Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands – 8 inhabited – off the coast of Australia and about halfway up the Queensland coast. Named after a passage, which was in turn named by Captain Cook, this peace of paradise offers a range of different experiences, with each island different than the last. Hamilton Island’s hectic resort town feeling gives way to Hook Island’s out-of-civilization quietness, which is matched by the main island’s tropical beach, one of Australia’s best beaches. You can guarantee, however, that you’ll have great dive spots down to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park that lies just beneath the water’s surface, and that at the end of the night the clear sky lights up with enough stars that it starts to look like a diamond mine. There are also a number of amazing national parks scattered throughout the islands, perfect for hiking or camping. No matter which islands you decide to visit, Whitsundays are the perfect place to go.
Known as the gateway to the Whitsundays, Airlie Beach can be seen as a stopover point, but the tiny town is a bustling and hard-partying destination, which at times can feel as busy as some of the largest cities in Australia. After the obligatory trip to the Whitsundays, backpackers often settle into town, enjoying the tranquil waters of the artificial lagoon and partying it up until the late night. Sure, it may be a bit gaudy, but that’s just part of the fun.
The main thing to do in Airlie Beach, besides head out to the islands, is to go on a sailing adventure, whether it’s on a sailboat or something with just a bit of variation. The sailboats usually only head out to the very edge of the Great Barrier Reef, so if you want to actually see it make sure you pick a tour that lasts the better part of a day. In addition to sailboats you can choose to tour the waters by kayak, but the real adventure is in what you can see from above. Parasailing is a great way to see the ocean below, but for a real adrenalin rush, choose to plummet down to the ground with a skydive.
Sailing is a big thing to do in the Whitsundays, whether it’s to and from the Great Barrier Reef or whether it’s just for an enjoying day at sea. You can either set sail yourself or go with a group, but there are special deals up and down Airlie’s main drag. Remember that boats won’t sail if it’s too windy!
The Whitsundays are prime areas for roughing it, among some of the most beautiful flora and fauna you’re ever able to see in the entirety of Australia. Camping isn’t aloud on Long Island, but many of the other inhabited islands have camping sites available.
If you’re planning on staying on the islands themselves, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. There are affordable options on Hook Island and Long Island, with Daydream Island and Hamilton Island featuring resorts that are incredibly pricey. Airlie Beach also has a number of reasonably priced accommodations available, and there are ferries available to the Whitsundays from nearby Shute Harbour.
To find accommodation in either the Whitsundays or Airlie Beach, search the widget to the left, clicking the “Beds” tab and selecting either “Whitsundays” or “Airlie Beach” as the destination.
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