The Whitsundays are absolutely breathtaking - with a collection of uninhabited islands, beaches with silicon-like sand, sparkling coastlines and an incredible underwater wonderland. The Whitsundays simply put, is paradise on earth.
I spent 5 days exploring the Whitsundays with my boyfriend Paul in January 2020.
Currency: Australian Dollar
State Capital: Brisbane
Plug Sockets: Type I.
Ease of travel: 5/5 with car 4/5 without
Ease of communication: 5/5
Ease of meeting others: 5/5
General Costs: ££££
Approaching from other parts of the Eastern coast, expect a long drive or an overnight greyhound bus. Flying in, you have options to fly to Hamilton Island or Proserpine (which is approximately 30 mins to Airlie beach).
Wherever you stay, you’ll be doing the same day trips. If you’re on a budget, head to Airlie beach. If you want a secluded romantic stay, head to Hayman Island or Daydream Island. If you’re happy spending a little bit more and like the thought of lots of restaurants, bars or family activities – head to Hamilton Island.
We actually booked our flights into Hamilton Island without looking into accommodation options, and so were pretty horrified to see how expensive the hotels were there (you’ll see by reading further that this was hardly a budget break, but we had been looking at cheaper accommodation to balance the cost).
So we flew into Hamilton Island and spent the day driving around in a rental buggy before catching the ferry to Airlie beach, where we rested in a hostel overnight.
Hamilton Island is incredibly relaxing. It actually reminded me a lot of the island on wii sports resort, Wuhu island. With buggies driving around, scenic flights buzzing above, a gentle breeze, gleaming sunshine and spectacular beaches, this island is a slice of paradise.
The water in the harbour is stunning
Paul loved the buggy!
The first thing to do when you book your trip is to book your buggy hire online.
Many hotels will include this in your ticket price, but some don’t, and you really don’t want to miss out.
We tried to book our buggy hire three weeks in advance and found to our horror that they had all booked out! We thought we would just chance it and see if any were available on the day.
Arriving at the airport we were told there wouldn’t be any buggies left, but if we really wanted to try, we could ask at the reception in the main complex.
We decided to give it a go and to our amazement (and luck) we managed to hire the last available buggy for the day! Amazing!
The buggies are pretty easy to drive, and it’s definitely the best way to get around the island.
We drove around for the day, stopping at scenic spots and for plenty of snacks and drinks.
It was a perfect day!
Scenic viewpoints on Hamilton
There are plenty of pretty beaches to choose from
One thing we did notice was that all the bars and shops had a sort of vague similarity about them. After some googling, we discovered that the entire island is owned by an Australian winemaker and therefore all the restaurants and pubs are all owned by the same company.
We had a great day on Hamilton Island, but it was time to head on.
After catching the last ferry back to the mainland, we arrived at Airlie Beach.
Airlie beach was lively, loud and full of buzzing bars and restaurants, which suited us pretty well.
The next day, we packed our overnight bags in preparation for our exciting overnight stay on the reef.
The reef sleep experience was sensational, and a memory I will cherish forever.
It wasn’t cheap, but I do believe it offered fantastic value for money.
We boarded the boat to the reef (with Cruise Whitsundays) early in the morning, and enjoyed a leisurely ride to the permanent fixed pontoon (not ‘platoon’, as I was convinced it was called). Here we were sat in a reserved section with our fellow reef sleepers, and so we started to chat and get to know each other. About halfway through the ride we discovered that we had free drinks included for the two days (how had we not realised earlier?!). And so we obviously started getting our money’s worth (cue lots of sparkling wine!)
The rest of the boat was packed with day-trippers who would join on the reef until early afternoon.
On arrival, we had a plethora of activities to get stuck into – scuba diving, snorkelling, snorkel safaris, and semi-submersible boat tours. You could also watch fish from the underwater observatory, or pay extra for a scenic helicopter ride. Finally there was time to dig into the delicious buffet lunch.
I had signed up for a beginner’s scuba dive, which was amazing.
The stunning colours of the reef
Finally, at 3pm, all the day-trippers loaded back onto the boat and departed, leaving myself and the other reef sleepers with the pontoon all to ourselves!
This was when the luxury treatment really started.
We were treated to a delicious afternoon tea, complete with bubbly, along with a seafood platter – perfect to sit and enjoy the sunset with.
Ballet dancer statue, Budva
Beautiful sunset from the platform
After dark, it was time for dinner, and so we sat on the deck under the stars (and some fairy lights so we could see what we were eating). The dinner was pretty special, with perfectly fried steaks, lamb shanks and super-fresh seafood.
We slept in swags overnight, but they were pretty luxurious swags, with full bedding, reading lights and USB ports inside! There were also two underwater suites (for an extra cost) for the ultimate experience.
The next morning, we woke up to a scrumptious cooked breakfast before enjoying plenty of free snorkel and scuba time.
Snorkelling without the crowds was amazing- I swam through clear waters, chasing turtles and Maori Wrasse and over colourful coral and clams.
Snorkelling with turtles
As the day-trippers arrived, we lay back on our beanbags in the private reefsleep area, sipping prosecco and eating our gourmet lunch – bliss!
At 3pm we got back on the boat and said goodbye to this little piece of heaven.
Whitsunday Islands Seaplane Tour
We were feeling pretty fancy by this point, and so decided to continue our holiday in style with a seaplane tour to Whitehaven beach.
This trip combined two things we really wanted to do – a scenic flight over heart reef, and a visit to Whitehaven beach.
Departing from Proserpine, we boarded our tiny seaplane and took off, floating over lush green fields and heading out to sea, our pilot pointing out points of interest along the way.
Views over the Whitsunday islands
We glided over Hamilton Island, Daydream Island, and lots of other idyllic islands before heading out to the reef.
The reef was stunning from above, with mesmerising colours of turquoise and azul, so crystal clear that we could see turtles swimming and poking their heads up for air! We carried on flying until we reached the famous ‘heart reef’, circulating a few times so that everyone on board could capture that perfect shot.
It was then time to head on to Whitehaven beach, home to the purest and silkiest dazzling white sand I have ever seen. So soft in fact, that it squeaks as you walk through!
We landed a few metres away from the beach and waded through the water to set up a picnic on the sand.
It was heaven, however I did get a bit of a fright however when I saw a huge scaly tail slink into view. A crocodile???! No, not a crocodile it turned out, but a monitor goanna. My heart rate settled, and it went back to relax-mode.
Sadly, our time was up, so we boarded the plane and took off – from the sea itself!
It was an incredible day.
This marked the end of our trip to the Whitsundays, and we headed back to Melbourne from Proserpine!
Top tips for the Whitsundays:
Book accomodation and high-demand trips well in advance (e.g. reef sleep, seaplane tours, helicopter tours).
Consider where you want to stay, and therefore where to fly into. The flights might be cheaper to one - but add on a $20 taxi ride, $60 ferry ride (and just under 2 hours total travel time), and it makes a big difference.
Be careful of swimming in the sea around the islands - there have been a number of fatal shark attacks in recent years.
During stinger season (October-May), you need to wear a stinger suit!
Book a buggy on Hamilton island WELL in advance!
Bring travel sickness medication for the boat trips.