The Whitsundays Islands

Whitsundays Islands in Australia
The Whitsunday Islands are a collection of islands off the central coast of Queensland, Australia that form part of the Great Barrier Reef. The vast majority of these islands are designated national parks and major attractions that include access to coral reefs for snorkeling and diving, pristine beaches (especially Whitehaven Beach) and clear aquamarine warm waters. Over half a million visitors go to the Whitsundays each year. The most popular way to see the islands is via a multi-day sailing tour. If you want to get more upscale, you can stay on the resorts on some of the islands.

Typical Costs

  • Hostel Prices:: There are no hostels on the islands.
  • Budget Hotel Prices: Some of the larger islands have hotels but they are anything but economical. The hotels here are more like resorts and will cost a lot of money ($100+ per night). A more economical way to see the islands is to do a sailing tour which will include food and accommodation.
  • Average Cost of Food: All food is provided by the boat you go on. If you go on your own, you can buy food at the resorts and hotels.
  • Transportation Costs: The Whitsundays are best visited by sailing trip. Boats leave daily from Airlie beach and trips last 3 days, 2 nights. These tours cost around $300 USD and all your meals are included. You can take longer or shorter tours if you want. Most travelers simply do a 3 day sailing cruise.

Read more on the costs of traveling around Australia.

Top Things to Do

  • Whitehaven Beach – Whitehaven Beach is by far the most recognized of all the Whitsundays landmarks. Stretching about 4.5 km and consisting of fine, brilliant white sand, its the image that is used more often in tourism brochures and regularly on TV advertising. One a warm sunny day, it’s like looking at heaven. I love this beach.
  • Hamliton Island – One of the most developed and populated island, it has its own airport, post office and bank. Despite development, the island remains a haven for options in getting out to reef areas and Whitehaven Beach (about 1/2 hr by boat, Great Barrier Reef about 2 hours).
  • Whitsunday Island – The largest island in the archipelago is home to the famous Whitehaven Beach. Most day boat trips come here and the size of the island also means there are dozens and dozens of little coves and inlets where people with yachts or boats can pull in away from it all. Many boats also go to Tongue Point, which has a well trodden trail up to a built lookout over Whitehaven.
  • Hook Island – The second largest island in the archipelago and a great place to see birds and wildlife. It is a frequent stop on many of the boat tours that sail around the islands.
  • Hamilton Island Race Week - August sees the famous Race Week, started by Keith Williams in the 80′s. Here, hundreds of yachts from 30 foot boats rented for the week to billion dollar super yachts compete in some serious racing.
  • Scuba Diving - The islands have some amazing dive spots, though they are best viewed during the summer time as the rainy season makes the water murky and visibility gets pretty bad. However, if you can see in front of you, you’ll spot a wide array of fish, coral, and sea turtles.
  • Take a ride on the Yellow Submarine – For those of you that don’t want to explore the sea via snorkeling, the Yellow Submarine is a fun way to check out what is below the surface of the sea. Just off of Black Island, it’s pretty hard to miss this big, yellow vessel.
  • Explore Reef World – Along a platform on the Great Barrier Reef is an array of things to do — a full-fledged diving platform, complete with a submarine, undersea windows, a diving and snorkeling center, and even a helicopter platform. It’s kind of a cheesy place to go but if you don’t have a lot of time, it can give you a good overview of the marine life in the area.
  • Take a resort vacation – The beauty of these islands has encouraged many resorts to pop up. Pick one out and enjoy all of the accommodations included. Many resorts offer package deals with, sailing trips, swimming pools, golf, arcades, snorkeling tours, and more. There is a package for just about every price range. It’s Australia’s version of tropical island paradise.

Budget Tips

  • Ferries – Ferries are a good option if you plan to visit just one island. However, since there are only expensive resorts on the larger islands, it still works out cheaper to do a cruise. Plus it’s more fun!
  • BYOB – With the exception of day trips on large boats with licensed bars, you can bring your own alcohol but most of the sailing boats prohibit glass. To keep it cheap, most travelers bring a box of goon for the trip.
  • Camp – If you enjoy being outdoors you can camp much cheaper than staying in a campground. There are about 21 campgrounds on the islands, and all you need is a camping permit that cost $4.50 per night. However, you’ll need your own boat to get to these places and bring your own food.
  • Get a cheap sailing trip – Island sailing trips are a hugely popular activity with all travelers and as such tour prices are a bit high. This is definitely an expensive activity. Try to book in advance, with a group, or as part of larger package to get a bit of a discount of the sailing tour.

Other Destinations in Australia

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