So you’ve been enamoured by the tropical lifestyle of the Whitsundays and its promise of laid-back sailings, world-class beaches, reef snorkelling adventures, and above all, a chance to reconnect with Mother Earth. Now, all you need is a handy guide to make your trip easier and stress-free.
It was only just before last spring that we decided to hightail Whitsundays for a much-needed vacation before the year ended. The coral gardens, relaxed lifestyle, the iconic Whitehaven Beach, the sailing and snorkelling – everything lived up to the hype. So, if you’re planning a trip here, then, by all means, go ahead!
I highly recommend staying at just one resort and traversing between the islands by boat. But no matter how you choose to spend your time in this slice of heaven, this guide will be your perfect travel companion!
Table of Contents
START FROM AIRLIE BEACH
Airlie Beach should be your ideal base to explore the islands, and if you’re a couple your honeymoon couldn’t be in a better setting.
Why Airlie? There are plenty of tours that take you out to the reef and to the picturesque islands of the Whitsundays. And if you’re like me, always looking to explore the best of what nature has to offer, this is where you wanna be.
BEST THINGS TO DO
The islands are the go-to for snorkelling and diving enthusiasts and the best way to access some exclusive reef locations is on a Whitsundays cruise. Day tours from Airlie to the Whitehaven Beach (the best beach in the world), will offer you a chance to dive into an aquatic wonderland teeming with vibrant coral life, and exotic marine species. Sway to the rhythm of tropical fish as they dance around in schools, swim side-by-side with a sea turtle, or come face-to-face with a smiling manta ray! Oh, we also finally found Nemo here! The tours generally range from 250-350 AUD, but it’s more than worth it!
Explore the islands like a true Aussie
Sailing tours are a whole ‘nother story. The best way to see the islands is on a sailing tour. There are multi-day sailing trips that will cover your transport, accommodation, food, and activities like snorkelling – in short, everything you need to have an unforgettable time in the islands.
There are also shorter tours which would be ideal if you have a tight budget. They will take you to picturesque locations including Hamilton Island, Whitehaven Beach, and Langford Island, and usually culminate with a sunset sail with a free glass of bubbles! Imagine sailing the Whitsundays on a classic yacht, while you raise a toast with your loved ones as the sun gracefully fades away into the horizon. Now that’s island life at its best!
Snack on tropical delights
Like any other Aussie destination, you might come to the Whitsundays for the sand, sun, and snorkel, but you’re going to stay for the mouth-watering range of eateries here. From fresh catch turned to gourmet menus to fine dining experiences with exceptional beach views, there’s one for every palette!
Slurp fresh oysters at Fish D’Vine, try woodfire pizzas and beer at Sorrento or have a go at a locally-curated menu at Northerlies. You can also enjoy a classic pub feed at KC’s Bar and Grill with a hint of live music and a friendly atmosphere to go with it.
Free things to do
Home to numerous exotic bird species and nesting sites, Whitsundays is your free playground for birdwatching. We’re talking about a whole diverse species of flyers – sulfur-crested cockatoos, curlews, brolgas, reef egrets, white-bellied seagulls, and plenty more!
While Whitehaven Beach is the go-to for first-timers, there are plenty of hidden beaches to discover within the islands like Coathaven, or the incredible Blue Pearl Jay.
BEST TIME TO GO
If snorkelling and diving is a major part of your visit, then avoid the rainy season as the water becomes murky, and vision gets muddled.
Spring is when the Whitsundays really shine! You can count on sunny days, low humidity, and perfect conditions for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. The wet season might bring some tropical showers, but they’re usually quick and add a refreshing touch to the tropical ambiance.
Renting a car is the simplest means of transportation on the mainland; however, when it comes to travelling between the mainland and the islands, there are alternative means. You can opt to captain your own boat, partake in various multi-day or single-day cruises or tours, or choose to utilize a ferry transfer service.
While the Whitsunday Islands are definitely not a budget destination, there are some effective ways to save money. These won’t save you loads of money, but they are still valuable, especially if you’re a backpacker like me.
Staying on the islands can be exxy, instead, you can stay on the mainland and do day tours. They won’t be cheap, but they would still be cheaper than longer visits and sailing trips
The cheapest way to stay is camping, but you need to come equipped with all the camping essentials and stay on just one island
Last but never least, bring your own water bottle. Use your reusable bottle throughout your trip, after all, tap water in Australia is drinkable, plus you’ll be doing a favour to the environment
TIPS FROM THE HEAVEN
Although you can enjoy 300 days of sunshine here, be sure to pack all the essentials if you don’t want to end up looking like a lobster on your way back home. Pack plenty of sunscreens and aloe vera gel, and stay hydrated all the time
October-May is stinger season – this is when the box jellyfish and the elusive Irukandji lurk around in the waters!
Watch out for other wildlife – be on the lookout for snakes and spiders. If you’re entering the waters, look out for red and yellow flags. Yellow means possible danger, and red is closed.
Finally, plan ahead. Look out for weather forecasts, pre-book your accommodation to avoid surge prices, choose what tours you’d like to enjoy on a day, and bring all the essentials for a good island time!