With more than 85 percent of all Australians living along the coast, there is no surprise that the nation’s beaches are among some of the best in the world. In the heart of the Great Barrier Reef is the best beach in Australia, the picture-perfect sanctuary of Whitehaven Beach. Stretching along Whitsunday Island for 7km (4.3mi), this pristine and award-winning beach should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Explore Whitehaven Beach from the water by hiring a boat through SamBoat. Alternatively, book a multi-day sailing trip with Dream Yacht Charter.
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History of Whitehaven Beach
Whitehaven Beach was discovered and named by staff commander EP Bedwell in 1879. The bright white sand lying along this beach consists of 98 percent pure silica, making it very soft and fine. It doesn’t retain heat like most other sand beaches, so it’s comfortable to walk barefoot even on the hottest days. In fact, the sand is so fine that it can clean your diamonds and jewellery.
As the largest beach in the Whitsundays, this dreamlike paradise is unlike any other in Australia. Its soft sand, turquoise waters and lush foliage continue to be untouched by pollution and inhabitation – cigarette smoking is prohibited, and dogs are not permitted on the beach. In 2021, it was actually named the “best beach in the world” by TripAdvisor.
Surprisingly, over 10,000 years ago the Whitsundays were once mountaintops; however, due to the rising sea levels, islands were formed. Before the water levels rose, the Ngaro Aboriginal people lived in this area when they were all part of the mainland. Today, the descendants of this tribe still reside within the Whitsundays.
To protect the environment and endangered species found in the Whitsundays, the Queensland Government declared Whitsunday Island and the surrounding islands as national parks, and they also fall within the World Heritage-listed area of the Great Barrier Reef.
What to see and do
It’s all about admiring the natural beauty here. On arrival, head to Tongue Point where you can witness the fusion of colours and one of the best views of Whitehaven Beach. From here, hike through the Whitsunday Islands National Park, before stopping by Hill Inlet on your way back down to Whitehaven Beach. If you’re lucky, you might spot tropical fish, reef sharks or even a turtle along the shoreline shallows. Remember to give them space – they’re wild creatures, after all. There are no facilities on Whitsunday Island, so make sure you bring plenty of food and water.
Sporty types can time their visit to Whitehaven Beach with one of the annual events that take place here. Join in a half marathon, 5K or 10K run as part of the Great Whitehaven Beach Run every June. November marks the annual 750m and 2km Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim.
Where to eat
If old-school Aussie treats from a local bakery are what you’re after, then head down to the renowned Bob’s Bakery. From fluffy lamingtons and neenish tarts to delicious meat pies and sausage rolls, there is something for everyone – whether you are after something for brekky or something for the picnic basket.
For Italian food, head to Romano’s in the heart of the Hamilton Island Marina. Nab a table overlooking the water and tuck into tagliatelle pasta, tossed with Queensland prawns, white wine, chilli and lemon butter, washed down with an ice-cold glass of local sauvignon blanc.
The easygoing waterside Marina Tavern is the perfect spot for dinner, catering to even the fussiest of eaters. Choose from indoor or outdoor deck seating, order a schooner of local beer and wind down after an adventurous day exploring the Whitsunday Islands. Serving meals such as steaks and schnitzel, this tav is one way to wind down after an adventurous day on the island. After all, who doesn’t love good pub food?
Where to stay
If you want to stay on Whitsunday Island itself, then camping is the only option. Whilst wild camping is not permitted, there are designated campsites around the island – including one directly on Whitehaven. Just make sure you buy a camping permit and book a spot in advance.
Hamilton Island has a clutch of places to stay, ranging from self-catered apartments to four-star hotels.
The views alone from the Reef View Hotel make a stay here well worth your time. Breathe in the salty air as you stretch out on your private balcony overlooking Catseye Beach, before heading down for a complimentary buffet breakfast. Active types can take advantage of the complimentary catamaran, windsurfer and stand-up paddleboard rental, while families will appreciate that kids stay and eat for free.
If you’d rather have more space to yourself, book a one-bedroom Whitsunday Apartment. Wake up overlooking the Coral Sea, framed by palm trees. Each unit comes with a full kitchen for whipping up your own meals. Spend your day lounging by one of two outdoor pools, or go snorkelling straight off the beach. Don’t fancy cooking? There’s a free shuttle bus that will whisk you to any restaurant on the island.
Get ready to max out that credit card at Qualia, an uber-luxurious boutique hotel on the northern tip of the island. Each suite opens out onto a sundeck with a private infinity pool that almost melts into the horizon. You’ll even have use of your own golf buggy, so you can easily zip off to the golf course or spa. Make sure you book a Taste and Talk experience to sample world-class sashimi, paired with vintage sake, in the Long Pavilion restaurant.
Alternatively, charter a yacht with SamBoat for an overnight stay close to Whitehaven Beach. You don’t need any sailing experience – most vessels come with skippers who’ll take you to secluded mooring spots, away from the crowds. Another option is to extend your trip by booking a yacht with Dream Yacht Charter – they run multi-day sailing trips around all of the Whitsunday Islands.
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