Whitsundays - The Best 5 Things to do in the Whitsundays

Written By: Jack Buscombe

The Whitsundays is undoubtedly Australia's east coast treasure. Nestled within the colossal Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays is a region which comprises of 74 islands, and the mainland which sits between Townsville and Mackay. Famously described as beautiful one day and perfect the next, there's always something to see and do here. If you're a numbers person, the average temperature is 27 degrees and it stays sunny 292 days of the year (80%)! Sounds bonza, aye cobba! That is why we've made this list of the crème de la crème spots in the Whitsundays Region.

1. Whitehaven Beach: The Worlds Best Beach

Flying over Whitehaven Beach

The shining star in the multiple Aussie tourism campaigns is Whitehaven Beach - the largest silica beach in Australia! Appearing in just about every 'Top Beaches in the World' list, Whitehaven is a remote treasure which forefronts the tropical forest of the Whitsunday Island National Park. And lucky for us, it's accessible to the public.

The beach itself stretches for almost 7 km's, so finding a private spot to have a picnic and swim is no problem. As you approach Whitehaven, you'll be hit with the intense brightness of the sand. It consists of 98% pure silica - more than any other beach in the world. So pure you could even wash your face with it!

There are several day tours to Whitehaven Beach, in all shapes and sizes. Some of the most popular tours include scenic flights over the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands before a stopover on Whitehaven Beach. These tours are great, but if you're on a budget then there are also boat transfers which will take you there. Or if you're feeling particularly adventurous, there's a campground in the forest behind to pitch up a tent!

How to Get There

The best ways to get to Whitehaven are usually included in the day trips. Most of theme are done by air in a seaplane or helicopter. There are also boat charters which travel from the mainland.

Things to do on Whitehaven Beach

Landing on Whitehaven Beach

When you get to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, it's quite desolate, however there are a number of awesome activities to do on the Island. It's perfect for relaxing and having a picnic on the beach, or snorkeling. If you have a bit of extra time, you can go for a bushwalk around the campground. We recommend the following Whitehaven Beach experiences:

  • The 15,000ft Whitehaven Beach Skydive
    • Departing from the Whitsundays airport in Airlie Beach, you'll be taken on a scenic flight over the islands before jumping out of the plane onto Whitehaven Beach. If you're thinking of taking your holiday to the next level, it doesn't get much more exciting than this. In fact, we voted it as the best place to skydive in Australia. If this sounds like something you'd really like to do but don't have the funds, the 8,500 skydive is a great alternative for a cheaper price.
  • The Whitsundays Reef and Whitehaven Discovery Seaplane Flight
    • This is an awesome experience without breaking the bank. It features a number of very special moments, including a flight over Heart Reef, Hill Inlet, a touch-and-go landing near the reef and a 1-hour stopover on Whitehaven Beach. Not to mention views over all the other awesome Whitsunday Islands.
  • The Whitehaven Helicopter Tour
    • Seeing as helicopters are the embodiment of opulence and extravagance, the Whitehaven Helicopter tour is a pretty wild experience at an affordable price. The tour includes a 30 minute scenic flight over the Whitsunday Islands and a 90 minute stopover on Whitehaven Beach.

2. Airlie Beach: The bustling hub of the Whitsundays

Lookout from Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach is a trendy town which sits along the mainland of the Whitsundays Coast. With a population of only 1,000, you wouldn't be blamed for expecting it to be a scant little beach town with limited activities and nightlife. But boy does this place comes alive! It's chock-a-block full of working tourists, which means the venues are full and the restaurants are plenty.

It's the main departure points to reach many of the popular Whitsunday Island's, thanks to the airport and the Airlie Beach harbour. If you're looking for a diverse range of experiences out of the Whitsundays, this is the place to be!

Things to do at Airlie Beach

Helicopter Flight in the Whitsundays

Airlie Beach is best known for it's abundance of tours. As it's central to so many islands, you can easily do something new each day. Our favourite tours from Airlie Beach are:

  • Go on the Whitsunday Island Explorer Scenic Flight
    • Thus is an affordable flight experience which glides over to Whitsunday Island and explores some of the islands close to the mainland. As the cheapest flight experience in the Whitsundays, it's certainly worth checking out!
  • The Whitsunday Helicopter Experience
    • This is a super popular scenic flight for those who prefer helicopters. It even includes a landing on a secluded island for you to peruse. This is the cheapest helicopter tour in the Whitsundays and extends over 30 minutes of flight time.
  • Scuba Diving!
    • It's a little bit pricey and there is a bit of ground-work required before you go diving, but a scuba dive in the Whitsundays is next level. Check out the marine life up close and personal. The coral reefs around here are some of the world's natural wonders.
  • Boating tours
    • There's some awesome day tours leaving from the Airlie Beach mainland which zip around the islands and stop off at some of the highlights. You won't cover as much ground on a boat as you will on a scenic flight, but the snorkeling opportunities are plenty.

Click here to browse all of the Airlie Beach flight tours.

Food & Drinks

The Kiosk Cafe in Airlie Beach

Considering the diversity of tourism in Airlie Beach, you've got the best of all worlds in terms of eating out. There are plenty of cheap eats such as:

There's also plenty of lavish dining options catered toward the tourists heading out to one of the Whitsunday Islands. We highly recommend checking out:

3. Hardy Reef: The iconic face of the Great Barrier Reef

Heart Reef is easily the most recognizable of all the reefs along the Great Barrier Reef. Aerial shots of the reef made their way on to be a feature for the Queensland and Australian Tourism ads which are pushed internationally. Aptly named 'Heart Reef', it has become a hot-spot for marriage proposals and honeymooners.

Heart Reef in Hardy

Unfortunately (or fortunately), due to restrictions put on by council, snorkeling and diving is prohibited at the reef. But by all means, setting up shop at a nearby lagoon in Hardy Reef is always awesome fun. And most of all, legal!

So the best (or really, only) way to check out the jaw-dropping beauty of Heart Reef is to pass over it on a scenic flight. There's plenty of flight tours for this on sea planes and helicopter - whatever takes your fancy really. 

Our #1 Recommendation for Tours of Hardy Reef

The best experience in Hardy Reef is the Airlie Beach Scenic Flight and Reef Seaplane Adventure. Hands down, there is no experience more immersive than this one.

Flying out of Airlie Beach, you'll tour around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park before heading out to Hardy Reef. When you reach the reef, you'll fly over the famous Heart Reef before landing at a private lagoon within the reef. From here, you'll have a 2 hour stop-over to snorkel and view the coral reef from under water in a semi-submersible. A 'semi-what!' I hear you say. It's a vessel with a glass viewing gallery below sea-level. Like a submarine, but it also has a deck which sits on the water. A picture speaks a thousand words.

After the visit to the reef, you'll get geared to takeoff back to base at Airlie. On the way, you'll fly over more of the Great Barrier Reef, including views over Hayman Island, Hook Island and the Molle islands.

4. Hamilton Island: Kick your feet up

View from Hamilton Island Beach

Hamilton Island is the embodiment of the idyllic retreat. Whilst maintaining the feel of a humble abode, there are still plenty of facilities and activities to keep the trip exciting. With plenty of silver star restaurants and tours on the island, you certainly won't get that 'bored' feeling any time soon.

Located just outside Airlie Beach in the Cumberland Islands, Hamilton is a nice little hideout from the rest of the world. Even still, it's just a quick hop skip and a jump (in the appropriate vehicle) to a number of hot-spots around the Whitsundays. There's even an airport on the Island, which makes access to and from the island a breeze.

Things To Do on Hamilton Island:

  • Sailing around the Whitsundays
  • Golf Course
  • Watersports (jetskis, kayaking and diving)
  • Outdoor activities (golf course, tennis courts, ATV adventures etc.)
  • Activities for kids (quad-biking, bowling alley, go-karting, mini-golf etc.)

Before you go, brace yourself for a lack of phone reception. You might be able to get coverage on parts of the island, but it's hit and miss for the most part. You're here to unwind though, remember.

5. Hayman Island: A place for families

Fireworks at the Hayman Island Intercontinental Resort

If you're the spontaneous type and you've landed on the Whitsundays mainland, you might be itching to get out and experience the islands. You could check out Airlie Beach for a few days, but nothing compares to a true island holiday. If you want excitement and plenty of things to do, look no further than Hayman Island. It's pumping and if you have kids, they'll love it!

The Intercontinental Resort on Hayman Island is pure class. With views from the rooms out to the Coral Sea and Hook Island Reef, you'll be glad you made it. Like most of the islands around the Whitsundays, there is a long list of water and scenic activities to do off the island. But you just cant go past the snorkeling. Around the island itself is some of the best reef around. And once you've had enough of that, head on over to Hook Island and check out the offerings there.


Life on the Whitsundays

If you're looking to travel to the Whitsundays, it's a good idea to keep some savings ready for some serious tour-splurging. It's a relatively expensive place to holiday, but truly beautiful and unforgettable nonetheless. And if you're doing a road trip up (or down) the eastern Queensland Coast, you can still visit without breaking the bank. Remember, this place has some of the best coral reefs in the world, so it'd be remiss to pass up on the snorkeling opportunities.

If you're looking to do daily tours and see as much of the region as possible, we recommend staying at Airlie Beach and taking tours from there. This is because it is the base point for most of the aircraft and boats in the area. If you're looking for a more relaxed holiday to unwind, it doesn't get much more peaceful than Hamilton Island. But If you need an all-round good spot with the ability to relax and keep the kids entertained, Hayman Island is a good bet.

At the end of the day, why pick one place when you can do it all? Spare some time for the flight tours, check out the water taxi's, do some snorkeling, treat yourself to a few meals and lay on some beaches. You're surrounded by word-class beaches and coral reefs. So go be wild and make an adventure of it!


What is there to do at the Whitsundays?

The best things to do at the Whitsundays are the day trips. There are plenty of flight adventures and snorkeling tours. It's a good idea to visit the Whitsunday Islands by flying over in Seaplanes and helicopters, or travelling by boat.

When is the best time to visit the Whitsundays?

The best times to go to Airlie Beach is between September - December. After December, the Rainy Season begins and lasts until March.

How much does it cost to go to the Whitsundays?

You can expect to pay at least $100 to visit the Whitsunday Islands on a day trip. Flights over the Whitsunday Islands usually cost between $200-$400.

Which is the best island to visit in the Whitsundays?

Whitsunday Island is most commonly cited as the best island to visit at the Whitsundays. This is because it is the biggest Island in the region and is the home of Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet.

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