Whitsunday Islands are a collection of 74 continental islands of various sizes off the central coast of Queensland, Australia, approximately 900 kilometers (560 miles) north of Brisbane. An inshore, coral-fringed continental island, it measures 12 by 8 miles (19 by 13 km), has an area of 42 square miles (109 square km), and rises from steep cliffs of volcanic rock to Mount Whitsunday, 1,426 feet (435 meters).
The island lies between the coral formations of the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Passage, which is 20 miles (32 km) long and a minimum of 2 miles (3 km) wide. Both the island and the passage, which separates the Cumberlands from the mainland, were reached on Whitsunday (Pentecost) 1770 by the British navigator Captain James Cook. The explorer Matthew Flinders sailed through the passage in 1802.
Sailing is a popular pastime here, and diving is excellent along the fish-rich coral reefs. This is an extremely fragile ecosystem protected by six national parks, and visitors can explore some of the islands on hiking trails. Accommodation ranges from beachfront campsites, eco-retreats, and family resorts to luxury escapes like Hayman Island and Qualia on Hamilton Island. Don’t miss the radiant silica sands of Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour are the main launching points for Whitsunday adventures.
The term is a misnomer as it is based on Captain Cook’s date for the naming of Whitsunday Passage, or as Cook spelled it in his HMS Endeavour journal, Whitsunday’s Passage. Based on his journal date, Cook believed that the passage was discovered on Whitsunday, the Sunday of the feast of Whitsun Pentecost in the Christian liturgical year which is observed 7 weeks after Easter. As the International Date Line had not yet been established, the day of discovery was actually Whit Monday.
The island is well forested and once supported a timber industry. It is now a national park and resort, accessible from the mainland by launch. Explore the islands, Coral Sea and more from the air. Take a scenic helicopter or seaplane ride over this stunning collection of islands.
For Water Lovers – Relax with a sunset cocktail on board visitor’s vessel or by the resort pool. Swim at one of the many secluded beaches and witness the incredible marine life, which calls the fringing reefs around the islands home. Snorkeling in the clear turquoise water is an experience them will never forget. Enjoy great local seafood and produce at one of the many restaurants.
Delicious Local Fare – Several gourmet and local cafes and restaurants operate in and around the Whitsundays that will take visitors to taste buds on an unforgettable journey. Visitors can also enjoy lip-smacking seafood like prawns and barra that are freshly caught and cooked.
Get Pampered – Take advantage of the spa facilities to get a massage or treatment. Some resorts offer massage treatments on the beach while some cruises will give visitors a heavenly massage with an incredible view from their yacht.
Adventure in the Whitsundays – For an adrenaline-pumping experience, hire a jet ski and skim along the water, or take in the panorama of the Whitsundays from the air in a seaplane or helicopter. Or for the ultimate birds-eye-view, take the plunge and go skydiving above one of the most amazing natural landscapes in Australia.
The Whitsunday islands are a popular tourist destination for travelers to Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef with the area being one of the most popular yachting destinations in the Southern Hemisphere. The islands received about 700,000 visitors between March 2008 and March 2009.
The Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail is a mix of seaways and short walks, crossing South Molle, Hook and Whitsunday islands. The tracks across the islands are linked by seaways suited to kayaking, sailing or powerboating. Camping is available at eight camping areas on the three islands. Several islands have large resorts, offering a wide variety of accommodation and activities. Chartering a yacht or bare-boating is a popular way to explore the seaways, beaches, and coves.
The Whitsundays is a spectacular collection of stunning beaches surrounded by azure waters decorated sporadically with coral gardens. The white sand of Whitehaven Beach is almost like super fine baby powder that is incomparable to any other beach experience. Taking a scenic flight over the Heart Reef is a bucket list-worthy moment. Camping on one of the beaches and waking up to expansive sea views is an absolutely thrilling experience. These are just some of the reasons why most of the Whitsundays experiences and locations are consistently rated as #1 not only in Australia but also all over the world.