The tropical volcanic islands of the Whitsundays lie in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland.
Discovered by Captain Cook in 1700 on the second Sunday of Easter, only 8 of the 74 islands are inhabited. They boast pristine, deserted beaches and a kaleidoscope of underwater colour and world-famous marine life. In later years the islands were divided into groups – Whitsunday, Lindeman, Sir James Smith, and the Anchor Islands.
A protected World Heritage site – the waters of the coral reef are teeming with marine life, making them a snorkelling and diving paradise. Experience the excitement of spying whales (typically June to September), dolphins, rays and turtles in the Coral Sea, or take time out to picnic on the rocks overlooking crystal clear lagoons. Enjoy the cultural heritage of this Ngaro country, as the Whitsundays reflect the 8000 years of Aboriginal history.
The region offers great variety – from diving on the reef to Aboriginal art in Nara Inlet; shopping on Hamilton Island to the solitude of Butterfly Bay and white sand beaches like Whitehaven.
The Whitsundays have low rainfall and typically temperatures below 30 degrees Celsius, with a sea temperature in the low 20’s and average windspeed of 8 knots. May to September is the peak season followed by the wet season with its warm tropical rain and heady nights, from November to April. Nonetheless December is still popular for those wanting to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve in spectacular surroundings.
Fly directly to Hamilton Island or to Whitsunday Airport if you are to start your journey from Airlie Beach and immerse yourself in the white and turquoise colours of this beautiful part of the world
Fly to Hamilton Island, and relax at the Yacht Club after settling in on board your yacht in the Marina. The island is only 5 square Kilometres so if you feel like stretching your legs, take a walk around the island, cuddle koalas at the zoo, or simply enjoy being pampered at the (adult-only) luxurious five-star Qualia Resort nestled in the trees above the bay.
Depending on when you arrive, you could choose to cruise around Dent Island for a swim or snorkel in the turquoise sea – and enjoy canapes at sunset in a private sheltered bay.
Located in the Lindeman Group, Neck Bay on Shaw Island will be your first taste of complete seclusion. Here you can enjoy the most stunning snorkelling opportunity and observe some of the thousands of species of fish, coral, animal and birdlife. Look out for the dugongs and turtles or simply enjoy the colourful montage that the coral marine life provides.
If you prefer to explore the island then take a walk eastwards to a secluded coral shelled beach and then spend a calm night comfortably sheltered in the bay.
Head North once again through the Long Island Sound to Cid Island where you can anchor for some watersport activity. Here you may kayak through the mangroves or make your way to Katoomba Bank to enjoy the most memorable sunset scenes across the ocean before anchoring in Hill Rock Reef for a relaxing evening on board.
On arriving at Whitsunday Island take the trail through the National Park to Whitsunday Peak for the awe-inspiring view over Cid Harbour . Alternatively you may want to take the opportunity to jet ski around the authorised area on the West of the island or laze on the white sand beaches lapped by the purest of blue ocean waves. If you wish for spiritual inspiration, then look for the ancient rock art of the Aboriginal Ngaro tribe which is visible as you take the short walk to reach the breath-taking views along the Nara Inlet.
Only a short distance away if you head for Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island you will be spoilt by the mesmerising experience of snorkelling among the spectacular coral life. There’s still time to explore the northern part of Hook Island where Butterfly Bay reveals its own underwater world in shallower waters and rocky outcrops, with its plentiful show of colourful coral fish.
If diving is your passion, then you can head for the Outer Reef in the ocean ready for a morning dive the following day. Alternatively head for Hardy Reef just before night time to anchor in the sheltered area not far from the ReefWorld Pontoon.
On Hardy Reef you can easily enjoy the Great Barrier Reef experience with the underwater observatory or take the semi-submersible for a guided tour. This area is also suitable for novice snorkellers and divers, with all equipment provided allowing you to see at close quarters the turtles, reef sharks and barracuda amongst many other intriguing reef species.
If you enjoy flying, then take a helicopter or seaplane tour to get a birds-eye view of the world famous Heart Reef or get the pilot to drop you for lunch on a pristine beach where you can enjoy the seclusion and white sand seamlessly meeting the turquoise sea.
After a quiet night on the Outer Reef it is time to head back via Dumbell Island to Whitehaven Beach.
Moored off Dumbell Island you may be able to feed some of the local population of diverse bird species, including the impressive sea eagle, before heading to the famous Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island . If you get the chance, take the trail up Hill Inlet for a final view and wonder at the blue and white abstract art created by the shifting sands in the water – a sight never to be forgotten
A leisurely cruise to Hamilton Island not far away allows you a last morning on board before your onward journey back to civilisation, to recount the sights and sounds of the tropical paradise never to be forgotten.