Boat Cruises

Cruise Whitsundays. This local outfit schedules single, twin, and three-island "Escapes," along with Great Barrier Reef diving and snorkeling excursions, on its fast, modern catamarans. Cruises run to Daydream Island (A$99–A$140), Daydream and Hamilton islands (A$140, or A$165 with breakfast on Daydream), and Daydream, Hamilton, and Whitsunday islands (A$195). All include lunch and gear. Departs Palm Bay jetty, Long Island, QLD, 4802. 07/4946–4662.

Boat Cruises

Sundowner Cruises. Two-hour twilight cruises on 59-foot catamaran Sundowner take up to four dozen guests on a tour of local islands, with sparkling wine, cheese, and tropical fruit platters included in the fare (A$49). Flat-topped and stable, the vessel has undercover and outdoor seating, and bathrooms. It departs two or three times weekly from Daydream Island. The bar is stocked with local and imported beers, Australian and New Zealand wines, and spirits. Daydream Island Jetty, Daydream Island, QLD, 4802. 07/4948–8477 Discovery Desk, Daydream Is.;.


Sea Fever Sportfishing Whitsundays. The custom-built game-fishing boat Sea Fever picks up at Daydream Island's jetty at 6:20 am for a fast two-hour boat-ride to the outer Great Barrier Reef. There, you can cast poppers and jig for fiesty giant trevally, coral trout, shark, and red emperor; or sport-fish for large pelagics (Spanish and scaly mackerel, tuna, and barracuda), and, on the way back, troll with light tackle for sailfish and the elusive juvenile black marlin. The rate (A$420 per person, minimum four) includes expert guidance as well as bait, tackle, and lines. Lunch and nonalcoholic drinks and snacks are provided; BYO alcohol (limits apply) along with sunscreen, a brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Pickups from Daydream Island Jetty, Daydream Island, QLD, 4802. 07/4948–8477 Discovery Desk, Daydream Is.; 07/4948–2798 Sea Fever; 0427/524–975 Sea Fever (cell).

Snorkeling and Diving

Camira. The purple catamaran Camira offers day cruises to Whitehaven Beach that include a big barbecue lunch, time to swim and sunbathe, and a stop to snorkel off Hook Island on the way back. The fare (A$189 per person) includes lunch, snorkeling gear and tuition, and all beverages including alcoholic drinks. Pick-ups from Daydream Island Jetty, Daydream Island, QLD, 4802. 07/4948–8477 Discovery Desk, Daydream Is.; 07/4946–4662 Cruise Whitsundays.

Cruise Whitsundays. This operator runs day-long snorkel and dive cruises to Knuckle Reef Lagoon along the balmy, translucent waters of the outer Great Barrier Reef (A$225). They include a big buffet lunch, snorkeling gear and guidance, and plenty of time to take advantage of the excellent facilities, from massages and reef talks to semisubmersible boat rides and Queensland's largest underwater viewing chamber. Keen to get your feet wet? Take a guided or self-guided snorkeling tour in the sheltered lagoon, or go scuba diving for an extra fee to see several marine species, including large pelagic fish (A$119 for the first scuba dive [beginnner], A$99 [certified]; A$59 second dive, gear included). Pickups from Daydream Island Resort Jetty, Daydream Island, QLD, 4802. 07/4948–8477 Discovery Desk, Daydream Is.; 07/4946–4662 Cruise Whitsundays.

Ocean Rafting. Long-established Ocean Rafting has access permits to visit protected areas in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, exclusive direct access to iconic Hill Inlet beach, and top snorkeling sites off uninhabited Hook and Border islands, where you can snorkel in spectacular subtropical environs. The "rafts"—11-meter-long former rescue crafts with undercover seating, powered by 500-horsepower engines, and crewed by a skipper and eco-guide—carry a maximum 28 people, so you're never snorkeling in a crowd. Choose from two tours: the Northern Exposure, with more time to snorkel, and the Southern Lights, with more beach time (A$151 per person). Daydream Island Jetty, Daydream Island, QLD, 4802. 07/4948–8477 Discovery Desk, Daydream Is.; 07/4946–6848 Ocean Rafting.

Clownfish Club

Clownfish Club. Hamilton Island is so family-friendly it allows kids under age 13 to stay free in many of its accommodations, provided they stay with parents and use existing beds (no roll-aways or cribs). Guests under 13 can even eat free from kids' menus at some island restaurants when dining with their parents. The Clownfish Club, for children aged six weeks to 14 years, has simple games and activities for the young ones: painting, blocks, sand sculpting, dancing, and climbing, in three-hour and two half-day sessions (conducted in two separate rooms—one for infants, the other for 2–4-year-olds). For 5- to 14-year-olds, activities might including swimming, mini-golf, beach sports, kite- or chocolate-making, drama, and craft, in morning and afternoon, half-day and full-day sessions (3 hours A$45, full day A$90 for one child, less for siblings). Babysitting services (A$65-A$75 for 3 hours, A$20 an hour or part thereafter, plus a A$10 booking fee) must be arranged before 4 pm. You can also hire strollers and baby backpacks (A$15 per day), books and toys (A$5 per day). There's also a Kids Fun Zone with an array of child-friendly equipment and activities. Hamilton Island, QLD. 07/4946–8941.


Renegade Sports Fishing & Charters. The outer Great Barrier Reef offers world-class fishing for species including coral trout, mackerel, and tuna—and you have a better-than-average chance of landing one off the deck of a 38-foot flybridge game boat. Hamilton Island can arrange small-group sportfishing trips with Renegade Sports Fishing & Charters, with all equipment included. A full-day excursion is A$2,750 (private charter) or A$300 per person (shared); a half-day trip (8–noon or 1–5) costs A$1,750 (private charter) or A$190 per person (shared). Full-day tours also include morning and afternoon tea and a cheese/fruit platter at lunch. If time or your budget is tight, you can hire a dinghy for puttering about closer to shore. Organize it all through Hamilton Island's Tour Desk. D Arm, DWS berth, Hamilton Island Marina, Front St., Hamilton Island, QLD, 4082. 07/4946–8305 tour desk.


Dent Island Golf Course. This Peter Thomson–designed championship course has sweeping Whitsundays views from all 18 holes. You can hire clubs, take lessons, and practice your swing on the golf driving range at the Hamilton Island–run complex, which incorporates a swanky clubhouse, pro shop, restaurant, and bar. Clubs, shoes, caddy services, and lessons are also available. Ferries to Dent Island depart all day from 7:30 am from Hamilton Island Marina; allow five hours to play 18 holes and half that to play nine. Prices include GPS-fitted golf carts and ferry transfers. Main St, Dent Island, QLD, 4802. 07/4949–9760. A$180. 18 holes, 6692 yards, par 71.

Great Barrier Reef Tours

Cruise Whitsundays Reefworld. On the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef sits magnificent Hardy Reef Lagoon, and within it sits Reefworld, a state-of-the-art pontoon around which you can snorkel and dive along easy coral trails. There's a large underwater viewing chamber, a spacious sun deck, change rooms and fresh-water showers, a kid-friendly snorkeling area, and a child-minding service. There's even a massage hut and accommodation for Reefsleep guests. There are many ways to explore the underwater environs: take a semisubmersible coral-viewing tour, guided snorkel safari (A$45), or an introductory (A$119) or certified dive (A$99) with gear included. A scenic heli-flight over famed Heart Reef starts from A$135 per person. Depart Hamilton Island Airport and Airport Jetty, Palm Valley Way, Hamilton Island, QLD, 4802. 07/4946–4662 Cruise Whitsundays; 07/4969–9599 Hamilton Island Air. or A$225 Cruise Whitsundays Reefworld day-trip; A$399 HI Air/Cruise Whitsundays fly-cruise.

Scuba Diving

Hamilton Island Dive & Snorkel Tours. If you're keen on exploring the reef, Hamilton Island can organize everything from PADI-accredited courses to snorkeling trips to Whitehaven Beach and local reefs, and full-day cruises to outer Great Barrier Reef pontoon Reefworld. A catamaran excursion to the outer Great Barrier Reef (A$225) allows up to four hours on the Reefworld pontoon at Hardy Reef, which is ample time for one or two dives (minimum age 12). The fare includes a buffet lunch, morning and afternoon tea, snorkelling gear, wet suits, a semisubmersible tour, and use of Reefworld's underwater viewing chamber, waterslide, and facilities. The resort also organizes thrice-weekly, full-day circumnavigations of Whitsunday Island (A$165) by rigid inflatable speedboat (RIB); during the trip you can snorkel the fringing reef off Chalkie's Beach and local coral gardens, explore Whitehaven Beach, and anchor off Hill Inlet for a trek to the summit for stupendous Whitsundays views. Hamiton Island Marina, Front St., next to general store, Hamilton Island, QLD, 4803. 07/4946–9888 Dive Shop; 07/4946–8305 Tour Bookings Desk.

Water Sports

Hamilton Island Activities. Hamilton Island Resort has the widest selection of activities in the Whitsundays: game fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, waterskiing, parasailing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, sea kayaking, speedboat adventure rides, and fish-feeding tours are all on the agenda. Everything can be booked through the island's central tour desk. The use of nonmotorized watercraft is free to resort guests through the Beach Hut (Hamilton Island Beach Sports) on Catseye Beach, with Beach Hut staff ready to give assistance, tips, and—for a fee—lessons. If the Coral Sea doesn't tempt you, there are well-marked walking trails, quad-bike and ATV tours, twilight 4WD "bush safaris," go-karts, a nine-pin bowling center, a target-shooting range, an aquatic driving range, public-access swimming pools, and an 18-hole golf course on nearby Dent Island. The island's sports and fitness complex incorporates a state-of-the-art gym, a whirlpool spa and sauna, squash and floodlit tennis courts, and a mini-golf course. You can also sign up for various tours, cruises, and special events. Main Resort Complex, off Resort Dve., Hamilton Island, QLD, 4802. 07/4946–8305 Tour desk; 13/7333 toll-free in Australia.

Tour Booking Desk. Reserve Hamilton Island tours, cruises, and activities ahead of time through the island's central Tour Booking Desk. 07/4946–8305; 13–7333 Toll-free, in Aust.; 866/209–0891 Toll-free, in U.S.

Diving and Snorkeling

Cruise Whitsundays, Hayman Island. Hayman is the closest of the Whitsundays islands to the Great Barrier Reef—and it's a speedy ride on Cruise Whitsundays's wave-piercer craft to Knuckle Reef Lagoon pontoon on the outer Reef. There, you can snorkel and dive over myriad corals, alongside rainbow-hued wrasse and clownfish, reef sharks, rays, and green sea turtles. Picking up from Hayman daily, the daylong dive-and-snorkel cruise includes paddleboards, snorkeling gear, a giant waterslide, and a vast underwater viewing chamber. You also get priority access to coral-viewing tours and various optional extras: guided snorkel safaris, scuba diving, scenic helicopter flights over Heart Reef, even massages. Cruise Whitsundays also runs shorter cruises around the Whitsundays and Whitehaven Beach. Hayman Island Jetty, Hayman Island, QLD, 4803. 07/4946–9102. A$225 cruise, incl. buffet lunch; A$45 guided snorkeling safari, A$99 certified scuba dive, A$119 beginner dive, A$59 second dive.

Hayman Island Diving and Snorkeling. The only Whitsundays resort within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Hayman offers fast access to some of the world's best underwater sites. Their guided scuba and snorkel excursions visit several inner-reef hot spots, including Hayman's own Bali Hai (a green sea turtle hangout) and beautiful Blue Pearl Bay, where you can swim among 1,500-odd species of fishes and 400 hard and soft corals. A guided dive tour of nearby inner Barrier Reef sites offers certified divers the chance to swim alongside green turtles, manta rays, and more (A$185). Hayman has expert dive instructors on site and offers PADI scuba courses. Prices and times vary and are weather dependent; pre-book through Hayman's Marine Centre (daily 8-4:30) at the marina. Excursions depart from Hayman Island Jetty, Raintree Ave., Hayman Island, QLD, 4801. 07/4940–1838.

Hayman Marine Centre. Handily located at Hayman's marina, a short stroll or buggy ride from the resort complex, this scuba training facility—also the place to enquire about and book local dive, snorkel and sea kayaking tours and beach drop-offs—sells and rents out equipment, including dive and snorkel gear, accessories, and stinger suits. Nonmotorized water-sports equipment—catamarans, kayaks, windsurfers, and the like—can be found lined up along Hayman Beach in front of the main resort pool. Hayman Marina, off Raintree Ave., Hayman Island, QLD, 4801. 07/4940–1838.


Hayman Island Sportfishing. The outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, with its abundant marine life, claims some of the best fishing grounds on the planet. This could be your chance to catch tuna, sailfish, wahoo, mahi mahi, Spanish mackerel, giant trevally, or, if you're really lucky, black marlin. Hayman's Marine Centre runs game and bottom fishing trips (A$280 per person) and private charters on the resort's game-fishing boat, its large deck perfect for landing the "big one." You can have your catch cleaned and cooked by Hayman’s chefs that night. Note that species vary by season, and trips are dependent on numbers and weather. If you're set on snagging a really big fish, visit September through February, when warmer waters attract larger species, including black marlin; March to August is prime time for tasty table fish. Excursions depart from Hayman Island Jetty, Raintree Ave., Hayman Island, QLD, 4801. 07/4940–1838.

Helicopter Tours

Air Whitsunday, Hayman Island. This operator flies guests over Bait, Hardy, and Heart reefs en route to Reefworld, the largest pontoon on the outer Great Barrier Reef. A couple of hours gives you time to wander through its vast underwater viewing chamber, join a semi-submersible boat tour, snorkel with tropical fish and turtles, get a massage, or take a certified reef dive. A short seaplane flight over Hayman, Hook, and Whitsunday islands brings you to Whitehaven Beach, where you can swim and sunbathe. Air Whitsunday also runs island transfers, shorter scenic flights, and a half-day excursion to Hardy Reef pontoon. Terminal One,Whitsunday Airport, Air Whitsunday Rd., Flametree, QLD, 4802. 07/4946–9111 Air Whitsunday; 07/4940–1838 Hayman Guest Services.

HeliReef Whitsunday. Local operator HeliReef runs an array of reef and island scenic flights, helicopter-tours, and fly-cruise excursions, many of which include stop-offs on local islands, beaches, and Great Barrier Reef sites. An hour-long scenic helicopter flight over Whitehaven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef, including a flyover of renowned Heart Reef, is A$399 per person. A scenic six- to twelve-minute Whitsundays helicopter joy-flight gives you a bird's-eye glimpse of Hayman Island (A$99/A$145). A half-day excursion to Knuckle Reef pontoon is A$699 per person, while a full day's excursion to Reefworld on the outer Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach is A$999. A private picnic on Whitehaven Beach is A$399 per person, plus A$30 for a pre-packed gourmet hamper, Champagne included. Pickups from Hayman Island heliport, Raintree Ave., Hayman Island, QLD, 4803. 07/4946–9102.

Wildlife Watching

Hayman Island Wildlife. Largely free of human traffic besides the odd hiker or snorkeler, Hayman Island gives sanctuary to numerous wild creatures, including the world's largest colony of endangered Proserpine rock wallabies. There are also lizards, butterflies, and many native birds, such as cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets, kookaburras, stone curlews, egrets, and sea eagles. The resort ponds and lagoons are home to barramundi, swans, and ducks; under the marina live tropical fish, rays, and turtles, especially evident at feeding time. The resort has regular fish feeds, birdwatching, wildlife-spotting walks, and guided excursions to local snorkeling and dive sites. Hayman Island, QLD, 4801. 07/4940–1838.

Boat Cruises

Hinchinbrook and Palm Islands Tours. Orpheus Island resort guests can take helicopter flights over Hinchinbrook Island National Park, Australia's largest protected island wilderness; cruise the Hinchinbrook-Cardwell channel, seeking out saltwater crocs in island estuaries and anchoring in secluded coves for guided rain-forest treks to Zoe and Mulligan waterfalls; or take a leisurely cruise around the Palm Islands with stops to snorkel, explore significant sites, and take guided nature walks. Orpheus Island, QLD, 4850. 07/4777–7377. Half-hour Hinchinbrook Is. heli-flights A$375 per person; Hinchinbrook Is. day cruise/tour charters: half-day A$500–A$650, full-day A$750–A$950 (1–14 passengers).


Orpheus Island Fishing. The tropical waters off Orpheus Island offer prized game and reef fish species. On group trips or solo dinghy excursions via motorized dinghy (free for guests' use, as is light tackle), tasty reef fish (red emperor and coral trout, sweetlip and giant trevally) can be caught right off the island. On excursions to the outer reef, you'll get the chance to land large pelagics including black marlin, wahoo, Spanish mackerel, and dog-tooth tuna. Pre-booking fishing charters is essential and all expeditions are subject to weather and tidal conditions. Orpheus Is. Jetty, Orpheus Island, QLD, 4850. 07/4777–7377.

Great Barrier Reef Excursions

Orpheus Island Diving & Snorkeling. Orpheus Island is encircled by fringing reef, with world-class dive and snorkeling sites an easy boat or dinghy ride away. Orpheus Island resort can arrange half-day dive and snorkeling trips around the neighboring Palm Islands, and full-day charter dive and snorkeling excursions to the Outer Barrier Reef. Costs depend on passenger numbers and inclusions; booking ahead is essential. Resort guests can also preorder a gourmet picnic hamper and use one of the resort's motorized dinghies to visit secluded, boulder-strewn coves and snorkeling spots on the island's fringing reef. Often, you can snorkel directly off the beach into fish-filled coral gardens. Orpheus Island Resort jetty, Orpheus Island, QLD, 4810. 07/4777–7377.


Lizard Island is one of the big game-fishing centers in Australia, with several world records set here since the mid-1990s. Game fishing is generally best in spring and early summer, and giant black marlin weighing more than 1,000 pounds are no rarity. September through December, the folk from Lizard Island run full-day game-fishing trips to the outer reef; January through August, you can book half-day bottom-fishing excursions.

Lizard Island Sportfishing. Even though fishing is banned in the waters immediately off Lizard Island, world-renowned fishing grounds lie less than an hour away. From September to December, fishing enthusiasts arrive in droves to land tuna, sailfish, mahimahi, and, if they're lucky, the legendary "Grander" black marlin. From January to August, you might nab trevally, mackerel, or queenfish. Lizard Island Resort arranges small-group, high-adrenaline trips to the outer reef and half- and full-day inner reef excursions on its 51-foot Riviera Platinum Model Flybridge cruiser, Fascination III. An outer-reef game-fishing daytrip, including heavy tackle, lunch, and light refreshments, costs around A$3,000 for up to four people; a half-day bottom-fishing excursion, with bait, light tackle, and refreshments, is about A$2,000; a full-day trip with lunch is around A$3,000. For all fishing trips, pre-booking is essential. Lizard Island Resort jetty, Lizard Island, QLD, 4871. 03/9426–7550 bookings; 1300/863–248 toll-free in Australia.

Helicopter Tours

Lizard Island Helicopter Tours. On these helicopter tours, you can get a bird's-eye view of Lizard Island's World Heritage–listed Barrier Reef and rain-forest environs. The tour traces the dramatic Cape York coastline, touches down on tropical isles, and swoops low to see turtles, dolphins, and crocodiles; in season, you might also spot manta rays and humpback whales. "Platinum Class" itineraries include a 30-minute "Lizard Island Discovery" flight, which passes over the famed Blue Lagoon (A$550); an hour-long Great Barrier Reef & Coastal Odyssey (A$990); a half-day, fully catered "Tropical Sands" champagne picnic with scenic heli-transfers to your own private sand-strip (A$1,320); and 75- or 90-minute transfers between Lizard Island and sister resort Silky Oaks Lodge, near Mossman (A$1,600 each way). Depart from Lizard Isand helipad, Lizard Island, QLD, 4871. 03/9426–7550 bookings; 1300/863–248 toll-free in Australia.

Scuba Diving

The reefs around Lizard Island have some of the best marine life and coral on the planet. The resort runs expertly guided scuba-diving and snorkeling trips on its custom-built dive boat to pristine sites on the Great Barrier Reef, including the Ribbon Reefs and globally renowned Cod Hole, as well as local dives, snorkeling excursions, and scuba courses.

Lizard Island Snorkeling & Diving. Liizard Island is a short boat ride from some of the richest, least spoiled sites on the Great Barrier Reef. Within an hour, you can dive the ribbon reefs or renowned Cod Hole, eyeballing giant potato cod, pelagic fish, turtles, rays and sharks. You can also take guided day or night dives to explore fish-filled coral gardens just offshore. Lizard Island Resort's 55-foot dive boat MV Serranidae makes reef excursions and morning dive-snorkel trips. It also offers privately guided dives to local fringing reefs and the Cobia Hole. Need scuba skills or gear? The resort has non-accredited Discover Scuba and PADI Referral courses, and a wide range of modern dive equipment for hire at its Beach Club. Use of snorkeling masks, snorkels, and fins is complimentary. Lizard Island Resort, Lizard Island, QLD, 4871. 03/9426–7550 bookings; 1300/863–248 toll-free in Australia.

Cairns Dive Centre

Cairns Dive Centre. Departing Cairns's Marlin Marina daily, dive boat MV Reefkist drops day-trippers at Fitzroy Island en route to the outer Great Barrier Reef. The A$65 fare includes round-trip transfers, a coral-viewing tour on a glass-bottom boat, and time to snorkel, swim, explore the island. Reefkist picks you up again at 3:45 on its way back to Cairns. Daylong Reefkist trips from Cairns include gear, lunch, and stops at two exclusive outer Reef sites. You can also take a three-day scuba course on Fitzroy Island that includes four training dives, a two-dive outer Reef day trip, and all gear. Fitzroy Island Dive & Adventure Centre, Fitzroy Island, QLD, 4871. 07/4051–0294; 1800/642–591 toll-free in Australia. A$65, Fitzroy Island day trip; A$130/A$180 outer GBR day trip (A$50/A$30, 1–2 dives); A$100/A$65, Fitzroy Is. intro. dive, A$85 night dive; A$520, 3-day dive-course package.

Fitzroy Island Dive & Activities Center

Fitzroy Island Dive & Activities Center. Day-trippers, resort guests, divers, and campers can rent kayaks or paddle-skis for A$25 an hour, as well as stinger suits, diving equipment, and snorkeling gear from the island's Dive and Activities Center. Here, you can also book everything from guided dive and snorkeling trips to windsurfing, sailing, and AquaJet excursions, sea-kayaking explorations, and glass-bottom boat tours. Fitzroy Island Resort, Fitzroy Island, QLD, 4870. 07/4044–6700.

Raging Thunder Adventures

Raging Thunder Adventures. This operator offers three-hour sea kayaking excursions to top snorkeling spots around Fitzroy Island (A$134, including ferry transfers, guide, gear, and a pre-packed lunch). The company's water-sports hire hut, right on the beach near the Jetty, rents out snorkeling gear, wet suits, coral viewing boards, paddle-skis, and stand-up paddleboards. Raging Thunder's Fitzroy Island Activity Passes (A$103/A$113) might include ferry transfers, pre-packed lunch, a glass-bottom boat tour, and paddle-skis. Prebooking at least a day ahead is essential. Beach Hire Hut, Welcome Bay, to the right of Fitzroy Is. Jetty, Fitzroy Island, QLD, 4871. 07/4030–7990.

Horseback Riding

Horseshoe Bay Ranch. Leaving only hoofprints on Magnetic Island's white-sand beaches, these eco-friendly horse rides offer the chance to go bareback swimming with your well-trained steed. Two- to three-hour rides (A$100) depart Horseshoe Bay Ranch daily at 9 and 3, wending their way along bush trails to a secluded beach, where you get to unsaddle and take the horses for a Coral Sea swim. Wear a bathing suit, shirt, long pants, socks, and closed shoes, and BYO drinking water and sunscreen. Safety helmets are provided, and a minimum of two guides accompanies each ride. 38 Gifford St., Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island, QLD, 4819. 07/4778–5109. A$100 per person, guided ride; A$20 kid's pony ride.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Pleasure Divers. The local guides at Pleasure divers run good-value dives to the SS Yongala shipwreck and pristine Lodestone Reef on the outer Barrier Reef. Trips includes two dives and buffet lunch; optional introductory dives, adventure diving, and guided dives (compulsory for those with fewer than 15 logged dives) cost extra. Reef dive and snorkel trips run Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday; Yongala trips run Wednesday and Saturday from Nelly Bay Ferry Terminal and Townsville. Pleasure Divers run various PADI-accredited courses from the island, including refresher and three-day, four-dive Open Water courses. 10 Marine Parade, Arcadia, Magnetic Island, QLD, 4819. 07/4778–5788; 1800/797–797 toll-free in Australia. A$50 local snorkel tour, A$95 guided local dive (A$33 subsequent dives); A$226 Yongala trip; A$196 for snorkelers, A$226 for divers, Lodestone Reef trip (+$A$40 scuba gear); A$125 scuba refresher course; A$349 PADI Open Water course, A$15 snorkel gear.

Toad Races

Hotel Arcadia Toad Races. A Magnetic Island institution, the Arcadia's weekly toad races offer cut-price Aussie-style hilarity. After each race, the winners kiss their toads and collect the proceeds, with funds raised going to local charities. The Arcadia cane-toad races have been held every Wednesday night from 8 pm for nearly three decades. Even when the toads aren't racing, Hotel Arcadia's pumping, with three well-patronized bars, regular live bands, pool tables, bistro meals. 7 Marine Parade, Arcadia, Magnetic Island, QLD, 4819. 07/4778–5177 or 1800/663–666.

Water Sports

Adrenalin Jet Ski Tours. This operator offers tours through Magnetic Island's clear waters on SeaDoo 4-stroke Jet Skis. Choose between the three-hour island circumnavigation and the 90-minute "Top End" tour, with up to two people on each ski. All equipment and instruction are included in the rate; no license required. 9 Pacific Dve., Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island, QLD, 4819. 07/4778–5533 or 0407/785–533.

Horseshoe Bay Watersports. This outfitter can take you tube-riding, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and sailing on a Hobi cat in the translucent waters of Horseshoe Bay. All tube rides are for a minimum of two people, though an extra person can ride for free in the ski boat to take pictures. Horseshoe Bay Watersports also rents an array of water-sports gear and equipment. Find them beside the boat ramp at the center of Horseshoe Bay, weather permitting. Boat ramp, Pacific Dr. at Horseshoe Bay Rd., Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island, QLD, 4819. 07/4758–1336. From A$15 per person, tube rides; A$50 per hour, Hobi cat hire.


Magnetic Island Sea Kayaks. On these eco-friendly kayaking trips around Magnetic Island's quieter bays, you might spot turtles, dolphins, dugongs, sea eagles, ospreys, and, mid-July through mid-September, migrating whales and their calves. Two excursions are schedued daily: a leisurely 4½-hour morning tour of beaches, coves, and bays; and a twilight paddle around Horseshoe Bay with a stop for sunset drinks. Rates include single or double kayaks, safety gear, expert intruction, commentary on the island's ecology, breakfast or sunset drinks, reef tax, and National Park entry fees. Experienced kayakers can also rent out single or double kayaks by the day, safety gear included. Horseshoe Bay boat ramp, Horseshoe Bay Rd., Magnetic Island, QLD, 4819. 07/4778–5424. A$85 double kayak; A$155 single kayak (morning tour); A$60, sunset tour; A$75 per day, single kayak hire, A$150 double kayak. Morning tour: Daily from 8. Sunset tour: Wed., Fri., and Sat. from 2 hours before sunset.

Scuba Diving

Surrounded by tropical islands and warm waters, Townsville is a top-notch diving center. Diving courses, day trips, and multiday excursions tend to be less crowded than those in the hot spots of Cairns or the Whitsunday Islands.

About 16 km (10 miles) offshore, a 60-km (37-mile) boat ride southeast of Townsville, is the wreck of the mighty SS Yongala, a steamship that sank in 1911 and now lies 49 to 91 feet beneath the surface. It teems with marine life and is considered one of Australia's best dive sites. It can be explored on one- and two-day trips. All local dive operators conduct excursions to the wreck.

Adrenalin Dive. This local outfit runs day and live-aboard trips to popular sites on the Great Barrier Reef, including the wreck of the SS Yongala. The Yongala trip includes weight belt, tanks, two dives, and lunch; it's an extra A$40 for dive gear and A$10 for the introductory guided dive that's compulsory for novice divers. A two-night, live-aboard trip includes up to six dives, including one night dive. 252 Walker St., Townsville, QLD, 4810. 07/4724–0600; 1300/664–600 Toll-free in Aust. 1-day Yongala: A$226; 1-day GBR: A$196 snorkeler, A$226 diver, scuba gear extra A$40; 2-night live-aboard trip: from A$545 snorkeler, A$620 diver. Additional dives A$25–A$80; PADI Open Water Course, A$260.80; PADI Adventure Course A$180.