Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia

Ultimate Guide to Australia’s Whitsunday Islands

If you’re searching for a sunny corner of the world that is the epitome of a tropical paradise, the sparkling Whitsunday Islands in Australia will be your dream come true. The breathtaking group of 74 tropical islands, bordered by the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the sheltered waters of the Coral Sea, is perfect for exploring by land or cruise. These unique islands off the northeastern coast of Australia are an exotic and magnificent holiday destination that showcases Mother Nature at her finest. Azure waters, pure white sands, kaleidoscopic marine life, and understated luxury resorts create the setting for the perfect Australia vacation.

Formed millions of years ago, the Whitsunday Islands are said to have been named when Captain Cook sailed through the passage on Whitsunday to reach the islands in 1770. The traditional owners of the Whitsunday Islands are among the earliest recorded Aboriginal groups in Australia. Today the Whitsunday Islands are home to world-renowned luxurious resorts, secluded getaways, and sunny island escapes.

Visit the Whitsunday Islands on an Aussie sailing adventure and experience the highlights of the archipelago. Drop anchor at a picturesque bay and enjoy water sports, diving and snorkelling, reef tours, and fishing. Or, choose from an array of luxury or family-friendly resorts and snorkel the most amazing fringing reefs, relax or run barefooted on an unspoilt beach.

One of the best places to experience the Whitsunday Islands – isn’t on the islands at all. Airlie Beach offers a plethora of excursions, cruises, and day trips, including those to the Great Barrier Reef. Dining options are more flexible than those at the resorts, and hikers enjoy easy access to the hinterland as well as the islands. Airlie Beach also moors the largest sailing fleet in the southern hemisphere.

Aerial View of Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia
Aerial view of Airlie Beach

The Whitsundays have something for everyone. This natural wonder will remain in your memory long after your holiday is over.

66 of the 74 Whitsunday Islands are uninhabited, and the islands range from tiny specks of sand that have space for little more than a palm tree, to larger islands that are home to some of the world’s most stunning resorts.

Here is your guide to the highlights of the Whitsundays:

Whitsunday Island

Whitsunday Island is the largest island in the Whitsundays, located off the coast of Central Queensland. The island is accessible by boat from the mainland tourist port of Airlie Beach. An absolute must-see here is the magnificent pure-white sands of Whitehaven Beach. This legendary beach is consistently voted among the best beaches in the world, and is the most photographed beach in Australia. At the northern end of Whitehaven Beach is Hill Inlet, a stunning cove where the tide shifts the sand and water to create a beautiful fusion of colours. This is tropical relaxation and escape at its finest.

Suggested Day Tour:
Whitsundays & Hamilton Island: Whitsunday Islands and Whitehaven Beach Morning or Afternoon Cruise

Picnic on Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia
Picnic on Whitehaven Beach

Hamilton Island

Nestled amongst the 74 Whitsunday Islands, Hamilton Island is located in the heart of one of the Natural Wonders of the World, the Great Barrier Reef. Here, you’ll experience everything that is great about Australia.

The choice of accommodation suits all visitors’ tastes, from family holidays to the discerning luxury traveller. Or if self- catering is more your style, choose a private property through Hamilton Island Holiday Homes.

There are more than enough activities on Hamilton Island to keep you entertained, from snorkelling the reef to scenic helicopter flights or a round of golf. And believe us, after all that you’ll be hungry. Which is great, for when it comes to food and wine Hamilton Island has an endless array of dining options.

qualia, a resort on Hamilton Island’s northern tip, takes luxury to a new level. Here you become immersed in nature, surrounded by 30 acres of tropical garden and world class facilities. You’ll stay in a private pavilion with a gorgeous ocean view, and enjoy access to a fully equipped spa, private beach, exclusive dining options, two infinity pools, and a guest library. qualia’s luxury cruiser, Atomic, also takes guests to nearby private beaches. Opt for an unforgettable helicopter ride over the islands, snorkel or dive on the reef, laze on pristine white sands, or book a spa treatment. Visit WILD LIFE Hamilton Island wildlife park to get up close and personal with some unique Australian wildlife.

Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia
Hamilton Island beach

Daydream Island

Daydream Island and the beaches and bays of the North, Mid, and South Molle group of islands are all within paddling distance of the mainland. Here it’s not unusual to see dolphins, turtles, and sharks in the crystalline waters. Only on Daydream island can you handfeed stingrays, sharks, and barramundi fish at a special outdoor aquarium. An awesome rainforest walk stretches almost the entire length of the kilometer-long island.

Daydream Island Resort & Spa is currently undergoing a multi million dollar refurbishment, including accommodation updates as well as renovations to existing attractions and installation of new attractions. When it reopens in 2018 as a world class 4.5 star resort, guests will be able to enjoy the new Daydream with activities such as snorkeling, sailboarding, jet-skiing, parasailing, reef fishing, diving, tennis, volleyball, and mini golf.

Daydream Island, Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia
Aerial view of Daydream Island

Hayman Island

The most northerly of the Whitsunday Islands, Hayman Island features Hayman Island Resort, a private five-star nature resort that is one of the most awarded in Australia. It’s a popular spot for Australians and international travellers to enjoy restorative peace, indulgence, and adventure.

Hayman Island is also undergoing a massive redevelopment and is looking forward to welcoming guests back in the late 2018 or early 2019.

Hayman Island Massage on Beach, Australia
Hayman Island massage on beach

Hook Island, South Molle Island & Long Island

Hook Island and South Molle Island are much less developed, and mostly covered by pristine national parks. On Hook Island you’ll find breathtaking lookouts and fascinating Aboriginal cave shelters along the island’s perfect walking trails. The Pinnacles, just off Hook Island, is renowned as one of the best dive sites in the Whitsundays. Long Island, the closest island to the Australian mainland, is a wonder to explore – with great walking tracks and abundant wildlife.

Palm Bay, Long Island, Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia
Long Island

QANTAS Airways Logo Horizontal 2016

Whitsundays Queensland Logo 2017

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Emily Baillie
Emily Baillie

Travel blogger Emily Baillie is on a mission to inspire people to break free of their daily routines and explore the world. She has hiked the Inca Trail in Peru, rode camels in Morocco and spent a year living in Dublin, Ireland. Wherever she travels, she gets excited to find street art, wineries or great hiking trails. She is a proud Canadian who believes that "the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page."

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