So you have had enough of lying on the beach and the pamper fest? Time to man (and woman) the Whitsundays action stations.
The Whitsundays archipelago consists of 74 islands, most uninhabited, but the remaining few have so much to offer. But don’t just spend your entire holiday lying in the sand working on your tan, get out and explore some of the most beautiful islands in Australia. Just catch a plane up to the Whitsundays Airport and see what we mean.
1. Swim through an underwater wonderland
No Whitsundays escape would be complete without a day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef for a snorkel or scuba dive. World-renowned for its unparalleled coral and sea life, it’s home to over 1600 fish species, 200 birds, 30 whales and dolphins, six of the world’s seven marine turtles and one of the most significant dugong populations on the planet. Adding to the appeal is the region’s iconic clear water, with clarity as far as 30 metres deep. Better still, there are a litany of operators in the region that offer full certificate diving lessons and tours for first-timers, through to overnight explorations of the outer reef.
2. Go Hiking
Within Airlie Beach, you can stumble across Conway National Park. With rainforest filled hills and hidden beaches (if you head out a little further you’ll find the beautiful Cedar Creek Falls). Pack a picnic and hike the trail with the best view to enjoy your lunch. The top suggestions are Honeyeater Walk and the Coral Beach Track and Lookout. Just make sure you’re wearing proper hiking boots on this trip.
The highest point on Hamilton Island is Passage Peak. Climbing 45 minutes up the hill, you’ll be met with incomparable views of the Whitsunday Passage. You won’t find many people on the track and people have said that they’ve usually been the only ones up there. Just sit for a while on the rocks while looking out to those insane coastal views.
Now, this isn’t so much of a hike as a leisurely stroll. If you’re hanging around the Whitsunday Island, try to find the lookout for Hill Inlet. It’s only a short 15-minute walk from the bottom of Whitehaven Beach and the view from up top is unbelievable. The white silica is mixed in with the green-blue tides. A little further out, you might be able to spot stingrays and sharks.
3. Stroll through the Markets
Of course, you’ve got to check out the markets in Whitsundays. Full of Queenslander and beachy charm, you won’t walk away empty-handed. On Saturday’s you can find the Airlie Beach Foreshore Markets, only a few steps away from the water. Check out the local arts and crafts, home-made homewares, and souvenirs. Why not grab a cup of coffee while you wander? Other markets around are on Sundays, where you’ll find people gathered around both Hansen Park in Bowen and the Town Hall Parking Lot in Collinsville.
4. Learn to Sail
Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a first-timer, sailing is one of the more glamorous ways to experience the region. There are plenty of operators around to help you learn the ropes such as Sunsail Whitsundays Sailing School on Hamilton Island and Learn to Sail Whitsundays at Airlie Beach, which both offer courses from beginners to experienced. Once mastered, hire a boat and skipper yourself or compete in the Wednesday Night Twilight Races across Pioneer Bay. It’s a relaxed weekly event and is open to anyone who wants to experience yacht racing or become part of the regular crew – no experience is necessary.
For those who are yacht-less and crewless, just arrive at the Whitsundays Sailing Club by 3 PM and staff will help find a ride on one of the boats. There is no charge for racing – just take whatever you want to drink (beers acceptable).
5. Ready, Jet, Go
The Whitsundays is synonymous with water sports, and there’s no shortage of activities to try from jet boats to jetpacks. For jet skiing, check out Whitsunday Jet Ski Tours in Airlie Beach. Provided your own jet ski, there are two tours to choose from – the ‘Airlie Adventure’ in the morning, which guarantees sea turtle sightings, and the ‘Daydream Extreme’ in the afternoon, which takes you to Daydream Island. Another favourite is parasailing, and Island Parasail run tours in Airlie Beach, Daydream Island and Long Island. Or for something new, Jetpack Adventures has launched in Airlie Beach for an airborne ride across the water.
6. Skydive onto the Beach
This is the ultimate adrenalin rush and few skydives are as spectacular as Skydive Airlie Beach, taking in views across the islands as you fall up to 14,000 feet. Photos and a video of the big leap are available for purchase. Pencil this one in for your next big birthday. From $199 per person.
7. Clean up the Beaches
This is actually a pretty good reason to stay on the beach, although it might not be in the way you prefer. In Airlie Beach you’ll find Eco Barge Clean Seas Inc. Since July 2009, they’ve removed almost 200,000 kilos of marine debris and litter from the Whitsundays region. They also are renowned for their turtle rescue projects, looking after the sick and injured marine creatures. Sign up because you’ll be doing a good deed for the land you love. Plus, you’re getting a free trip to see other islands (yes please).
8. ATV the Islands
Unleash your inner speed demon. Hamilton Island resort hires quad bikes that you can ride along the island’s scenic trail, through lush bushland to mountain-top lookouts. Or for couples, there are two-seat all-terrain vehicles (ATV). The 45-minute tours depart daily and cost from $109 per person for a quad bike or $129 for an ATV ($21 extra to take a passenger).