About the islands of The Whitsundays

The Whitsundays is made up of 74 stunning islands, located right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. The majority of the Whitsunday Islands are uninhabited national park islands, but four islands offer a variety of resort accommodation, all with the Great Barrier Reef and fringing coral reefs at their doorstep. 

On a similar latitude to Fiji, the islands are blessed with cooling southeast trade winds from April to November, which is the most popular time to visit. Though if you’re looking for a holiday bargain or want to avoid the crowds, February is your best bet.

The outer Great Barrier Reef provides a barrier from offshore swells, meaning that Whitsunday Island beaches are calm and sheltered – and beachgoers, sailors, and scuba divers find themselves in seventh heaven!

Which island in the Whitsundays is perfect for you? 

Long before Captain James Cook passed through in 1770, the Whitsunday Islands were home to the Indigenous Ngaro people. Archaeologists date initial occupation of Nara Inlet back 9,000 years. Some islands remain much as they would have looked then, and visitors can view some of the cultural remains and sites of significance to the Ngaro on Whitsunday Island and Hook Island.

  • Whitsunday, Hook, Haselwood, Border and Shaw Islands are protected with national park status.
  • Others like Hayman, Dent, Long and Lindeman Islands are partially developed with hotels sitting alongside protected areas of forest or beach.
  • Hamilton Island has its own airstrip complete with primary school, church, resorts, private residences, restaurants, shops and a marina. 

The islands are filled with treasures for holidaymakers and water babies looking for tropical getaways, and the choices for exploring are endless. Read on to find out all about the islands of the Whitsundays. 

Whitsunday Island is the largest of the 74 islands in the archipelago and home to the stunning pure-white sands and crystal clear waters of Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, the secure anchorage of Cid Harbour, and the sheltered waterway of Gulnare Inlet.  

Whitehaven, a regular on ‘Best Beaches’ lists around the globe, is considered by many to be the most beautiful beach in Australia. Hill Inlet at the northern end of 7km long Whitehaven Beach is a remarkable maze of sandbars linked by azure-coloured tidal pools. 

The island is heavily forested and entirely national park, and with no infrastructure beyond campsites equipped with picnic tables, Whitsunday Island is a splendid choice for adventure campers. There are six campsites dotted across the island.

The island is accessible by boat from the mainland ports of Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. 

Top things to do: 
  • Take a day (or overnight) trip to Whitehaven Beach by ferry, power boat or luxury yacht.
  • Experience a scenic helicopter or seaplane flight over Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet for some amazing aerial views.
  • Walk up to the viewing platform at Tongue Point for an incredible view of Hill Inlet. The best time to view the beautiful swirling sands is at low tide. 
  • Walk the picturesque track from Sawmill Beach in Cid Harbour through the forest and over the ridge to secluded Dugong Beach.
  • Kayak or take a small boat to Gulnare Inlet  – a beautiful fjord-like cove which penetrates deep into the island. 
  • Keep an eye out (and your camera!) for rock-wallabies on the island. 

 

Hamilton Island is the largest inhabited island of the Whitsundays and the only island in the Great Barrier Reef with its own commercial airport. The stunning, multiple award-winning resort island is a holiday hotspot for local and international visitors, boasting pristine white beaches, a kaleidoscope of coral and marine life, and year-round mild temperatures. 

For many visitors to the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef, Hamilton Island (affectionately known as "Hammo") is their first port of call thanks to scheduled air services from mainland cities flying into Hamilton Island Airport. The adjacent marina is the island’s hub with hotels, restaurants, cafes, and shops lining Front Street.

Hamilton Island offers a wide selection of bars and restaurants, an abundance of water sports and activities and year-round cultural events. Accommodation ranges from luxury couples’ suites to family-friendly apartments and holiday homes.

The island is also the home of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week – Australia’s largest offshore yachting regatta. 

Top things to do: 
  • Lace up your walking shoes, leave the tourist strip behind and step out on the walking trail to Passage Peak. An easy walk for anyone of moderate fitness, the reward is panoramic views of the surrounding islands rising from the Coral Sea.
  • Also not to be missed are the sunsets from One Tree Hill where a small wine bar does a roaring trade over sundowners.
  • Play golf on the only Australian 18-hole championship course on its own island. 
  • Tour the island in your own golf buggy or paddle around the island in a sea kayak.
  • Make some furry friends at the island's wildlife park and 'Breakfast with the Koalas’ at the Koala Gallery. 
  • Charter a luxury boat for the day or overnight. Go fishing and snorkelling, and explore secluded coves and beaches.

A private island resort, Hayman Island offers a blend of incredible natural beauty, relaxation, indulgence, and adventure. The island is positioned on a two-kilometre crescent-shaped stretch of stunning white sand beach and enjoys an ideal climate year-round.

Found at the northernmost point of the group of islands, it’s the closest to the Great Barrier Reef and the only Whitsundays resort within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – providing easy access to some of the best diving and snorkelling sites in the Whitsundays!

Hayman's PADI-accredited Marine Centre is home to the Dive and Snorkel Centre which offers a full range of dive courses and introductory sessions, snorkel safaris and private charters.

The luxury resort offers deluxe accommodation with a choice of well-appointed rooms, suites, penthouses and villas. All rooms enjoy their own private balcony or terrace with some even complete with outdoor decks and infinity plunge pools.

The resort also offers a range of first-class dining experiences as well as a child-friendly alfresco beach house-style restaurant, Kids Club and Teens Club, a range of motorised and non-motorised watersports, an iconic beachfront saltwater lagoon and family-friendly Aquazure Pool, and a host of other activities and deluxe experiences. You'll never want to leave!

Top things to do:
  • Experience some of the Whitsundays’ best snorkelling at Blue Pearl Bay on the island’s west coast. You’ll encounter a multitude of colourful marine life and may even meet Priscilla, the resident giant Maori Wrasse.
  • Spot green sea turtles at nearby Black Island – also known as Bali Hai – and snorkel amongst sea turtles, giant clams, colourful corals and reef fish at nearby Langford Reef.
  • Enjoy a heavenly signature Ocean Dreaming Massage.
  • A short boat ride south of Hayman is Langford Island sand spit – a favoured spot for romantic beach picnics or sundowners on a slip of an island you’ll likely have entirely to yourself.
  • Discover the Whitsundays from above with seaplane and helicopter tours offering remarkable views of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Explore the stunning island by foot with wildlife exploration and hiking trips.
  • Feed giant Groper and Trevally at the marina and Barramundi at Rainforest Lagoon.
How to get there:
  • Fly direct to Hamilton Island’s airport from Brisbane, Cairns, Sydney, or Melbourne, where you will transfer to Hayman Island via luxury vessel.
  • Fly to Proserpine airport and transfer to the island by seaplane or helicopter.

Notice: Due to the impact of Tropical Cyclone Debbie, Hayman Island is temporarily closed. We are currently accepting reservations from June 2018 and look forward to welcoming you to our rejuvenated luxury resort from mid-2018

A national park island well-suited to campers and hikers, South Molle Island offers nature lovers a sanctuary in the heart of the Whitsunday Islands

The largest island in the Molle Group, South Molle Island was a favoured island by Indigenous Ngaro people thanks to a wealth of basaltic stones which they used for axes and cutting tools. The remains of their stone quarry can be spotted on the track to the Spion Kop lookout – find the trail head at the back of the golf course.

Top things to do: 
  • A 16km network of walking trails crisscrosses hilly South Molle which is predominantly cloaked in grasslands and vine forest. Almost entirely national park, hikers to the 200m summit of Mt Jeffereys are rewarded with one of the best views in the Whitsundays.  
  • A splendid (easy) alternative low tide is revealed when the sandbar is exposed as The Causeway, linking South Molle with Mid Molle Island – it’s perfect for beach combing and rock pool hopping!
  • Bauer Bay is home to a low-key adventure resort, though campers still have the choice of camping out at designated camp sites. Sandy Bay campsite in the south west corner near Roma Point is only accessible by foot or boat so you’re almost assured of having the entire beach to yourself.

The closest island to the mainland at just half a kilometre to the east of Shute Harbour, Long Island is a 9km-long stretch of land made up of rainforest national park, secluded bays, and expansive coral fringe reefs perfect for snorkelling. With only one resort on Long Island, this is the island for those seeking respite from the masses. 

Long Island is a haven for bushwalkers with scenic trails running from the north to Sandy Bay midway down the west coast. The 3.5km Long Island Circuit trail that starts from Happy Bay beach offers stunning views of the islands. Keep an eye out for native wildlife including hundreds of species of birds, goannas and wallabies.  

The island’s Palm Bay Resort is located in a beautiful secluded cove and offers Balinese style gable-roofed bures set just a few languid steps from the reef-bounded lagoon. Perfect for guests wanting a laid-back, private holiday, Palm Bay Resort is the only self-catering accommodation in the Whitsundays.

Long Island boasts a tropical climate suitable for year-round swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing and water sports.

Top things to do:
  • Snorkel the island’s beautiful fringing reefs and encounter abundant marine life just 150 metres off shore.
  • Relax and unwind on the stunning palm-fringed beach or go kayaking around the island.
  • Book a day tour to the Outer Reef and explore some of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, including Whitehaven Beach and Heart Reef.
  • From May to September the region is an important calving ground for migrating humpback whales.

Mountainous Hook Island is the second largest island in the Whitsundays and is blessed with dense forests, secluded beaches and picturesque walking trails.

The north coast has a handful of bays offering superb snorkelling and dive sites. Manta Ray Bay and Maureen’s Cove are two of the best with generally good visibility and boisterous marine life. Divers should find plenty to keep themselves amused at the Woodpile or Pinnacles on the island’s northeast point thanks to strong currents that rush over a seafloor strewn with coral-clad bombies.

On the south coast, Nara and Macona Inlets both cut dramatic fjord-like swathes into the heart of Hook Island. At the head of Nara Inlet, a walking track leads to a seasonal waterfall along with a significant Ngaro cultural site where a cave is etched with ancient Aboriginal rock art thought to be 9,000 years old.

Entirely national park with heavily forested peaks, Hook Island is popular with campers at five far-flung campsites dotted across the island. Raleigh Beach at Maureen’s Cove or the enticingly named Crayfish Beach campsite are worth checking out.

Perfect for a family getaway, Daydream Island is easily accessible from Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island. Its unique man-made outdoor aquarium, the Living Reef, hosts a range of regular educational events such as the Stingray Splash, where you can walk among baby stingrays under the guidance of a marine biologist.

Once known as West Molle Island, Daydream is a tiny slip of an island around 1km long in the Molle Channel. Legend has it that cruising yachties Paddy and Connie Murray were sailing from Sydney to Cape York in the 1930’s. Falling in love with the island, they promptly bought it, renamed it Daydream after their yacht and built Daydream’s first resort.

Now attracting over 100,000 guests each year, the resort has had many incarnations since with current owners planning major refurbishments in 2018. Daytrippers are welcome to hang out around the original resort at the southern end while overnight guests have the run of the entire island.

Top things to do: 
  • Take the walking trail to the island's peak. The trail leads through a small but dense tropical jungle inhabited by parrots and tiny sunbirds.
  • Meet Pancake and Pikelet, the resident stingrays at the island's Living Reef aquarium and give their baby stingrays a pet. 
  • Take in the breathtaking views whilst padding around the northern tip of Daydream to Lovers Cove. Enjoy a glass of bubbly and watch the sun going down over mainland Australia. 
  • Step off the beach at Lovers Cove to explore the beautiful fringing reef just beyond the shore and encounter a kaleidiscope of friendly parrot fish.
  • Hire a boat and explore the local waters, discover deserted islands, and swim at secluded beaches.
  • Relax by Daydream's lagoon swimming pools, play a round of mini golf or watch movies at the outdoor cinema from the comfort of beanbags or the pool. 

Notice: Daydream Island Resort & Spa is presently closed for a refurbishment and will re-open to guests in September 2018.

Located midway between Mackay and Shute Harbour at the southern limit of the Whitsunday group, Lindeman was once the home of a now-defunct resort but plans are afoot for a luxury resort to replace the old one. In the meantime, campers, bushwalkers, birdwatchers and boaties have this beautiful island all to themselves. 

The Island consists of mostly national park and offers more than 20kms of walking trails through untouched bushland. A beachside campsite is located at Boat Port on the northwest coast.

The Ngaro people know Lindeman Island as 'Yara-kimba', meaning the place of snapper-bream fish. Over 90 bird species have been logged inhabiting Lindeman while humpback whales are often spotted on their migration to and from the Southern Ocean.

Top things to do:
  • Choose from 7 beautiful beaches on the island. Head to Gap Beach for snorkelling as well as shucking oysters straight off the rocks. 
  • Take the trail beyond the airstrip to the peak of Mt Oldfield, 212 metres above sea level, for magnificent views of Pentecost, Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands. 

Great Barrier Reef Blog