How to while away a weekend on Long Island in the Whitsundays
There’s no shortage of islands to explore here in Queensland, a fact that we don’t take for granted. Make your way to Tropical North Queensland to see the bevy of these waterborne beauties, and where one of the state’s best kept secrets resides.
We’re talking about Long Island in the Whitsundays, the petite strip sitting within waving distance of the mainland. Picture nine kilometres of walking tracks, lookouts, protected bays, and pristine beaches, all fringed by coral reef that makes for the ideal weekender.
Not sure where to start? Let our 48-hour guide lead the way.
Set sail for Long Island, jumping aboard one of the many charter boats that regularly shuttle visitors from the mainland. Island Transfers is arguably the most convenient, collecting you from Proserpine Airport, Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour and dropping you directly to your destination.
Checking in for your stay, there are a duo of options available. Conveniently Long Island doesn’t require a hefty fee for those feeling budget-conscious, with Palm Bay Resort the more affordable of the two resident resorts. The Balinese-inspired getaway contains 25 self-containing rooms ranging from beachfront villas to the Platinum Guest House for larger groups, all sitting within a secluded private cove.
Those feeling indulgent can treat themselves to a stay at Elysian Retreat. The eco-luxe option is the first 100% solar powered resort on the Great Barrier Reef, offering 10 sleekly decorated villas with both ocean, mountain and rainforest views.
Activities abound for the adventurer here, courtesy of Long Island’s proximity to the reef. Grab your flippers and your snorkel from reception, for this district is best explored by sea. Snorkelling around the island is a non-negotiable, as the space teems with marine life (turtles, fish and coral included).
You can also meander your way around Long Island on land, trekking some of its 13 kilometres of bushwalking tracks. One of the most popular tracks is Round Hill Circuit. This 1.5 kilometre return journey starts at Palm Bay and takes only 30 minutes. Those more determined can embark on the Sandy Bay trail, a three hour journey across 5.8 kilometres encompassing gentle hills, secluded beaches and plenty of mangroves.
If you find yourself eager to venture further afield, you can take in all 74 of the Whitsunday Island from the air. Climb aboard a member of the Air Whitsundays fleet for a private tour out across the Whitsundays Passage. You’ll glimpse views of Whitehaven Beach, the outer reef and the famed Heart Reef, before being safely returned to your accommodation.
Splash out on dinner at Elysian Retreat, where the restaurant follows the same ethos of the hotel; that of eco-friendly, sustainable practices. The menu changes here daily, and is inspired by its natural surroundings. Ingredients are plucked from the island’s own vegetable garden, with seafood sourced from local suppliers.
Cooking enthusiasts are able to indulge their passion for a home-cooked meal at Palm Bay Resort if they choose. The self-contained resort boasts its own store, stocked with everything from pasta to seafood, as well as ample kitchen spaces in which to cook up a feast.
Those who can’t fathom the thought of grocery shopping while on holiday can turn to Whitsundays Provisioning instead, who hand-deliver packages of edible goods direct to your door.
Lean on the experts when it comes to exploring this part of the world, spending your morning with award-winning Ocean Rafting Whitsundays.
Devoted to uncovering the ‘wild side’ of the Whitsundays, Ocean Rafting will lead you through the lesser known stretches of the reef where flora and fauna are in abundance armed with special permits allowing access to protected areas.
Choose from one of two tours: the Northern Exposure and Southern Lights, each departing the mainland 10am and returning at 4.30pm, though Long Island transfers are available.
Bid goodbye to your weekend exploring Long Island and the Whitsundays with a cold drink in hand. Both resident resorts cater well to the sunset here. Enjoy the end of the day accompanied by views of Conway National Park with complimentary canapés at Elysian Retreat, where a fire pit makes a daily appearance.
Or, pull up a pew at Palm Bay Resort’s bar, where wood-fired pizza and a well-stocked bar served on the beachfront deck partner well with the vivid pink sunset.