Whitsundays and The Great Barrier Reef

Ever wanted to visit paradise? Ever wanted to relax and enjoy the sun while seeing all of the beauty the ocean has to offer? Well, the Whitsundays are really for you!

The Whitsundays are a collection of 74 islands, most are only inhabited by local wildlife, and all contain beautiful beaches, views and nature. The Whitsundays are on the north east coast of Queensland, Australia. To get here it is about an hour flight from Brisbane, three hours from Sydney or four hours from Melbourne.

There are roughly around 35,000 people that live in and around the Whitsunday region, and it receives 17x this in tourists each year.

The Whitsundays offer plenty of adventure and relaxation opportunities for all kinds of travellers. One particular must-see in this part of Australia is the Great Barrier Reef. There are numerous day and multi-day cruises to the reef from the Whitsundays, and they are ecotourism specialists, meaning your visit will not harm this Natural Wonder of the World.

There are several places you can stay while in the Whitsundays:

· Hamilton Island

· Long Island

· Daydream Island

· Hayman Island

· Airlie Beach

· Hydeaway Bay

My partner and I stayed on the mainland in Airlie Beach, which is a great hub to get out to many of the other great destinations.

Airlie Beach’s town is small, with a short main street containing stores, restaurants and many tour shops where you can book your adventure packages.

The main beach itself at Airlie Beach is unfortunately not much to rave about, but the views out to sea are stunning. Further south you will find a tiny cove where you can relax, and where there is a tiny section that is netted off for swimming.

It is important to only swim within the netted areas as during certain times of the year it is stinger (Jellyfish) season (October to May) and crocodiles may appear on the odd occasion. The two main jellyfish you should be careful of are box jellyfish and the Irukandji, which will both hospitalise you.

On our second day, we went out to the Great Barrier Reef. I booked our trip through Cruise Whitsundays. A day trip out to the reef costs $269 AUD (£141) per person, and it is certainly worth it to see one of the natural wonders in the world.

Our boat ride took us out to Hardy Reef, where their Heart Pontoon is located. This is one of the many reefs that make up the huge coral ecosystem that is the same size as Victoria state and Tasmania combined. The boat ride there takes roughly three hours, and unless the weather is terrible (when most cruises would be cancelled anyway) you likely won’t need to take sea sickness tablets, as the boat is large. Luckily they do sell them on board if you start feeling ill.

Once you reach the pontoon there is a large section where can go scuba diving or snorkelling along the edge of Hardy Reef.

The reef is made up of many species of hard and soft coral. You can see multiple species of fish, starfish, sea cucumbers, sea turtles and sometimes coral sharks.

Most people assume that the Great Barrier Reef is all brightly coloured (thanks, Nemo), but in many places this is not the case.

Yes, some of the corals you will find are brightly coloured, however a lot of them are more beige in colour, which is natural – not evidence of coral bleaching in this case. The more muted colours certainly don’t make it any less stunning.

Hardy Reef has not experienced coral bleaching yet as it usually occurs further north in warmer waters, however more needs to be done to protect the reef from this issue.

While at the reef you can hop on the glass bottom boat out to another section of the reef to see the coral without getting wet.

If you want to relax and tan, part of the pontoon gives you an opportunity to lay back and relax. Food is also served back on the boat for free during your visit.

If you are happy to pay extra, you will have the opportunity to snorkel in another section of the reef with a guide, in small groups of four.

I decided to do this, which was an additional $59 AUD (£31), which I thought was worth it as we got a detailed description of the different types of corals, clams and fish within the reef, and we got really lucky as a sea turtle swim right in front of us!

Another additional add-on is scuba diving. This comes to $139 AUD (£73) and goes further down the edges of the reef to see more species up close and personal.

It is a costly day out, but I 100% recommend you consider it when you visit the Whitsundays. This natural wonder is truly a gem of Australia.

On my final full day at the Whitsundays we took a boat tour to the largest island in the Whitsundays, Whitsunday Island.

I took this tour with Whitehaven Xpress, and they took us and a small group out on their boat, completely around Whitsunday Island, to the famous Whitehaven Beach. Now this time if you are prone to seasickness, I suggest taking tablets as the boats that do these types of tours are smaller and we felt the effects of the ocean much more.

We started out by going between Hook Island (Second largest island in the Whitsundays) and Whitsunday Island in the north.

This journey is about an hour and all the seats on the boat have great views of the islands and the ocean. Your first stop will be Hill Inlet Lookout.

You will be dropped off on the North side of the bay, and you can go on a relatively easy hike up to the lookout where you will see the most beautiful views of the shallow sands and lagoons.

The bright blues and the sand banks truly do look amazing.

On your trek back, you can go down to a section of the beach and relax on the white sands.

The sand here is so fine that it doesn’t get hot to walk on.

I was fortunate enough to see a lemon shark during my wonder along the beach.

Our next stop was Whitehaven beach. This is a 7km stretch of beach with the same white sands as Hill Inlet.

This is where a lot of the tours cook a BBQ for you for lunch, and give you an opportunity to either relax on the beach, go for a swim in the ocean (again you must wear a stinger suit between October and May) or go for an hour hike to South Whitehaven Lookout, which gives you views of the southern parts of the island.

During lunch we met a local, a Goanna. They are usually harmless as they are used to humans visiting their home, just make sure you don’t feed them any of your food. There were two near the BBQ area during my visit and I got to watch them fight for territory.

Once the day is over it is another hour-long boat ride back through the south eastern side of the Whitsunday islands back to Airlie Beach.

These were the only trips Jon and I managed to squeeze in during our trip, however there is so much more to see and do in the area.

A completely different activity available is a river cruise on the Proserpine River, near the small town of Proserpine, which has one of the highest concentrations of crocodiles in a river system within Australia.

You can also go on a sailing adventure through the islands, go on jet ski tours, go fishing, fly in a seaplane, take a helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef, go kayaking and much, much more.

The Whitsundays is one of the quieter areas to visit the Great Barrier Reef and is mainly known for Australians visiting. So, this is an ideal spot if you want to avoid the crowds.

Instead of Airlie Beach, you can also stay on Hamilton island, which has beaches, restaurants, lots of entertainment, and again there are plenty of opportunities to get out and see everything as tours are offered everywhere (or you can look online).

Jon and I stayed in the Whitsundays for three amazing days. This certainly was not enough time to complete all the activities we wanted to, plus time to relax and enjoy the beautiful Queensland weather. I certainly would recommend a week if you want to do more and have time to lay by the pool or on the beach during your holiday.

The Whitsundays are certainly the definition of paradise. This beautiful gem on the coast of Queensland will make you never want to leave and for a small area, it has so much beauty to offer.

Safe Travels!

Categories: Australia, PacificTags: , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Great post. What is the water temperature?

  2. I’m hoping to visit Australia in 2020 and this wonderful part of such a beautiful country is definitely on my list of places to see (and things to do). Everything looks truly wonderful out there, especially on the reef.

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