10 amazing facts about the Whitsunday Islands

Not that you needed any more reason to visit this beautiful region, but there is so much more to it than the enviable weather and stunning natural beauty.

A woman sits on a hammock overlooking the beach in the Whitsundays.
  • Celeste Mitchell
  • October 2019

Famous for white sand beaches and colourful coral reefs, this archipelago of dreamy islands is also home to lush rainforests and enticing man-made attractions.

The islands have brand new resorts

When Cyclone Debbie tore through the Whitsundays in 2017, she certainly made her mark. Hotels and resorts were left with huge clean-up bills and some were forced to close for renovations. But there’s never been a more exciting time for the region – 2019 has seen a roll-call of reopenings, including the family-friendly Daydream Island opens in new window, InterContinental Hayman Island Resort opens in new window and the Elysian Eco Retreat opens in new window on Long Island.

Whitehaven is one of the world’s best beaches

With seven kilometres of 98 per cent pure white silica sand, Whitehaven has undeniable appeal. Swim in the clear waters or head to Hill Inlet lookout to take in its beauty. A 20-kilometre walking track to the summit of Whitsunday Craig, the fourth-highest peak on the island, is now being built.

A couple walk along Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays.
The stunning Whitehaven Beach is one of the best in the world.

Humpbacks holiday here

Thousands of humpback whales come to the warm waters of the Whitsundays to give birth between June and September. It’s impossible to guarantee their location but those with a keen eye will easily spot whales from their balcony or boat charter – even the newborns are about four metres long and weigh around two tonnes.

There’s heaps more to do than lie on the beach

While there are myriad places to relax, there are just as many walking trails that offer another way to explore the coast. Warm up on the Border Island track, which climbs steeply from Cateran Bay and saunters along the island’s “saddle”. On the mainland is the Conway Circuit, a 28-kilometre trek that takes three days. For hard-core action, enter the Hamilton Island Triathlon or Hilly Half Marathon.

A man walks on a track in the rainforest in the Whitsundays.
Bored of the beach? Check out the archipelago's many walking trails.

The food scene is brilliant

With amazing seafood, local coffee and Australian game on the menu, the Whitsundays is a lure for food lovers. Enjoy casual fare at The Garden Bar Bistro opens in new window at Coral Sea Marina and Northerlies opens in new window in Woodwark or dive into the tasting menu at Qualia’s opens in new window hatted Pebble Beach.

Airlie Beach is no longer just for backpackers

Magnums opens in new window might still beat as the bunk-bed heart of Airlie Beach but the town has matured into a great destination for couples and families. New accommodation options like Freedom Shores Resort opens in new window pair Instagram-worthy digs – hello, boat-shaped cabins – with dining good enough to make you want to stay in. Meanwhile, the Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort opens in new window has its own water park with 13 slides.

There’s a reef in the shape of a heart

A flight over Heart Reef opens in new window is top of the to-do list for most Whitsundays visitors. Now you can fly by helicopter to Heart Island pontoon for a glass-bottom boat tour and snorkelling in a nearby lagoon. Only six guests on a champagne budget are allowed.

The heart-shaped Heart Reef in the Whitsundays.
Heart Reef is one of the most photographed spots in the Whitsundays.

It’s great for families AND honeymooners

With 74 islands in the archipelago, there are plenty of places to explore beyond the romantic hotspots. Recently reopened Daydream Island opens in new window is the ultimate family destination, with interconnecting rooms and its reinvigorated “Living Reef” – an ocean-fed aquarium where marine biologists lead snorkelling tours. Hamilton Island opens in new window is also set up for families, with free “By Request” items such as highchairs and jogger prams. And for a Bear Grylls-style adventure, book a campsite in the national park from AUD $6.55 per person per night or join an expedition with Salty Dog Sea Kayaking opens in new window.

You don’t need to be on a tour group

Yes, day trips are a great way to explore the region but you don’t have to join a tour. One of the best modes for independent travel is to charter a boat with Go Bareboating opens in new window. Can’t tell port from starboard? No matter; you don’t even need a boat licence. After a quick 101 and some hands-on help to get to know your vessel, you’ll be cruising confidently into the sunset. Alternatively, Cruise Whitsundays’ opens in new window Reefsleep offers exclusive overnight access to Hardy Reef, with double swags provided, so you can sleep above the fishes and under the stars.

Two people sit on a boat in the Whitsundays.
Cruising around the islands is one of the best ways to explore the region.

Swimming in the ocean is allowed

Stingers. Sharks. It’s true that there has been some bad press recently but incidents are rare and, with the right precautions, there’s no reason not to enjoy the Whitsundays’ spectacular underwater world. Guest safety is of the utmost concern for all tourism operators and staff in the region – as long as you heed their advice, including the best places to swim, and respect the environment, it is perfectly safe to take a dip.