15 Whitsundays secrets locals don’t want you to know
Shhhh! Can you keep a secret? Don’t tell anyone, but we’ve rounded up some of the best spots in The Whitsundays that are off the beaten path.
From secluded, less-travelled beaches and sunset spots to rainforest walks, waterholes and fun food finds, these spots may not make the top 10 lists, but they’re definitely worthy of your travel time.
Whitehaven Beach might be the sparkling star of The Whitsundays, but there are many more beaches worth discovering and exploring from Shute Harbour to Bowen.
1. Coral Beach
Instead of sand crunching beneath your feet, imagine the tinkling sound of coral as you find the perfect spot to enjoy this remote beach. You won’t be competing for real estate here since access requires a 2km bushwalk from the nearest carpark; explorers rejoice!
To get there: Head towards Shute Harbour from Airlie Beach and locate the carpark on the left, just past the Harbour.
2. Cannonvale Beach
Airlie Beach’s lesser-known neighbour, Cannonvale, has a beach complete with a shipwreck right off shore. With a walking track from Airlie that delivers you directly onto this beach, it’s not hard to access.
There’s also limited parking available for those who have a lot of beach gear in tow.
3. Hydeaway Bay Beach, Cape Gloucester
Perhaps best known as an epic sunset spot, Cape Gloucester has rays for days on its quiet sandy beach overlooking Hydeaway Bay. It’s a great spot for swimming, boating, beach combing, and all things salty.
Bring your own picnic and stay for the day, or if you’re a light traveller, pull up a chair at Monte’s Reef Resort for lunch or an afternoon drink to cool you off.
To get there: Head towards Proserpine from Airlie Beach and follow signs to Cape Gloucester.
4. Bowen’s Beaches
Stretch out on the sun-drenched granite boulders that dot the shoreline or wade into the calm, blue waters of the Coral Sea.
To get there: Head North on the Bruce Highway from Proserpine and turn off the Highway at Bowen. Make your way through town to Horseshoe Bay Road, which dead ends at the tip of Cape Edgecumbe. There is parking on the right at Lions Park.
Secret walks, lookouts and waterholes
Who doesn’t drool over the island views, palm trees and tropical blue water of The Whitsundays the first time they visit? I’m guilty of this myself! But, there’s a lot of magic in the green hills of Conway National Park.
The second largest tropical rainforest in Queensland is right on your doorstep if you’re based in Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour… and it’s full of juicy secrets.
5. Cedar Creek Falls, Conway National Park
A quick drive towards Conway Beach from Airlie Beach and you’ll find a hidden tropical oasis that begs you to bring your swimmers. A gorgeous waterfall greets visitors during the wet season (Nov – March) as the name implies, but don’t let that fool you; Cedar Creek Falls turns into an crisp, emerald green swimming hole even when the falls aren’t, well, falling.
Swim with the turtles or simply relax amongst the gum trees and blooming wattle.
Tip: Don’t forget the insect repellent!
To get there: Take Conway Road off Proserpine-Shute-Harbour Road and then follow the signs to Cedar Creek Falls.
6. Great Whitsundays Trail (also known as Conway Circuit), Conway National Park
You’ll have your pick of ways to explore this Conway National Park main track. Previously known as the Whitsundays Great Walk, which follows an old logging road, the 27kilometre Great Whitsundays Trail meanders through lush rainforest and crosses several seasonal freshwater creeks.
It can be accessed from either Airlie Beach or Brandy Creek and has many shorter tracks linked to it, offering bite-sized options for those not wanting to take in the full length of the route.
Mountain bike enthusiasts can conquer the length of the track, walkers can take in circuits or various segments depending on fitness level, and for those who aren’t into exercise, there’s an option for you too – it’s the only place in Queensland where you can Segway through national parkland.
To get there: Access from Airlie Beach is via the Kara Crescent trailhead. The opposite end of the track is accessible from the Forestry Road carpark via Brandy Creek Road.
7. Honeyeater Walk & Lookout, Conway National Park
If you want to get on top of it all, The Honeyeater track is the one for you. With a steep ascent (read: average to above average fitness levels required) to a lookout that promises views out to the islands of The Whitsundays, you’ll be the king of the world after kicking your exercise and Instagram goals in one go.
To get there: Access from Kara Crescent trailhead. Follow along the Conway circuit to the Honeyeater lookout turn off.
Secret sunset spots
You simply can’t miss the splendour of the sun slipping past the horizon in The Whitsundays. We’ve scoped out a few of the best seats in the house for all your viewing pleasure.
8. Gray’s Bay, Bowen
With its perfect westerly perspective, you can’t look past Gray’s Bay in Bowen if you’re after a place to perch to watch as the sun sinks into the horizon. Settle onto one of the sun-warmed granite boulders and get ready for a show.
9. Monte’s Reef Resort, Cape Gloucester
Spend the afternoon, the evening or several nights at Monte’s Reef Resort on Cape Gloucester. While the beach and resort is open to day visitors (and is a perfect spot for swimming and other water sports), we recommend staying for a night or two (or five!) to fully appreciate the peaceful sunsets here.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist hubs, you’ll find yourself in awe of Mother Nature at this quiet local secret.
10. One Tree Hill, Hamilton Island
This hill offers unparalleled sunset views of The Whitsunday Islands from Hamilton Island. Drive your golf-buggy to this west-facing vantage point and discover the true meaning of happy hour as you sip a cocktail from the bar while watching the sky put on a show in dramatic hues.
The bar is open daily from lunchtime for coffee, wine and cheese, or cocktails.
11. Abell Point Marina, Airlie Beach
If you’re staying in Airlie Beach and don’t have transportation to get you to one of the other spots listed, don’t worry! You’ve got one of the best advantages for a Whitsundays sunset at your fingertips.
Practically any spot overlooking Pioneer Bay will reward you with golden rays at sunset, but Abell Point Marina is the best vantage point with direct views to the west.
Pick a spot along the boardwalk or stop at one of the local restaurants like Sorrento Bar & Restaurant or Barcelona Tapas Bar and Café.
There’s no shortage of good eats in The Whitsundays. With top-tier restaurants like Fish D’vine, The Chef’s Table at One&Only Hayman Island and qualia’s Long Pavillion on the list, foodies have a lot of options for indulging. But look past TripAdvisor and create your own must-eat list!
(Psst! We’ve got plenty more food recommendations in this post.)
12. Fat Frog Beach Café
A funky, dog-friendly local favourite, this waterfront café serves up healthy nosh and Campos Coffee for breakfast and lunch. Based on my visit, I could recommend half a dozen of the menu items, but things are kept seasonally fresh and change often.
13. The Crush Bus
Blink and you’ll miss it. This bright orange Kombi trailer can be found on your way from Airlie Beach to Shute Harbour and serves one of the best coffees in the area.
The cute al fresco seating areas underneath nearby trees complete the home-grown, local flavour of this stop.
14. Seafood at Bowen Marina
Prawns with a side of authentic ambiance – it doesn’t get fresher than this, folks. Buy seafood right off the trawlers, then make your way to the tables out back on the marina at Bowen Fisherman’s Seafood Co.
The hardest part of your meal will be telling the resident local seagulls “mine”!
15. Bowen mango, of course
It’s no secret Bowen is home to the Big Mango – it greets you right on the Bruce Highway as you enter the city limits. And, there’s good reason to associate Bowen with the mango, because the tastiest, juiciest mangoes are born in this region.
The secret, I discovered, is their legit mango sorbet – which tastes just like the real thing, only colder – found at the Bowen Visitor Information Centre.