Secret beaches on the Whitsunday Coast only locals know

It may be famous for the squeaky white sand of Whitehaven Beach, but there are plenty of hidden coves, pretty bays and island escapes on the Whitsunday Coast that are well off the tourist radar – until now, that is.

Here are six awesome beaches the locals don’t want you to know about.

Crayfish Beach, Hook Island

Hook Island | Whitsunday Coast
One of the more rugged islands in The Whitsundays, the largely uninhabited Hook Island is a castaway’s dream. There, you’ll find Crayfish Beach at Mackerel Bay.

Wedged between two mountains, and surrounded by bush and reef, this is a real local’s spot you won’t want to leave in a hurry. Like Dugong, it’s also sheltered and you can pitch a tent here for one of the most memorable camping trips you’ll ever experience.

Get there via… a chartered boat. Check out Go Bareboating for the lowdown on hire.

Rose Bay, Bowen

The most popular beach in Bowen is Horseshoe Bay, bordered by boulders and palm trees, but not far south and around the corner intrepid travellers can discover Rose Bay.

It’s a small, sandy cove, with more palms to throw a towel under and a grassy area that’s perfect for long picnics with friends. Rose Bay Resort is a skip from the water, so if you’re looking for somewhere quiet to stay, it’s a great option – although you’d be hard-pressed to call Bowen “busy” at any time of year.

Get there via… your own car or a hire vehicle, following Horseshoe Bay Road and then Rose Bay Road.

Dugong Beach, Whitsunday Island

Dugong Beach | Whitsunday Coast
The Whitsundays is made up of 74 islands, meaning plenty of sand, pebble and coral beaches to discover. Although Whitehaven is the most touristed beach on Whitsunday Island, it’s not the only one.

Sheltered from south-easterly winds, Dugong Beach is hidden at Cid Harbour, making it a perfect spot for holidaying yachties. There is, however, idyllic camping in the nearby dry rainforest if you want a night or two ashore.

Set off for an early morning hike before rewarding yourself with a swim, hopefully with the resident dugongs and sea turtles.

Get there via… a hire boat you’ve skippered yourself from Whitsunday Escape or book a personalised boat tour with Whitsunday Paradise Explorer.

Long Island

If you really want to get away from the crowds but camping and sailing aren’t for you, check into The Whitsundays’ newest luxury resort – Elysian Retreat, on Long Island. With secluded beaches and bays, we’re not going to list just one beach but recommend you head there to explore as many as you can.

As the nearest island to the mainland, you’d expect this one to be as popular – and busy – as Hamilton Island, but it flies under the radar. Swim in the shallow, warm water while watching humpback whales and their calves pass by during their annual migration between May and September.

At some point during your visit you should also don a mask and snorkel to explore the colourful fringing reef. Make the most of your stay by booking an oceanfront villa so you’re only ever a few steps from the sand.

Get there via… a 30-minute helicopter flight from Hamilton Island, Whitsunday Coast Airport (Proserpine) or Whitsunday Airport (Shute Harbour).

Cannonvale Beach, Cannonvale

Cannonvale Beach | Whitsunday Coast
As tourists descend on the fabulous and free Airlie Beach Lagoon in the centre of Airlie, locals lap up the quiet shore of Cannonvale Beach, about five minutes’ drive from the hubbub.

This beach is great if you want to take your dog for a walk or are craving a dip in saltwater (there’s a stinger net for summer swimming). There’s also a grassy foreshore for picnics and a playground nearby for children.

Our advice is to join the locals for breakfast at Fat Frog Beach Café (they do great chai tea) and then pop across the road for a swim.

Get there via… car or foot, depending on where you’re staying. It’s not far from Shute Harbour Road and there is parking along the foreshore.

Coral Beach, Conway National Park

Just 15 minutes from Airlie and still on the mainland is stunning Conway National Park.

With deserted beaches, plenty of walking trails and those aqua water views The Whitsundays is famous for, you won’t leave disappointed. For a patch of sand you won’t find in the tourism brochures, head to Coral Beach.

Get there via… Coral Beach track, which starts at a car park not far from Shute Harbour and ends at The Beak lookout. Don’t forget to take your camera.

Are you game to share your favourite secret Whitsunday beaches in the comments below?