100 things to do in the Whitsundays
Let’s face it, with 74 islands to explore, kilometres of squeaky white sand beaches – and the kind of mainland hub you find yourself plotting a seachange to after just one visit – you won’t be short of things to do in The Whitsundays.
Your bucket list will be overflowing, in fact, with these 100 things to tick off.
1. Feel the solitude of the reef without the tourists and camp out on Reef Sleep pontoon with Cruise Whitsundays. From $525 per person, you get two days on the reef, comfy swags and a million stars at night.
2. Tuck into a local crab claw, the biggest and the best outside Singapore at Fish D’Vine or slug down one of their mojitos, rated – by one journalist at least – as best in the world.
3. Grab a coldie, pick the perfect palm tree and then sit back and watch the sunset at Montes Reef Resort at Cape Gloucester… Shhh, keep it quiet. This is truly a local secret.
4. Go hard or go home with a high-octane jet boat ride through the waterways of Airlie Beach, South Molle Island and Daydream Island with Island Jet Boating.
5. Master and commandeer the Derwent Hunter, a tall ship crafted in 1946 that plies the pristine waters in a bygone style.
7. Warm up on the world’s whitest sand on Whitehaven Beach, listed as the No. 1 Beach in Australia and the South Pacific, and No. 12 Beach in the World in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Beaches Awards (2016).
8. Tee off at Australia’s only island championship golf course located on Dent Island.
9. See a swarm of majestic blue Ulysses butterflies at Butterfly Bay on Hook Island as they fly out over the ocean every morning and afternoon.
10. Sign up for Salty Dog Sea Kayaking‘s half-day, full-day or a marathon six-day tour and power yourself through the Whitsundays.
11. Walk from your lounge to the lawn, set up a banana chair and snooze just metres from the impressive Whitsunday Passage at Marina Shores.
12. Jump on board a Cruise Whitsundays ferry and island-hop the passage. Taste test a poolside Pina Colada at each resort.
13. It’s not called the Great Barrier Reef for nothing – so get in and get diving.
14. Say hello to the local cockatoos who like to drop in and say hi on every balcony in town.
15. Order up a lamb and baba ghanoush pizza and get a lazy box-office view of the Airlie Beach lagoon at Mr Bones Pizza. Warning: One pizza per couple is more than enough.
16. Power it like P. Diddy. Who needs a movie star life and St Tropez when you can grab your own groupies and sail the coral blue waters on a 14-metre fantasy powerboat?
17. Zip, zoom and zap along Whitehaven Beach from your very own jet-ski on Cruise Whitsundays‘ Whitehaven Beach & Jetski Snorkelling Adventure.
18. Have a 60-minute heart-to-heart and chopper over Heart Reef, perfectly shaped and surrounded by turquoise waters.
19. Hire a buggy and circumnavigate Hamilton Island and get up close to the multi-million dollar digs and soak in the divine island views.
20. Eat a Bowen mango where it all started, in Bowen, the home of summer’s most favourite fruit.
21. Take flight for a day trip to Palm Bay with Air Whitsunday Seaplanes. You’ll spend six hours immersed in a rainforest national park where you can also play tennis, go kayaking, snorkelling or fishing, or just laze by the pool with a complimentary arrival drink and lunch voucher.
22. Upgrade your campsite at the Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort and get your own drive-up ensuite bathroom.
23. Get behind the 8 ball with billiards or croon your heart out on karaoke at the lively bars in the main street of Airlie Beach.
24. Bet on a toad or two at the weekly Cane Toad Races every Thursday night at Magnums.
25. Crew a million-dollar yacht with some of the nation’s best each Wednesday for free. The yachties at The Whitsunday Sailing Club’s Twilight Yacht Racing are often short of crew, so turn up at 3pm for a spot of tacking.
26. Check out the Saturday markets on the Airlie Beach foreshore for the usual jumble of fresh fruit and veg, coffee, clothing, and one of the cheapest places for a massage.
27. Grab a hand line and land a prized barramundi, the prince of freshwater catches, just 30 minutes from Proserpine at Peter Faust Dam.
28. Help save the Great Barrier Reef with Eco Barge Clean Seas Inc., a hands-on volunteer experience where you pick up marine debris from the beaches of the Whitsunday Islands.
29. Sip on an aperitif and watch the sunset from the Roman Pool at Clipper Restaurant, Coral Sea Resort.
30. Take a natural shower at Cedar Creek Falls, located 20kms from Proserpine on Saltwater Creek Road.
31. Smell the wild lemon myrtle flowers and listen to the wampoo pigeon as you trek the lowland tropical rainforest along the Conway Circuit.
33. Get your Rod Stewart track on (we’re talking the 1978 hit single, “I Am Sailing”) and set sail for the 74 islands of the Whitsundays on a bareboat charter.
34. Hike your way to Coral Cove, a hidden bay fringed by reef and surrounded by tall pines, accessed from Saddle Junction on Hamilton Island on a 4.6km round trip. Don’t forget to pack your togs – there’s plenty of swimming spots along the way!
35. Set sail from Abell Point Marina on a dreamy day trip to secluded bays and beaches like Macona Inlet and Butterfly Bay with Airlie Beach Day Sailing. The French chef will prep the nibbles and you can BYO tipple!
36. Book into BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort just so the kids can wear themselves out in the water park. With 13 colourful slides, large tipping buckets flowing into the pool area, and smaller slides for little ones, you can bet they’ll turn into prunes before anyone’s ready to call it a day.
37. Picnic on the soft white sand at Boathaven Beach and suck up the stunning views of the Coral Sea and islands beyond.
38. Hire the four-bedroom, five-bathroom penthouse at Blue Horizon Resort and fill it with eight of your best mates. Then do little but sip on bubbles and guzzle down the Whitsunday Passage views.
39. Jump onboard with Just Tuk’n Around pedicabs who run short tours of Airlie Beach as well as progressive dinners. Start at Sorrento for pizzas and sundowners, then onto Shucks for oysters and Denman Cellars for share platters, finishing at KC’s Chargrill & Bar for live music.
40. Polish your engagement ring (or any sparkler for that matter) on the finest silica sand at Whitehaven Beach.
41. Travel in an open-air tractor-drawn wagon train with Whitsunday Crocodile Safari and take a cruise to spot flocks of Magpie Geese, agile wallabies, resident brolgas, and the prehistoric saltwater crocodiles.
42. Get down with gran over a $15 barefoot bowl (including a sausage sizzle!) at the Airlie Beach Bowls Club.
43. Re-enact the Hot Tub Time Machine at the Pinnacles Resort and Spa. These oversized spas offer sweeping views of the Whitsunday Islands.
44. Dig into a degustation dinner at Tides Restaurant & Bar at Peppers Airlie Beach and taste the local flavours.
45. Engage your core and zoom your way around Airlie Beach or join a tour through Conway National Park with Whitsunday Segway Tours.
46. Whip around some of the most beautiful waterways in the Whitsundays on Ecojet Safari departing from Montes Reef Resort at Cape Gloucester.
47. Visit Colour Me Crazy, a brazen, bohemian, and madly riotous store in Proserpine that sells everything from jewellery to clothing and garden supplies.
48. Slide into total relaxation with a spa treatment Spa qualia at qualia Hamilton Island.
50. Enjoy the serenity and sunsets from your hammock on the verandah of your private Balinese inspired beachfront villa, at secluded Palm Bay Resort on Long Island.
51. Sit on the beach and enjoy live music every Sunday at the Airlie Beach Esplanade.
52. Hire one of Australia’s most exclusive holiday rentals, the luxurious Woodwark Bay near Airlie Beach and buy yourself 1618 hectares of manicured gardens, a lush tropical rainforest, a private beach, waterfalls and picnic huts. Surrounded by 20000 hectares of uninterrupted and untracked national parkland.
56. Sup on a coldie at the Hamilton Island Yacht Club Marina and watch as fleets of sailors work on multi-million dollar yachts.
57. If you’re bareboating, chart a course to Langford Island and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to picnic on your own private sand spit.
58. Visit the ‘wild side’ of the Whitsunday Islands on the exhilarating Ocean Rafting. The vessels were originally designed and built as rescue crafts and are driven by 450hp engines.
59. Dive The Pinnacles, one of the best sites in the Whitsundays off the western beach of Hook Island and discover large coral boulders manta rays and white tip reef sharks.
60. Splash out for a night at the world’s best – qualia on Hamilton Island has been rated the number one resort by Conde Nast Traveler. Admire the 14kms of immaculately trimmed hedges and the divine views.
61. Learn the lay of the land and look damn good doing it in a chauffeured drive with Whitsundays Mustangs and Hire Car.
62. Dress up and join in the Whitsunday Fun Race, part of the Airlie Beach Race Week finale every August.
64. For less than the cost of your takeaway coffee, learn the history of this sugarcane and cattle town at the Proserpine Historical Museum.
66. Snorkel with 1500 species of fish and 400 types of coral, and spot turtles, dolphins and stingray in the fringing reefs around the Whitsunday Islands.
67. Take travel to a new pointe when a handful of principal dancers from the Australian Ballet bring excerpts from some of the world’s most loved ballets to the edge of qualia’s infinity pool.
68. Explore the 13kms of walking tracks through abundant island rainforest on Long Island.
69. Watch the sunset from the decks of Sundowner Cruises’ catamaran and absorb the twilight hues with beautiful views.
70. Cuddle a koala or any other furry marsupial at Wildlife Park Hamilton Island.
71. Walk one of nature’s gifts at low tide and spot starfish, crabs, stingrays and other marine life along the myriad of Whitsundays’ sand flats.
72. Blend in with the locals by lunching at Northerlies (while pretending you’re used to seeing such ridiculously turquoise water every day).
73. If you’re partial to an iced latte or three, get your hands on a bottle of Mr Bean cold brew concentrate from the Airlie Beach markets or in select cafes around town.
74. Holiday big on a small budget and go camping on the largest island in the Whitsundays, Whitsunday Island. Permits are around $6 per night.
75. Get inspired by Hamilton Island’s palm-fringed beaches, then take an on-island art class to capture the beauty first hand.
76. Fly a kite at Conway Beach.
77. Go whale watching in July just by being on the water at the right time.
78. End the week with a Sunday session at Dingo Beach Hotel.
79. Throw a line in with Gone Fishing by Coral Sea Fishing Charters during a half-day or full-day fishing charter.
80. Hike to the lookout at Hill Inlet for stunning views over Whitehaven Beach.
81. Line up for an old-fashioned country pie like Hugh Jackman did at Jochheim’s Pies and then visit the sites of Bowen and spot where Australia the movie was filmed.
82. Choose from two free audio tour options and learn about the history of Hamilton Island. Tours can be downloaded onto your smartphone.
83. Hone up like Federer and play a set or two on any of the Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort‘s tennis courts.
84. Listen for the deep croak of the male green tree frog as the January breeding season ramps up in the forest.
85. After you’ve polished off your mango sorbet from The Big Mango in Bowen, grab some of their Bowen mango fudge to go.
86. Wake up to a box-office view and more likely a cockatoo hoping for a feed at Hamilton Island’s Reef View Hotel.
87. For the best morning brew with a view, head to the Fat Frog Beach Café at Cannonvale Beach.
88. Walk to the top of Mount Whitsunday – it’ll test your fitness (and your legs) and the views over Airlie Beach to the Coral Sea are worth the effort.
89. Hire a stand-up paddleboard from Whitsunday Stand Up Paddle at Shingley Beach and go exploring.
90. Forget Scuba Steve and explore above and under the water off Heart Pontoon with your very own Seabob. These motorised jets are an optional extra on Cruise Whitsundays‘ popular Great Barrier Reef Adventure Day cruise.
91. Hire a set of fins and a snorkel from the dudes at Catseye Beach at Hamilton Island and snorkel the fringing reef directly off the island at low tide.
92. Take in the full panorama of Bowen, the islands and countryside from Flagstaff Hill.
93. With the world-famous Whitehaven Beach on the opposite shore of Whitsunday Island, Chalkies Beach is often forgotten about. But with its white silica-sand and fringing coral reef that lies just offshore, steal away from the crowds for an underwater adventure with the fishes.
94. Get can’t-be-beaten views of The Whitsundays as you hurtle towards earth with Skydive Airlie Beach.
95. Toast the sunset with craft beer and tapas, on the water at Denman Cellars at the Port of Airlie.
96. Sail to Bali Hai Reef (also known as Black Island) with seven of your closest mates aboard the S.V. Domino and enjoy lunch on the island.
97. Time your trip to coincide with the Airlie Beach Music Festival and rock out to more than 70 bands performing across three days.
98. Holidays like your grandparents used to – we mean beachfront on a budget – at Big4 Bowen Coral Coast Holiday Park.
100. Take the family on an island-hopping holiday around the islands of the Whitsundays.
Is there anything else you think we’ve missed off the list?
*This post was first published in 2013 and updated in April 2018.