If you’ve ever imagined the world’s most pristine beaches, you probably imagined the real-life Whitsundays. In this 2021 guide to the Whitsundays, we’ll cover the top things to do when visiting this iconic region.
The Whitsundays region is an archipelago, consisting of 74 islands, with only 8 inhabited islands. Islands in the Whitsundays possess rich rainforest, white sand beaches and unique biodiversity. With the world’s purest sand, the Whitsundays are complemented by bright turquoise Australian water, making a natural masterpiece.
Photo by Nicolas Weldingh on Unsplash.
Why is the sand so white at the Whitsundays?
The Whitsundays has pristine, white beaches, which is made up of 98–99% pure silica. Silica gives sand the white colour and flour-like consistency. However, it’s interesting to point out local rock matter doesn’t contain silica, so it’s been theorised the white sands were brought over millions of years by the ocean’s currents.
7 Things to Do in the Whitsundays
1. Explore Whitehaven Beach.
Whitehaven beach is one of Australia’s most famous beaches, known best for its pure white sand and clear water. You’ll have to take a boat, helicopter or seaplane from Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island to get to this Whitsunday beach. Stretching for 7 kilometres, visitors don’t have to worry about Whitehaven Beach being overcrowded; there’s plenty of space for everyone.
Make sure to watch out for stingrays while at the beach. Luckily they should be pretty easy to spot. If you go in stinger season (November to May), you’ll have to wear a stinger suit.
Hill Inlet is close to Whitehaven Beach and well worth the visit. The 1.3km return walk takes about 40 minutes to complete and takes you up to the Hill Inlet Outlook. This outlook offers amazing views of the nearby white beaches and turquoise waters.
2. Take a helicopter ride over Heart Reef.
You can take a helicopter ride over Heart Reef, the famous ‘romantic’ heart-shaped reef that has become a major attraction for Great Barrier Reef visitors. It’s best to see the small coral structure by helicopter or seaplane, as visitors cannot snorkel or dive here for the reef’s protection.
Land on the nearby pontoon.
While visitors cannot snorkel or dive at Heart Reef, you can still get quite close. There is an ecologically sustainable pontoon set up next to the reef, which is powered by natural resources. It has no waste and is hooked into the sand to prevent damage to the nearby reefs.
3. Jet ski or raft around the Whitsundays.
If you don’t like heights — or just love adventure — then jet skiing or rafting may be the activity for you! There are plenty of companies offering jet skiing and rafting opportunities. This is such a thrilling and fun way to see the Whitsundays and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
4. Sailing the Whitsundays.
Sailing is a popular leisure activity at the Whitsundays. Sail the beautiful archipelago with one day or overnight experiences.
One of the best ways to see the islands is to live on a boat for a few days. Besides having amazing views of the Whitsundays, you may also stop at remote snorkelling spots for a unique opportunity.
5. Snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef.
Snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef may be the best experience this world has to offer. Stretching for more than 2,300 kilometres with a width of 24 kilometres, the reef has a great variety of experiences. From helicopter flights, scuba diving and staying on islands, there is something for everyone.
- Hastings Reef.
- Saxon Reef.
- Norman Reef.
- Hardy Reef.
- Lady Elliot Island.
- Fitzroy Island.
- Green Island.
Make sure you respect the reef and learn how to protect it. While the Great Barrier Reef is dying, it’s certainly not dead. Keep this in mind when you see bleached coral or not as many fish as you would’ve imagined.
If you want to spend some more time at this natural wonder, you can spend the night at the reef. Sleep under the stars almost 40 nautical miles away from Airlie Beach, at Hardy Reef.
The pontoon is permanently situated at Hardy Reef, offering visitors ‘the best night of their life.’ You can also book an ‘underwater’ room, letting you view nearby marine animals out the windows and through glass floor panels.
6. Relax and explore Hamilton Island.
Hamilton Island is one of the most popular vacation spots on the Whitsundays. It’s also convenient to stay at Hamilton if you’re planning on doing other activities like visiting Heart Island or Whitehaven Beach, since lots of excursions depart from here. If you’re staying on the island, you can join tours, taking vacationers to see koalas, kangaroos, wallabies and kookaburras.
Take a golf buggy around Hamilton Island.
A car-free island seems ethereal; you feel absorbed in the natural environment. However, it can be hard to get around the island. That’s why there are golf buggies on Hamilton Island! This is another fun addition to your holiday, driving the golf buggy around the island to some of its best viewpoints and natural sights.
Watch the sunset at One Tree Hill.
Head to One Tree Hill lookout around dusk for some spectacular views of the sun setting on the Whitsundays. For those looking for a way to celebrate the end of the day, there are also cocktails available at One Tree Hill (coffee is available in the mornings, cheese and wine in afternoon and cocktails at night).
Walk up Passage Peak.
Passage Peak is a hiking trail on Hamilton Island that rewards those who’ve made it to the top with incredible ocean views. While most tourists are jumping on their next boat to explore nearby islands and reefs, Passage Peak is often overlooked, which means there are minimal crowds.
7. Explore Airlie Beach.
Airlie beach is on the mainland and is the most accessible beach, meaning you don’t have to catch a boat to get there. It’s another beautiful, white sand beach and is the perfect place to relax and soak up some ‘rays. Make sure to stop by Airlie Beach before or after your trip to the Whitsunday Islands.
Airlie beach is no stranger to Box jellyfish and Irukandji jellyfish, so make sure to be cautious when swimming here.
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