In the heart of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, there are 74 small islands that will take your breath away. They are called the Whitsunday Islands, largely uninhabited, they’re paradise on earth. The town of Airlie Beach, a small outpost located in the north-eastern part of Australia, is the ideal access point to visit these little islands of the Coral Sea. Here, the wonders of Australia come together to create one of the most beautiful regions in the world, Queensland, with coral reefs, forests and tropical beaches. What more could you wish for?
We explored this part of Australia during our road trip along the east coast and now we can tell you everything about how to visit the Whitsunday Islands and what to see while you are there!
HOW TO VISIT THE WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS & THE HEART REEF:
Based in Airlie Beach and with very little time, we chose to explore this wonder of nature the most exciting way possible, by both air and sea. However, one of the best ways to discover these pristine islands is to spend a few days there, perhaps camping in the wild! In this post, as well as telling you about our experience, we will also give you some advice on how to reach Whitsunday and other islands like Hamilton Island (with and without group tours), how to organize camping and what to do in Whitehaven Beach!
Scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef
Our adventure on the Great Barrier Reef starts in the early afternoon with a scenic flight. From the small airplane’s window, the view is breathtaking! Flying over some of the 74 islands – including the magical Whitehaven Beach – we observe the landscape changing from lush forests to emerald waters. Lastly, we reach the Great Barrier Reef and the famous Heart Reef, a small coral-shaped islet.
It may only be 17 meters in diameter, but it is one of the most romantic sights in the world! It’s as if Mother Nature had carved it with her own hands… it’s the kind of thing that makes you realise how wonderful the world we live in is!
Being located within the lagoon, it’s actually nearly impossible to reach the Heart Reef with a boat. Furthermore, the heart shape can only be seen by looking at it from above. So if you want to see this wonder of nature, your only option is a scenic flight!
There are many private companies operating scenic flights by plane or helicopter. Our flight lasted 60 minutes, read more here.
A quick tip for taking pictures of the Great Barrier Reef from above: choose a mid-morning flight to avoid the afternoon glare reflecting on the water ruining the colours!
Snorkelling in Whitsunday Island
The following morning we start the day off with an Ocean Rafting adventure that takes us snorkeling around Whitsunday – the largest of the islands – and visiting the beautiful Whitehaven Beach. Present in all the ‘best beaches around the world’ lists, Whitehaven dazzles with its pure white sands. Composed of 98% silica, the sand crunches when you walk on it and stretches for 7 km.
At the northern end of Whitehaven Beach is the gateway to Whitsunday Islands National Park. Here, a short 10-minute walk takes you through the rainforest that leads to this spectacular viewpoint, Hill Inlet. In the bay in front of you the tide moves the sand creating an incredible amount of shades from turquoise to cobalt blue.
Camping: the best way to visit the Whitsunday Islands…
Yes it is true, the sand of Whitehaven Beach is one of the whitest known to mankind and is surrounded by dreamy blue waters. But the true beauty of this island lies in the less visited parts! This means that one of the best way to explore the pristine nature of the whitest beach in the world is by camping at Whitehaven Beach.
If you are not equipped for camping, the Scamper Island Camping Transfer not only arranges sea transfers departing from Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island, but also provides tent and basic camping equipment for 40 AUD for the first night and 20 AUD for every additional night.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE CAMPING IN
- There is no drinking water on the island, so you must bring your own. If you plan on going for a walk (which I highly recommend) make sure that you bring an extra few litres.
- Remember to bring enough non-perishable food
- … and toilet paper
- There are no showers or services, only chemical toilets
- There is no WiFi, telephone signal and electricity
- Bring something warm for the night. In some seasons the temperature drops considerably
- You may be the only ones spending the night there
- Do not leave food on the ground. It can attract animals including snakes and big lizards
- Do not leave rubbish on the island and if you see abandoned plastic collect it before it reaches the sea.
To spend one or more nights in the Whitsundays without being completely isolated from the world, you can take a look at the available accommodation in Hamilton Island, Hayman Island, Daydream Island or Long Island.
Best time to visit the Whitsunday Islands
There is no wrong time to visit the Whitsundays. During the winter months the temperatures are around 23 degrees, while in summer they exceed 30 degrees. The ideal period is winter time – from June to September. Beside nice and fresh temperatures you will have two other pros: no jellyfish and the chance to see whale migration. You might be lucky enough to swim with them!!