We visited the Whitsunday Islands as part of a three-week-long jet-set around eastern Australia in October 2018. The whole trip was incredible, but the Whitsundays were definitely a standout moment. With everything from diving on The Great Barrier Reef to the spectacular scenery of Whitehaven Beach, if you make it to the Whitsunday Islands, these are seven experiences that you won’t want to miss!
1. Spend a night on The Great Barrier Reef.
Spending the day on The Great Barrier Reef is pretty cool but spending the night on the reef is on another level of epic! Opting for an overnight stay means you get to experience the reef without the crowds, which is invaluable in itself. You also get the added benefit of watching the sun go down from the middle of the ocean. You can then spend the night stargazing from your cosy little pod on the deck of the reef pontoon or head down to the observatory to check out the night time under-water activity.
In the morning, it’s back in the water. We had a fantastic guide who stayed with us overnight and hopped in the water with us whenever we asked to point out all the incredible reef wildlife. The whole experience was truly unforgettable and has got to be the best possible way to see the reef. The trip is called ReefSleeps and is available through Cruise Whitsundays.
On a side note, you have to go and check out Cruise Whitsunday’s latest offering, ReefSuites. I came across it whilst researching this post and am now beyond excited to book my next trip out to Aus so we can try it out. Rather than pods on the deck, you stay in an underwater suite with its own observatory. Just imagine lying in bed and watching all the reef action happening in real-time! Amazing!
2. Explore Whitehaven Beach and see the moving landscape of Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Island.
Whitehaven Beach is commonly voted amongst the best beaches in the world. Its 7Km of pure white sand is certainly something to behold. However, the real gem is the view from Tongue Point of Hill Inlet at the north end of the island. The ever-changing tide shifts the sands to create spectacular swirls of blue, green and white that are totally unique each day. Cruise Whitsundays offers full or half-day tours if the island. You can also opt to take in the sites via sea-plane or helicopter.
3. Watch the sunset (and keep an eye out for croc’s) at Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill.
Northerlies was one of my favourite restaurants from our whole trip to Australia. Its located on its own private beach and is the perfect spot to sit and watch the sun go down over the ocean. There is no swimming, as this is croc territory, but if you’re lucky, you may even spot one of these famous Aussie predators lounging on the sand. There is a free shuttle bus that runs to and from the restaurant from Airlie Beach (about 15-20 mins drive), so it’s super easy to get there. The food is also delicious, I should add!
4. Have a night out on Airlie Beach.
Airlie Beach is a bit like the Magaluf of the Whitsundays. Or maybe more like the Khaosan Road of Australia. Its a bit of a hub for the gap year travellers and tends to draw in the student backpackers with its cheap beer, cheaper cocktails and buzzy atmosphere. Am I not selling it? Okay, I have to admit, it’s not for everyone (especially everyone above the age of around 25). But it is a renowned spot for nightlife, so if you feel young at heart (or are actually just young), then go check it out; you might just have a blast.
5. Spot sea turtles on the reef.
Obviously, the more time you have on the reef, the more chance you have of spotting these majestic creatures. Having fewer people on the reef at one time is also big help (another reason why a night on the reef is so worthwhile!). We spotted two turtles in our two days on the reef. Both were before the arrival/ after the departure of the day-trippers. We were lucky enough to be in the water when we spotted our second turtle and were able to swim alongside it for a good 5-10 minutes.
I’ve talked previously about swimming with sea turtles in Barbados, where you might see 10-15 turtles at one time. However, the difference is, in Barbados, the turtles are brought in with feeding. The turtles are not fed on the reef but are genuinely just chilling in their natural environment. It is, therefore, all the more exhilarating when you spot one just going about its normal sea-turtle-day.
Other stunning sea creatures that you might spot from the water include; an abundance of GT’s, multicoloured Giant Clams, Humphead Wrasse (which can grow up to 6ft long), clownfish (or Nemo’s if your a Pixar fan), and so so much more.
6. Get there on a propeller plane.
The best way to get to the Whitsunday Islands is to fly into Hamilton Island Airport (also known as The Great Barrier Reef Airport). We took the scenic, one-hour flight down from Cairns to Hamilton Island with QantasLink. Qantas run propeller planes on some of their short hall routes with between 34-76 seats.
Not only is it a novel and exciting experience, but we also got some epic views of the reef from the sky. The cruising altitude of these planes is lower than your average passenger jet, so on a clear day, you are pretty much guaranteed to get some fantastic views.
7. Have a burger at Little Vegas Burger Bar.
This little American dinner themed burger bar at the end of the Airlie Beach strip may look unassuming, but believe me, the burgers are anything but restrained. This is a must-stop for any burger fan. Think huge, juicy and with all the toppings imaginable. Delicious!