A Brief Guide to the Whitsunday Islands

Whitsundays | © Master Man / Flickr
Alice Duffield

The Whitsunday Islands are a beautiful oasis in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Made up of 74 islands, the Whitsundays are all National Park islands, which means they are uninhabited (aside from a few for lucky holiday makers). Whether you like your holidays to be food centric, family friendly or pure luxury, the Whitsunday Islands have it all. Start by choosing your home base for your time in the Whitsundays – some great resort islands are Daydream, Hamilton, Hayman and Long Island – figure out how to get there, what you must see and get packing!

How to get there

By air

The flights to the Whitsundays are a manageable 1.5 hours from Brisbane and 2-3 hours from Sydney and Melbourne – a short distance to paradise! The Great Barrier Reef Airport, Hamilton Island (HTI) is serviced by daily flights from Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with Virgin, Jetstar and Qantas. Whitsunday Coast Airport, Prosepine (PPP) is the airport you want if you’re looking for budget-friendly flights. This airport is serviced by less frequent flights from Brisbane and Sydney with Virgin, Jetstar and Tiger Airways.

Hamilton Island © Tony Hisgett / Flickr

By road

You’ll want to jump on the Bruce Highway in Queensland to get you right the way through Prosepine and Bowen with Airlie Beach just a short distance from the highway. If you’re driving from Brisbane, you’re looking at about a 12 hour journey.

What to see and do

There is so much to do in this aqua paradise. This stunning region is home to a number of national parks and reserves, some of which you can even camp at for a more authentic experience. Some of the best parks to visit are Whitsunday Islands National Park, Lineman Island National Park, Molle Islands National Park and on the mainland head to Conway National Park.

South Molle Island

For a more cultural experience, take a (bit of a steep) hike to the Ngaro Cultural Site at Nara Inlet on Hook Island. This is a sacred site which means a permit is required before you can have access. You also can’t visit the Whitsundays without spending time on the beautiful Whitehaven Beach. It’s famous for a reason: seven kilometres of white sands and crystal waters. If beautiful scenery is your thing, take a flight over the incredible Heart Reef. It’s small and sweet (only 17m in diameter) but is guaranteed to be a highlight of your time in the Whitsundays.

Heart Reef

Practical tips

Particularly if you’re not from Australia, be very mindful that the sun up north is harsh. It’s important that you lather up with sunscreen every four hours and always try and protect your skin where possible. Don’t just bring sandals and swimmers – although they are important items for your Whitsundays holiday! Remember to pack your sneakers for those tropical rainforest hikes and don’t forget your water for hydration. You will sweat up a storm in this warm part of the world. If you want to learn to scuba dive, don’t forget to bring a medical certificate. And on that note, if you’re already a diver – bring your dive certificate!

Diving in the GBR

Stingers can be an issue when holidaying in the Whitsundays. Typically you’re at a higher risk if you’re swimming from October – May. In the case of being stung, you want to immediately put vinegar on the site of the sting and seek medical attention urgently – call 000 for an ambulance. Read up on what to look for in regards to stinger season in the Whitsundays. If you’re visiting during peak stinger season it’s easy enough to hire stinger suits so you don’t miss out on the fun.

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