The Most Beautiful Beaches in the Whitsunday Islands

Known for crystal clear waters and manicured sands, the Whitsunday Islands have some of the most beautiful beaches on offer
Known for crystal clear waters and manicured sands, the Whitsunday Islands have some of the most beautiful beaches on offer | © Michael Szönyi / Alamy Stock Photo
Cassie Wilkins

Comprising 74 picture-perfect islands dotting the turquoise horizon between Airlie Beach and the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays of Australia are a quintessentially tropical paradise in the heart of Queensland. Here, palm trees flank crystalline waters and migrating whales meet colourful fish against a coral background. Of course, tropical island paradise also means stunning beaches – and this marine national park has them in abundance. It’s best explored by boat to ensure access to the most secluded of spots. Bags packed and bathers at the ready? Read on to discover our pick of the finest Whitsunday beaches.

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Airlie Beach

While technically Airlie Beach might be more the gateway to the Whitsundays rather than the islands themselves, this natural bay in the centre of town is a favourite picnicking and sunset spot. Spend an afternoon swimming in the Airlie Beach Lagoon Pool and turtle-spotting on the Bicentennial Walkway before grabbing a pick-me-up from the Fat Frog Beach Cafe. The Saturday morning Airlie Beach foreshore markets are also well worth a visit.

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island

If you close your eyes and imagine the Whitsundays, chances are you’ll end up with an image of Whitehaven Beach – 7km (4.3mi) of the softest sand on earth and tranquil sea in a hundred shades of aqua, fringed with photogenic palms and backed by forested hills. On Whitsunday Island, Whitehaven Beach is a staple on most day tours, overnight boat trips and scenic flights. It’s also possible to camp here overnight – if you’re lucky enough to snag one of the limited permits.

Coral Cove, Hamilton Island

If you only have time to squeeze in a trip to one island, chances are it will be Hamilton – home to the majority of resorts in the Whitsundays, serviced by passenger ferries and even has its own airport. While it might be popular, it’s still got secluded beach vistas galore, especially if you’re up for an adventure. The 3.1km (1.9mi) trek over to Coral Cove is certainly one of those – you’ll be rewarded with glassy seas, swaying palms and a beautiful wooden swing.

Hill Inlet, Whitsunday Island

A swirl of turquoise waters and pure white sand wedged between forested peaks at the southern tip of Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet is another of those iconic Whitsunday hotspots. Time your visit for low tide and head up high to get the best glimpse of this natural phenomenon – with viewpoints on the Hill Inlet Lookout at Tongue Point perfectly placed to capture it in all its glory.

Catseye Beach, Hamilton Island

Overlooked by Hamilton Island’s world-class resorts, Catseye Beach may not be as secret or as secluded as Coral Cove. However, its palm-lined sandy shores make up for it in plenty of other ways – especially for fans of watersports like sailing, paddleboarding and kayaking. The coral reefs here are also spectacular, while the rock pools and sand flats at low tide make for a great natural playground. Catseye Beach also features plenty of amenities nearby, making it one of the most accessible and beautiful beaches in the Whitsundays.

Boathaven Beach

Back on the mainland, Boathaven is arguably Airlie Beach’s most beautiful beach and swimming spot. As its name and location between the Whitsunday Sailing Club and Boat Haven harbour suggest, Boathaven is also a great place for whiling away an afternoon watching yachts sail off into the distant horizon. Boathaven also has a stinger net, making it safe for swimming without a stinger suit, even in peak jellyfish season – November to May – though caution is always advised.

Crayfish Beach, Hook Island

Crayfish Beach is one of the Whitsundays’ hidden treasures. This uniquely rugged beach is unlike any others in the archipelago – crested peaks and bushland lead to a sheltered bay with coral reefs accessible from the beach – and some even directly exposed at low tide. While worthy of a day trip, Crayfish Beach is also one of the few spots in the National Park where you can camp – with a permit – and spend a night or two living out your Castaway tropical island dreams.

Butterfly Bay, Hook Island

Another Hook Island gem, the densely forested shores of Butterfly Bay are – as you might have gathered – home to flutters of gorgeous blue butterflies. A popular snorkelling and diving spot, the underwater world here is equally as impressive, with shoals of tropical fish flitting through an aquamarine haven. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a manta ray or a Maori wrasse.

Northern Spit, Henning Island

If beach camping is your thing, check out Northern Spit. Overlooking Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands, it’s a gloriously scenic place to string up a hammock and enjoy beachside views by day and epic scenes of the Milky Way by night. Just be forewarned, camping here is far from glamping. It’s all pack in, pack out with facilities limited to a composting toilet and a picnic bench or two. Feeling more boujie than budget? Hop on a luxury overnight chartered yacht instead.

Cateran Bay, Border Island

A marine-protected zone, Cateran Bay on Border Island is a snorkelling and diving paradise – home to some of the best reefs in the Whitsundays. Flanked by tall cliffs, you can take a short stroll up to a gorgeous lookout spot for panoramic views over the clear waters, colourful reef and rugged sandy beach. The best part? It’s far enough off the tourist trail that you might have it all to yourself.
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