The Whitsunday Islands

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Situated about halfway along the Queensland coast, the Whitsunday Islands are a dream destination where a tropical climate, calm waters and some of the most stunning island scenery in Australia awaits. Over 70 emerald islands dot the coastline, all easily accessed from the Whitsundays’ vibrant hub of Airlie Beach by high speed boat and ferry transfers.

The lively mainland port of Shute Harbour is just 10 minutes from Airlie Beach. The village has enjoyed a spate of recent developments that have turned this easy going seaside town, once a haven for international backpackers, into a serious cosmopolitan destination. A range of family accommodation options include basic seaside camping right through to refined five star luxury apartments and spectacular private hillside houses that are magnets for visiting celebrities.

Only eight of the region’s many islands are inhabited and Hamilton Island is one of the stars.

And though it offers a range of holiday accommodation caters to all budgets and tastes, Hamilton Island also welcomes day trippers. Getting around the island is part of the fun. Hire a golf buggy for the day - kids love the bumpy, breezy adventure and if you plan ahead by picking up a picnic lunch from the local bakery, some of the most breathtaking views of the Whitsunday passage can be enjoyed from the island’s many peaks and lookouts. Hiking trails criss-cross the island giving adventurers over 20 km of walking tracks to discover and for a unique meeting with some furry locals book in for breakfast with the koalas at the resident wildlife park.

Stunning Whitehaven Beach, stretching over seven kilometres along Whitsunday Island, is the largest in the Whitsundays. It claims the title of Australia’s most photographed beach with its pure white silica sands and turquoise waters and should top everyone’s ‘must see’ list. For families with young children in tow, a half day trip is plenty to consider, and be sure to slip, slop slap as even in winter, the Whitsunday sun can be brutal.

For families who would like to brush up on some of the region’s fascinating history, the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail is a brand new attraction worth discovering. The only one of Queensland’s ‘great walks’ to combine land and sea elements, walkers can follow in the footsteps of the traditional owners of the Whitsundays (the Ngaro people) visiting Hook, Whitsunday and South Molle Islands.

A trip to the Whitsundays would not be complete without a visit to the famous Great Barrier Reef. For something unique Fantasea Reefsleep is the ultimate overnight adventure. After a day snorkelling, scuba diving and swimming with fish a cosy cabin is home for the night, all inclusive of meals and beverages, and hosted by a personal concierge. The experience includes personal snorkelling and diving opportunities along with a chance to see the reef at it undisturbed best during the day but also at night when a whole new range of quirky creatures emerge.

For more information see www.whitsundaytourism.com.

(by Narelle Bouveng)

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