Located off the central Queensland coast and making up a part of Australia’s world-famous Great Barrier Reef is a group of islands called the Whitsundays.
National parks, coral reefs for snorkellers and divers, and the warm sand and crystal clear waters on beaches such as Whitehaven or Catseye Beach, can be found on many of the 74 Whitsunday islands, making the island group the ideal place for those who seek natural beauty — both above and under water.
Perhaps the best and most favored way to explore the Whitsundays is via an island-hopping cruise that can last for a full day, overnight, or several days. Those who take part in such cruises can go on a sailboat or yacht that travels between islands, with diving and snorkelling being among the highlights of the tour.
Places to stay can be quite pricey on the Whitsunday Islands, with only hotels and resorts available, and hostels or budget hotels virtually non-existent. A night at a hotel on the Whitsundays can set one back up to AUD 150 or more. Sailing adventures and cruises are more popular precisely because they give you more bang for your buck, with prices typically covering accommodation, food, and activities. Another option for those on a budget would be to camp, with some 21 campsites within the island group. Camping permits cost about 8 AUD per night.
Cruises and sailing tours often include food in the prices, but there are some dining options on many of the islands, with resorts and restaurants serving meals starting from AUD 20.
Sailing tours run daily and typically start at Airlie Beach, the largest resort town on the Whitsundays. Day tours are available from about 140 AUD per person, overnight tours start at about 350 AUD, while the popular three day tours cost about 460 AUD.
How to save money
Camping is not only the cheapest accommodation available in the island group, but also a great way to experience the Whitsundays in all their natural glory. Campers should keep in mind that they will need to find their own way to get to the islands, and bring their own food and drinks as well.
While sailing tours are a great option and good value for the price, those who want to DIY can travel between islands through ferries. This is also a good option for those who want to go camping.
Pack food and drinks
This is something campers will need to do, but those who join sailing tours without food included in the price can arrange to bring their own food. As for drinks, most boats allow people to bring their own alcohol — though glass bottles are typically forbidden on board.
Whitsunday Islands Top Attractions
Making up part of the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays are a divers dream, offering many prime dive sites. All kinds of corals from soft corals to hard corals, to whip corals and stag horns can be seen on the Whitsundays’ countless dive sites. Diverse marine life such as sea turtles, pelagics, and hundreds of fish species are also sure to be spotted. Best time to dive would be during the summer, where there is great visibility and waters are clear. Waters here tend to get cloudy and visibility is affected during the rainy period.
Visit Whitsunday Island
As the biggest island in group, Whitsunday Island has many coves, small bays, and lagoons that sailboats can dock on and people can explore. It is also home to Whitehaven Beach, the most famous landmark on the islands. Tongue Point on Whitsunday Island has a trail leading to a lookout over the famous beach.
Enjoy Whitehaven Beach
This 7 kilometre beach is world-famous for a reason. With clear, bright blue waters and powdery white sand, Whitehaven is a tropical beach paradise, perfect for swimming, or just enjoying the sun. A campsite near the beach makes it even more accessible.
See Hamilton Island
Among the more populated and commercial islands of the Whitsundays, Hamilton is very developed and even has its own commercial airport, as well as a bank and post office. Many resorts and hotels are available here, and groups who would like to stay in one have many to choose from. It is also half an hour away from Whitehaven Beach, and a couple of hours away from the Great Barrier Reef, making it a great jump-off point for those who want to see these sites.
Witness the Hamilton Island Race Week
This annual regatta that takes place in August is among the most awaited yearly events, and draws a crowd of thousands. The regatta features various yachts and keelboats of all sizes, racing for the prize.
Experience wildlife on Hook Island
Nearly uninhabited, Hook Island is the second biggest in the group, and is part of the Whitsunday Islands National Park, making it perfect for spotting wildlife, whether its birds, or the sea creatures that populate the island’s rich coral reefs.
Have fun at Reefworld
Reefworld is a pontoon on Hardy Reef, which is a part of the Great Barrier Reef. An underwater playground of sorts, it has pools, waterslides, a submarine, and an underwater observatory. It also offers scenic helicopter rides as well as diving and snorkelling. With a restaurant on the pontoon, it makes for a great day trip, especially for those travelling with family.
Unwind at a resort
With so many resorts on the island group, there are so many choices for those who want to get away from it all and take a luxurious holiday. A variety of vacation packages are available for any budget and activity: cruises, golf, swimming, snorkelling, diving. Packages can be tailored for those traveling on their own, as a couple, or with family.
Scuba Diving in Whitsunday Islands?
Check out our Whitsunday Islands dive guide and start planning your next dive trip!