Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands, QLD © Tourism Australia

Guide to the Whitsundays

Seafront lounge, qualia, Great Barrier Reef, QLD © Jason Loucas Photography

Stay in luxury on Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island is the largest 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. Hamilton Island Golf Club has its very own island just a short boat ride away. Try not to let the views put you off your game as you navigate this 18-hole championship course. The 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. It is an adults-only retreat with an award-winning spa, two superb restaurants, a library, two bars and an excellent catalogue of water activities. qualia also hosts special events including the annual sailing regatta Hamilton Island Race Week.

InterContinental Hayman Island, Whitsunday Islands, QLD © IHG

Explore Hayman and Daydream Islands

While there may be 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays, there are only four that offer resort accommodation. Hayman Island sits at the northernmost point of the archipelago, giving it prime position to access Whitehaven Beach and the outer reef. Arrive by private yacht, helicopter or seaplane from Hamilton Island and stay in serenity at InterContinental Hayman Island. On Daydream Island you'll find stunning resort-style amenities paired with hands-on experiences like their educational Living Reef. Meet the resident marine biologists and learn about the unique species of marine life, including stingrays, starfish and sea cucumbers, living in the reef. Access Daydream from Hamilton Island or Shute Harbour (just ten minutes from Airlie Beach on the mainland). 

Hill Inlet, Whitehaven Beach, The Whitsundays, QLD © Jason Hill, Tourism and Events Queensland

Visit the swirling waters of 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 and Airlie Beach. Don't miss Hill Inlet at the northern end of Whitehaven Beach. It's a stunning, shallow inlet where the shifting tide creates a beautiful fusion of white sand and aqua water.

Heart Reef, Great Barrier Reef, QLD © Tourism and Events Queensland

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 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.

Brampton Island, Whitsunday Islands, QLD © Tourism and Events Queensland

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.

Off Whitsunday Islands, Great Barrier Reef, QLD © Tourism and Events Queensland

Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef

Be surrounded by Nemo and his colourful friends as you explore the variety of beautiful coral while snorkelling or scuba diving the magnificent Great Barrier Reef. Snorkelling and diving day trips to the Great Barrier Reef depart from Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach. Some of the most popular and beautiful places to explore include Manta Ray Bay off Hook Island and Black Island (or Bali Hai). For a really special experience, sleep on the reef in an Australian swag at ReefSleep, a permanently moored pontoon on Hardy Reef. Cruise Whitsundays will take you snorkelling on its luxury catamaran, and when the day crowd leaves, you and up to 17 other guests will have dinner and a night dive or snorkel before sleeping under the stars.

Skydiving, Airlie Beach, QLD © Tourism and Events Queensland

Skydive above the Great Barrier Reef

One of the most exciting ways to see the Whitsunday Islands is from the air. Take in the incredible views with the wind in your hair as you float down from above on a tandem skydive with Skydive Airlie Beach. You will freefall from 15,000 feet for an exhilirating 60 seconds before floating for five to seven minutes to your drop zone. Take in the crystal clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands and Airlie Beach from above for an unforgettable experience.

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