Whitsunday Islands Guide
© Official Whitsundays Local Website
Activities And Tours
How To Get Here
Island and Mainland Accommodation
Great Barrier Reef
The Whitsunday Islands are famous around the world for their breathtaking beauty and are a beloved holiday and tourism destination for both Australians and overseas travellers alike.
The Whitsunday Islands are a cluster of 74 Islands off the northern Queensland coast in Australia and are part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. You’ll find everything from tranquil national parks, stunning blue waters, kilometres of undisturbed coral reefs and pristine white beaches in the Whitsundays.
Visitors have the option to sit back and relax in the tropical paradise or to get out and explore the beauty of the area with opportunities for sailing, swimming, scuba diving, snorkelling and hiking all through the Whitsunday Islands.
Quick Access Guide For This Page
- How To Get To The Whitsunday Islands
- Accommodation Options
- Recreational Activities
- Tours To The Islands And Whitehaven Beach
- Great Barrier Reef
- Hamilton Island
- Private Boating Guide
- History Of The Islands
- Whitsunday Islands National Parks
- Whitsunday Islands Map
- Scenic Region Video
- Table of Island Names
Travelling To The Whitsundays? (How To)
There are two airports located within the Whitsundays, the first on the mainland at Proserpine and the other on Hamilton Island. The Whitsundays Coast Airport at Proserpine is a 30 minute drive from the centre of Airlie Beach and has a shuttle service to and from the airport. Taxis can also be booked along with many of the larger hotels offering airport transfers.
The second airport, the Great Barrier Reef Airport, located on Hamilton Island is perfect for people staying on Hamilton Island but also services the mainland with ferries to Daydream Island and the Port of Airlie Marina in Airlie Beach running several times a day.
Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands can be driven to from anywhere in Australia. Airlie Beach is a 20 minute drive from the main highway, the Bruce Highway. Airlie Beach is a 12 and a half hour drive from Brisbane, 2 hours from Mackay, 3 and a half hours from Townsville and a 7 and a half hour drive from Cairns.
The Whitsundays are accessible by train on the Brisbane to Cairns route. The Spirit of Queensland travels from Brisbane to Cairns 5 times a week, stopping in Proserpine which is a 20 minute drive from Airlie Beach. The RailBus Coach Connection runs to Airlie Beach from the train station in Proserpine.
Sailing to the Whitsundays is also a possible way to travel to the Whitsunday Islands and experience the Great Barrier Reef. There are over 100 public moorings throughout the Whitsunday Islands which are maintained by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and are free to use. For more information on the rules and regulations with public moorings see this page. There is also the option for using the marinas in the Whitsundays, with two located in the mainland, Coral Sea Marina and the Port of Airlie, with another on Hamilton Island.
Available Accommodation Types In The Whitsundays
No matter your budget, the Whitsundays have a range of accommodation to suit every guest and budget. From backpacker lodges and caravan parks to 5 star luxury resorts, you’ll never want to leave.
There are many hotels available in the Whitsunday Islands and on the mainland that range from affordable to luxury stays. Some of the main hotels include Airlie Beach Hotel, Mantra Club Croc, Coral Sea Marina Resort and Mirage Whitsundays.
If you’re looking for Island accommodation there are several popular resorts located on some of the Whitsunday Islands.
Hamilton Island accommodation, the island has 6 different accommodation options, the Reef View Hotel, Palm Bungalows, the Beach Club, qualia which is an adult only hotel, self-catering Holiday Homes and Yacht Club Villas.
Daydream Island has a single resort, the Daydream Island Resort, with a range of room options to suit different needs and budgets.
The InterContinental Hayman Island Resort is one of the most prestigious Island Resorts in the Whitsunday Islands.
The Palm Bay Resort on Long Island offers Balinese inspired villas and the whole resort can be booked for events like weddings and corporate functions.
The gateway to the Whitsundays, Airlie Beach accommodation has a great range of holiday overnight options for visitors. For those on a budget, there are several backpackers like Nomads and Backpackers by the Bay, and several caravan parks like the Big4 caravan park and Airlie Beach Caravan Park. There are a multitude of self-contained apartments like Whitsunday Reflections Luxury Apartments and Sea Star Apartments. There are also many Airbnb options throughout the area.
Bowen is another place you can stay within easy driving distance of Airlie Beach with the drive there taking just over an hour. With attractions like the Big Mango and a classic cinema that’s been open since 1948, the town of Bowen has a lot to offer and has a range of apartments, resort, holiday parks and backpackers for accommodation.
If you’d like to be based in a city centre and make trips to the Whitsunday Islands, Mackay is the closest city, just under a 2 hour drive away from Airlie Beach. Mackay is a convenient place to stay with shopping centres, cinemas and more city amenities that aren’t available in Airlie Beach or the Whitsunday Islands.
There are 25 different camping locations in the Islands national park from the mainland to multiple island camping spots. There are several companies, like Whitsunday Camping that can organise daily transfers to the camping locations on the Islands and offer camping equipment hire as well. Camping permits must be obtained and displayed at your campsite while camping in the Whitsunday Islands. This is a true back to nature option compared to hotels Whitsunday islands stays.
Discover Recreational Activities
Whitehaven Beach is widely considered to be the most beautiful beach in the world for it’s crystal clear waters and white silica sand. Whitehaven beach stretches along 7km of Whitsunday Island national park and is accessible only by boat or by air. There are two lookouts over Whitehaven Beach, one located at the southern end of the beach with a short walk through the rainforest. The other, Hill Inlet, is located on the northern part of the beach and is perhaps the more well-known. Camping is also permitted on certain parts of Whitehaven Beach. For a complete guide to Whitehaven Beach see our page here.
One of the best ways to get out and explore the Whitsunday Islands is to go on one of the many day trips available leaving from Airlie Beach and several of the islands. ZigZag’s own day tour is one of the best day trips for getting to Whitehaven Beach and seeing some of the beautiful fringing reefs via snorkelling.
Other day trips include scuba diving, sailing and fishing charters that allow you to experience the Whitsundays with local experts that know the area and can take you to the best spots.
Overnight Sailing Tours
If you’re looking to spend more time out on the beautiful waters of the Whitsundays, overnight sailing tours are the best Whitsunday island adventures and ensure you get the most out of your visit. Wakeup on the water and experience the majesty of a sunset and sunrise on the deck. With options for single night trips all the way up to week-long sailing tours with numerous companies, you can decide to join shared sailing trips or hire a private charter for a more customisable trip.
The Whitsundays are unique for the fact you are able to rent and sail yachts throughout the Whitsunday Islands without a licence, making it one of the best things to do while in the Whitsundays Islands. You will still need to have a basic understanding of how to operate your boat and navigate around the islands national parks and reefs. Short sailing courses and lessons are available at several locations in Airlie Beach. Once you have the knowledge and equipment you can sail all through the Whitsundays on your own schedule, setting your own route and stops.
There are lots of opportunities for fishing in the Whitsundays, from game fishing, bottom fishing, sport fishing, jigging and fly fishing with over 1,500 species of fish living on the reef. There are several spots on the mainland that are known for great fishing as well, like Shute Harbour Jetty and the Proserpine River. Check the zone areas before fishing as there are certain zones that are protected from fishing for conservation purposes.
The National Parks in the Whitsunday region are another of the fantastic ways to explore and provide lots of options for hikers. For those on the mainland you can’t walk past the Honeyeater Lookout overlooking Airlie Beach and the Coral Sea or the Mt Rooper Circuit towards Shute Harbour. For those looking to hike out in the islands, Whitsunday Cairn on Whitsunday Island offers 360-degree views out over the Great Barrier Reef, or for those that prefer an easier hike, the Hill Inlet Lookout on Whitsunday Island enjoys unparalleled views over Whitehaven Beach.
The Whitsunday Islands are also stunning to explore from the air. Some attractions are best viewed from the air like the Heart Reef, and the fringing reefs which are stunning to see from above. Whether by helicopter or seaplane, a scenic flight over the Whitsundays will take you over the highlights of the Great Barrier Reef. Flights over the Whitsundays can be as short as 20 minutes up to a few hours or paired with other tours around the islands like sailing or snorkelling trips.
Snorkelling will always be one of the most popular activities in the Whitsundays. With so many snorkelling locations to choose from, beginners and more experienced snorkellers alike will find exactly what they’re looking for. Some of the most popular snorkelling locations are Hardy Reef in the Outer Great Barrier Reef, Bait Reef near Hook Island, Dumbell Island near Whitsunday Island and Manta Ray Bay and Nara Inlet off Hook Island.
No matter where you’re staying, visiting some of the Island resorts is a great way to enjoy the Whitsundays. Whether it’s via a day trip or staying overnight, the resorts around the Whitsunday Islands are luxurious and have a range of activities and tours available.
Daydream Island Resort has 3 different restaurants and 3 bars and has a living reef lagoon that holds over 100 species of fish and 80 species of coral.
Hamilton Island is home to a number of great attractions, from a bowling alley to a wildlife enclosure, it also has its own yacht club and golf course with a driving range. Choose from off road adventure tours, go-karting or sit back and relax in one of the relaxation spas.
Airlie Beach Attractions
Airlie Beach has loads of great and free attractions for visitors like visiting the beautiful lagoon, admiring the coastline from the bicentennial walkway and swimming at the netted beaches at Cannonvale and New Beach in Airlie Beach. The weekly markets held on a Saturday are a great way to see the local goods or visit the beautiful Cedar Creek Falls half an hour out of town where you can swim and enjoy the freshwater falls when they’re flowing.
Tours To The Islands
Fancy seeing some of the islands on your own schedule? The ferries have multiple day trip Whitsunday Island departures and return times to a number of different islands throughout the Whitsundays. Departing from Airlie Beach the ferry runs to Daydream Island, Hamilton Island Marina and Hamilton Island Airport. The ferry is ideal for resort transfers from the mainland or for day trips to the two islands.
An unmissable tour is Zigzag’s own highly rated day trip out to Whitehaven Beach along with a snorkelling session on the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll spend the day out on the water visiting scenic lookouts over Whitehaven Beach and snorkelling along fringing reefs to see the majestic corals and marine life that live there. Included are all the snorkelling equipment you’ll need along with stinger suits and snacks and a buffet style lunch.
Flyaus offers scenic flights over the Whitsunday Islands, giving you an exciting way to view the Great Barrier Reef from above. Choose between a 20 minute express scenic flight, an hour long Whitsunday reef and islands scenic flight and a package deal that combines the reef and island scenic flight with a snorkelling day trip out with ZigZag. They also offer hotel pick up and drop off service.
Aqua5 diving is one of the best known scuba diving companies in the Whitsundays. They offer scuba diving day trips out to the Great Barrier Reef for both experienced and inexperienced divers along with snorkelling tours. They take visitors to the reef slope close to Black Island for divers to explore the diverse range of hard and soft reef corals. They also offer a tour that combines scuba diving and island camping on Whitehaven Beach.
Airlie Beach Skydivers offer the only skydiving beach landing experience in the Whitsundays. Choose from tandem skydiving, skydiving lessons or solo jumps for licenced skydivers. Dive from up to 14,000 feet with views over the coastline for a unique way to see the Whitsundays. Skydiving photo and video packages are available to purchase of your skydive over the Whitsundays.
Ozsail offers visitors 2 day and 2 night sailing tours with the options for learning how to sail or to sit back and relax and leave the sailing to the professionals. With an emphasis on snorkelling and sailing, these tours are all inclusive with snorkel equipment, stinger suits and all meals provided. Ozsail also provides the option for private boat charters from couples and groups looking for a more private sailing experience with a more customisable itinerary to suit your preferences.
Prosail offers a huge variety of sailing tours, from multiple day and night tours, spearfishing charters, freediving trips, yoga adventure retreats and photography workshop trips. Their 3 24 metre maxi yachts can house up to 20 people for their tours and are fully equipped with toilets, hot showers and a kitchen where the crew prepare all meals on board. Typical destinations, weather permitting, include visiting Whitehaven Beach and its two lookouts and up 6 snorkelling locations along the fringing reef around the islands.
For those looking to spy some turtles while visiting the Whitsundays, Whisper Cruises offers two turtle spotting tours. Choose either the daytime tour or a special sunset tour to see not only turtles but potentially dugongs, fish, sting rays, sharks and even crocodiles. The quiet motor allows the boat to get close to the wildlife without scaring them away. The one hour tours leave from the Coral Sea Marina into Whisper Bay where you can enjoy some sightseeing along the way.
Whitsunday Jetski Tours are an exciting way to explore different parts of the Whitsundays. Choose between three different tour options, from the popular Airlie Beach tour, the two island safari tour and the ultimate island trek. Tours range from 1 and a half hours to 3 hours and visitors have the option to ride solo or twin share a jetski to split the cost. No licence is required to operate the jetski on these guided tours.
If you’re looking to head out to the outer islands for some sea fishing, Whitsunday Fishing Charters is one of the best options around. With quality equipment included, the team also assists with setting up lines, and cleaning catches for you to take home and also offers free pick ups and drop offs. Choose from a number of charter options from half day, full day and overnight tours. You can join an existing charter group or book a private charter with the team at Whitsunday Fishing Charters.
Great Barrier Reef
Keen to see one of the seven great wonders of the world and the largest living structure alive today? The Great Barrier Reef is the largest barrier reef in the world, visible even from space and is composed of around 3000 individual reef systems and encompasses a total of 980 islands. The top of the reef is off the coast of the tip of Australia at Cape York and stretches all the way down the eastern coast of Queensland to Bundaberg.
The Great Barrier Reef national park is home to thousands of species of coral and aquatic life and supports up to 25% of all known marine species in the world. Nowhere else in the world will you get to experience the majesty and diversity of the beautiful reefs and wildlife the Whitsundays have to offer.
Stretching over 344,400 square kilometres along the coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef can be enjoyed by visitors in a number of ways such as sailing, snorkelling, diving, swimming and viewing it by air.
Perhaps one of the most widely recognised reefs in the Whitsundays and Australia, the Heart Reef is named for its unique, naturally formed heart shape and is located in Hardy Reef. Access to see this reef is limited to a scenic flight, helicopter or seaplane, no boats can go here.
Hamilton Island is the largest inhabited island in the Whitsunday Islands and has its own commercial airport as it is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Whitsundays.
Accessible by ferries or by private transfers from the mainland, this tropical oasis is known for its beautiful beaches and picturesque views out over the Coral Sea. Many day trips and activities out on the Great Barrier Reef can be booked from the local marina.
Hamilton Island also has a whole range of on-island attractions including a bowling alley, go-kart racing, offroad ATV tours, tennis courts, golfing, a driving range, Hamilton Island Wildlife and relaxation spas. Not to mention Catseye Beach, Hamilton Island’s loveliest beach.
Bring Your Own Boat To Explore The Islands
Have your own boat and want to take it for a spin around the Whitsunday Islands? Here’s what you’ll need to know.
There are several public boat ramps around the mainland from Shute Harbour, Abel Point, Port of Airlie, Cannonvale, Dingo Beach, Conway Beach and Midge Point.
Having an understanding of the tides is crucial when cruising around the Whitsundays as some locations and islands will be inaccessible at certain tide heights and lows. For up to date tide times and charts see this page before planning a trip out in your boat.
Given the Whitsundays location in Tropical North Queensland, which can be subject to strong weather conditions during the wet season, it’s important to factor in how the weather will impact your day out on the water. Visit the Bureau of Meteorology’s Whitsunday weather page for up to date weather conditions and forecasts.
History of the Whitsunday Islands
The native Australians that originally lived in the Whitsunday region are called the Ngaro people, with their territory stretching both north and south of the Whitsunday Islands. Evidence has placed the Ngaro people as being settled in the area for at least 9,000 years. They lived mainly as maritime hunters and gatherers and were skilled navigators.
In 1770 Captain Cook and his crew first sailed through the Whitsunday Passage aboard the HMB Endeavour on a scientific expedition. He named the passage Whitsundays Passage after the Christian celebration of the Festival of Whitsun.
White settlers began to settle in the Whitsunday region in 1860 and sheep grazing businesses were established on several of the islands. The Whitsunday Islands became a popular tourism destination in the 1920’s with boats taking visitors out to some of the settled islands.
In the 1930’s the Queensland and Australian Government made several of the Whitsunday Islands national parks. Today more than 96% of the region is protected by the government in an effort to preserve the plants, animals and environment.
Whitsunday Islands National Parks
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) is the government agency responsible for the Whitsunday islands national parks in the region and jointly manages the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
As always before heading into any national parks you should do your research here are a few pointers before exploring the Whitsunday Islands
- Leave no trace
- No open fires and ash-producing stoves
- No domestic animals
- Take rubbish back to the mainland
- Dump fish scraps at night
- Be pest-free!
- Allow native animals to find their own food
- Minimise damage to corals and marine animals
- Check restrictions on activities
Every visitor and commercial operator has a duty of care for this stunning national park, do the right thing and leave the beauty for the next generation.
Whitsunday Islands Map
Whitsundays Scenic Video
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the best island to visit in the Whitsundays?
Whitsunday Island is the most popular for day visitors. Hamilton Island is the most popular resort accommodation.
What is the best month to visit Whitsundays?
September is the best month closely followed by October, Why? light winds low humidity and warm days
How do you get to Whitsunday Islands?
The 2 Airports Include Hamilton Island Airport and Proserpine Airport. To visit the Whitsunday Islands you have options of a commercial boat, helicopter, small plane, private boat, or ferry.
How many days do you need in the Whitsundays?
We recommend 4 to 5 days, this includes your incoming day and return day. This leaves you a few good days to discover the Whitsunday Islands
How long is the drive from Brisbane to Whitsundays?
Brisbane to Whitsundays is 1113km and between 13 to 14-hour drive, (depending on rest stops).
How many islands are in the Whitsundays?
The Whitsundays Group Of Islands Has 74 Islands between Bowen to Mackay.
What islands can you stay on in the Whitsundays?
Hamilton Island, InterContinental Hayman Island Resort, Daydream Island Resort, Elysian Retreat, Palm Bay Resort both on Long Island, Whitsunday Island (Camping), Hook Island Camping, Gloucester Island (Camping)
What Whitsunday Island Is Whitehaven Beach On?
Whitehaven Beach is located on the eastern side of Whitsunday Island and is 7km long.
Can I visit the Great Barrier Reef while in the Whitsundays?
Yes there are tours to the outer Great Barrier Reef from Airlie Beach, Daydream Island and Hamilton Island
Can you camp in the Whitsunday Islands?
Yes. there are dedicated camping locations around some islands managed by Queensland National Parks
Where can I park my car while visiting the Islands
There are large carparks at Coral Sea Marina and Port of Airlie, both are paid parking where you can pay and display or use the easypark app.
Can I spearfish in the Whitsundays?
Limited spearfishing is allowed in the General Use areas (light blue), Habitat Protection areas (dark blue) and Conservation Park areas (yellow). Please see the Great Barrier Reef Marina Pak Website for the map and full details
Where can you fish in the Whitsunday Islands?
Fishing is permitted in most places but not in Marine National Park (green) zones. Be aware of annual finfish closures and bag limits. The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website is a good place to learn the regulations.
Which Island is the largest?
Whitsunday Island is the largest in the group.
Table of Whitsunday Islands Names
|74 Whitsunday Islands Names||Accommodation|
|Little Lindeman Island|
|Long Island (Resort)|
|Mid Molle Island|
|North Molle Island|
|South Molle Island||Resort|
|Double Cone Island|
|Manta Ray Island|
|Hook Island||Resort / Camping|
|Plum Pudding Island|
Inbound Sales And Marketing Specialist At ZigZag Whitsundays
Nath J has lived and worked in the Whitsundays since 2001. Over these 20 years, he has spent 18 of them in the tourism industry.
As always if you have any questions about the Whitsunday Islands or any regional information, you can head over to our FAQ page or contact us on 07 4813 9007 or firstname.lastname@example.org
DAY TRIP WITH ZIGZAG WHITSUNDAYS
ZigZag Whitsundays day tour checkin starts at 7.50 am and the trip returns at 4 pm, The tour visits Whitehaven Beach and the southern lookout, you will also get an opportunity to snorkel around the islands.
As we depart early and return later, you get more time on the water, and more locations visited than any other Whitehaven Beach Tours from Airlie Beach.
In 2020 the boat was refitted with high back padded seats making sure our guests have a comfortable safe ride every time!
The only Whitsundays Day Trip with Dynamic Pricing, Tickets Start At Only $159
Comfortable Boat Ride
Comfortable Ride With More Destinations And More Time At Them
Our Tour Is Fully Inclusive Of Lunch Snacks Snorkel Equipment and Wetsuit.