It's hard to imagine as you're sailing the magnificent Whitsundays, but these islands were once mountain peaks on the Australian mainland. After the last ice age, rising oceans drowned the valleys between the mountains, creating 74 islands from the highest peaks, the shining jewels of Tropical North Queensland's crown. Today, these islands are renowned for their luxury resorts, but there are a great range of accommodation options and activities to suit every taste and budget. It's a bit cliche, but there really is something for everyone in the Whitsundays.
WE'VE SELECTED THE TOP NINE WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS TO SHOWCASE HERE, CHOSEN BY ACCESSIBILITY, NATURAL BEAUTY, AND GENERAL APPEAL. EACH ONE IS DESCRIBED IN DETAIL, INCLUDING THE SERVICES AVAILABLE ON EACH.
It was Captain James Cook, the man credited with the DISCOVERY of Australia, who gave the Whitsundays their name on his journey up the east coast in 1770. He passed through the narrow channel between the mainland and the islands on Sunday 4th June (the seventh Sunday after easter, which is known as 'Whit Sunday'). It is now widely accepted that he didn't actually pass through on this date, as he had failed to take into account the yet to be brought into existence International Date Line.
The Whitsundays started to attract tourists in the early 1930's, with the construction of a 'resort' on Daydream Island. Consisting of unfloored timber huts, with iron roofs and iron windows, the first Whitsunday Islands tourist resort was a far cry from the unmitigated luxury that can be found in some of our island resorts today.
There are a wide range of one-day trips to the reef and the world famous island resorts - such as Hamilton, Daydream and Hook - with some cruises taking in more than one resort during the day.
As you sail among deserted islands, beaches and reefs, backpackers can dive and snorkel among colourful fish and coral, bushwalk through tropical forest and sunbake on deserted beaches while the boat's crew pampers you.
While cruising during July to September, you might spot a Humpback whale as these gentle giants migrate to the Whitsundays from Antarctica to breed.
Shingley Drive, Coral Sea Marina, Airlie Beach (MAP)
Phone (07) 4946 6848
The Whitsundays... three days in one!
Multi award winning Ocean Rafting visits the 'Wild Side' of the Whitsunday Islands, the uninhabited islands with beautiful natural scenery brimming with marine, bird and animal life. There are two exciting tour options, the Northern Exposure and Southern Lights. Each Ocean Rafting day offers three days in one, including an exhilarating ride to Whitehaven Beach, pristine snorkelling reefs and guided Whitsunday Island National Parks walks.
Ocean Rafting is the only tour to have direct access to the stunning and iconic Hill Inlet beach, and special snorkel sites at Hook Island and Border Island ensure a memorable underwater experience. The semi rigid inflatable vessels are super fast allowing guests to experience a fun ride, adventure and education amongst the natural beauty of the Whitsundays. 32 passengers at most allows for personal snorkelling lessons and the pleasure of a small group. Ocean Rafting is proud to be Advanced Ecotourism Certified.
GSL AVIATION - AIRLIE BEACH
1/384 Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach (MAP)
Phone 1300 475 247
The jewel of the Great Barrier Reef!
GSL Aviation is proud to offer a range of great value scenic flights, island transfers and air charter from our base at Airlie Beach in the beautiful Whitsundays.
See it all with our Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef scenic flight tours giving you an excellent overview of the most popular Whitsunday Islands and the famous Heart Reef & Whitehaven Beach. With expert commentary you will appreciate the layout and beauty of this amazing area, all whilst soaring above these breathtaking sights! Ask us about our 'Fly and Cruise' packages too and enjoy the Reef from above and below the water!
Sights include: Shute Harbour, Hamilton Island, Hill Inlet, Whitehaven Beach, Hayman Island, Hook Island, Daydream Island, Bait Reef, Heart Reef and Hook Reef.
Accommodation on the islands is, almost without exception, of an exceedingly high standard. Hook Island Wilderness Resort probably offers the Whitsundays' only real 'budget' accommodation option, with shared dormitory style accommodation from $35 per person, or a private beachfront cabin for $100.
Five star Hayman Island resort is probably at the other end of the spectrum, an exclusive, premium island resort. Forbes Magazine declared Hayman Island 'The World's Best Beach Resort'. Definitely one for those who appreciate - and can afford- the best of everything.
Bustling Hamilton Island, with its busy airport, encompasses a number of hotels, form three star to five star, romantic palm-fringed bungalows, self-contained apartments, and an exclusive beach-front boutique resort. This is Australia's most visited island, and transport around the island is via golf buggy.
On Long Island, there are three separate resorts. Long Island Resort and Peppers Palm Bay Hideaway have similar attractions - a disco, parasailing, water-skiing and the usual arms length list of sports and activities. However, the latter is much more upmarket, with an emphasis on peace and quiet, while Long Island Resort attracts funseekers and offers some more affordable packages. South Long Island Nature Lodge is a unique 'no phone/no television' zone for the ultimate back to nature holiday.
South Molle Island is a family favourite, and has been for generations. Providing moderately priced accommodation, and no end of activities for the whole family, South Molle Resort is quite busy during school holiday periods.
Pristine Lindeman Island is home to Australia's only Club Med, with all the entertainment and activities that Club Med have become famous for. But apart from the area around the resort, the island is National Park, with walking tracks and panoramic views.
Daydream Island, tiny Daydream Island, with its immaculately renovated 4.5 star resort and world class health spa is a number one destination.
Brampton Island provides endless activities suitable for those looking for an adventurous vacation and peacefulness for those who want to break away from it all.
Whitsunday Island is an undeveloped wilderness, with little more than a few basic campsites and some established walking trails to give any indication of human presence. It's main drawcard is the gleamingly white Whitehaven Beach, which is the most photographed beach in the Whitsundays, and a topping point on many tours and island cruises.
You can pitch your tent at QPWS camping grounds on 17 of the islands, but you must haul along your own gear, food, drinking water, fuel stoves and nature-loving attitude (please, don't leave anything behind you but only footprints). Camping grounds are occasionally closed to alternate traffic between them in order to minimise the impact on the environment. To organise your trip, visit the excellent Airlie Beach QPWS, which provides permits and enthusiastic advice on highlights.