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Whitsunday Coast, Australia

Whitsunday Travel Guide

Introduction

The Whitsunday Islands Australia are an archipelago of 74 islands, only 8 are inhabited, located in central Queensland, Australia. The islands are surrounded by one of the worlds seven natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. A warm tropical climate comparable to Hawaii, Tahiti and the Bahamas makes the area one of the most popular Australian tourist destinations. Captain James Cook, the English explorer, discovered the Whitsunday Islands in 1770 while navigating the east coast of Australia. Cook was overwhelmed by the scenic beauty of the area but his voyage almost ended in disaster when his ship, the Endeavour, grazed a coral reef. The major attraction to the area is the resort islands and the easy access to the Great Barrier Reef marine park. The area can be visited at any time of the year and is a boating, fishing and water sports haven.

Travel to Whitsunday

The Whitsunday Coast is serviced by two domestic airports, Whitsunday Coast Airport on the mainland at Proserpine, and Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island.

Whitsunday Coast Airport is located about 20kms inland from Airlie Beach in the small coastal town of Proserpine and is serviced by Virgin Blue and Jetstar Airlines. All flights are met by coaches to take visitors to Airlie Beach accommodation [adult AU$15]. Taxis are also available.

Hamilton Island Airport is located on Hamilton Island and is serviced by direct flights from Brisbane and Sydney.

Train The closest railway station is in Proserpine. Queensland Railways Tilt train and The Sunlander services connect Prosperine to Brisbane and Cairns.

Coaches are available from many other locations in Queensland. Greyhound has several daily services that run northbound from Brisbane and southbound from Cairns to Airlie Beach.

Car - The Bruce Highway runs along the Queensland coast connecting the Whitsunday coast to other parts of Queensland. The journey from Brisbane is about 13 hours or about 8 hours from Cairns.

Airlie Beach has a population of about 25,000 and is the closest port to access the Whitsunday islands. Abel point marina is one location for boat services to the islands and reef and is a 15 minute walk from Airlie Beaches main street on the sea side board walk.

Shute Harbour is a port 5 km from Airlie Beach where many tour operators depart for the islands and reef.

Local Transport

Walking Airlie Beach is very small and walking is the best way to explore the town. A motor vehicle is not required.

Bus service is available from Airlie Beach to Shute Harbour at regular intervals. The bus service meets all boats returning from the islands and reef trips at Shute Harbour.

Taxis are available for hire in Airlie Beach.

Car hire is available and is ideal for travel to other parts of the region.

Whitsunday Accommodation

Airlie Beach has a wide choice of accommodation from budget backpackers, Bed & Breakfast, mid-range hotels to luxury resorts right next to the Marina. Backpacker hostels are located on the main road, Shute Harbour Road, and the streets behind. Luxury accommodation is located near the marina or on the hill with views over the bay. The high season (June - September) can be booked out.

Daydream Island is a small island with a resort. The Island is family friendly and includes a range of outdoor activities for guests.

Whitsundays Hamilton Island Whitsundays Hamilton Island is the most commercially developed island with its own airport, post office and bank. Hamilton Island and Dent Island are privately owned by the Oatley family, founders of Rosemount Wines in Australia. The island is owned on a perpetual lease from the Commonwealth Government. There are many restaurants, cafes, hotels, apartments and luxury houses available for rent. The island welcomes day visitors who can enjoy the resort facilities and the beaches. Many tour operators transit here on the way to Whitehaven Beach (30mins by boat) and the Great Barrier Reef (2 hours by boat). The Passage Peak hike takes about 90 mins and is worth the effort being the highest point on the island with excellent views.

Hayman Island is privately owned and has an exclusive 5 star resort. The island is not open to day visitors as only registered hotel guests are allowed to arrive on the island.

Hook Island is the second largest island in the archipelago with 95% of the island as national park. At the end of the pier there is the Hook Island Underwater Coral Observatory. There is a small resort Hook Island Wilderness Resort [Dorms from $35 a night, rooms for doubles and singles, with air conditioning from $100 per night] Whitsunday Great Barrier Reef

Lindeman Island has a Club Med resort and is popular with young, single people.

Long Island has three Whitsunday Islands resorts. Club Crocodile Resort at Happy Bay and the eco-style resorts of Peppers Palm Bay and Whitsunday Wilderness Lodge on Paradise Bay.

South Molle Island has a small resort operated by Koala Resort backpackers of Airlie Beach.

Whitsunday Attractions

Day trips are available to Hamilton Island, Daydream Island, South Molle Island and Long Island.

Whitsunday Island Island Whitsunday is the largest island in the archipelago, is uninhabited and protected as a national park. The island is home to famous Whitehaven Beach one of the worlds most stunning natural wonders. Whitehavens attraction is the 5km of dazzling pure white silica sand which consists of powder fine grains of quartz. Tour operators bring visitors to the beach every day and it is always being voted one of the best beaches in the world. The beach faces east and is fairly protected from the wind making the water calm, crystal clear and perfect for swimming. Although, it is recommended to wear a nylon stinger suit during the stinger (jellyfish) season from October to May. There is a camping ground at the eastern end of Whitehaven Beach.

Whale Watching Experience the thrill of close contact with majestic humpback whales on their annual migration to the warm Whitsunday waters. Every year, from June to September, these gentle giants visit the area. Many tour operators have scheduled cruises to see the whales. Great Barrier Reef

Fantasea Adventure Cruising Island Whitsunday operates a fleet of air conditioned, high-speed catamarans that provide a smooth and comfortable passage to the Outer Great Barrier Reef and throughout the Whitsunday Islands.

Cruise Whitsundays provides an exciting selection of day cruise experiences and activities that really make the most of this incredible part of the world - including the stunning Whitsunday Islands National Park and the Great Barrier Reef.

Fishing is extremely popular with visitors. The region is famous for deep sea fishing especially black marlin. Many tour operators are available to take visitors to the reef for fishing.

Adventure Sports such as White Water Rafting, Bungy Jumping, Sky Diving, Mountain Biking, Sea Kayaking, Parasailing and more are available in Airlie Beach.

Beaches

Whitsunday Great Barrier Reef

Airlie Beach is not the best place for going to the beach. The few beaches near Shute Harbour Rd are small and pretty, but the presence of jellyfish prevents people swimming in the water during the "stinger season" that lasts from around October to May. However, Airlie has a fantastic man-made lagoon that is 200m long, 50m wide and is patrolled by life guards. Sun protection is important as the UV exposure risk can be extreme especially in summer.

Dining

There are many restaurants from budget to high quality seafood restaurants mostly along Shute Harbour Road. Cheaper dining options can be found at the backpacker hostels and the usual fast food restaurants such as McDonalds. All the resort islands have great restaurants and cafes.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Airlie Beach is popular with international backpackers and has several backpacker resorts concentrated on the main road, Shute Harbour Road. There are bars and nightclubs geared towards the backpacker market but everyone is welcome. Beaches Backpackers is located on Airlies main road and the bar (open to everyone) has live music every Friday and Saturday. Magnum's hostel is also on the main road and is connected to a food court, bar, club.

The island resorts have restaurants, bars and nightclubs and usually provide some sort of nightly entertainment for guests.