An incredibly diverse region, the Whitsundays offer a range of experiences from action packed holidays to relaxing retreats to week long sailing adventures and more!
Adrenalin junkies will love the fast boats that jet you out to secluded beaches with music pumping, helicopter flights to the outer reef to behold sights including Heart Reef, strapping on a tank and diving down to see and feel Great Barrier Reef up close and personal, or donning your hiking boots and exploring Conway National Park.
Those looking for a retreat to rejuvenate will love the all-inclusive resorts that pepper the region boasting pool bars, ocean massages, sun lounges by lavish lagoons, and fine dining with waterfront views.
Families love the sheer number of things to do on the Whitsundays. Anyone with children knows how easily they become bored and how short their attention span can be. The kids will be blown away by kids club, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, sailing, snorkelling, beaches galore, national parks to explore as well as plenty of resort specific activities.
Of course, like the little girl in the taco ad so philosophically comments, ‘why not have both?’. The perfect holiday is generally a mixture of several Whitsunday elements.
Read on to discover more about the Whitsundays.
The charming mainland town of Airlie Beach has long been the heart of the Whitsundays. Shute Harbour Road is the main strip in town and where you’ll find the majority of dining, shopping and nightlife options along with the Airlie Beach Lagoon.
Airlie Beach is a popular base for the Whitsundays, as it’s easy to get to, there are fantastic accommodation options and it’s a hub for all tours from kayaking and sailing, to outer reef and helicopter tours and more.
There are also incredible accommodation options on the mainland including the luxurious Peppers Airlie Beach with spectacular views, family friendly and 4 Star Mantra Club Croc, the waterfront beauty of Coral Sea Resort, or if you’re looking for the largest pool in Airlie you’ll find it at Big4 Adventure Whitsundays alongside an outdoor cinema, jumping pillow, mini golf and more!
To find the perfect accommodation to suit your needs talk to our team at Discover Queensland on 1300 788 553.
Abell Point Marina, Airlie Beach | Image by @dv_globetrotter via Instagram
Hamilton Island offers a unique Whitsundays experience with the largest range of accommodation and activities of the 74 islands spread over the Great Barrier Reef. Here you’ll find golf buggies are the primary mode of transport, zipping people back and forth between the beautiful beaches, restaurants, accommodation and water activities on offer.
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do on Hamilton Island! Your options include golf, sea kayaking, massage and spa treatments, snorkelling, cruises, glass bottom boat adventures, sailing, helicopter flights, game fishing, wildlife walks and more.
Dining on the island is in no short order with plenty of options from casual eateries and takeaway to fancier options.
Some of our favourite Hamilton Island accommodation are Palm Bungalows for the eclectic Polynesian theme, the sweeping views from the Reef View Hotel, the stunning pool of Beach Club and finally Whitsunday Apartments are the perfect place for families and groups of friends.
Daydream Island has long been a DQ favourite. Perhaps it’s because of Australia’s largest man-made living reef, it could be the incredible lagoon pool with pool bar and coral sea views. It might just come down to that perfect mix of relaxing, reinvigorating and family friendly atmosphere.
Either way, the island has undergone an extensive redevelopment to offer guests an unparallel Whitsundays experience. Daydream Island Resort is the island’s sole accommodation, offering the perfect escape from the everyday. The island is great for couples and groups of friends but is particularly popular with families due to the awesome attractions and activities on offer.
Some of our favourite things to do on the island include taking a catamaran sail around mermaid beach, snorkelling with parrot fish at Lover’s Cove, hitting the rainforest trial across the island, and watching the daily fish feeding by the marine biologists.
Daydream Island | Image by @juliaclites via Instagram
Hayman Island is the most northern of the Whitsunday archipelago, famous for its lavish resort and spectacular landscape.
One of the smaller of the Whitsunday islands, Hayman manages to pack an astonishing variety of landscapes including rainforest covered hills, cliff faces and valleys, as well as pristine beaches and the magic of the surrounding Great Barrier Reef into its 3 by 4 kilometres.
Airline tycoon, Sir Reginald Ansett, chose Hayman Island for it's beauty and commanded a resort to be built to blend in with the natural aesthetic of the landscape.
You can see this vision in the Hayman Island by InterContinental, which is nestled into the mountainous backdrop, wrapping itself around the elegant lagoon pool which overlooks a white sand beach and the coral sea. You’ll also find 4 restaurants within the resort, a beauty spa, fitness centre, tennis court and the pool complete with bar.
As a private island, booking your accommodation here is the only way to see this slice of paradise as day trips are not permitted to preserve the island and guests privacy.
Nature lovers will rejoice on Long Island, named after its oblong shape stretching 9 kilometres in length and only 400 meters at its widest point, most of the island is covered in national park!
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Whitsundays without the signature white sand beaches peppered across the shores, fringing reef, and more water sports and activities you can poke a paddle at.
Throughout the luscious rainforest you’ll find 13 kilometres of walking trails! These will take you past secluded beaches and plenty of the wildlife, including the island’s rock wallabies.
There are a few accommodation options on Long Island including the holistic and lavish Elysian Retreat that specialising in providing a boutique eco experience. Palm Bay Resort is a resort made up of apartments nestled on the beachfront to one side and rainforest to the other. Talk to our team at Discover Queensland to book the perfect accommodation for your needs.
Imagine holidaying on your very own private Island with white sand beaches surrounded by Queensland's world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef marine park. Camp Island is your dream come true! You’ll find this gem sitting in the north of Whitsundays sporting not just a prime location, but Cape Upstart National Park, fringing reef and fully self-catered private island accommodation.
At Camp Island you and your loved ones will have exclusive use of the island throughout your stay. You can BYO supplies or with enough notice Camp Island staff can order and pick up groceries and provisions for you. Located 50 km north of Bowen, Camp Island is accessible by helicopter in under 30 minutes from Hamilton Island or, Proserpine airport. Alternatively, a 90 min private bus transfer can be organised from Proserpine airport to Elliot River where you will be transferred by one of the resort boats to the Island.
Bowen is a charming coastal town nestled atop the Whitsundays, famous Australia-wide for the mangoes and famous locally for the incredible fringing reef, secluded bays and inlets, and laid-back locals.
A destination like Bowen encourages you to slow down and smell the flowers (or salt water!), even though the town is on the mainland, island time applies here. Unlike other island destinations, you won’t have crowds to share your slice of paradise with.
When you’re not relaxing on the beach, swimming in the sheltered bay, or snorkelling the fringing reef, you’ll likely be enjoying the foreshore’s landscaped picnic and BBQ areas or taking a walk to the North Head Lighthouse.
Talk to our team for a recommendation on the best accommodation for you on 1300 788 553.
Bowen | Image by Tourism and Events Queensland
The Heritage Heart of the Whitsundays is Proserpine - just 20 minutes inland from Airlie Beach, Proserpine is a charming Aussie town offering traditional country hospitality. Named by early explorer George Dalrymple after the Greek goddess of fertility Persephone, sugar cane and cattle grazing have been the economic mainstays in the town since the late 1800's. The eerie glow of cane fires can still be seen at night from late June onwards, a spectacular sight to catch on camera.
The main street's well preserved 'art deco' shop architecture is a reminder of how life used to be. Old-fashioned courtesies thrive in Proserpine, particularly at the local shops and country-style hotels which serve hearty-sized meals and cold Queensland beer. Make sure you venture off the main street in Proserpine to find some hidden gems of stores located in the alleyways around the main street, including Colour Me Crazy, a boutique gift store which needs to be experienced to be believed!
Driving inland from the coast you arrive at Collinsville, a small outback town that makes up for its size with its huge country welcome and traditional Queensland hospitality. A Collinsville highlight (particularly for history buffs) is a visit to the Coalface Experience Museum showcasing a fascinating look at life underground for the many miners who have worked there their whole lives. Another must do a stop by the Pit Pony monument for a photo and drink or a meal at the Pit Pony Tavern – the locals are always willing to share their stories with you. This charming small town also features stunning hinterland, a large dam for fishing and watersports and excellent outback four-wheel driving.
Mackay is known well for cattle and farming, what is less well known, but entirely more interesting, is the plethora of white sand beaches, luscious tropical rainforests, historic art deco township and archipelago of islands just off shore.
One of our favourite places in Mackay is Cape Hillsborough; the stunning beach is covered in kangaroos and wallabies at dawn and dusk! Oliver’s Pool near Finch Hatton Gorge is a close second, as you can spot native Platypus here as well as enjoy a dip! Finally, we love a day trip to Keswick Island to relax on the sandy beaches and snorkel the coral gardens and three shipwrecks.
Accommodation in Mackay has the familiar warm of staying with family, but the comfort of enjoying a hotel. Our favourites include Oaks Rivermarque and Oaks Carlyle.
WHERE ARE THE WHITSUNDAYS?
The Whitsundays are nestled approximately half way along the Queensland coastline starting at Proserpine reaching through Airlie Beach, then up to Bowen in the North and out west to Collinsville.
HOW TO GET THERE
By Air – The Whitsundays is serviced by two airports, Whitsundays Coast Airport (Proserpine) and the Great Barrier Reef (Hamilton Island) Airport. Transfer companies include Whitsunday Transit and Airlie Beach Transfers that provide transfers from Proserpine to Airlie Beach. Cruise Whitsundays provide transfers from Airlie Beach to Hamilton Island.
By Rail – Queensland Rail operates services from major destinations including Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and more to and from Proserpine.
By Road – The Bruce Highway connects the Whitsundays regions to the rest of Queensland’s major cities. Heading north Airlie Beach is approximately a 12 hour drive from Brisbane, 8.5 hours from Bundaberg, 5.5 from Rockhampton, and 2 hours from Mackay. Travelling south Airlie Beach is 1 hours drive from Bowen, 3 hours from Townsville, and 7.5 hours from Cairns.
WHITSUNDAYS MUST DO
1. Step Foot on Whitehaven Beach & Hill Inlet
If you are looking for an action packed experience both Red Cat Adventures and Ocean Rafting provide fun-filled experiences. For a more relaxed approach to visiting these icons .
2. Snorkel or Dive the Great Barrier Reef
Explore Group provide Great Barrier Reef experiences direct from Airlie Beach to the outer reef with under 5's free, while Cruise Whitsundays offer a great range of tours and have a fantastic pontoon on the reef.
3. Jump on a Proserpine Crocodile Tour
We love Cruise Whitsunday's Crocodile Safari. You will meet local crocodiles in the wild from the safety of the cruise boat along with a host of other wildlife.
4. Visit Conway National Park
Absolute Airlie have a great range of walks including family friendly options, waterfall experiences, and more.
Mount Rooper, Conway National Park | Image by @weshsn via Instagram
5. Dine on the water at the Port of Airlie
Boathouse FishBar directly below Mantra Boathouse offers an incredible array of fresh seafood caught locally, as well as our favourite dessert of all time - a chocolate pinata. The coffee club is a great spot for a casual bite or brekkie.
The Boathouse FishBar Airlie Beach | Image by @kollyannthim via Instagram
6. Cool off at Airlie Beach Lagoon
Need we say more?
7. Take a Scenic Flight to Heart Reef
GSL Aviation have an excellent range of helicopter & fixed wing tours to the outer reef that we love. If you want to pair a great view with the experience of a water landing Air Whitsundays Seaplanes can assist. They also have some pretty impressive history in the area, including the boasting rights to actually finding heart reef in 1975.
Heart Reef | Image by @roxyjinnn via Instagram
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VISIT THE MARKETS
Airlie Beach Foreshore Saturday Mornings
Hansen Park, Bowen Sunday Mornings
WHITSUNDAYS THINGS TO DO
Go Whitsunday Sailing
Touch Down on an Island (there’s 74 to choose between!)
See the living reef at Daydream Island
Play a round of golf at Hamilton Island Golf Club
Take a Fast Boat to a secret snorkelling spot (we love Ocean Rafting)
Snorkel the fringing reef of Horseshoe Bay at Bowen and walk to the Lighthouse
Hit the Shops on Main Street / Shute Harbour Road
Climb to Cook Lookout on Hayman Island to see the reef of Hook Island
Kayak or SUP at Catseye Beach on Hamilton Island
Get a massage floating in the Sea on Hayman Island
Scuba Dive the rainforest at Oliver’s Pool in Finch Hatton Gorge
Visit the Kangaroos at Dawn or Dusk at Cape Hillsborough, Mackay