Amidst the turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef lie 74 marvelous gems of nature, collectively known as the Whitsunday Islands. Located off the coast of Queensland, these tropical islands are one of the most alluring travel destinations of Australia. Majority of the Islands are designated as Marine and National Parks, which are home to a wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic animals along with a range of exotic underwater flora.
In 1770, Captain James Cook sailed through the east coast of Australia, and mistaking the day to be the 7th Sunday after Easter, named the passage as the Whitsunday Passage. This is how the Islands supposedly got their name. The Ngaro, aboriginal people of the Islands, have left cave paintings at different sites all over the islands, which represent and reflect the history of the place.
Geography and Climate
The Whitsunday Islands are scattered over an area of more than 2600 square kilometers, between the cities of Bowen and Mackay, and are approximately 900 kilometers north of Brisbane. Due to the Great Barrier Reef, they stay shielded from the massive ocean swells.
Trade winds blow throughout the year, which is why the weather is always optimum for sailing. The summer months of December, January and February are often hot and sultry with maximum temperature nearing 30°C while in the winters months of June, July and August the temperature averages between 22°C to 25°C. The days are warm and the cool sea breezes continuously flow in and around the area.
• Whitehaven Beach
Entitled as the World’s Top Eco-friendly Beach in 2010 by cnn.com, Whitehaven is indeed one of the most spectacular beaches of Queensland. The crystal clear blue waters fringe this 7 kilometer long coast of sparkling siliceous sand. You can experience the amazing fusion of colors created by the mingling of white sands and aquamarine waters, when the tides come and go, from the vantage point across Hill inlet.
• Heart Reef
Not only lovers, but everyone who visits Whitsundays is stunned by the beauty of the Islands, and Heart Reef only enhances the uniqueness of the region. Situated in the Hardy Reef, this beautiful and remarkable heart-shaped coral formation is best viewed aerially.
• The Living Reef
With over 80 different species of marine fish and about 50 varieties of coral, this reef is among the largest man-made living coral reef lagoons present all over the world. It is located at the Daydream Island Resort and Spa and is one of the major attractions for kids as well as their parents. Visitors are even given the chance to hand feed resident fishes, including sharks and stingrays, during the daily educational feeding session.
• The Pinnacles
Situated on the northeast coast of Hook Island, this dive site is a favorite among snorkelers. The rich variety of coral present in this area attracts a lot of scuba divers. Due to its proximity to the Manta Ray Bay, it serves as a feasting ground for the Manta Rays. Also, white and black tip sharks are frequently seen in this region.
• Conway National Park
Serenity and boundless beauty is what this park offers. It is located on Airlie Beach, overlooking the Whitsunday Passage. Proserpine rock-wallabies, Brush turkey and Orange-footed Scrubfowl can be found here. The coastal park is perfect for camping and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding areas.
• Abel Point Marina
Considered the gateway to the Whitsundays, Abel Point’s marina is the largest in Queensland and is bound to satisfy a seafarer’s every need. It offers over 500 berths for small boats and massive yachts. All the action and adventure starts from here. You can cruise the Great Barrier Reef, hop on a ferry to any of the Whitsunday Islands or be a part of a diving or snorkeling tour.
Even though, only 8 of the islands are inhabited, there are plenty of places where tourists can stay. The Whitsundays are ideal for campers and backpackers, as well as, those who wish to pamper themselves luxuriously. BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort is an award-winning holiday park, popular among those looking for ultimate fun and enjoyment. Paradise Court and Myaura Bed and Breakfast on Airlie Beach are the more affordable ones. There are plenty of cabins, apartments, motels, lodges that you can easily find at nominal prices.
Restaurants and Shopping
Well, although the islands are surrounded by water, sea-food is not the only thing you’ll have to survive on. There are a large number of restaurants offering continental, Mexican, Chinese, Asian and other varieties of food. Cactus Jacks and Hamilton Island Yacht Club are one of the best eating places.
Every shopper will be delighted to be here. From beach and tropical themed art pieces to exotic jewels to stylish and elegant clothing – you find it all! Color Me Crazy, Tropical Beach and Paya Fashion and Homewares are some of the shopper’s stops.
The Whitsunday Islands are a treasure house of natural beauty, adventure and serenity. You can never have enough of this place. The islands offer unimaginable amounts of surprises that dazzle the senses. The Great Barrier Reef alone is a big enough reason to visit this paradise. But those who decide to explore this brilliant landscape will be bewitched by its rich beauty.