The Whitsunday Islands

Swim with sea turtles and rainbow-coloured fish, sail the clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef and sink your toes into the world's most beautiful beach on a tropical Whitsundays holiday. The Whitsunday Islands
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The Whitsunday Islands

Swim with sea turtles and rainbow-coloured fish, sail the clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef and sink your toes into the world's most beautiful beach on a tropical Whitsundays holiday.


The Whitsunday Islands is a group of 74 islands bordered by the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the sheltered waters of the Coral Sea. With palm-fringed secluded white sand beaches surrounded by clear blue waters, the Whitsunday Islands are the epitome of a tropical paradise.

Formed millions of years ago, the name was given to Australia's largest group of offshore islands by Captain Cook, who sailed through the passage on Whitsunday in 1770.

Whitsunday Islands highlights

TOP THINGS TO DO IN THE WHITSUNDAYS

Stay on Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island is the largest, busiest and most popular inhabited island in the Whitsundays. It has shops, a post office, an airport, restaurants, bars and several different types of accommodation. Water activities on offer here include sailing, snorkelling, kayaking and jetskiing, and there's a yacht club with stunning views and architecture that brings to mind a boat in full sail. Hamilton Island Golf Club, designed by British Open winner Peter Thomson, has its very own island just a short boat ride from Hamilton. Try not to let the views put you off your game as you navigate this par 71, 18-hole championship course.

Enjoy luxury at qualia
Hamilton Island is also home to the unfettered luxury of qualia, a resort of 60 secluded pavilions hidden away on the northern tip of the island. qualia is frequently recognised as one of the best hotels in the world. In 2012 US travel publication Condé Nast Traveler labelled it the best resort on earth. It is an adults-only retreat with an award-winning spa, two superb guest-only restaurants, a library, two bars and an excellent catalogue of water activities, including sailing lessons with a former world champion. Qualia also hosts special events including an annual outdoor performance by the Australian Ballet, and the sailing regatta Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.

Experience One&Only Hayman Island

Update: One&Only Hayman Island is temporarily closed due to the impact of Cyclone Debbie. They are unable to accept new reservations until mid-2018. Find out more here

One&Only Hayman Island is located on its own private island. It has swim-up suites, seven restaurants, several walking tracks, aquatic activities (including fishing, windsurfing, diving and snorkelling), an excellent spa and a presidential suite designed by Diane Von Furstenberg. Many suites come with a personal butler for the duration of your stay. The resort is on at the northernmost island of the Whitsundays group, Hayman Island. 

Visit unspoiled Whitehaven Beach
Whitehaven Beach is considered by many to be the most beautiful beach on earth. Its sand is 98 per cent silica, and so white that it can appear unreal. It is on the uninhabited Whitsunday Island, and only accessible by seaplane, helicopter or boat. Day trips to Whitehaven depart from Hamilton Island, One&Only Hayman Island and Airlie Beach. Don't miss Hill Inlet at the northern end of Whitehaven Beach (pictured above). It's a stunning, shallow inlet where the shifting tide creates a beautiful fusion of white sand and aqua water.

Fly over romantic Heart Reef
In a small patch of the Great Barrier Reef, coral has formed into the shape of a large love heart. Amazingly, this quirky phenomenon is entirely natural, and was first discovered in 1975 by a local pilot. You can see it on a scenic flight departing from Hamilton Island, One&Only Hayman Island or from the mainland town of Airlie Beach via helicopter or seaplane. If you choose the seaplane option, you can also land in the nearby waters and snorkel the Great Barrier Reef straight from your seat. Most flights also offer the option to land at Whitehaven Beach too.

Go bareboating around the islands
Be the captain of your own ship on a “bareboating” holiday, in which you hire a boat and sail yourself around the Whitsunday Islands (the name "bareboat" describes boats that don't come with a crew). You don't need a boating licence to hire a bareboat. A drivers licence and common sense is sufficient. After a thorough briefing, you are free to explore the sights and resorts of the Whitsundays. Most boats sleep between six and 12 people.

Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
Be surrounded by Nemo and his colourful friends, and marvel at the colour and variety of the beautiful coral when you don a snorkel or scuba mask and explore the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkelling and diving day trips to the Great Barrier Reef depart from from Hamilton Island, One&Only Hayman Island and Airlie Beach. Some of the most popular and beautiful places to explore include Manta Ray Bay off Hook Island, Blue Pearl Bay at Hayman Island and Black Island (or Bali Hai).

Recent Articles on the Whitsunday Islands

The traditional owners of the Whitsunday Islands were called the Ngaro, and are among the earliest recorded Aboriginal groups in Australia. The Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail, which connects South Molle, Hook and Whitsunday Islands, follows in their ancient footsteps.

Some islands are little more than a strip of finely crushed coral sand, held together by the roots of a single palm tree. Others are home to luxurious resorts. The Whitsunday Islands are the romantic destination of more wedding proposals and honeymoons per square metre than anywhere else in Australia.

One of the best ways to soak up the sun-drenched beauty of this island paradise is to sail onboard a self-skippered or crewed catamaran or yacht, visiting a different island or reef each day. Boats charters depart from Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour.

The largest island, Whitsunday Island, is also the site of Whitehaven Beach, a seven kilometre stretch of deserted white sand. It's one of the most photographed beaches in Australia. Fly over iconic Heart Reef, landing nearby to enjoy snorkelling in the privacy of your own remote coral atoll.

Daydream Island is one of the closest of the Whitsunday Island resorts to the coast. Unique to the island is a man-made outdoor aquarium, the Living Reef, where you can hand feed the resident stingrays, sharks and barramundi fish.

Hamilton Island is the only island in the Great Barrier with its own airport making travel simple. Flights depart daily from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns.

The destination is ideal for all types of travellers with a wide range of accommodation options to choose from. A great choice for families is the Reef View Hotel boasting a fantastic view over Catseye Beach. For those seeking a more boutique offering, then the stylish, adults-only Beach Club makes for the ultimate romantic getaway. Hamilton Island’s jewel in the crown, qualia – voted Best Resort in the World in the 2012 Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards – is the ultimate Great Barrier luxury experience.

Once on island, there are several dining options and an abundance to see and do. Hamilton Island offers over 60 activities including several ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef, Whitehaven Beach and Heart Reef.

Hamilton Island also boasts a robust and diverse range of events throughout the year providing even more reasons to plan your next Whitsundays getaway including  Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, the Australian Ballet’s pas de deux in paradise performed at qualia and for those wanting a physical challenge, Hamilton Island’s Endurance Series events.

Hayman Island is the most northerly of the Whitsunday Islands. Its private five-star resort is one of the most awarded in Australia. It's a popular spot for both guests and day visitors.

Hook Island and South Molle Island are much less developed, and mostly covered by national parks. On Hook Island you'll find breathtaking lookouts and several Aboriginal cave shelters along the island's walking tracks. The Pinnacles, just off Hook Island, is renowned as one of the best dive sites in the Whitsundays. The closest island to the mainland is Long Island. It's a wonder to explore filled with walking tracks and plenty of wildlife.

You can even sleep on the reef on a purpose-built pontoon and watch it come alive at night from the comfort of an underwater observatory.

Once you've explored the islands from land and water, take to the air in a seaplane or helicopter and see their aquamarine beauty from a completely different perspective.

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