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Before leaving for our trip to Australia I spent many hours researching the places I wanted to see. I knew that as we had just less than 2 months away, I would not be able to see and do all the things I desired! However there were a few destinations that I didn't want to miss and one of these was the Whitsunday Islands.
The Whitsunday Islands consist of a group of 74 tropical Islands situated off the coast of Queensland. They form part of the Great Barrier Reef and are classed as a world heritage site. Hayman Island is the closest to the mainland situated 25 km off shore.
I hired a car from Noosa and drove to Airlie beach, classed as the gateway to the Islands. As a guide Airlie beach is about a 13 hour, 1.095 km drive from Brisbane. It is important not to underestimate the distances in Oz! We didn't want to rush and so took a lot longer to get to Airlie beach, stopping for several days at locations on route. The Bruce Highway is the main route and I found it quiet and easy to navigate.
The nearest airport to Airlie beach is situated in Proserpine. Virgin blue operate flights from several locations .It is about a 30 minute drive from Prosperine to Airlie beach. There are good bus connections from the town.
Greyhound buses stop in Airlie beach in addition to several other companies.
...And on to the Islands.
From Airlie beach there are numerous tour operators that run both day tours and longer tours of several nights. Before booking check what the price includes. We were keen to avoid the backpacker's party type trips! The Islands visited varies too as does the time you are allowed to spend in the water.
After much research we choose to travel with Whitehaven express; a small family run company. We were collected from our campsite in Airlie beach early in the morning and taken to Abel point where the boat departed. The trip cost 160 dollars each with a small reduction for my children. The trip included a barbecue lunch, walk to Inlet lookout, swimming at Whitehaven beach and snorkelling at Mantary bay. We visited in July and although this is supposed to be the dry season, the weather was truly awful! The sea crossing was rough and I was glad I had packed the seasickness tablets! However despite the wet and cold weather we had a wonderful time. The crew were lovely and nothing was too much trouble.
This is probably the best known of all the Island destinations and numerous tour boats visit every day. Even in the rain this beach looked truly stunning! The wide arch shaped bay is backed by rain forest and looks exactly as a tropical paradise should! The 98% white silica sand is the most dazzling white I have ever seen. Walking along the beach is a unique experience as each footstep makes a squeak like sound. The sand has the consistency of fine salt and feels wonderful between your toes!
The Coral Sea is a beautiful turquoise colour with patches of darker blue and green. The water is crystal clear and fish can be seen swimming under the surface. Even though the air temperature was cold we still went swimming and the water was surprisingly warm.
There are numerous walking tracks around the Island although we didn't have the opportunity to explore fully.
This is a good place to spot wildlife although we saw little. We did see a brush turkey and a few dolphins just off the mainland.
There are composting toilets located a short walk from the beach. However there are no other facilities.
The best snorkelling is to be found at Mantary bay, a short boat ride from Whitehaven beach. The Islands form part of the Great Barrier Reef and I was expecting spectacular underwater sights! However although we saw coral and colourful fish it wasn't nearly as vibrant as I had expected. The rough sea conditions didn't help .There are much better places to see the Reef in al its glory, such as from Cape Tribulation in the North.
We stayed in the Big 4 campsite in Airlie beach . I am not sure I would recommend it as it was expensive and our cabin was filthy! However it was a friendly site with decent general facilities on offer. There are numerous accommodation options to suit all budgets in Airlie beach. It certainly wasn't my favourite town and has a reputation of being a young backpackers resort. It is a small seaside town with a single main street that seemed to consist of bars and booking agents for the Islands. There is a lovely sea water lagoon although it was far too cold when we were there to think about swimming!
If you fancy staying on one of the Islands then camping is the cheapest option. There are several small sites on the Islands and all are managed by the Queensland parks and wildlife service. You will need to apply for a permit to camp and these are available from the Queensland parks web site .Camping costs $5.45 a night. The Islands have no facilities apart from pit toilets and you will need to bring all you need including water. Boats to the Islands leave from Shute harbour and Abel point.
If money is no object then you could always stay at one of the exclusive resorts such as the 5 star one on Hayman Islands costing around $466 per night! Hamilton Island has accommodation for around $280 per night.
Summer is from December until February and temperatures average about 31 degrees. This is usually the wettest season and you will need to wear stinger suits in the water to protect yourself from box jelly fish.
Winter is from June until August with temperatures averaging 24 degrees. It doesn't usually rain much during the winter although we experienced constant rain! Spring is from September until November and temperatures are around 29 degrees. Autumn is from March until may and temperatures are around 28 degrees. Cyclones are most common from November until March.
Overall I loved the Whitsunday's even in the rain! Whitehaven beach is everything a tropical Island should be with its dazzling white sand and turquoise clear water. I would love to return on day and spend several days camping to have time to explore properly.
If you've ever wondered what its like to be in Paradise, then wonder no longer, Whitsunday Island is it!
The Whitsundays are a collection of Islands i cant remember how many, but its around 70, with the largest and most famous being called Whitsunday Island, hence the other islands being grouped under the same name.
There is only one way to get to the island which is obviosly by boat, but which boat you take is completely down to you and your personality. The choice is endless, there literally are hundereds of different options from organised groups to private boats, all offering different places to visit and different activities whilst on the boat.
I was with my girlfriend and we decided that we didnt want a boat full of young drunks, so opted for one called Waltzing Matilda, which was more for couples and didnt have options such as diving, this made it slightly cheaper, however we were not looking to go diving so this didnt matter.
The boat itself was quite small, held about 14people including crew and this was a squeeze, but the crew were great, they cooked for us and allowed us to join in with activities such as raising the mast(i forgot to say it was a sailing boat we went on) We also slept aboard the boat, some give you the option of mooring up at night and sleeping on the islands, we though that it would be more of an experience sleeping on a boat so chose this instead.
We visited lots of islands, but the best by far being the Whitsunday Island. I have never seen a beahc like it before in my life! The sand was so fine it felt like talcum powder as you walked and the sea was literally like the photo above, simply stunning. You could even clean jewellery with the sand. We spent about half a day here and there is so much to see and do its just not long enough, due to time constraints though you would be lucky to get a company allowing you to stay out for longer.
We also went snorkelling quite a bit on the outer parts of the great barrier reef, and moored up at lots of other islands to take a look around, but the highlight was definatly Whitsunday Island.
This is an absolutly stunning place to see, try and go when its not too busy though as i would imagin you wouldnt get the same experience if the beach was pakced full of people.
“Beautiful one day, perfect the next” is the catchphrase of the Queensland Tourism Association. The Whitsunday Islands in North Queensland is one of those places that seem to justify the phrase. The Whitsunday Islands is a tropical paradise about three hours south of Townsville and one hour north of Mackay in Queensland, Australia. The islands are situated just off the coast, and inside the Great Barrier Reef. Captain James Cook discovered this paradise on Whitsunday (leading to the name of the group of islands) as he travelled up the east coast of Australia. As such, he was the first to go cruising around the magnificent islands, preceding all the modern tourists by over 200 years. Luckily the modern traveller has more comfortable ways of getting there. An airport on Hamilton Island is the quickest way to get there, with regular flights from all the major cities in Queensland. Driving and buses can also be used to get to Airlie Beach, the gateway to the islands. Places to stay. There is a wide selection of facilities, catering from the budget backpacker to the Hollywood starlet. Probably the best thing for those on a budget to do is to stay at Airlie Beach on the mainland. There are several youth hostels available, as well as numerous budget hotels (including Club Crocodile). Trips to the Great Barrier Reef, all start from the mainland and so the facilities are only mildly restricted. However for those wanting that genuine island feeling, there are also a wide variety of resorts/islands to choose from. The previously mentioned Hamilton Island has the largest resort in the group. It’s resort (simply named Hamilton Island) caters for most types of travellers and is recognised as being good for children. Hayman Island has the most luxurious resort in the group (again the resort being called Hayman Island). This is the island for those who like a little more of the
5 star treatment. Long Island has an offshore branch of Club Crocodile, and has the advantage of only having a short boat trip to get there. The other alternative, which several of my friends have done is to hire a yacht for a week or so. This gives the freedom of movement to travel between many of the different islands as you can fit in. During each night you simply drop anchor wherever is convenient and enjoy the tropical paradise. This option is even good for those who like to sample the nightlife. Simply stop at the resort of your choice, use the dingy to get to the beach and find the local hotspot. Just make sure that at least one of you remains sober enough to drive the dingy back to the right boat without any unplanned moonlight swims. Things to do Great Barrier Reef. Visit one of the wonders of the Natural World. The Whitsunday’s is a great place to get to the reef from. The ship sails from near Airlie Beach and after a stop off at Hamilton Island heads off to the largest reef in the world. Once there you can snorkel, go in the submersibles and scuba dive. They even offer guided scuba dives for those without a diving ticket. (I can heartily recommend this, after having tried it myself). For those with a little more cash, helicopter flights around the reef can also be booked. Yacht trips. I have gone on 2 yacht trips from Airlie Beach out to a coral reef next to Hayman Island. The first of these was a relaxing cruise out and back. In fact the day was so still and perfect, we had to use engines to get out. However this resulted in perfect conditions. The water was crystal clear, with the colourful fish and coral being easy to see. The second trip was almost the opposite. There had been a cyclone nearby for over a week. Our trip was actually the first one that they had done since the cyclone had calmed down. However the winds were still strong, and the waves were still up. This
was great for those of us who enjoyed the sailing. However my wife (among others), did not quite enjoy it so much. I think the main thing that put her off was the deck tilting over at an angle of 45 degrees. (For those that don’t know, this is meant to happen when sailing on a yacht). The spray from the water, combined with the wind was freezing, and the large coats handed out by the crew were a definite requirement. The other problem caused by the cyclone was that the waves had stirred up a lot of silt from the bottom of the ocean, and so while snorkelling was still good, it didn’t compare to the first time. Time of year. The best time to go is between May and November. Although this is winter, being in the tropics means that it is like a cool summers day. It also means that your not likely to come across any cyclones. Conclusion. The Whitsundays is one of those must see places in Queensland, especially if you have enough time and freedom to enjoy all it has to offer. I am definitely planning to get back there one day and enjoy the beautiful/perfect conditions again. The options on what to do and where to stay are almost limitless, and you can really arrange your holiday to your personal taste.
Largest of the Cumberland Islands, lying 6 miles (10 km) off the northeastern coast of Queensland, Australia, in the Coral Sea.