It’s hard to be too sad about international holidays being off the cards for the foreseeable future when we have some of the world’s most beautiful holiday spots right on our doorstep.
Truly, if you’ve ever travelled overseas, you’ll know that as an Australian it’s tough to be impressed by a foreign beach and there’s a good reason for that: nothing beats the soft white sands and crystal clear waters of Australia’s beaches.
Biases aside, we are seriously lucky to have so much beauty right here, and it definitely softens the blow to now have an excuse to explore our own backyard a little more thoroughly. First stop? The jewel in Australia’s crown: The Whitsundays.
Getting your holiday-loving self to The Whitsundays is way easier than you might think, and if you live in Brisbane, Sydney, or Melbourne, the domestic flight links are top-notch. In fact, with two airports in The Whitsundays (Hamilton Island and Whitsunday Coast, Proserpine), there are plenty of direct flights that’ll get you to paradise without too much hassle.
If you want to take it a bit slower, then you can hop in the car and road trip along the Bruce Highway, which links Queensland’s coastal cities and towns to The Whitsundays. Alternatively, The Spirit of Queensland train also connects Proserpine to major cities from Brisbane all the way to Cairns. From here, you just need to hop on a bus to Airlie Beach, which is basically the door to the Whitsunday Islands.
Contrary to popular belief, you can explore The Whitsundays even if you’re on a smaller budget (plus, it’s *much* cheaper than the Euro trip you had planned for 2021). It will largely depend on how boujee you go with your extras.
For smaller budgets, your biggest outlay will be flights (but if you pick up a good deal, you’re golden), then you can stay at idyllic campsites like the one on Whitehaven beach, which starts from $7 per person, per night. Get a few mates to chip in for a day out on a boat and you’ll feel like a millionaire instantly.
We’re so glad you asked, because yes, you can. The Whitsundays comprises of 74 islands and the mainland and is located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Needless to say, the region has countless options for diving, snorkelling, sailing, or flying over the world’s largest coral reef.
The Whitsundays is made up of the mainland plus 74 islands but actually, many of the islands are uninhabited national park. There are a number of islands that offer resort accommodation or camping facilities and you can also skipper your own boat or jump on a day (or multi-day) cruise to check them out.
There are two main options to choose from for cruising around The Whitsundays: skippering your own boat (bareboating) or booking a spot on an organised cruise. With the latter, you can choose between single-day or multi-day cruises — it just depends on what you’re into. If you want to stay closer to land, you can always book a kayak or spend the day snorkelling over the fringing reef, which hugs the coastline in shallow water.
Booking a scenic helicopter or seaplane ride is hands down the best way to appreciate the vast beauty of The Whitsundays. It’s worth pointing out that while this is definitely a bucket list activity, you can sometimes find light plane tours for $99 if you shop around — so if you can swing it then it’s totally worth it for the ridic views.
If you’re staying on the mainland, exploring in and around Airlie Beach, then renting a car is a great option, but if you plan to island-hop, ditch the car. There are loads of bushwalks to do in The Whitsundays but two notable mentions: The Great Whitsunday Walk is a big boi (28km) that’s formally known as the Conway Circuit. It starts in Brandy Creek and finishes in Airlie Beach. The walk up to Hill Inlet lookout (on Whitsunday Island) is a 1km round-trip and offers one of the best views of the inlet and Whitehaven Beach.
Cruise Whitsundays is the official ferry service in these parts that will deliver you to Daydream Island, Hamilton Island, and Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday Coast. A ticket costs between $40 and $60.
The list of things you must see and do in The Whitsundays is long, so strap in.
Whitehaven Beach & Hill Inlet
Whitehaven Beach has earned many accolades over the years, from the world’s most pristine beach, the best beach in Australia, and the world’s top eco-friendly beach. As the name suggests, this beach is quite literally a haven of soft white sand and feels untouched, plus, this is where you go to check out the ridiculously gorgeous Hill Inlet.
You’ve probably seen photos of Heart Reef floating around the internet: it’s the perfectly heart-shaped coral that looks fake. We can assure you it is very much real and is sitting pretty in Hardy Reef (part of The Whitsundays stretch of the Great Barrier Reef). The best way to see Heart Reef is by air.
Sitting at the tippy top of The Whitsundays, Bowen has eight pristine beaches all within 10 minutes of one another and they’re some of the best in the region. If you only have time to hit one, then make it Horseshoe Bay. It’s protected by two rocky outcrops, which makes it a top spot for snorkelers to see coral and fish. Also, make sure you check out Bywa — a 3.4m high underwater sculpture which forms part of the Whitsundays Ngaro Underwater Marine sculpture trail.
Airlie Beach is one of the more pumping parts of The Whitsundays. This is where you’ll find loads of restaurants, bars, and shops — plus, the Airlie Beach lagoon where you can sit, relax and BBQ all day. This is also the hopping off point to the islands (if you don’t fly direct to Hamilton Island, of course).
Image: Summer Rain Photography
Source: Angela Law – Pedestrian TV