Travel Guide: How to do the Whitsundays

You’ve marvelled over photos of white silica sand for kilometres, yachts sailing into sunsets and a reef in the shape of a heart. You’ve pondered the existence of such a good-looking place and wondered if it’s really possible to see it all in one trip.

The answer is heck yes! And this epic Whitsundays travel guide will show you how.

The Whitsundays – this is how we do it.

Sailing at twilight in the Whitsundays. Photo by @jewelszee.

Sailing at twilight in the Whitsundays. Photo by @jewelszee.

Whitsundays Travel Guide: How to get there

Before we talk about transport and how you can get yourself to this glorious part of the world, let’s cover the most important question…

Where is the Whitsundays?

The Whitsundays is located about half way up the Queensland coast about two hours north of Mackay and two and a half hours south of Townsville.


If you want island time as soon as you touch down, choose a flight to the Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island.

For Airlie Beach and mainland shenanigans, flying into the Whitsunday Coast Airport just down the road in Proserpine is your best bet.

Road Trippin’
The road trip into Airlie Beach has one of the best view reveals ever. As you drive over the main hill into town, those blues and islands previously only seen on your Insta-feed will blow your #nofilter mind.

You can get that oh-em-gee road trip moment:

  • Driving North from Mackay – Airlie Beach is 1 hour 45 minutes away on the Bruce Highway.
  • Driving South from Townsville – Airlie Beach is 2 hours 30 minutes away along the Bruce Highway.

Once you’re in Airlie Beach, make the most of having a car with you and explore the Whitsunday coast with these day trip suggestions:

  • Airlie Beach to Cedar Creek Falls: A 30-minute drive to a waterfall and swimming hole in Conway National Park.
  • Airlie Beach to Cape Gloucester: An hour’s drive to a stretch of sandy beach. Drop into the bar at Cape Gloucester Beach Resort at sunset.
  • Airlie Beach to Proserpine: It’s a 30-minute drive to the country town of Proserpine. Grab a pub lunch and search for treasures at Colour me Crazy before heading out to Proserpine Dam to catch a barramundi.
  • Airlie Beach to Bowen: On the one-hour drive north to Bowen make sure you stop off at the Big Mango and grab a mango sorbet before continuing your journey to Bowen’s beautiful Horseshoe Bay for the afternoon.
Cruising the Whitsunday Islands. Photo by @chelsea_ha.

Get me to those islands. Photo by @chelsea_ha

Ferry me to the islands

The Cruise Whitsundays Island Resort Connections travels 413,699 kilometres per year – that’s ten times around the Earth’s circumference, delivering travellers from the Port of Airlie to their Whitsunday Island resort holidays on Daydream Island Resort & Spa and Hamilton Island.

If you are planning a luxurious island escape at One&Only Hayman Island, your luxury launch service operates from Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island Marina, you lucky ducks!

For access to the island camp sites in the Whitsunday Islands National Park, Whitsunday Island Camping Connections will get you there.

The Whitsundays travel bucket list

This is the nutshell version of the must see and do’s in the Whitsundays, (as in if you miss any of these items, you are a nut).

Whitehaven Beach & Hill Inlet

Whitehaven Beach & Hill Inlet in the Whitsundays

Whitehaven Beach & Hill Inlet #nofilter

By now you’re fully aware of how good-looking and award-winning Whitehaven Beach is, and are practicing your best selfie smile for Hill Inlet lookout, but did you know that even geologists have no idea where the 98% pure white silica sand on the island comes from? While you’re visiting the island you can now theorise about this sandy mystery.

This is how to do it: Day Tours | Ngaro Sea Trail | Camping

Heart Reef

Flying over Heart Reef. Photo by @chelsea_ha

Flying over Heart Reef. Photo by @chelsea_ha

Move over heart of the ocean, the Whitsundays has the real deal. On the outer Great Barrier Reef, surrounded by sparkly blue waters, a reef in the shape of a heart has naturally formed and has romanticised travellers for over 40 years.

This is how to do it: Scenic Flights


You can set sail your own way in the Whitsundays. Channel your inner Captain Jack Sparrow and join a crew of wanna-be pirates on an overnight sailing adventure or go full luxe with the wind in your hair as you sip bubbles.

This is how to do it: Day Tours | Overnight Sailing Tours | DIY: Skipper Yourself | Twilight Sailing | What to pack on a sailing adventure

Great Barrier Reef

Snorkelling with turtles on fringing reef. Photo by Pacifc Blitz.

Each island in the Whitsundays has cultivated a fringing reef to call its own with coral bommies and marine life, which is perfect for snorkelling and diving. Top snorkelling spots include Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island and Hook Island’s Butterfly Bay and Luncheon Bay.

Past the island barrier, you can experience the Outer Reef at Hardy Reef Pontoon, where you can snorkel and learn to dive on Bait Reef nearby. You can even set up your swag and camp out with the stars above you and the reef beneath you on the Cruise Whitsundays pontoon.

This is how to do it: Snorkelling Day Tours | Learn to Dive | Outer Reef Pontoon | Sleep on the Reef

Scenic Flight over Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet

Scenic flight over the Whitsundays

Come fly with me

With so many gorgeous features, taking to the air is one of the best ways to see a lot in a short time, and fully appreciate the region’s beauty. Take a seaplane or helicopter over the reef and pass Whitehaven Beach and Heart Reef on your way.

This is how to do it: Scenic Flights

To help you navigate the Whitsunday Coast and Islands, here is something we prepared earlier, to help you out.

Have you visited the Whitsundays before? How did you do it?

 Some of the businesses listed above have been impacted by recent weather events in Queensland. Please make contact with the operator or visit their website for information regarding bookings and travel plans.