Does it get any more bucket-list worthy than Queensland’s stunning Whitsunday Region? As far as cherished Australian travel destinations go, The Whitsundays remain some of the most breathtaking and best-value tropical experiences you can hope to find in our sun-soaked land.
From the glorious shores of Whitehaven Beach and the chill, coastal nightlife vibes of Airlie Beach, to all manner of activities like sailing and snorkelling across the Great Barrier Reef, The Whitsundays has a little bit of everything you’re looking for in a relaxing, ‘go big’ break.
Make your next getaway count and holiday here this year – escape to Australia’s tropical wonderland and don’t miss these must-sees while you’re there.
You’ve heard the tales, you’ve seen the selfies: Whitehaven Beach is everything it’s cracked up to be, a rare holiday experience that sticks in your memory for the long-haul. The sand at Whitehaven is nothing short of sun-defyingly white, and the water’s as clear and delightfully turquoise as it comes.
The best bit of all is that the curved stretch is 7km long, so you’ve pretty much got the place to yourself anytime of the day. Crank the yacht, set the compass for the Cumberland Islands (just a hop across the water from the islands or Airlie Beach), and relish in Whitehaven’s pure, unadulterated paradise.
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Though peppered with 74 immaculate islands, ‘Whitsundays’ is actually the name given to the whole surrounding region, which means there’s a lot more than just the islands to enjoy. As the gateway and springboard to the entire Whitsunday experience and just under two hours’ flying time from Brisbane (with direct flights also available from Sydney and Melbourne), Airlie Beach makes a superb coastal hub, offering a super chill tropical vibe, delicious restaurants, and bars buzzing with live music.
It’s also got a sweet lagoon, which you’ll be lazing in as golden sun glazes over you and another perfect Whitsunday afternoon.
Make the most of it at Coral Sea Marina Resort, an award-winning hotel with a front-row seat to Airlie Beach’s bustling waterfront precinct.
The Islands by Boat
Arguably one of the most ‘sailable’ regions in Australia, if not the Southern Hemisphere, charting The Whitsunday region’s veritable waters aboard a luxe vessel. Enter: bareboating. Through GoBareboating, you can charter, navigate, and sail your own vessel around this spectacular region.
Ideally, hook up an extended live-aboard escapade and check out all the hidden beach nooks amidst the sprawling amazingness of this world-class tropical adventure.
As one of the major resort islands in The Whitsundays, Hamilton is a must. As the only Whitsundays island with its own commercial airport, you can fly direct from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns, or hop on a ferry from the mainland at Port of Airlie.
However you choose to arrive, check yourself in for lazy, luxurious stay and make yourself at home amidst the sandy stretch of Catseye Beach, ample activities including kayaking, catamaraning, jetskiing and paddleboarding, fishing, buggy rallying and, for the golfers amongst us, one of the sweetest 18-hole courses in the nation at Hamilton Island Golf Club.
At very least, take it east, hire a buggy and explore the entire island at your leisure.
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While you’re island hopping, it might be an idea to bounce over to Daydream: home to one of the most spectacular and brilliantly redeveloped island resorts in the whole region. Boasting a free-form coral lagoon with over 100 different species of marine life, from rays to starfish, as well as new fusion and buffet dining choices, Daydream is nothing short of a dream experience in a dreamy spot.
Reefs, Reefs, Reefs
Welcome to The Reef: the largest coral reef system in the world, with around 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands (and, of course, The Whitsunday Islands in the heart of it all). The Great Barrier Reef really needs no introduction: it’s a majestic part of the world, and we’re lucky enough to have it within sailing distance of our shores.
And though there’s no shortage of incredible reef snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, Hardy Reef is one experience that you’ll be writing home about. Snorkelling and diving are par for the course at Hardy, but this gem of a spot comes with difference – you can sleep here overnight. Sign up for an overnighter at the Reefsleep experience with Cruise Whitsundays, a one-of-a-kind accommodation adventure leaving from Airlie Beach, where you get to fall sleep on the reef pontoon to the lull of the tide and an immaculate southern sky above.
Pre-order champagne and dine in style as the sun sets across the middle of the ocean, then wake to the most breathtaking sunrise you’ve ever seen.
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At the very top of The Whitsundays, just a 45-minute drive from Airlie Beach, you’ll find gorgeous Bowen, a coastal hub with over eight spectacular swimming beaches, reef snorkelling just off the beach, and a bunch of activities including fishing, sailing, and bird, turtle and whale spotting. Home to countless walking trails, markets and delicious food and beverage options, Bowen makes for yet another brilliant Whitsunday coastal choice.
Ready to see it for yourself? Holiday here this year and visit thewhitsundays.com.au for exclusive offers in the Heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
(Images: Tourism Whitsundays / supplied)
Cam Hassard is an international penman, sax-wielder and rogue wayfarer who writes for Junkee, Carryology, Huckberry, Caddie, Fairfax Media, Carryology, Intrepid, Peregrine Adventures and Europe Up Close. He’s eaten ant salad in Laos, hauled trucks from NYC to Vegas, and destroyed himself on the Camino de Santiago. Originally from Melbourne, he currently calls Berlin home.