Beach Vacations to Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands (courtesy, Tourism Queensland)

Whitsunday Islands Beach Travel Tips

  • With the same latitude as Rio de Janeiro, the ocean around the Whitsundays is bathtub-warm year-round, even in winter.
  • In the height of the Southern Hemisphere summer, January is the rainiest month in the Whitsundays. Rain showers help cool the higher temperatures; the tropical wet season lasts until March.
  • Box jellyfish and other dangerous stinging animals live in the area's waters from October through May. Some beaches set up safe netted-off areas, but if you are worried about swimming you can buy a stinger suit, a lightweight type of wetsuit.
  • Whitsunday beach resorts book up during school vacations in late December and January, in mid-April, from late June to early July, and from late September to early October. The Aussie winter, from June through August, is popular as well.

Australia has its very own Tahiti in the form of the 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays, off the coast of Queensland. About an hour's flight south of Cairns, the island group is tight-knit, with no more than three nautical miles separating each isle. Only eight of the Whitsunday Islands are inhabited and all but four are national parks. They are a classic tropical paradise of unspoiled forests and shining white, empty beaches, all surrounded by the superlative World Heritage Area of The Great Barrier Reef. With the same latitude as Rio de Janeiro, the weather is tropical year-round.

Despite the uninhabited feel of the islands, the Whitsundays are home to gorgeous eco-resorts that make excellent use of the surrounding natural wonders, while offering top-notch facilities and service. Some of these resorts are on private islands all their own and offer every array of water sports from kayaking to parasailing to semi-submersible boat rides over the coral. Rather than coconut and palm trees, the islands are smothered in native pine and eucalyptus forests—a distinctive environment to explore on foot. The largest island in the group is Whitsunday Island, not to be missed, if for nothing else to stroll on the nearly four-mile-long Whitehaven Beach, which has snow-white sand made up of 98 percent pure silica and is said to be the longest beach in Australia.

The town of Airlie Beach on the Australian mainland is the gateway to the Whitsundays, and home to some impressive but low-key waterfront resorts itself, as well as motels and backpacker hostels. A huge manmade lagoon makes up for the lack of swimming beaches here. Over 60 dive boats, charter yachts, pleasure cruises, kayak trips, and helicopter tours leave from here, so you don't really need to stay in the islands themselves (although it's highly recommended). Prosail offers bareboating (sailing your own charter yacht), Salty Dog Sea Kayaking operates tours from Airlie Beach and Shute Harbor where you'll get close to dolphins, sea turtles, and coral reefs, and Aviation Tourism Australia will take you in a helicopter above the reef. Any way you do it, you'll feel miles away from civilization in this aquatic wonderland.

Published: 26 Jun 2009 | Last Updated: 6 Apr 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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