The Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands situated within 161 km (100 miles) of each other and around 50 km (31 miles) from Shute Harbour, the principal mainland departure point, though some boats depart from Airlie Beach marina nearby. Discovered in 1770 by Captain James Cook of the HMS Endeavour—though in fact not on Whitsunday itself, thanks to a time-zone change oversight on Cook's part—the Whitsundays are a favorite sailing destination and an easy-access base from which to explore the midsection of the Great Barrier Reef. Some of the islands' beaches—notably, famous Whitehaven Beach—are picture-postcard gorgeous, though vegetation on the islands themselves looks more scrubby than tropical. In fact, the entire region is subtropical, making for moderate air and water temperatures year-round. Most of the Whitsunday Islands are national parks, and, although you'll spot few animals on them, birds are plentiful—more than 150 species make their homes here. Only a few of the islands have resorts; others serve as destinations for day trips, beach time, and bushwalks, or simply as backdrop at scenic moorings.

Camping is popular on the myriad islands of the Whitsunday group. To pitch a tent on islands lying within national parks you need a A$5.60 per-person, per-night permit from the ParksQ (Queensland Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport & Racing [NPRSR]). The Whitsunday Information Centre, on the Bruce Highway at Proserpine, is open weekdays 9–5, Saturday 9–3, Sunday 10–3.

  • Long Island

    This aptly named island lies south of Shute Harbour, 12 km (7 miles) west of Hamilton Island. Although it's 9 km... Read More
  • Airlie Beach

    Airlie Beach's balmy climate and its proximity to the Whitsunday Islands, a resort and water-sports playground,... Read More
  • Hamilton Island

    Though it's the most heavily populated and developed island in the Whitsunday group, more than 70% of Hamilton... Read More
  • Daydream Island

    The resort on this small, 42-acre island is especially welcoming to day-trippers. Around 30 minutes' boat ride... Read More
  • Hayman Island

    Hayman Island, in the northern Whitsunday Passage, is the closest of the Whitsunday resort isles to the outer... Read More