How to have the best ever Whitsundays family holiday
Tropical islands, caster-sugar white sand beaches, fast boats and swimming alongside fish on the Great Barrier Reef. Sound like your dream holiday? Well move over honeymooners and backpackers, the Whitsundays are a dream holiday for families too.
Choose from one of several island resorts (complete with kids clubs!), anchor yourself firmly on the mainland or try your hand(s) sailing the Coral Sea. However you want to do the Whitsundays, we’ve got itinerary suggestions that will keep your family completely entertained in paradise.
Must-dos wherever you are
There are a few non-negotiables that will give you all the feels during your Whitsundays holiday, no matter where you stay or how many kids you have in tow.
Day trip it to Whitehaven Beach
Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet have to be two of THE most photographed places in all of Australia. Trust us when we tell you that you’ll have the winning-est family photos from this spot. The pictures say it all.
Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
You simply can’t visit the Whitsundays without a trip to experience the Great Barrier Reef. The age of your kids will help determine the best tour operator for your family. Choose from a comfy, fully-catered day on a pontoon on the outer reef if you need more hands-on help and creature comforts.
Sailing the Whitsundays is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for parents and kids alike. Skipper yourself on your own bareboat yacht and take in the islands at your own pace, while the family acts as your crew and gets first-hand sailing experience (probably best for older families).
Or, choose a full-service charter from several operators who will give you a turn-key experience complete with captain, crew and catered cuisine.
On the islands
With 74 islands in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, how in the world are you supposed to choose which one to stay on for the best family holiday? Here are our tips:
The beauty of Hamilton Island is that you can fly directly onto the island on a commercial airline with direct flights from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns. When you’ve got little ones in tow, this can be a life-saver – getting you poolside in less time and with fewer meltdowns.
In addition to the convenient travel options, Hamilton Island is packed with activities for families. You’ll find everything is easy to access, especially if you hire a golf buggy to get around – the travel mode of choice on this island! Take your pick of go karts (minimum passenger age 4), quad bikes (minimum age 8), mini-golf, art classes, kayaking, SUP, snorkelling, bushwalks and more.
If you need a break from the kids for a night of fine dining or an afternoon at the spa, the Clownfish Club is bookable for kids from six weeks to 14 years in half-day or full day sessions. Take advantage so everybody gets a holiday!
Daydream Island is home to a multi-award winning resort and spa that is budget-friendly, with a heap of family activities on offer. Cruise Whitsundays offers return ferry services to the island from the Port of Airlie and Hamilton Island.
With more free activities than you can count on all your fingers and all your toes, and even more activities that are offered for a small fee, you can please all the opinionated members of the family. Show your nature enthusiasts the resort’s living reef or sign them up for the Reef Rangers program (minimum age 6).
For the screen-lovers there’s an open air cinema and super arcade sessions on the island. Even sports fanatics will find their tribe playing cricket, basketball, volleyball, archery or water polo. And of course, there are loads of water sports and activities right off the island.
One&Only Hayman Island
If luxury is your family’s thing, then One&Only Hayman Island is your go-to resort for 5-star bliss. From the moment you’re picked up by their luxury transfer yacht until the time you leave, your crew will be waited on hand and foot.
Parents can relax while kids are entertained at the KidsOnly program – designed to keep kids aged 4-12 busy with activities like bushwalking, fish feeding, beach games and the famous ‘Chocolate Room’. There’s also a teen club for ages 13 to 17, which can help keep the eye-rolling at bay. Babysitting options are available to guests as well.
But if quality, together time is what you’re after, you can’t look past the mouth-watering restaurants on the island, the oversized pool and beach time to build a bond.
If an island castaway holiday isn’t your thing, you won’t be disappointed by a stay in Airlie Beach or Bowen. There are plenty of family-friendly activities on the mainland, lots of good grub and you can always catch one of the Whitsundays ferries if you decide you want a little island time.
A day (and sunset) on Cape Gloucester
Spend a day beachcombing, swimming and fishing before ending with a dramatic sunset over the mainland and a seafood dinner at Monte’s Reef Resort.
Go for the Green
If you’ve had your fill of blue, head for the greens of Conway National Park for some bushwalking. There are several walking trails suitable for all levels of fitness and ability, many starting in Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour.
Short walks suitable for the little legs include the 1.2km Circuit Track starting at the picnic area between Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour, and the 2km (return) walk from Shute Harbour to Coral Beach, offering beautiful views over the Molle Islands.
Take the kids for a splish splash in the oceanfront Airlie Beach Lagoon right in the heart of Airlie Beach. With rolling green lawns and shady palm trees you can stretch out and sunbathe for the afternoon while the kids swim.
There’s a shallow sandy beach area for littlies at one end and a deeper area for older kids to explore.
Bowen or Bust
Visit the ‘salad bowl’ of the Whitsundays – home to abundant local produce including tomatoes, capsicum, beans and corn and of course the most famous summer fruit of all, the Bowen Mango.
Go cruisin’ for Crocs
Go croc-spotting on the calm waters of the Proserpine River and learn more about the Goorganga ecosystem.
You’ll spot more than just toothy-tyrants. Keep the kids on the lookout for wallabies, birds, frogs, crabs and fish too.
Cool off at Cedar Creek Falls
Venture through the rainforest to swim under the falls at Cedar Creek Falls. You’ll find them only a short 30-minute drive from Airlie Beach, and an easy hike where the kids can spot butterflies, lizards, birds, fish and turtles along the way.
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