The Whitsundays is one of nature’s most remarkable gifts, which sounds redundant when talking about Australia’s diverse landscape. But with 74 islands, it’s the world’s greatest aquatic playground, boasting laid-back coastal towns, famous beaches, protected rainforest, and a diversity of experiences.
Whether you want to sink your toes into the white silica sands of famous Whitehaven Beach, snorkel with the local turtles, or soak up a sunset cocktail, you can here, without hassle. There are endless reasons to visit the Whitsundays, but here are our favourite 10.
Escape to and stay on a tropical island
With only eight of its 74 islands inhabited, staying on a tropical island in the Whitsundays is an easy feat. Hamilton Island is always a popular choice for laid-back luxury. It’s home to Qualia, which was voted one of the best luxury resorts in the world, more than once. Think of it as where the celebrities go when they visit. Although, you can find several options to fit your budget. Another great island, which just had a makeover is Daydream Island Resort and Living Reef. This stunning property is its own island, offering rooms and suites, restaurants and bars, and the main event, a living reef. This huge free form coral lagoon wraps 200 metres around the central building and is home to over 100 species of fish, 80 coral species, and even starfish and sea cucumbers.
Palm Bay Resort is a Balinese-inspired island, offering a self-catering style of living, with a shared dining room and the option to cook your own feats in the resort kitchen. There’s a pool and the ocean is right on your doorstep, waiting to be explored.
Hayman Island is another luxury resort island, offering beautiful rooms, gourmet restaurants, and all the makings of a romantic getaway. The beaches are pristine, and there’s plenty to do on the island, including paddleboarding, hiking and yoga.
Sail around the islands
They don’t call the Whitsundays Australia’s home of sailing for no reason. Feel the wind in your hair, brush up on your sailing skills, or let the professionals take the helm, so you can sit back and enjoy the island adventure. There are a few options to choose from, Camira Sailing does it best. They have a fleet of luxury catamarans—the fastest in the world— to take you around the islands, and to the exotic swirling sands of Whitehaven Beach, as well as a few other secret snorkel spots they know about.
Your day starts with morning tea and a cruisy ride to your first snorkel spot, which is a beautiful fringing coral reef, home to colourful fish. You might even spot a turtle or a stingray. Once you’ve explored the underwater world, enjoy a BBQ lunch, which is no ordinary sandwiches and salads. Think prawns, burgers, wings, potato salad, and of course, an Esky full of booze. The next stop is the famous white sands of Whitehaven Beach and to the lookout. They provide stinger suits and snorkelling gear for all water activities. It’s a breezy cruise back to Airlie Beach, or your pick up point, with afternoon tea provided on the way back home. Keep an eye on the waters, there are plenty of sea turtles and jellyfish bobbing about.
The cruise experience starts from $165 per person. You can book here.
No, we’re not joking, you can find the world’s best mojito in the Whitsundays. On Airlie Beach, a charming, laid-back coastal town, is Fish D’vine Rum Bar, which also happens to be home to the world’s best mojito. After securing your mojito, you can peruse the over 100 rums on offer or grab a menu and make it a lunch date. The fish and chips are sublime, but the chilli prawn pizza is a winner in our books.
Chill out in Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsundays Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. It’s only a 25-minute bus ride from the Whitsunday Airport, which you can book via Whitsunday Transit. Once you get to town, you can soak up the sun, kick back by the pool, and eat your way through the alfresco restaurants. You can always take the adventurous path, explore the tropical rainforest and waterfalls, or walk the palm-fringed beaches.
If you’re looking for accommodation that’s central, but still has a resort-style offering, then look no further than Coral Sea Marina Resort. It’s a short walk to town, including restaurants and a manmade lagoon, which is where you got to swim during stinger season. The resort itself has a stunning pool, with beach and ocean views, a bar and restaurant where you can order anything from snacks to dinner, and a buffet breakfast. There are plenty of room types, including apartments for families, suites and spa deluxe rooms that have a spa tub on the balcony.
Looking for food? Anchor Bar is a local favourite. It’s inside a hotel, which sits by the hotel’s pool, but the views are phenomenal and the food and drinks are equally as satisfying. There’s an $88 can’t decide platter, which is a table-long board stacked with smokey pork ribs, hot wings, calamari, arancini, mussels, and more. It’s the perfect option for when you don’t know what to eat and have to feed two or more people.
This local spot is one of our favourite places in the Whitsundays. It’s off-the-beaten-track, a 15-minute car ride from Airlie town centre, but well worth the venture. Set right on the water, this bar and grill is home to an award-winning restaurant, serving everything from the usual pub grub to deluxe seafood platters. They have craft beers on tap and an impressive wine list.
You can sit outside by the water for a long lunch, or grab a table under the twinkling lights at night. The atmosphere is buzzing with locals and the few tourists who know about it. When it comes to experiencing the best of the Whitsundays life, Northerlies is part of it.
Zig zag your way through the Whitsundays on a speed boat
Unlike Camira Sailing, ZigZag Whitsundays is a heart-pumping speed boat adventure, jumping waves and thrashing around in the idyllic turquoise waters of the region. Although, unlike other jetboat experiences, this one takes you to snorkelling spots and Whitehaven Beach. Embark on a full-day tour, which includes amazing snorkel locations, a chance to relax on New Whitehaven Beach, including the South Lookout, and an island resort stopover to Palm Bay Resort. Prices start from $135 per person and include all food and snorkel equipment.
Be warned, it can be a bumpy ride, so if you get seasick, choose a spot on the back of the boat, or maybe skip this one. For the adrenaline junkies, take a seat at the front and hold on, it’s a wild ride.
Start the day kayaking with turtles
Is there a better way to start the day than a kayak with turtles? Salty Dog Sea Kayaking is a local business, operating in the Whitsundays since 1997. You will be guided by experts through mangroves, above fringing coral reefs, and to a tiny island, where you can stop for a snorkel and spot turtles swimming by.
They offer half-day tours, which is great if you have other tours booked for the afternoon, a full-day tour, which takes you to several tropical islands, or if you’re up for it, a six-day tour, which includes camping on islands and the chance to witness once in a lifetime marine encounters. You can hike mountains and snorkel coral reefs for six days. All camping gear is provided, as well as meals. Your expert guide will show you the best of the Whitsundays and then some.
Sink your toes in impeccably white sand and view the famous swirling sands
Whitehaven Beach is famous for its white silica sand, which is no ordinary sand. It doesn’t get hot and is near luminescent colour. The pristine environment is protected by the Whitsunday Islands National Park, so you can’t take anything from the area—not even a grain of sand or a shell. But you can enjoy it, in all its natural wonder. Hike up to the lookout, which is only 10-minutes each way. From the wooden platform, you can see the island and the famous swirling sands, which is a name given to the tides washing the sands into an inlet, creating a swirl pattern. You can find a spot on the sand, or wade into the warm turquoise-hued water, for a swim.
Heart Reef is an icon, but not the easiest place to get to. You can see it from above in a helicopter or seaplane, but when it comes to getting close to the beautiful reef, things get difficult, until now. Reef Sleep by Cruise Whitsundays lets you have a sleepover on the reef. included in the experience is a day tour to snorkel spots and a semi-submarine guided tour, but once all the day-trippers go back home, the pontoon and reef are exclusively yours. Slip into a cozy reefbed or book a reefsuite, Australia’s first underwater accommodation on the Great Barrier Reef and sleep with the fishes. Each suite has floor-to-ceiling underwater views, big beds and an en suite. All meals are included, and you can purchase beverages throughout the day. Enjoy a spectacular dinner under the stars, and will have access to an underwater observatory. You can also opt for a scuba diving tour.
Whitsunday Sailing is a local eco-friendly family business with two classic 62ft tall ships, from which you can watch a golden sunset disappear behind the tropical rainforest of the Whitsundays. The Providence V appeared in a Hollywood movie called Survive the Savage Seas. The sunset cruise departs from Airlie Beach, and once onboard, you can hoist a sail, or relax as you let the wind carry you out to sea. They provide a free glass of bubbles once onboard and a cheese platter. As a fully-licensed venue, enjoy more wine and beers as you slip into a sunset in style.
We’re living in a new world of travel, which means we’re looking for new destinations and new ways to find places to stay. Airbnb is one of the most popular booking platforms for travellers, and for the first time in a decade, they’ve launched their biggest change yet.
The new tools help travellers find unique homes and provide more options for longer stays.
“The way people travel has changed forever. We’re introducing the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade,” said Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-Founder of Airbnb.
Millions of people are now more ﬂexible about where they live and work. But travel search has been the same for 25 years—you enter a location and dates into a search box. Most of us can only think of a few dozen cities to type into the search box, but there are Airbnbs in 100,000 towns and cities worldwide.
When you open Airbnb, you’re presented with 56 categories that organize homes based on their style, location, or proximity to a travel activity. When you search for a destination, your search results are also organized by categories relevant to that destination. As you view diﬀerent categories, the map intelligently zooms to show you where the homes are located.
Airbnb Categories uses machine learning to analyze titles, written descriptions, photo captions, structured data from Hosts, and reviews from guests. Airbnb’s curation team members review listings and hand-pick featured photos—so if a listing is in the Amazing Pools Category, the ﬁrst photo shows a pool. Then, each category goes through a ﬁnal check to help ensure consistency and photo quality.
The 56 Airbnb Categories include more than 4 million unique homes that are made possible by Hosts all around the world. Airbnb Categories organize homes by what makes them unique, which helps people discover places they wouldn’t have otherwise found. This can help alleviate over-tourism by redistributing travel to new locations beyond the same popular destinations.
In the last three months, nearly half of the nights booked on Airbnb were for a week or more trips. Split Stays is an innovative new feature that splits your trip between two homes. With Split Stays, you will typically see around 40% more listings when searching for longer stays.
When searching a speciﬁc destination, Split Stays automatically appear in your search results. They also appear within 14 categories—including Camping, National Parks, Skiing, and Surfing—to inspire you to stay in two destinations as part of a longer trip. For example, when browsing the Skiing Category, Split Stays might suggest a pair of homes near Thredbo and Mt. Hotham.
When viewing Split Stays on a map, an animated line visually connects the two homes to show you the distance between them and the sequence of the stays. Once you select a Split Stay, you’re guided through an easy-to-use interface to book each stay, one home at a time.
This northern and southern winter, millions of people will travel for the ﬁrst time since the pandemic’s start. AirCover is the most comprehensive protection in travel. AirCover is always included and always free, and it represents the biggest upgrade to Airbnb customer service in a decade.
With AirCover, you’re covered by four protections every time you stay on Airbnb:
Booking Protection Guarantee – In the unlikely event a Host needs to cancel your booking within 30 days of check-in, Airbnb will find you a similar or better home or refund you.
Check-In Guarantee – If you can’t check into your home and the Host cannot resolve the issue, Airbnb will find you a similar or better home for the length of your original stay or get a refund.
Get-What-You-Booked Guarantee – If at any time during your stay you ﬁnd your listing isn’t as advertised—for example, the refrigerator stops working and your Host can’t easily ﬁx it, or there are fewer bedrooms than listed—you’ll have three days to report it and Airbnb will find you a similar or better home or refund you.
24-hour Safety Line – If you ever feel unsafe, you’ll get priority access to specially-trained safety agents, day or night.
AirCover has been designed directly into the Airbnb app and website, making it easy for you to contact an agent and resolve issues quickly. There is a team of specially trained agents for last-minute rebooking assistance. Airbnb also has signiﬁcantly expanded its 24-hour safety line to cover 16 languages.