The Whitsunday Islands are an archipelago of 74 islands, situated within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, approximately 1,140 km (700 miles) north of Brisbane and 640 km (400 miles) south of Cairns. These beautiful islands and sandy atolls are amongst the most stunning holiday destinations in Australia.
The islands, which are really the tips of mountain tops jutting out from the Coral Sea, are the perfect places to relax and unwind or be energetic, depending on your mood. With several island resorts, from backpackers to five star, and Airlie Beach from which to base yourself, the turquoise waters, palm-fringed beaches and coral gardens beckon from your doorstep. It really is a magical part of the world.
The islands and the waters between them are natural treasures, and while seven are developed with tourist resorts, most are uninhabited and several offer the chance of back-to-nature beach camping and bushwalking. All but four islands – Dent, Hamilton, Daydream and Hayman – are predominantly or completely national park, and the surrounding waters fall within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
If you’re looking to explore the Whitsunday Islands, you might want to consider basing yourself in Airlie Beach. Airlie Beach is the mainland centre for the Whitsundays. Apart from being the cheapest way to explore the Whitsundays and the outer Great Barrier Reef it also has a bewildering array of accommodation options, travel agents and tour operators. Shute Harbour, about 10 km east of Airlie, is the port for most day-trip cruises and island ferries, while most of the yachts and some cruise companies berth at Abel Point Marina about 1.5 km west of Airlie Beach.
If you’re considering making Airlie Beach your base to the Whitsunday Islands, see our Airlie Beach page for more information.
Hamilton Island can come as quite a shock for the first-time visitor. Swarms of people and heavy development make Hamilton Island seem like a busy town rather than a resort island. Although this is not everyone’s idea of a perfect getaway, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer range of accommodation options, restaurants, bars and activities. The great thing about Hamilton is there’s something for everyone here. However, if you’re after a secluded resort island, you might want to consider one of the other islands.
If you want a holiday with everything at your doorstep, read more on our Hamilton Island page.
The reason people flock to Whitsunday Island is for the pure-white silicon sand of stunning Whitehaven Beach. Whitsunday Island itself is the largest of the Whitsunday group and covers 109 sq km and rises to 438 m at Whitsunday Peak. There’s no resort on the island but it has some fine bushwalking tracks. You can get here from Airlie Beach on the ferry or you can take a day-trip on a cruise or sailing boat.
When you think of the Whitsunday Islands, you’re probably thinking of beaches that look like Whitehaven Beach. Whitehaven Beach is covered with pure-white silicon sand, dotted with palm trees and surrounded by turquoise waters. This dazzling 6km-long beach is one of the best beaches in Australia and has excellent snorkelling from its southern side. A trip to the Whitsundays is incomplete without basking on the sand of stunning Whitehaven Beach.
To read more about Whitsunday Island and Whitehaven Beach, see our Whitehaven Beach page.
If you want to spoil yourself rotten, then Hayman Island is for you. It is the perfect getaway if you have the money to spend. One of the smallest habited islands in the archipelago, Hayman Island has one of the most luxurious resorts on the Great Barrier Reef. It is also closer to the outer reef than the other islands, making it an excellent base from where to go diving or snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. There are several small, uninhabited islands close to Hayman, and you can walk out to some of them at low tide. With forested hills, valleys and beaches on your doorstep, the Whitsundays couldn’t get better than this.
If you’re considering a vacation on Hayman Island, then you must read our Hayman Island page.
Sitting snugly at the southern end of the Whitsundays, pretty little Lindeman Island is far enough away from the hubbub of Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach to be ‘remote’, but compensates with an energy all its own. Club Med took over the resort in 1992 and while it’s a little dated in appearance, a vibrant, youthful atmosphere seems to radiate from everywhere you go. The 8-sq-km island is mostly national park and while the resort will appeal to travellers of all ages, those who don’t have, or don’t want to share the island with, lots of kids should look elsewhere.
If Lindeman Island is for you, read more on our Lindeman Island page.
Despite its small size (it’s 1 km long and 200 m wide), Daydream Island is a very popular day-trip destination. It’s suitable for everybody, but especially couples and families. It has a lovely resort which is surrounded by beautifully landscaped tropical gardens and a stingray-, shark- and fish-filled lagoon running through it. There is a wide range of water-sports gear (catamarans, kayaks) as well as motorised water sports (parasailing, jet-skiing and water-skiing) which is big here. With several short walking tracks that allow you to explore the island from head to foot, it’s easy to see why Daydream Island is such a popular destination in the Whitsundays.
If you like the sound of Daydream Island, read more on our Daydream Island page.
South Molle Island
South Molle Island is more for the nature lovers and active travellers. The island offers an impressive array of short or long walks through gorgeous rainforest, making it an ideal destination for those wanting to put their legs to good use. If you’ve still got energy after those nature walks, the non-glamorous resort on the island also has a nine-hole golf course, a gym and tennis and squash courts to keep you entertained. If relaxation is more your style, South Molle doesn’t disappoint, with some superb beaches and a huge pool surrounded by inviting sun lounges. Add to it a wide range of water sports gear and you’ve got the best of both worlds on South Molle Island.
If this sounds like your dream destination, check out our South Molle Island page.
Underrated Long Island has the best of everything. With three resorts, each with a different personality, this rugged island is suitable for everybody. There are 13 km of walking tracks with some fine lookouts and the beaches here are some of the best in the Whitsundays. Two of the resorts have a range of water-sports equipment while sea kayaking is a featured activity at the resort on the northern side of the island.
If you like the sound of Long Island, you might want to read more on our Long Island page.
The second-largest island of the Whitsundays, the 53-sq-km Hook Island is predominantly national park. There are a number of good beaches dotted around the island, but what makes Hook Island stand apart are its diving and snorkelling spots which are some of the best in the Whitsundays. The resort itself is a no-frills, budget place. For the low prices you pay, don’t expect five-star luxury here. There are also some wonderful camping opportunities in basic national-park camping grounds nearby.
If you’re a budget traveller or looking to go camping in the Whitsundays, Hook Island is the place for you. Head over to our Hook Island page for more information.
These are some of the most popular islands in the Whitsundays. With 74 islands to choose from, there’s one or more islands that will suit your holiday needs and budget.
Tell us what you think. Which is your favourite Whitsunday island? What do you like most about this island?
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