If you were to imagine the ultimate beach paradise, it would probably look something like the Whitsundays off of the coast of Queensland, Australia. With kilometres upon kilometres of white sandy beaches, clear blue water and no shortage of fun and exciting activities, the Whitsundays truly are the ideal holiday destination.
The Whitsundays at a Glance
Made up of 74 islands nestled amongst the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays are one of the best places to visit in Australia. The largest and most well-known of the islands is Hamilton Island, however each one is charming with its own appeal and character.
Getting to the Whitsundays
It is easy to get to the Whitsundays from Australia, with many airlines flying direct from other capital cities. It is just one hour by plane from the town of Cairns, or 1.5 hours from Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane. You can also fly direct from Sydney (3.5 hours) and Melbourne (4 hours).
It is also possible to drive to the Whitsundays and then get a ferry across to your chosen island, however be aware of the vast distances in Australia. Even from the Whitsundays’ closest neighbour, Cairns, you’re looking at a seven-hour drive. Therefore, flying is usually the easiest and most efficient way to get there. We also recommend organising an airport transfer as taxis can be quite expensive.
Once you get to the Whitsundays, you can hire a golf buggy if you need a way to get around the island! However, if you’re staying at a resort and only heading out for excursions, a vehicle might not be needed at all.
Most of the things to do on the Whitsundays are based around the beaches, which are jaw-droppingly beautiful. The most famous is Airlie Beach, although there are so many dotted over the 74 islands that we couldn’t possibly list them all.
Simply relaxing by the beach, soaking in the sun and incredible views is a popular past-time – just make sure you wear sunscreen! Other water activities include kayaking, windsailing, surfing and canoeing, and these are possible on most beaches.
The Whitsunday Islands are located amongst the Great Barrier Reef, so they are heaven for divers. There are countless epic diving spots in the Whitsundays and several reputable diving schools that can get you PADI certified if you’re not already. If you prefer, there are also plenty of snorkelling trips either by boat or from the shore, that will allow you to see the Great Barrier Reef’s incredible beauty.
If you’d prefer to be on the water rather than in it, you’re in luck. There are many amazing boat excursions to try, such as sailing in an elegant white-sailed yacht, feeling like royalty! There are also speedboat trips and deep-sea fishing charters if that’s more your thing.
Another amazing way to take in the Whitsundays is by air, and many people go for a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter or light plane ride over the islands. There’s even a gorgeous, heart shaped island which makes for Australia’s most popular proposal spot!
While relaxing is usually pretty high on everyone’s to-do list, there are also activities in the Whitsundays. Some popular ones include going on a crocodile safari, go-karting, or enjoying the beautiful Conway National Park.
The Whitsundays for Foodies
If great food and drink is an important part of a vacation for you, you’re not going to be disappointed in the Whitsundays. Around the islands, you’ll find generous servings of amazing fresh seafood, and inspired menus in many of the luxury hotels and restaurants.
Good seafood can be found on pretty much all of the inhabited islands, but we especially love the fresh, enormous crab claws at Fish D’Vine or the seafood platter at Hemingways.
To taste a range of different local flavours in a luxurious setting, try the scrumptious degustation menu Tides Restaurant & Bar, within the Peppers Airlie Beach Resort.
If you’d prefer your dinner a little more laidback, check out one of the friendly cafés or humble country pubs. We love casual Airlie’s Treehouse which boasts incredible views, or the friendly Marina Tavern which serves honest food overlooking the water. It also has a bar for a refreshing beer or wine.
Much of the Whitsundays is quiet and remote, perfect for if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. However, if you’d rather keep on partying you’ll love Airlie Beach, with its many happening bars and nightclubs. Our favourite is KC’s, which also does food and usually has a live band.
Final Thoughts on Travel to the Whitsundays
Travelling to the Whitsundays is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hidden away from the crowds of tourists, the 74 islands offer truly incredible beaches with endless stretches of white sand and crystal-clear azure waters.
The islands are, of course, known for their water sports and diving opportunities to the Great Barrier Reef, however there are more things to do in the Whitsundays than just the beach. Whether you go on a crocodile tour or enjoy a delectable seafood dinner – or both – you’re sure to have an amazing time.