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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
How long does it take to get to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns? It very well may seem like a simple and easy question to answer, however, there are so many variables that make the answer not quite as straight forward as you may have initially thought.
No matter whether you are a snorkeller or a certified scuba diver, there are number of amazing Great Barrier Reef experiences that are a once in a lifetime absolutely ‘must do’. And a Minke Whale snorkel and dive Expedition is one of those that should be on your list!
Thinking of becoming a Certified Scuba Diver and looking to do your learn to scuba dive PADI certificate? Do you wish to learn to dive with a high quality professional company that has an outstanding reputation for not only skill but also safety and can match this with some of the best liveaboard dive boat fleets on the Great Barrier Reef?
This tour is special in so many ways, and is unrivalled to all other reef tours in Far North Queensland. First of all, it has the shortest open water crossing to get to the Great Barrier Reef. Fantastic news for anyone prone to motion sickness. Although this tour is a ‘Reef’ tour, it includes a ‘River Cruise’ on the journey there with Island activities on arrival. And a huge PLUS to guests that like to avoid the crowds, it has one of the lowest passenger capacities of all the island tours with a maximum of 100 guests. The destination is to an uninhabited continental island called Normanby in National Park which is part of the archipelago of Frankland Islands. It is located 10km offshore from the mouth of the Russell and Mulgrave Rivers at Russell Heads, which is approximately 45km South-East of Cairns. The Normanby Island has an abundance of wildlife not only in the water, but also on the island itself. The island is pristine, and has its own rainforest and a fringing reef not far out from its sandy shores. There are also coral gardens located further out from the island for the those that want to explore the deeper waters.
This is not a blog, it is a pitch on how good this Great Barrier Reef 2 day 1 night liveaboard dive trip from Cairns is such good value. One of our team members wrote it because she thinks it is such an amazing good value Great Barrier Reef tour, she wanted to write about it and put it on our Barrier Reef Australia blog page. We were not sure it was appropriate to pitch a single tour but we decided on free speech and free opinions so read more if you are inclined, or go to another page now. From our wonderful Great Barrier Reef Tour Specialist Chelsea Are you looking for a good value liveaboard Great Barrier Reef scuba diving adventure from Cairns without the crowds? Do you want the best dive deal money can buy in Cairns? If your answer is yes, then check out what deals we have on offer with our Great Barrier Reef Tour 2 Day 1 Night Sail, Snorkel and Scuba Dive tour!
If you are scared of the water and the creatures that live there or have never been exposed to an aquatic life in your younger years, but still wish to live out that lifelong dream of seeing the iconic wonders of the world the Great Barrier Reef, then that is okay, we have a tour that will enable you to see the coral reef from above the water and also below the water’s surface without you even getting your hair wet!