Cateran Bay Border Island

Secrets out: locals’ favourite beaches in the Whitsundays

The Whitsundays are famous for the squeaky white silica sand of Whitehaven Beach. But there are plenty of hidden coves, secluded bays and pristine beaches well off the tourist radar that are waiting for you to leave your footprints on.

Bring a towel, don’t forget the sunscreen and pack the snorkelling equipment – here are six beaches in the Whitsundays that locals love for very good reasons.

Crayfish Beach, Hook Island

Crayfish Bay_Hook Island_Whitsundays

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

Wedged between two mountains, and surrounded by bush and reef, the camping zone at Crayfish Bay feels like it’s worlds away from civilisation.

With only 12 people permitted to camp at any one time (total of six small tents) and with a small strip of tidal coral reef out front, Crayfish Beach is the place to simply relax for a few days with good friends and family. Cue the battery-powered speakers and a playlist of summer tunes.

Get there via… a chartered boat. Check out Go Bareboating for the lowdown on hire. Crayfish Bay can only be accessed on a mid to high tide so timing is everything. Facilities are limited to composting toilets and as always with camping, take all your rubbish with you. 

Long Island

Elysian Retreat Long Island

Really want to get away from the crowds, but camping and sailing aren’t for you? check into Long Island’s Elysian Retreat, the only 100% solar powered resort on the Great Barrier Reef. 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.

The nearest island to the mainland has somehow managed to fly under the radar with only two resorts (the equally stunning Palm Bay Resort being the other) calling Long Island home. Swim in the shallow, warm water and 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.

Elysian Retreat also offers unlimited use of kayaks and stand up paddle boards so you can paddle your way from one spot to another.

Get there via… a 10 to 20-minute helicopter flight from Hamilton Island or Whitsunday Coast Airport (Proserpine). 

Langford Island

Langford Island Whitsundays | Whitsundays beaches

The tiny sand cay that is Langford Island is one of only a few in the Whitsundays and is home to a thin, long sand bar at low tide making it a popular spot for yachties.

There are snorkelling options off the island, particularly around the north-western end of the beach and turtles are sighted often. On the island itself, there’s a short walk to a viewpoint that dominated by a beautiful bottle tree overlooking the Whitsunday passage.

Get there via…charting your own bareboat. What’s a bareboat you ask? Check out this comprehensive guide.

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 centre of town.

This beach is great if you want to take your dog for a walk or are craving a dip in salt water (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’s parking along the foreshore.

Cateran Bay, Border Island

Cateran Bay Border Island | Whitsundays beaches

Moored out front, you’ll arrive into the bay at Border Island by dinghy as the island grows around you, creating a perfectly secluded and protected beach at Cateran Bay.

The beach is small but there’s a high chance of not having to share it, or the coral bommies to explore on each side of the bay. The main star of the island is the short walk to the two lookouts that have expansive views across the Whitsundays. One has views all the way to Whitehaven Beach.

Border Island is covered in grass trees and the walk is short, albeit a bit steep, but the calm waters back at the beach are never far away for a quick cool off.

Get there via… A day trip around the islands with John aboard Whitsundays Paradise Explorer. John will customise the day to your liking and if he doesn’t know something about the Whitsundays, it’s not worth knowing.

Rose Bay, Bowen

Rose Bay_Bowen | Whitsundays beaches

Photo by @_markfitz

The most popular beach in Bowen is Horseshoe Bay, bordered by boulders and palm trees, but not far around the corner you’ll 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.

The best way to see Bowen’s bays is via the Cape Edgecumbe Walking Trail (2.5km one way/easy grade). With its many elevations, the walking trail starts from Horseshoe bay, traverses Murray Bay and terminates at Rose Bay with plenty of lookouts, bays and beaches along the way.

Get there via… your own car or a hire vehicle, following Horseshoe Bay Road and then Rose Bay Road. After your swim, be sure to drive up Flagstaff Hill for 360 views of the region including the bays you’ve just visited and Gloucester Island.