What’s your Whitsundays indulgence?
Kilometres of footprints left in the silica sand by you and those closest to you; a cheers to an unforgettable day as the sun sets over the Coral Sea or the gasp of awe you can’t resist when witnessing the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef from the sky.
This is only a snapshot of the moments you can savour in the Whitsundays – but which one is perfect for you? Prefer hiking islands over snorkelling fringing reefs? Kayak or helicopter? Beaches or waterfalls? Maybe all of the above?
Take a seat with us, we’ve saved you a spot on the beach, and let’s uncover your style for a little indulgence in the Whitsundays.
Style: Little bit of everything
Re-opened in July 2019 after a $135 million renovation, Intercontinental Hayman Island Resort is back doing what it does best – creating immersive luxury experiences that capture the genuine essence of the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef.
The rooms focus on the natural environment, dining is contemporary and undoubtedly delicious (from all five foodie options) but it’s the experiences that truly connect you to place.
The Blue Pearl Bay guided hike and snorkel takes you through rich bushland to a vantage point overlooking the Coral Sea, before heading back for a guided snorkel through the bay.
Turtles, coral bommies and an array of fish are now joined by Maori Wrasse, a nearly four metre high aluminium sculpture created by Adriaan Vanderlugt as part of the Whitsundays Reef Recovery and Public Art Project.
Joining Maori Wrasse will be Anthozoa, a 5,000-time size sculpture of a single coral polyp created by Caitlin Reilly, Jessa Lloyd and Kate Ford from the Arts Based Collective.
The sculptures are two of six placed under the water across the Whitsundays and aim to provoke conversation and deeper consideration of the marine environment, indigenous culture, coral reef restoration and sustainability.
Add to the experience list kayaking, escapades to Langford Island, private sunset picnics and your pick of luxury boat, plane or helicopter transfers to and from the island and you’re sure to see the Whitsundays from every possible view.
The first 100% solar powered resort on the Great Barrier Reef, Elysian Retreat is boutique, secluded and all about you.
10 beautifully appointed beach front villas, each with high cathedral ceilings and a hammock swinging in the breeze out front provide the base for exploring the island’s rainforest, fringing reefs and making the most of the glass-bottom kayaks, stand up paddleboards and snorkelling gear (all unlimited of course).
The dinner menu changes daily but is underpinned by seafood such as prawns and tropical rock lobsters. Taking their focus on locality to another level, the chefs will happily turn your daily catch into a mouth-watering feast for dinner – that’s as fresh as it can get.
Looking for somewhere else to stay? Be sure to check out our complete Whitsundays accomodation guide.
Journey to the Heart
The first unbelievable moment is seeing the Great Barrier Reef from the sky as the helicopter soars over the natural wonder. You probably know it stretches for 2,300km along the Queensland coast but seeing a fraction of that from the air puts everything into a new perspective.
The second moment is when you see your destination, a little pontoon bobbing in the water near the world-famous Heart Reef, the iconic coral bommie shaped like our favourite token of love.
Moment three – yes, we’re still going – is when the glass bottom boat pulls out from the ‘boat shed’ under the pontoon, slowly exploring the lagoon while your eyes remained glued to the floor looking for what’s below.
And the final unbelievable moment is when you soak up the remainder of your 90 minutes in the lagoon snorkelling the nooks and crannies of this underwater oasis that not many have had the chance to before you.
Simply put, Journey to the Heart is three hours of absolute luxury you will never forget.
The largest of the Whitsunday’s 74 islands, Whitsunday Island is the region’s poster-child.
Home to Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet means most visitors end up sinking their toes into the white silica sands of Whitsunday Island at some stage on their holiday and for good reason, Whitehaven Beach has been voted the world’s best beach many times over.
If you’re more interested in the route less trodden, the island offers a range of fantastic hiking trails including the Chance Bay Track (moderate, 3.6km return, 2.5h), Whitsunday Cairn (difficult, 4km return, 3h) and Whitsunday Peak (difficult, 5km return, 4h).
The hike to the Peak provides incredible views across the islands, to the nearby Chalkies Beach on Haslewood Island (if you have a boat and can sail here it’s definitely worth your time) and passes through diverse, lush forests.
Style: At your own pace
You’re the captain, the path is yours to choose and the Whitsundays are literally your oyster when you go Bareboating.
No licence and no experience is required to hire a multi-million dollar yacht and sail off into the sunset with your nearest and dearest.
Days are spent exploring bays, island hopping and snorkelling the region’s best fringing reef spots while the evening is your time to moor, relax and watch the sunset from the back deck.
Not sold yet? Be sure to check out our complete guide to sailing in the Whitsundays.
Exploring terra firma
The Whitsundays is famous for its islands, but on the mainland there are secret bays to explore, fresh waterfalls for a dip and the best mango sorbet you’ll ever taste.
You’ll need a hire car to begin your drive north, heading for your first destination, Cedar Creek Falls.
Best to visit in the wet season, Cedar Creek Falls is set in a natural rock amphitheatre and offers the perfect spot for a freshwater swim. (Tip: don’t forget the bug spray).
The next stop is Gloucester Bay and Montes Reef Resort, where the ocean laps the base of palm trees dotted along the picturesque stretch of beach.
Take a seat and breathe it all in, this is a pretty special place.
The final spot is Bowen, famous for mangoes (the sorbet from the Information Centre on Santa Barbara Parade is delightful) and pristine bays.
Set yourself for Greys Bay first, before heading a little further up to Horseshoe Bay. From here, leave the car and take the easy 2.5km Cape Edgecumbe Walking Trail that traverses Murray Bay and ends at Rose Bay.
Be sure to pack your fins, mask and snorkel as Bowen is one of the only places on the Queensland Coast where you can walk from the shore and explore the fringing reef. Horseshoe, Rose and Murray Bays’ all have coral coverage to check out in the right conditions.