Best Time to Visit Whitsunday Islands


When Not to Visit

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The Whitsunday Islands lie off tropical Queensland and are blessed with a balmy climate year-round. From late April to September, the Whitsundays enjoy warm, sunny days and calm, clear waters, and in late June humpback whales arrive to calve. This is high season, and the best time for an island cruise. Seeing a mother and baby breach off the prow of the ship, then falling asleep to the music of their song, is a magical experience.

Onshore in Airlie beach, the Whitsundays throw its high season parties. In August, it’s Race Week—a yacht regatta, which culminates in a big firework display and rowdy parties. In October, Airlie Beach throws the Whitsunday Reef Festival, when thousands come for four days of live music and comedy, fashion shows, and beach parties.

It’s warm and sticky through the November shoulder season, a time of more wildlife spectaculars. A week after full moon, the Barrier Reef spawns. Billions of eggs—of many different colors—cloud the water, drawing thousands of hungry fish. From late November to January, marine turtles nest on the islands’ beaches, with hatchlings emerging during the summer (January through March).

It’s warm and wet in the Antipodean summer months—from January through March. Temperatures climb to the 90s, and the air is heavy and humid. You can expect tropical showers or thunderstorms most days, and if you’re unlucky, a cyclone—the Pacific equivalent of a hurricane. It seems a good estimate that one a year will strike the Eastern Australian coast.

Note that October to May is “stinger season,” when Australia’s notorious Box and Irukandji jellyfish drift offshore. Both can be lethal, and while they are uncommon in the Whitsundays, they do occur. During this period, tour operators and dive boats provide “stinger suits,” thin wetsuits that offer complete protection.