would blow the mind of the most seasoned travellers. Lord Howe Island Airport is among the smallest commercial airports on our list. With a runway measuring just 886 metres, don’t expect large jets to be ferrying you to and from the mainland. The airport is mainly serviced by QantasLink, who run flights from Sydney and Brisbane as well as a seasonal route from Port Macquarie. Eastern Air Services also provide a service out of Newcastle Airport, north of Sydney.

  • Nearest Major City: Brisbane 741 Km (Sydney 779 km)
  • Longest Runway: 886 metres (2’907 ft)
    • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: 31’569 (2011)
  • Airlines: Eastern Air Services, Qantas
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Cooper Pedy Airport

© Cooper Pedy

14. Coober Pedy Airport, South Australia (CPD)

Coober Pedy. The opal capital of the world. Perhaps one of the rarest and most beautiful gemstones in the world, opal made this sleepy outback mining town famous. Much of central Australia was once covered by the ocean, which explains why the Australian outback is one of the most unique places on earth. The desert is rich in metals and natural resources, and towns like Coober Pedy exist because of mining. This is also why most of the town was built underground. That, and the fact temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius during the day. Thanks to its martian landscape, Coober Pedy has also become a destination for video-game designers and filmmakers. Movies such as Mad Max, Mortal Kombat and Red Planet were filmed here. The airport has also seen some red-carpet action with the Xbox One game “Forza Three” using the Coober Pedy airport runway as a drag racing stage. The airport itself is fairly unremarkable. The small runway and high temperatures mean only small aircraft can take off and land. Regional Express run services between the mining town and Adelaide, the nearest major city in the south, and Port Augusta.

  • Nearest Major City: Adelaide 842 km
  • Longest Runway: 1’428 metres (4’685 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: Unknown
  • Airlines: Regional Express
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Horn Island Airport

© Tropical North Queensland

15. Horn Island Airport, Queensland (HID)

Horn Island airport is the only paved commercial airport in the Torres Strait Island group making this airport a significant hub of activity for a place inhabited by 650 people. Situated at the tip of Cape York Peninsula, Australia’s northernmost point, the Island is just 17 kilometres from the coast of mainland Queensland and just south of Papua New Guinea. The idyllic looking tropical Island was a significant point of interest in World War II. After Darwin, Horn Island was the second-most bombed area of Australia by the Japanese. The airport was constructed during the war to act as a staging area between mainland Australia and Papua New Guinea. Eight Royal Australian Airforce squadrons were based at the aerodrome during the time of the war. The war had such an impact on the island that the majority of today’s outside tourism comes from visits to the various memorials and museums set up on the island. Today, the airport is a stepping stone to the several tiny islands that make up the Torres Strait. Skytrans Airlines fly to Coconut Island, Moa Island, Yam Island, Yorke Island and Badu Island, just to name a few, while QantasLink flies to Cairns on the East Coast.

  • Nearest Major City: Cairns 795 Km (Port Moresby 551 km)
  • Longest Runway: 1’389 metres (4’557 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: Unknown
  • Airlines: Skytrans Airlines, Qantas
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Tennant Creek Airport

© NT News

16. Tennant Creek, Northern Territory (TCA)

Despite being the Northern Territory’s seventh most populous town at around 2’900 people, its existence, like most Territory towns, has the mining industry to thank. Tennant Creek is known as the gateway to the Barkly, a highly remote part of Australia where Kangaroos outnumber humans ten-fold, and farms can spread out over millions of acres. Situated 510 kilometres north of Alice Springs, the town’s airport mainly serves local aboriginal communities and “tradies” working in various industries such as mining, farming or construction and maintenance. Tennant Creek Airport is frequented by Airnorth flights which operates flights to Alice Springs, Katherine and Darwin. Chartair is a charter airline that provides a cost-effective option for companies to fly employees out to remote locations in the Territory.

  • Nearest Major City: Darwin 988 m
  • Longest Runway: 1’959 metres (6’427 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: Unknown
  • Airlines: Airnorth, Chartair
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Boolgeeda airport

© JumpOn

17. Boolgeeda Airport, Western Australia (OCM)

Commercial airports are generally defined as public airports where anyone can book a flight. That technically means Boolgeeda Airport is not a commercial airport as the airport only operates charter flights. However, QantasLink and Virgin Australia Regional Services operate the charters, including direct flights to and from Perth. Technically, anyone could get a flight here, providing you have a reason to visit Boolgeeda! The airport is not attached to a town but a network of mines across the Greater Brockman Iron Ore mining precinct. If you are a FIFO worker, you could be flying into the airport on a Boeing 737 or Fokker 100 from Perth, Albany, Geraldton or Busselton. Since 2013, AirBus A320’s have been landing at the airport too. The airport is managed by Aerodrom Management Services who also manage a network of ultra-remote airports in Western Australia.

  • Nearest Major City: Perth 1’055 km
  • Longest Runway: 1’682 metres (5’518 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: Unknown
  • Airlines: Qantas, Virgin Australia
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Karratha Airport

© Australia’s Northwest

18. Karratha Airport, Western Australia (KTA)

This is where the red dirt of the Pilbara desert meets the gemstone blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The city of Karratha was founded in the ’60s for, you guessed it, mining. Like many major mining towns in regional Australia, an airport was built to transport goods to and from the area. However, what’s unusual about Karratha is that it’s starting to turn into a destination town on the North West coast of Australia. Like Broome, the city has a very diverse community, from aboriginals to East Asians and Eastern Europeans. Following a government decision to “create something” of Karratha, the airport received a significant terminal upgrade that was completed in 2015. A A$35 million renovation of the terminal saw the terminal kitted out with a new cafe, bar and washroom facilities. It also saw the arrivals and departures terminal combined with improved security and baggage areas. This was part of a wider initiative where the Government pumped around A$600 million in the town for major infrastructure upgrades.

Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports City of Karratha

© City Of Karratha

In 1966 Hamersley Iron constructed an airport on the current site of Karratha Airport. The airport’s origin came around the time of the beginning of the Iron ore industry. The Iron mining company built a sealed gravel runway and a small terminal building. The site was named Dampier Airport, serving Dampier port, named as the main site of Hamersley Iron’s operations. Several years passed before the airport was released, and the Shire of Roebourne took over. Several other commercial airports exist within close proximity of Karratha. Some of these commercial airports carry international as well as domestic traffic, such as Port Hedland and Broome. MacRobertson Miller Airlines, no longer in service, was the largest operator serving Karratha between the 1960s and 1980s. As the airport grew over the years, so did its runway. The runway is now capable of handling some hefty aircraft. The Boeing 737-800 is a regular at the airport. However, the runway can also handle Boeing 767s, Boeing C-17 Globemaster IIIs or even the odd Antonov An-124 Ruslan.

  • Nearest Major City: Perth 1’522 km
  • Longest Runway: 2’280 metres (7’480 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: 463’966 (2017)
  • Airlines: Qantas, Virgin Australia, Aviair, Airnorth, Alliance Airlines
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Port Hedland International Airport

© Port Hedland International Airport

19. Port Hedland International Airport, Western Australia (PHE)

Regional commercial airports rarely serve as international hubs for transport, but Port Hedland does just that. Virgin Australia runs a service between the regional western Australian mining town and Denpasar, the capital city of the Indonesian province of Bali. The airport is a significant hub for the Pilbara region, providing fast connections to some of Australia’s largest and most profitable mining communities. The airport offers connections to a host of local airports mentioned on this list, such as Broome and Karratha. In the last decade, the Pilbara region has witnessed a considerable mining boom which has brought a lot of new trade for airlines. Between 2004 and 2014, annual passenger numbers at the airport multiplied by more than five times from 100’000 to just over 504’000.

  • Nearest Major City: Perth 1’628 km
  • Longest Runway: 2’500 metres (8’202 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: 470’741 (2015)
  • Airlines: Alliance Airlines, Aviair, Qantas, Virgin Australia 
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Hamilton Island

© Qantas

20. Hamilton Island Airport, Queensland (HTI)

Also known as the Great Barrier Reef Airport, Hamilton Island Airport provides access to one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Almost all traffic through the airport are tourists visiting the shallow turquoise blue waters of the Great Barrier Reef. In 2011, the airport handled 457’641 passengers, making it one of Australia’s busiest airports outside a major centre of population. While it’s not as remote as other commercial airports on this list, a boat was the only way on and off the island for tourists before the commercial terminal was constructed. Aside from Hamilton’s commercial use, the airport is frequented by private flights, charters, seaplanes and helicopters. During peak season, local tour companies run scenic flights out of the airport, which fly over some of the most breathtaking coastline Australia has to offer. The tours fly over world-famous Whitehaven Beach and the Whitsundays.

  • Nearest Major City: Townsville 255 km
  • Longest Runway: 1’764 metres (5’787 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: 457’641 (2011)
  • Airlines: Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia
Australia's Most Obscure And Remote Commercial Airports Katherine Airport RAAF Base Tindal

© Northern Territory

21. Katherine Airport / RAAF Base Tindal, Northern Territory (KTR)

Like most commercial airports in the Territory, Katherine Airport is steeped in military history. In fact, Katherine Airport is the only airport on our list that is based on an active RAAF base. RAAF Tindal, constructed in 1942 for the war and turned into a permanently manned base in 1989, struck a deal with Katherine Town Council to move civil aviation operations to the site in 1978. Previously, commercial flights would operate out of Katherine Airfield, located in the town centre. Now the former airstrip is home to the Katherine Museum, much like the situation in Alice Springs once commercial operations moved to the Seven-Mile Aerodrome, now known as Alice Springs Airport. Built by the Americans in the ’40s as Carsons Airfield to serve as a base for the RAAF to launch strikes at Japanese targets in Papua New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies, the site was later renamed Tindal in honour of Wing Commander Archibald Tindal. Tindal was the first RAAF member killed in action on the Australian mainland during World War II.

Australia's most obscure and remote commercial airports

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet leaving Tindal © Royal Australian Air Force

The base wasn’t initially destined to become a fully operational base. However, once the runway was extended to its current length in 1964, the airport became home to a number of RAAF squadrons. In 1984, it was decided to move the RAAF’s fast jet base in the Northern Territory from Darwin to Tindal. RAAF Tindal became the main base of operations in the Northern Territory from 1989 and remains that way to this day. In fact, the Australian Government approved plans to upgrade Tindal further, estimating a budget of A$1.1 billion. The upgrades will bring a runway extension and increased fuel storage. This is off the back of a A$500 million upgrade to allow Tindal to handle Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters.

  • Nearest Major City: Darwin 317 km
  • Longest Runway: 2744 metres (9’003 ft)
  • Pre-Pandemic Passenger Movements: Unknown
  • Airlines: Airnorth, Katherine Aviation
Australia's most obscure and remote commercial airports

© Steve Strike/Birdsville Hotel

There you have it. Australia’s most obscure and remote commercial airports. Were you surprised by the sheer size of some of the most remote passenger airports in the world, or were you impressed by how many remote airports it takes to connect the vast expanse of Australia? The frightening reality is that we have left out many more remote airports that could have equally made this list. It takes an army to keep Australia connected over such vast distances, and Australian airspace is a constant hum of commercial flights. From an airport that hosts revellers attending the worlds most remote horse race to commercial airports that land more F-35 fighters than Boeing 737’s, there’s no country in the world with more obscure and remote airports than Australia.

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