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Sail the Whitsunday islands

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The whitsunday Islands is a piece of paradise on the Australian east coast. When I was 18 during my first big 6 month backpack trip through Australia this place was definitely my biggest highlight. The whitsunday Islands have everything you are looking for: beautiful corals, imposing rocks, rain forests, the whitest beaches, unique animals (for example six species of turtles) and the Coral Sea that turns blue-green. These tropical islands on the east coast of Queensland may rightly be called a treasure on our beloved planet earth.

The island group consists of no less than 74 islands and lies just off the coast in Queensland near the villages of Mackay and Bowen and is situated in the middle of the popular Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier reef has a length of 2000 kilometers and is the largest coral reef in the world. Around almost every island you will find beautiful blue, clear water and pearly white beaches. Often combined with hills and woody landscapes. Since the islands are located in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, you have  great opportunities to go diving or snorkeling and enjoy the most bright colored corals that you have ever seen. It was my first dive I ever did in my life, which was not the smartest move because since then I have never encountered so much beauty under water. 

Sailing trip

A good way to see as much of the archipelago as possible during your trip is to go on a sailing trip. You sail along the most beautiful islands, the whitest beaches and look out over the clear blue water from the boat. Every now and then you leave the boat and settle down on the soft, warm sand for a few hours of sunbathing (wear sunscreen!!). In Airlie Beach and other popular backpacker places you can score a good boat trip deal. Most people choose a 2 night and 3 day adventure. Make sure you check your boat on Tripadvisor for reviews. Some are real party boats and that might not be what you are looking for.

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By the way do not be put off by stories that the Whitsundays overflows with tourists. Yes, of course it is a magnet, but with so many different islands you always have the opportunity to go to a place where there are no or hardly any other people.

Whitehaven Beach

The 7 kilometer long Whitehaven Beach is breathtakingly beautiful. It is one of the best known and according to many, one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. The islands with resorts are Daydream Island, Hamilton Island, Hayman Island, Hook Island, Long Island and Lindeman Island. They all offer something unique, such as a specialty in wines, diving, snorkeling etc.

Where do I go

The coastline of the Whitsundays has great destinations such as Airlie Beach and the village of Collinsville. Stay in Airlie Beach which is backpackers paradise or travel a little further to quiet secluded beaches, deserted bays and rain forests. Proserpine is a picturesque village near Airlie Beach with a real cowboy feel. Bowen is a base for when you want to relax, there are beautiful undiscovered beaches and yet there are backpacker hostels where you can sleep and drink for a cheap price.  Many boat trips and tours to the islands depart from Airlie Beach.

Where to stay

Last but not least, you should not miss a visit to Hamilton Island during your holiday in the Whitsundays. No less than seventy percent of this island consists of national parks. Nature on Hamilton Island does not disappoint. As the largest inhabited island in the Whitsunday Islands, located in the heart of the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Hamilton Island is committed to ensuring they are continually working to reduce there environmental footprint. Hamilton Island has many luxury resorts and hotels. The best one is called Beach Club.

This resort has a superb location right on Catseye Beach. The guest amenities are fantastic and it might possibly be the best hotel you will ever sleep in. On they get an average rating of 9.5.

Best time to visit

The best travel period is “winter” in Whitsundays, between June and October, with pleasant temperatures around 23 degrees Celsius (74 Fahrenheit). Summer between November and March is hot and humid, with a fair amount of rain. From November to May is also the 'stinger season', when the east coast is plagued by poisonous jellyfish and you can only enter the water in a protective wetsuit. Have a look here for more climate details about Airly Beach.

Written by our reporter and co-founder Jan:

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This article was last updated on March 30, 2023.