Newest Review: ... 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... more
Whitsunday Island (Australia)
Member Name: anwar7
Whitsunday Island (Australia)
Disadvantages: expensive and a long way to travel!
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.
Summary: Islands off Queensland