The Whitsunday Islands are known as one of the most idyllic places in Australia. The archipelago of 74 islands off the coast of Queensland is a true paradise on earth. It is a must-see during your trip to Australia. Several options are available to discover these beautiful islands worthy of the most beautiful postcards. Here is some advice to organize your stay!
The Whitsunday Islands
Before being discovered by Captain Cook, these islands were inhabited by Ngaro Aborigines living mainly from fishing.
Located off the coast of Queensland, the archipelago is made up of 74 islands within the famous Great Barrier Reef, one of the best-known symbols of Australia. You can only imagine its white sand beaches, transparent waters, corals, and colorful fish. You will not be disappointed! It is an incredible and unforgettable experience that will surely be part of your best memories of Australia.
The starting point for discovering these paradise islands is Airlie Beach, a small seaside resort town. On its main street, Shute Harbor Road, you will find youth hostels, bars, restaurants and various shops. You can also sunbathe along the artificial lagoon of the city or walk along the beautiful esplanade.
Best season to visit the Whitsundays
Enjoying a mild climate year-round, the Whitsunday Islands can be visited throughout the year. However, it is advisable to visit the archipelago between May and September. During this period the weather is mild. During the months of July and August, the water can be quite cold. September seems to be ideal for a trip to paradise. This is also the migration period for whales!
Moreover, between November and May, swimming is often prohibited because of deadly jellyfish that may be in the water. You can still go diving, snorkeling or swim with a full wetsuit (possibility to rent one).
Tours and Activities
There are various ways of visiting the archipelago. By boat, helicopter or plane, there are options for every budget!
Cruises to the Whitsunday Islands are a great way to discover them. You can go on snorkelling trips, dives and visit the islands. There are many companies that offer cruises to the Whitsundays. The duration can range from one day up to 3 days. Depending on the price and the type of boat, the atmosphere will be different and more or less party-like. Departures are generally from the Marina of Airlie, early in the morning. You can park your car on the premises (charges apply) or walk from the city centre.
Here is an example of cruises in the Whitsundays :
- Tour of half a day, ideal if you have limited time. You can admire the archipelago and enjoy the iconic Whitehaven Beach!
- Tour for 1 day. You will be aboard a speed boat. In the program: Whitehaven Beach, Swimming, Snorkeling and walking to the viewpoint Hill Inlet.
- Tour 2 days & 1 night. You will visit the best spots of the Whitsundays including Whitehaven beach, there are 3 sessions of snorkeling, and the night on the boat is unforgettable!
The best way to enjoy this unique place is to take a plane and fly over the archipelago. Two airlines offer flights from Airlie beach: Air Whitsunday and GSL Aviation. Air Whitsunday uses seaplanes while GSL Aviation uses small passenger planes.
We advise you opt for a scenic flight, which passes over the Great Barrier Reef in addition to Whitsundays!
You can also choose to see the Whitsundays via a helicopter tour. Prices are usually higher but it is simply breathtaking!
Departure is from the airfield of Airlie, which is located right next to the airport of Proserpine. Be aware that you will have to take a shuttle bus (30 minutes) to get to your starting point. The shuttle bus transfers are usually included in the price of your tour.
For adrenaline junkies, a parachute jump would be the best option. The company Airlie Beach Skydiver offers jumps from 3000 or 4000 meters altitude.
Less well known, you can also take a ferry or shuttle to the island or islands of your choice. Departures are from the city Marina. In general, this is part of an overnight package included in the resort of the island but not only.
You will be able to join DayDream Island or Long Island, for beautiful hikes or Hook Island with much more beautiful seabed. You can also take the ferry to Hamilton Island for the day (count $62/ person each way). Once there, you can enjoy the swimming pools and restaurants of the resorts, go to the beach, visit the zoo of the island … To move around the island, it is recommended to rent a buggy (golf cart). Remember to book in advance because during the high season you will not find any free.
It is also possible to camp in the Whitsunday Islands National Park. However, you must obtain a permit. Also, note that campfires on the Islands are strictly prohibited. To reach the islands you generally have to take a taxi boat. Rates range between 50 AUD for the nearest Island up to 150 AUD for the farthest.
Via Bruce Highway if you are driving.
By bus, Greyhound links cities from the coast to Airlie.
– For boat tours, prices start at $160 for a full day. Expect around AUD 300 for 2 days or more.
– Depending on the option selected, you should plan at least AUD 200 for flights.
Updated on 12/02/20 – Initially published on 25/06/18