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  • Whitsunday Islands

    Whitsunday Islands travel guide

    Overview

    Discovered by Captain James Cook in 1770, the Whitsunday Islands is an archipelago of approximately 160 breath-taking tropical islands and atolls off the east coast of Queensland's Airlie Beach. The islands were named by Cook when he passed through around Whit Sunday, the seventh day after Easter Sunday, and was immediately struck by their beauty. Set in the crystal clear azure waters of the Coral Sea in the heart of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays are a sailor's paradise and one of Australia's most popular tourist attractions, drawing more than 600,000 visitors annually.

    Most tourists tend to stick to the resort areas to enjoy the endless water activities such as scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing, sailing, and relaxing on the sun-drenched beaches, as 70 percent of the region has been declared a national or marine park. The resort islands of Hamilton Daydream, Hayman, South Molle and Lindeman are the most popular destinations with foreign visitors and accommodation is easy to find on these charming islands.

    Perfect for a family getaway, a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the city, or a romantic honeymoon, the Whitsundays have something for everyone. At the end of a busy day exploring the islands and meeting the marine life off their shores, what could be better than a romantic sunset cruise to round off the perfect day in this small slice of paradise.

    Hamilton Island

    The most developed of the Whitsundays, the privately owned Hamilton Island is also the most populated, boasting some of the most valuable real estate in Australia, and when you take a look at the breathtaking scenery and views, the value of the land is not surprising! With the Great Barrier Reef a short boat ride away, pristine and unspoilt surroundings, and world-class accommodation and dining opportunities, Hamilton Island makes a great day or overnight trip for visitors to the Whitsundays. During peak season, September to January, it can become extremely busy, so if you're looking for a quiet retreat from the noisy crowds, come another time. Stroll around Marina Village window shopping and stop for a bite to eat, catch a golf buggy to the 'northern end' or simply relax on Catseye Beach and soak up the sun.

    Hamilton Island, Queensland Hamilton Island, Queensland Maarten Danial
    Whitehaven Beach

    Whitsunday Island is a popular tourist resort island for both day-trippers and overnight visitors and is the largest and most popular island of the Whitsundays. Most famous for its 2.8 mile (4.5km) stretch of pristine sugary white sandy beach known as Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island's beauty is unrivalled. Featuring what is said to be the purest sand in the world (98 percent silica), the American government considered mining the sand from Whitehaven Beach for military purposes in the 1960s but, thankfully, this never happened and the beach is now protected within the bounds of the national park.

    Many boats dock at the beach daily bringing thousands of tourists to explore one of the most famous beaches in the world. Tongue Point features a wooden trail which stretches up to a lookout point over Whitehaven Beach - the ideal location for that picture-perfect postcard shot.

    Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays IG inK
    Airlie Beach

    The gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands, Airlie Beach is a small town in the Whitsunday region and is a fabulous place to soak up all there is in this idyllic part of Australia. With a great variety of activities to enjoy, such as snorkelling, fishing, crocodile safaris and scenic flights over Whitehaven Beach, there's plenty to see and do in this laid-back and picturesque town. Although the vibe is generally relaxed, it becomes simply electric after dark, with holidaymakers lining the streets, beer gardens overflowing and bars and clubs pumping until the wee hours.

    Travellers should be aware that the Irukandji jellyfish, which pack a powerful sting, pose a major threat to swimmers during the months of November to May when they abound in the water, but there are safe places to swim, including a medium sized swimming lagoon on the foreshore which is the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer's day.

    Airlie Beach, Queensland Airlie Beach, Queensland eGuide Travel

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    This group of roughly 160 beautiful tropical islands lies off the northeastern coast of Queensland and is today one of the greatest tourist attractions in Australia. This aquatic playground lies 95 miles (150km) north of Mackay and 190 miles (300km) south of Townsville, which offer easy access to the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. Holidaymakers flock to the adjacent mainland and island resorts to enjoy sailing, diving, exploring the reefs, or simply relaxing on thousands of sandy beaches. The main town in the area is the cosmopolitan resort village of Airlie Beach on the mainland, which has a plethora of tour offices offering trips to the Whitsundays.

    Hamilton is the largest and most developed of the islands, and often the starting point for Whitsundays adventures, or Great Barrier Reef tours. Whitehaven Beach is one of the most popular and beautiful beaches in Australia, and arguably the world. The town of Bowen also boasts some remarkable coastline, and the tiny island called Daydream is as lovely as its name suggests.

    Scuba diving, snorkelling and sailing are the most popular activities for visitors, but those wanting an extra thrill should look into helicopter or seaplane trips to get spectacular views from the air.

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