Australia & NZ
The Lowdown on the Whitsunday Islands
As a scatter of paradisal island goodness and paramount springboard to the mother of all reef systems, the Whitsundays simply rule. The loose archipelago off the central coast of Queensland lures over 700,000 annual visitors – a modest total, in all honesty, which keeps the prestige factor intact and saves the pristine chain from overt spoilage and overdevelopment rot. With UNESCO World Heritage and natural world wonder Great Barrier Reef on the doorstep, after all, the incentive to conserve and protect is obvious and manifest.
Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island – Photo credit
If you have a healthy rainy day holiday fund and a considerable appetite for marine junkets and serene, primeval island environs, the Whitsundays will deliver. Get the lowdown before you jet off.
Transport options abound but as always, money talks – especially in a place like the Whitsundays. How quickly you get in depends largely on what you can afford. Main hub Hamilton Island links up with Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns via Jetstar, Virgin and QantasLink. Whitsunday Airport in Airlie Beach and Whitsunday Coast Airport in Prosperine both offer charters and service the central coast.
A gaggle of ferry and high-speed catamaran operators work out of Shute Harbour of course. Boats zip back and forth between the likes of Hamilton Island, Daydream Island, Long Island, South Molle Island and the mainland on a regular basis.
Few departure points take your breath away like Airlie Beach. The foremost gateway to the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef is a coastal gem that feels every bit the 1,000 km plus from Brisbane.
Where to stay: Peninsula Apartments Airlie Beach
Hamilton Island was recently home base for The Best Job in the World. Probably the most successful tourism promo stunt in history, the competition to be caretaker and publicist of the Whitsundays was a global phenomenon won by Ben Southall of Hampshire, United Kingdom. Southall left his post last year but you can take his place, in a way, with a stay on the most touristy, accessible but no less beautiful island in the archipelago. Three words: Oprah was here.
Where to stay: Beach Club Hamilton Island
Formerly West Molle, Daydream Island got a spiffy makeover back in the 1930s and a subsequent reboot as a posh resort. The island is absolutely world class for watersports and a daydream come to life for yachtsmen. For the rest of us, however, the magnificent outdoor aquarium and occasional wallaby glimpse is enough excitement in between tropical drinks. Abel Point Marina is a busy hive of activity on the island.
Where to stay: Daydream Island Resort & Spa
South Molle Island
If you prefer tamer sport while still very much in the belly of the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands National Park, South Molle unfurls 16 km of scenic trails. Amblers never had it so good. There is golf too and ample creature comforts of the luxe, island resort variety.
Where to stay: Koala Adventure Island Resort