Stretching from the city of Mackay, north to the tip of Cape York there are few places in the world that can boast the diversity of unique natural attractions and experiences as Tropical North Queensland. Though it’s best known for the dazzling sea life and coral of the Great Barrier Reef and its uncrowded wet tropic rainforests, there’s so more to discover in a region that is rich with history and Aboriginal heritage, cosmopolitan towns, charming small villages, golden beaches, remote wilderness regions and a lush agricultural landscape.
Lying midway along Australia’s Queensland coast and encircled by the Great Barrier Reef in the calm blue waters of the Coral Sea, the 74 tropical islands that make up the Whitsundays are Australia’s prettiest natural treasure.
Thrills and Spills
Try your hand at sea kayaking off Airlie Beach or catch giant barramundi at the Peter Faust Dam. Older kids can learn to scuba dive over some of the world’s best reefs. Nautical families can charter a yacht and skipper themselves (or let someone else do it for you) around the islands. Thrill seekers can skydive on Airlie Beach or buzz over the islands in a Tiger Moth before some stomach-flipping aerobatics above Airlie Beach.
Snorkel among the dazzling abundance of colourful coral and sea life. Get snap happy spotting crocodiles in their natural habitat on the Proserpine River on a guided crocodile safari and be awestruck by the enormous humpbacks migrating between July and September on a whale watching tour. A short drive from Airlie Beach, Eco Jet Safari offers jet-ski safaris where you may just bump into dugongs, dolphins, turtles and whales as you ride through some of the most beautiful waterways and beaches in the area.
Back to Nature
Families with kids over six can spend the night on the reef and under the stars on Reefsleep. Take a family cruise around the islands or step onto the beach at Hook Island Wilderness Resort for amazing fringe reef diving, snorkelling and forest walks onshore. Trek to the Hill Inlet lookout for views of Whitsunday Island and beautiful Whitehaven Beach. And, at Bowen, visit Muller’s Lagoon and its hectares of parkland, gardens and wetlands habitat. At Airlie Beach, take a hike on the Whitsundays Great Walk through magnificent tropical rainforest of Conway State Forest or, simply soak up some sun and paddle at Airlie Beach Lagoon.
Five of the best
1. Take a Fantasea Cruise to Reefworld on the Great Barrier Reef for snorkelling, submarine rides and underwater viewing.
2. The man-made Airlie Beach Lagoon is the perfect tropical playground with a kids-only area patrolled at all times by lifesavers plus plenty of play and barbecue areas.
3. Jet about on an educational jet-ski adventure tour with Eco Jet Safari and experience the magnificent scenery and marine wildlife of the Whitsundays.
4. Explore Airlie Beach Markets on a Saturday morning for face-painting, food and great bargains.
5. On Saturdays and Sundays kids can take a camel ride and explore the picturesque Airlie Beach foreshore.
More information: whitsundaytourism.com