The Best Hotels to Book in the Whitsunday Islands

The Whitsundays are one of the top cruise destinations in Australia but have hotels for every budget
The Whitsundays are one of the top cruise destinations in Australia but have hotels for every budget | Courtesy of Coral Sea Marina Resort / Expedia
Alex Robinson

Between the coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands are a range of sunken hills, their forested summits surfacing from a cobalt-blue sea. They’re a favourite cruise destination in Australia, ringed with white beaches as soft as talc, edged by coral gardens and visited by courting humpback whales. But you don’t need a live-aboard boat to enjoy them. To help plan your trip, here’s our pick of the best hotels in the Whitsunday Islands – many huddled around the mainland resort town of Airlie Beach – bookable on Culture Trip.

1. Martinique Whitsunday

Resort, Hotel, Apartment

An outdoor brilliant blue-tiled pool and spa at Martinique Whitsunday, with views of boats bobbing in Airlie Bay
Courtesy of Martinique Whitsunday / Expedia

As the name suggests, the hulking Martinique imagines itself as bringing a slice of the French Caribbean to Queensland. In need of a slight brush-up, it’s characterised by a few salmon-pink, terracotta-topped decorative turrets and a sprawling pool area for the families who come here on package trips. Like most Whitsunday hotels, it’s not on the islands but has sweeping ocean views from almost all rooms. It offers boat excursions, as well as ample parking, a gym and the amenities you’d expect in a package resort.

2. BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort

Resort, Hotel

Kids playing on the landscaped minigolf course at BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort, with a colourful playground in the back
Courtesy of BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort / Expedia

With a water park, a go-kart track, minigolf and a lagoon-size pool, the BIG4 presents itself as a Center Parcs-style adventure set-up with palms. It’s in Airlie Beach, so the soft sands of the islands themselves are a boat ride away. However, there’s a golf course, a supermarket and a McDonald’s on the doorstep. The self-catering accommodation – in shutter-board shacks – is as cheap as it gets for families in the Whitsundays.

3. Freedom Shores

Hotel

A boat bungalow set within a lush landscape at Freedom Shores, with a deck with wooden furniture
Courtesy of Freedom Shores / Expedia

How do you sleep on a boat without risking rocking and seasickness? By booking a room at Freedom Shores. It occupies a wooden hull but sits in a tropical garden, a half-hour drive from Airlie Beach. The rooms are huge, and the sunset and ocean views are magnificent. When hunger strikes, the shoreside bar and restaurant serves delicious barbecued fish and lobster. Don’t come expecting milk-white, powdery sands, though – the beach is a thin strip of mud-dark sand.

4. Azure Sea Whitsunday Resort

Resort, Hotel

An outdoor tiered pool at Azure Sea Whitsunday Resort, with plants and trees dotting the walkways
Courtesy of Azure Sea Whitsunday Resort / Expedia

The blocky, concrete units, white-tile decor and wood-veneer vinyl furniture at the Azure Sea aren’t about to win any Architectural Digest design awards. But you’re not here to pose and preen. What lies beyond is the star. You get gorgeous views from the big-enough-for-breakfast balconies, over the tiered infinity pool to the ocean, lumpy with island outcrops. The self-catering rooms come in all sizes – the biggest can easily fit six.

5. Palm Bay Resort

Boutique Hotel, Resort, Hotel

A covered patio at a beach hut at Palm Bay Resort, with wicker seating, tropical greenery and bay views
Courtesy of Palm Bay Resort / Expedia

Not all hotels in the Whitsunday Islands are on the mainland. Palm Bay, on forest-swathed Long Island, has big wooden beach huts decorated in clean whites, with large living areas and big sea-view balconies. The setting is a cove of coral sand lapped by gentle waves. There are reefs within kayaking distance of the shore, trails running into the forest, which is bustling with hopping wallabies, and sea eagles and ospreys nesting in the adjacent hoop pines.

6. Kipara Tropical Rainforest Retreat

Resort, Budget Hotel, Hotel

A charming cabin with a porch at Kipara Tropical Rainforest Retreat, set within tropical landscaping
Courtesy of Kipara Tropical Rainforest Retreat / Expedia

Despite the exotic name, this rainforest retreat is on a hillside on the edge of Airlie Beach, a short walk from a mall and a bus stop. The villas are caravan-park shutterboard shacks. They’re all self-catering – some small enough for one, others big enough for a large family – and charge backpacker prices. There are further discounts for extended stays. Best of all, they’re set in a pretty bird- and butterfly-filled garden that backs onto woodland.

7. Coral Point Lodge

Hotel, Apartment, Lodge

A breezy room at Coral Point Lodge, with blue-and-white striped bedding, a balcony and lots of storage
Courtesy of Coral Point Lodge / Expedia

Half an hour from Airlie Beach town, Coral Point Lodge is all about simple, secluded accommodation on the edge of a lush national park. There are wonderful bay and island views from every room. Avoid the cheapest Million Dollar and Ocean Breeze studios, which are barely big enough for a bed and a large suitcase. Instead, opt for the executive studios or the large three-bedroom reef villas – with enormous patios and full kitchens.

8. Mango House Resort

Resort, Hotel, Apartment

Mango House Resort sits around an outdoor pool and lawn area with loungers, a picnic table and shady palms
Courtesy of Mango House Resort / Expedia

The Mango House is a handsome balcony-fronted classic Queensland pile, set in shady gardens lush with banana trees and lily ponds. Cockatoos caw in the trees, and there are great views out across the pool and over a gently dropping hillside to Airlie Beach and the ocean. Interiors can’t compete but do the job, with indifferent concrete-and-vinyl flooring, fitted sofas and Formica-fronted cupboards.

9. Island Gateway Holiday Park

Budget Hotel

Villas and caravans dotting the palm-tree-covered grounds at Island Gateway Holiday Park
Courtesy of Island Gateway Holiday Park / Expedia

“Holiday park” is Australian for a caravan site, and as Queensland goes, the Island Gateway is gap-year fare, with ranks of camper vans parked next to what looks like prefabs (the resort calls them villas), mobile homes (luxury villas) and a large concrete unit with motel-style rooms for up to five. The decor is utilitarian – easy to clean, all wood laminate, white paint and strip lighting – but the pizzerias and bars of Airlie Beach town are an easy walk away.

10. Coral Sea Marina Resort

Resort, Hotel

A light-filled, comfy living room at Coral Sea Marina Resort leading to a balcony with a hammock and water views
Courtesy of Coral Sea Marina Resort / Expedia

Next to the huge yachting marina and right on the seafront, the Coral Sea is about as upscale as Airlie Beach gets. The rooms are basic, with wood-laminate or beige-tile flooring and shutter-wardrobes. However, the ocean-view and spa-deluxe options have big balconies overlooking the islands – the latter category comes with a hot tub. Airlie Beach is a short stroll away along the ocean boardwalk, and the hotel offers an extensive menu, with everything from croc safaris and coral dives to edge-of-your-seat reef flights in tiny Cessnas.

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