Family Vacations to the Whitsunday Islands, Australia

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

Whitsunday Islands, Australia Family Travel Tips

  • Airlie Beach might not be Australia's most attractive resort town, but it is a good base for making day trips into the Whitsunday Islands.
  • Not all the resorts in the Whitsunday Islands are completely family friendly. Some do not cater to children under the ages of 12 or 14, so check with your hotel in advance.
  • The wet season in the Whitsunday Islands generally runs from December to March, with the dry season spanning April through November. It doesn't actually rain that much in the wet season, but when it does, it can be very heavy.

We know it's cliché, the image of an Australian island as a tropical oasis with swaying trees and white sand ringed by clear ocean waters the temperature of a warm bath. So be it, then, that Australia's Whitsunday Islands are that cliché. They're also one of the most ideal family destinations on the whole continent.

The Whitsundays—originally named by American explorer Captain James Cook in 1770—lie within the Great Barrier Reef off the Queensland coast and total almost 100 islands and islets. The islands are the tops of submerged volcanoes, with most of their bulk lying deep below the water. Most of them are protected as part of several national parks off the northeastern coast and draw hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Many choose to explore the islands by yacht, living aboard as they go.

Of the developed islands, Hamilton Island is an excellent choice for families, with a collection of places to stay and ferries or flights to and from the mainland. Infrastructure on the island has even grown into what almost approximates a proper town, which can disappoint those looking for a remote location but is handy for families in need of life's little necessities, like diapers and running water. Hayman Island is much more exclusive, a luxurious getaway for those with older children looking to really get away from it all. And the best beach in the whole archipelago is actually on the eponymous Whitsunday Island, a gorgeous starched-white stretch named Whitehaven Beach. It has no hotels, but adventurous travelers (or those looking for a budget family vacation) can camp on the beach.

The best way to explore the Whitsunday Islands is undoubtedly by boat. Cruise Whitsundays is one of the best operators, with a wide variety of cruise options, including the Great Barrier Adventure. Mantaray cruises, meanwhile, allow you to experience Whitehaven Beach and Mantaray Bay on the Whitehaven Beach Tour. The company will even let your family charter a whole vessel and travel wherever you please, whenever you please.

The Whitsundays are a place to let the kids roam free on unpolluted beaches free of hot dog stands, brash bars, and skyscraper hotels. While they're off exploring, take a minute to ruminate on your own vision of what an Australian beach escape should be. You'll soon stop worrying whether it's cliché or not.

Published: 29 Apr 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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