Australia trip: top beaches and places to visit in Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands – New Zealand Herald | Gmx Pharm

Judy Bailey relaxes on beautiful Hinchinbrook Island and sees some cuddly koalas in the wild on Magnetic Island.

Cruise Whitsundays’ Cherene Poidevin talks quiet beaches, romantic islands and what makes the area so memorable.

The Whitsundays are one of the most magical places on earth. Located in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, this chain of islands is part of the largest living ecosystem in the world. It is excellent for snorkeling and diving. There are fringing reefs circling the islands and these are great spots to spot marine life, both resident and migratory, including humpback and pilot whales, dolphins and porpoises, green sea turtles and dugongs.

Chartering a private yacht is a very special way to enjoy yourself in the Whitsundays.  Photo/Cruise Whitsundays
Chartering a private yacht is a very special way to enjoy yourself in the Whitsundays. Photo/Cruise Whitsundays

The islands are of natural beauty, with native hoop pine trees dominating the hillside. Visiting the islands is truly visiting a living museum from when the Ngaro tribe first began living here some 10,000 years ago – you can still see ocher cave paintings and tree scars.

Cruise Whitsundays is based in Arlie Beach and offers multiple ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef and nearby islands. Our Reefsleep is something very special, with guests sleeping under the stars in specially designed Reefbeds on Reefworld, our permanently moored multi-story pontoon. We also have Reef Suites, two underwater suites with floor-to-ceiling windows and a glass floor that offer a front-row seat to marine life. Both overnight experiences include snorkel gear and private guided tours, all food and beverages, access to the underwater observatory, and a semi-submarine tour.

Reefbeds lets guests snooze under the stars on the Criuse Whitsundays' permanently moored pontoon.  Photo/Cruise Whitsundays
Reefbeds lets guests snooze under the stars on the Criuse Whitsundays’ permanently moored pontoon. Photo/Cruise Whitsundays

We also offer full day and half day cruises and island transfers. The Full Day Tour is the only tour in the Whitsundays that allows you to spend the whole day at stunning Whitehaven Beach. Cruises also include reef visits, Hamilton Island and sailing adventures.

Cruise Whitsundays has a number of ships to take in the sights.  Photo/Cruise Whitsundays
Cruise Whitsundays has a number of ships to take in the sights. Photo/Cruise Whitsundays

There are 74 islands in total – it’s literally one giant playground for both land and water lovers. There are several fantastic snorkeling spots on Hook Island. South Molle is perfect for those looking for adventure, with hiking trails and camping options for families and individuals. Long Island is great for that feeling of total escape, especially for romantic getaways, and Hamilton Island has it all.

The Whitsundays chain of islands lies within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, making it an ideal spot for diving and beach hopping.  Photo/Cruise Whitsundays
The Whitsundays chain of islands lies within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, making it an ideal spot for diving and beach hopping. Photo/Cruise Whitsundays

You also can’t miss Whitsunday Island, which is the largest in the chain and has 7km of snow-white, super-soft sand that’s the purest in the world and never gets hot. Everywhere on the islands the water has the most beautiful shades of blue due to the limestone shelf that runs from the beach to the sea.

Other top beach spots besides Whitehaven include Hill Inlet Lookout, which offers stunning views of the swirling water and sand. The colors are phenomenal when salt and fresh water mix, as it constantly changes hues with the tides. At the beach, you can get up close and personal with resident stingrays. Horseshoe Bay in Bowen is a great spot for swimming and picnicking, as is Cape Hillsborough south of Airlie and Catseye Beach on Hamilton Island.

Whitehaven Beach is one of the island chain's most popular sandy beaches.  Photo/Cruise Whitsundays
Whitehaven Beach is one of the island chain’s most popular sandy beaches. Photo/Cruise Whitsundays

There are plenty of water and land activities including jet skis, stand up paddle boarding, sea kayaking, fishing, mountain biking and bush walking. When you’re ready to let off steam, you can charter a yacht.

A popular sight is the Heart Reef, a naturally formed heart-shaped reef that has to be one of the most romantic spots in the country – but it can only be viewed from the air.

For families, the lagoon is a hit for swimming, and there are playgrounds and free movie nights under the stars. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the delicious food and variety of restaurants we have at our disposal – as you can imagine, the fresh seafood is a highlight.

You don't even have to get in the water to see the wildlife of the Great Barrier Reef.  Photo/Cruise Whitsundays
You don’t even have to get in the water to see the wildlife of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo/Cruise Whitsundays

The Whitsundays are blessed with sunshine at any time of the year. Even on less than perfect days, you can play in the warm temperatures. October is usually the sunniest month. Temperatures are milder from June to September. This is the best whale watching season. Some prefer the cooler winter months when the beaches are quieter. Honestly, there’s no bad time to visit.

There are many ways to travel in and around the region, but the most convenient is to fly either by air to either the Whitsunday Coast Airport in Proserpine or Hamilton Island Airport. Of course, a road trip is always a good idea – driving from Cairns or Brisbane via the Bruce Highway is an experience in itself.

Some come for a long weekend, others stay for weeks. The great thing about the Whitsundays is that it is a destination to keep coming back to as there is so much to see and do.

Visit cruisewhitsundays.com and myqueensland.co.nz for more information

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