There is an abundance of things to do in the Whitsundays, one of Australia‘s most beautiful regions. This world famous collection of 74 islands boasts dreamy accommodation, incredible opportunities to experience Australia’s unique marine ecosystems and live island life to the fullest.
Located in tropical northern Queensland, the Whitsundays can be accessed via plane from the mainland with Hamilton Island boasting a domestic airport where flights come in daily from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Things to do in the Whitsundays
No question one of the best things to do in the Whitsundays – especially for budget travellers – is to go camping on these incredible islands.
The ideal way to experience these drops of paradise (after all the day-trippers have gone home) camping is both a cheap and wonderfully accessible way to take in the majestic natural beauty of the Whitsundays at their best… and away from the mainstream crowds!
Despite being an Australian National Park, few people realise camping is possible on these islands and most visitors opt for expensive and short sailing trips as a way to enjoy them.
Instead, make the most of your time in this incredible landscape and enjoy a least 1 night in a tent with paradise all to yourself – it’s definitely one of the top ways to visit the Whitsundays on a budget.
Campsites can be booked through the QLD National Parks website and are available on several different islands – including the world famous Whitehaven. Prices are very cheap and pitches can be accessed by boat through a company based in Airlie Beach called Scamper, who can provide you with snorkelling gear too.
Just remember to take everything else you need with you, including drinking water and food. Camp pitches are very basic out here, but that’s exactly the joy of getting away from it all!
Contributed by Steph from Big World Small Pockets
Visit Hamilton Island
Your visit to the Whitsundays would not be complete without checking out Hamilton Island. It’s one of the largest inhabited Islands available on the Whitsundays, a population of just over 1000, and even has its own commercial airport. It’s your gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and one of the most desirable holiday destinations.
To get here, you can fly from most major cities in Australia, connections are needed from other locations. Otherwise, you have regular boat transfers from Shute Harbour (Airlie Beach) or other islands in the Whitsunday network.
Whatever you’re into, Hamilton Island has it all. There is something available for everyone and allows you to design the perfect getaway for a day or a week. Try your hand at Paddle boarding, snorkelling, kayaking, and swimming straight off the beach. Jump on a tour boat for a sunset cruise, whale watching, fishing, or a helicopter flight over the nearby reef.
As there are no cars on the island, how would you like to get around on a Golf Buggy! The island itself is 4.5 kilometres long and 3 kilometres wide, so this is the easiest and quickest mode of transport to get you around. One minute you could be sunbathing on Catseye Beach and five minutes later, enjoying that sunset view from One Tree Hill.
If you’re staying on Hamilton Island, there are accommodation options available to suit everyone’s budget, from Villas, private housing, bungalows on the beach, or the Reef hotel. If you look out for specials, you can also pick up a package deal that covers everything you need for your time away.
You don’t want to miss it!
Contributed by Chris from Aquarius Traveller
See Whitehaven Beach
Whitehaven Beach is one of the most famous beaches in all of Australia and maybe even the world. The sand on this beach is considered one of the whitest there is due to its 98,9% silica content. The water is crystal clear and perfect for relaxing and swimming.
Whitehaven Beach is located on the Whitsunday Islands which lie off the coast of Airlie Beach in Queensland, Australia. The islands are only reachable via boat so it’s highly recommended to join one of the many boat tours that are available to visit Whitehaven Beach. Whitehaven Beach is located in a natural park so there are no shops, hotels or resorts on the actual island. This means that nature there is still largely untouched despite the hundreds of tourists that come to the beach every day.
If you’re not too worried about budget you could even stay at one of the incredible resorts on the nearby Hamilton Island. This is the perfect spot to spend a few days and enjoy true luxury. Another great option for seeing Whitehaven Beach that is a little more budget-friendly is to take a snorkelling trip to the islands. You’ll get to spend a few hours on Whitehaven Beach followed by a lunch on the boat. Of course, there are plenty of snorkelling opportunities nearby and you might even see turtles while in the water.
Contributed by Victoria from Guide Your Travel
Take A Two Day Sailing Tour
The Whitsundays are famous for being Australia’s sailing mecca. One of the best ways to explore the islands is on board a sailing boat.
There are many companies offering tours from Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island but if you want to make the best of your time, opt for an overnight sailing trip such as the Summertime Whitsundays cruise.
Whilst most visitors choose to go on a day trip to Whitehaven, spending two nights on a boat is a better way to experience the Whitsundays. You will get to do so much! Also, there is something magical about waking up on a boat, watching the sunrise and catching a glimpse of dolphins jumping!
As the passenger group is smaller than the average in the Whitsundays, you will also get to socialise with the others and spend more time with the team.
You will be leaving from Port of Airlie in the morning. The first stop is the iconic Whitehaven Beach. The team will take you on a guided tour to Hill Inlet before heading to the beach.
Wet suit and snorkelling gear are provided. The staff will also take a waterproof camera so you don’t need to worry about taking your phone.
After that, you will sail around the islands and go snorkelling in some of the most beautiful spots including Hook and Hayman Island.
Finally, you will go on a guided kayaking tour around the islands. This is pretty unusual and yet, one of the best things to do in the Whitsundays.
Food, activities and equipment are included in the tour which means that the only thing you have to do is to relax and enjoy the beautiful place that it is!
Contributed by Pauline from Beeloved City
Explore Daydream Island
Recently reopened after its destruction by Cyclone Debbie in 2017 Daydream Island offers visitors a paradise island getaway in the heart of the Whitsundays.
Daydream Island is one of 7 islands of the Molle Group within the Whitsundays. It is a tiny island only 1 km in length and 400 meters at its widest point.
There is one resort on the island with 277 rooms, 3 restaurants, 3 bars, a burger joint, a stunning pool (with swim up bar) tennis courts, open air cinema and lots of activities to keep guests happy. Kayaking, snorkelling and paddle boarding are all available. During the months of June to October you may also be lucky enough to spot humpback whales on their annual migration along the Queensland coast.
Daydream Island also has a Living Reef which can be enjoyed through an underwater observatory. Coral, over 100 species of fish, sharks and stingrays can all be viewed.
Enjoy a stroll around the island and spot some of the wonderful native Australian wildlife and birds along the way.
The island is the perfect base to explore the Whitsundays and there are numerous day trips available.
Reach Daydream Island by ferry from the Port of Airlie or fly to Hamilton Island and take the 30 minute ferry transfer.
Contributed by Tracy from Tracy’s Travels In Time
Luxe out at Hayman Island
Hayman Island is one of the most stunning and luxurious island resorts in the Whitsundays, and the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for a relaxing Whitsunday holiday experience.
Located just to the north of Hook Island, Hayman Island is an exclusive island resort managed by The Intercontinental (IHG). It features the largest pool in the southern hemisphere as well as 168 beautifully decorated guest rooms and suites.
To get to Hayman Island, you’ll first need to fly or catch a boat transfer to Hamilton Island. From here you’ll board a luxury catamaran, relax into the boat lounge and be pampered with bottomless sparkling wine and canapés all the way to Hayman Island (approximately 60 minute boat ride).
Hayman Island is a great place to base yourself to explore the Whitehaven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef. Other things to do on Hayman Island include hiking to a secluded beach, sunset picnic, sailing, wind surfing, yoga, or check out the expansive sports centre featuring a gym, tennis courts, squash courts, and much more.
One thing’s for sure, after spending a few days at Hayman Island, you’ll come away feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
Contributed by Amanda from Bucket List Seekers
Undeniably, skydiving is one of the best things to do in the Whitsundays. Of course, there are plenty of places you can skydive in Australia but this is one of the most surreal. There is nothing like the adrenaline rush of a skydive over Airlie Beach.
Not only is the feeling euphoric, the aerial view is spectacular too. If you are lucky to get clear weather, you will be able to see the Great Barrier Reef and not many people will be able to say that about their skydiving experience. The height you can jump, ranges from 8,500ft to 15,00ft for a tandem skydive. The latter includes up to 60 seconds of free-fall at speeds of up to 220km/h.
The most popular company to go with is Skydive Australia because they have a great reputation for safety and they have a professional service from booking to falling to landing. The staff put your nerves at ease and whether it is your first time skydiving or not, you will likely feel more relaxed than you thought you would.
It’s good to know that if you want to purchase photos and videos then this can be pricey. However, despite the price, you need to add this unique experience to your Whitsundays’ bucket list. You won’t regret it and you’ll get a certificate after, to remember your exhilarating adventure. The only problem is that you might want to jump again!
Contributed by Rachel from Average Lives
Explore Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach is a fairly undiscovered gem of a place that traditionally doesn’t see as many tourists as some of the other coastal Queensland towns such as Cairns and Port Douglas. Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef and provides easy access to Australia’s most photographed beach, Whitehaven Beach. Airlie Beach competes with places such as Hamilton Island, Hayman Island and various others which attract quite a lot of tourists. Proserpine Airport is the closest airport to Airlie Beach.
Airlie Beach is a bit laid back and very popular with backpackers. The main street is where it all happens and the esplanade holds a weekly market on a Sunday consisting of all things locally produced. This area does experience visits from saltwater crocodiles and has a bit of a problem with jellyfish as certain times of the year but don’t let this deter you they have a beautiful huge lagoon on the waterfront so you can swim all your round. There is accommodation to suit all budgets, various backpackers, motels, apartments and various top end resorts such as Mirage Whitsundays Resort and various Mantra owned hotels and short stay apartments such as Club Wyndham.
There are various activities you can do from Airlie Beach such as snorkelling tours of Whitehaven Beach, sailing tour of the Whitsunday’s, day trip over to Hamilton Island, visit Hills Inlet for a spectacular view of Whitehaven Beach, go camel riding on the Airlie Esplanade, go scuba diving, visit Daydream Island, play a round of golf, spend an afternoon at the Airlie Beach Lagoon or eat in many of the restaurants many serving up amazing seafood feasts. Doesn’t matter what you decide to do in Airlie Beach it will most likely involve being on the sparkling waters of the amazing Whitsundays.
Contributed by Sally from Our 3 Kids v the World
Visit the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef, which explains why it is such a drawcard for aqua adventurers and tourists alike. This living, breathing coral reef stretches out for 2300 kilometres along the coast of northern Queensland.
The Whitsundays are just one of the many places that you can use as a base to explore the wonders of the reef. A trip out to the reef usually involves getting your feet wet, whether it be snorkelling or scuba diving to explore under the surface.
Book a cruise either from Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island to enjoy an all inclusive full day on the reef.
Take a scenic flight
To truly experience the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsundays archipelago, a scenic flight is absolutely the way to go.
Viewing the white silica sands of Whitehaven Beach and the clear turquoise waters that surround the islands from on high really cements just how beautiful this part of the world is. There are plenty of scenic flight options from Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach and most scenic flights will take you over famous sights like Heart Reef and Whitehaven Beach.
It is even possible to book a package that includes a scenic flight, two hour sunset sailing trip and a glass of bubbles to keep you merry.
Where to stay in the Whitsundays?
Hamilton Island is a great option as there’s quite a mix of accommodation there. I’ve stayed at the Reef View Hotel a few times, which is also extremely close to a swim up bar.
For those wanting to go really luxe, don’t miss the chance to stay at Qualia on Hamilton Island – one of Australia’s most luxurious resorts.
Another extremely famous luxury getaway exists on Hayman Island at the InterContinental.
Daydream Island is fantastic for families and Daydream Island Resort pretty much covers the entire island.
If you’d prefer to stay on the mainland, then Airlie Beach has got you covered from the BIG4 Adventure Park to the Peninsula Apartments.
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Thanks so much for putting together this post, it looks awesome! Will definitely save for my next trip to the Whitsundays
Awesome, thanks Victoria! And thank you for your wonderful contribution 🙂
Great looking post Emma, Thanks for the other ideas on how I can enjoy the Whitsunday area, the next time I’m up there. You have some lovely variety included!