A Guide to the Whitsundays

A Guide to the Whitsundays

The Whitsundays... where the beaches look like paintings, the sand squeaks beneath your toes and the cockatoos are the size of your head. I recently got back from a week in paradise and I thought I would share all of my recommendations!  

How to get there?

Depending on where you are staying, you can either fly in or get a boat.

Flying - I recommend flying with Jetstar as they often have incredible deals, so make sure to check out their latest prices here. If you are flying in from Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney or Cairns, there are direct flights daily and you can land at either Proserpine airport or on Hamilton Island.

Ferry - For the ferry option to Hamilton Island, Cruise Whitsundays offers services from the Port of Airlie Marina and Shute Harbour; the ferry takes about an hour.

When to visit:

The best time to visit is surprisingly in Australian winter which is around June - October. These months will also bring clearer skies and drier weather. The warmer waters during summer mean that stinger season runs from October to May, however if you are going swimming, stinger suits are provided by all tour companies (although they aren't the most fashionable lol). 

Where to stay?

Choosing whether you want to stay on the mainland at Airlie Beach or on an island like Hamilton island is up to you. From doing my research, I found that Airlie was relatively cheaper and that most of the boat tours/scenic flights left from Airlie anyway. 

In my opinion, staying in Airlie was great. There are plenty of places to eat, shop and explore. Prices vary, however a quick search on booking.com will bring up a huge variety of accommodation types to suit what you are after.

Where I stayed in Airlie:

  • Pinnacles Resort - infinity pool, incredible views, free parking, walking distance from the shops, self servicing apartments (washing machine, kitchen, jacuzzi, balcony, dining table etc). I made a tiktok on it here.
  • Mantra Club Croc - pool, restaurant, mini fridge, free parking, a little further from the main area but still close enough!

Ideas for accommodation in Hamilton Island:

What to do?:

Whether you want an adventure filled trip or a relaxing trip, there are so many things to do around the Whitsundays. 

Boat trips and tours around the islands and to Whitehaven beach:

I am assuming that visiting Hill Inlet and Whitehaven beach are your number 1 priority in the Whitsundays (and if it isn't, it should be!). There are a huge range of boat tours to look into that will take you there; some include snorkelling, some include more beach time, so make sure to read the descriptions thoroughly before booking! I did 2 different boat trips and I have nothing but positive things to say about both.

Ocean Rafting - this was definitely a day to remember. I booked the Northern Exposure fly and raft package which included both the scenic flight and boat trip. The Northern Exposure tour gives you direct access to Hill Inlet (they are the only company that can take you there) as well as 2 different snorkel spots. Ocean Rafting is more for the adventure seekers with speedy boats, music blasting and fun vibes all day. The staff are honestly the best (shout out to Taylor and Maisie) and I rate my day with them a 10/10. I made a tiktok vlog on my experience, which you can watch here.

What's included? 

  • Transfers
  • Wetsuit / stinger suit / snorkel
  • Guided bush walk to Hill Inlet lookout
  • Free time to swim at Hill Inlet and eat lunch
  • Lunch and afternoon tea
  • 2 different snorkel spots

Sealink - I booked the 'Big Island Day Tour' as I wanted to have free time on Whitehaven beach. This tour was definitely a much more chilled and laid-back vibe as they take you through the islands with commentary on the history and the resorts. The food was great and it definitely exceeded all my expectations!

What's included?

  • Transfers
  • Scenic ferry around the islands with commentary
  • Wetsuit / stinger suit
  • Morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea
  • Beach toys for kids
  • Guided bush walk to Hill Inlet lookout
  • 3 hours free time on Whitehaven beach

Scenic flights:

  • Scenic flights over the Great Barrier reef and Hill Inlet - this is a MUST. The scenic flights last for about an hour and you will get a whole new perspective on the incredible beaches and islands below. Seeing the Great Barrier reef from above is an experience I recommend to everyone when you are in the area. You can book a scenic flight with Ocean Rafting!
  • Sea planes to Whitehaven Beach - an experience that I didn't get around to doing during my trip, however I know others who have done this and they couldn't recommend it more! If you want to beat the crowds at the stunning Whitehaven beach, taking a seaplane and landing right on the sand is an option you should definitely look in to. 
  • Scenic Helicopter rides - another option is helicopter rides which will also be able to take you to Whitehaven Beach and land on the sand there!

Watch my experience on the scenic flight here.

Day trips to other islands and snorkelling:

There is an abundance of companies that offer day trips full of snorkelling, swimming and exploring other islands. The Whitsundays is known for the marine life, snorkelling, swimming and island hopping - so I definitely recommend a boat trip! 

You can find a full list of the different tours and companies on the Sailing Whitsundays website here.

Overnight charters:

If you don't get sea sick like me and can handle sleeping on a boat, this may be a great option for you! There are so many little hidden coves and beaches that are only accessible by boat and many of the tour companies don't go there. I have seen a lot of people doing 2-3 night charters and it looks like an incredible time sailing around on your own terms!

You can also find all of the companies and boats that do this on the Sailing Whitsundays website here. 

Hire a car and go exploring:

If you are staying in Airlie, hiring a car for a day or two is a great way to see the surrounding areas as Airlie is beautiful! Make sure to visit Cedar Creek Falls and then make your way down to Bowen. Palm trees, big hills, lush greenery, waterfalls and beaches - definitely worth the day trip!

My overall tips:

  • No matter how long you are staying, you must visit Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet! 
  • Try and do the scenic flight if you can; I know it can be expensive but it truly is the experience of a lifetime
  • Book everything well in advance! We tried booking some boat tours last minute and they had all sold out.
  • There are A LOT of different tours, companies, experience to choose from. There are quite a few tour information shops scattered around Airlie Beach so definitely go in and ask them any questions if you are unsure.
  • Be stinger safe - make sure you are aware of the stinger season months and wear the stinger suit if needed!
  • If you are staying in Airlie, plan activities for every day as there isn't much to do in the main area itself. Boat trips, crocodile viewing trips, waterfall trips, hire a car to explore etc.


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