After living in the Whitsundays for 3 months I have almost done every single thing you can do here. Island fever set in day 1. Here is the quick and dirty on one of the most beautiful places in the world.
- Airlie Beach; Overnight Boat Trip
All of these include Whitehaven and the Hill Inlet as a stop so literally any option is good. Some are party boats where you just drink with other 18+ backpackers and sleep on the open deck. Others offer an actual hostel style stay on land, which I opted for. If you have the flexibility plan to spend 2-3 nights in Airlie so you can negotiate with the different hostels on which tour you should take. I got 40% off just because I could leave in 2 hours with the Ride to Paradise.
The whitest and purest sand in the world can be found at this island. It also happens to be the beach they maroon Johnny Depp at in Pirates if anyone cares. Swim in the clearest water with sting rays then hike up the Hill Inlet to see the sand swirls. They change with each tide so it is always a different view.
If you don’t do an overnight boat tour you can always just grab one of these full day trips. Most of them will take you to a couple reefs for you to snorkel. On my second time there I choose this plan. We snorkeled at Chalkies a nearby reef and had lunch at Whitsunday Island, the largest of the cluster. Since this is still apart of the Great Barrier Reef each spot they take you does not disappoint.
3. Hamilton Island
Aka my home for the “winter” and my visa extension work. This island has loads to do and it is definitely worth spending a couple days here if your bank account can handle it. It is a $55 ferry from Airlie beach but the 45 minute ride is a gorgeous way to see the other islands and be mesmerized by the blue-green clear water. The hikes on the eastern part of the island are incredible. Most of the accommodations come with kayaks, snorkeling gear or stand up paddle boards off Catseye beach, where you can see loads of sting rays and occasionally turtles. Watch the sunset from One Tree Hill after buying a case or bottle from IGA – the entire island is licensed so drink responsibly everywhere. Obviously a lunch is needed at Manta Ray – my old restaurant and the best place on the island (no bias).
3. The Great Barrier Reef & Heart Reef
Lucky for us we could snag the Cruise Whitsundays Full Day Reef Tour for just $60 as staff. They take you out to Heart Pontoon right next to the Heart Reef for 4 hours of sunning and snorkeling. You can upgrade for a scuba dive or helicopter ride. We opted the latter. It is $150 but as I flew above the water with tears in my eyes so I’d say it’s worth it.
General Advice: Snorkel Everywhere
Literally anywhere they take you will be chalk full of fish life. Each tour I have done has taken me to a different reef and each one has not disappointed. From parrot fish off cliff reefs to sea turtles on sand bars you can find it all in the incredible clear waters.
Bonus. While in Airlie… Cedar Creek Falls. I didn’t learn about this waterfall until I had already moved to Hamo so I am spreading the word.