Nestled just off the coast of Northern Australia, between the pristine Queensland shoreline and the world renowned Great Barrier Reef the Whitsunday Islands are one of Australia’s most popular and most beloved ecological landmarks.
Actually a misnomer the islands where named after the Whitsunday passage, the strait of water that separates the archipelago from the mainland, discovered by explorer Captain James Cook who declared the stretch of water after the Sunday feast of Whitsun, a Christian liturgical festival. Little did Cook realise, that thanks to an error in time keeping, the date of the discovery actually landed on Whit-Monday.
Etymology aside, the Whitsunday Islands are a stunning collection of 74 islands (though the exact parameters of the territory are often disputed) ranging in size from the smallest of islets and rocks to the sizeable Whitsunday Island, which at approximately 270 sq km is the largest of the islands. The group is particularly frequented by tourists looking to travel further on to the Great Barrier Reef who often appreciate the area more as a port-of-call rather than a stand alone destination.
As a compliment to any Australian holiday or indeed as the focus of it a trip to the Whitsundays offers the perfect escape from fun loving families to enamoured couples. Many of the islands that actually constitute the Whitsunday community have been identified as areas of ecological significance and natural beauty and as part of the wider Great Barrier Reef ecosystem have therefore attained national park status. Although this means that on many islands tourist numbers are limited there are still a number of luxury resorts and boutique properties available to the discerning traveller.
Though Whitsunday Island is the largest land mass in the group, Hamilton Island is certainly the most commercial and the hub of activity in the Whitsundays. Although Hamilton is unabashedly targeted towards tourists there are also a growing number of permanent residents which at present number around 1,500. With a world famous harbour, newly developed golf course and excellent infrastructure it is easy to see why so many people are attracted to this island getaway. Of the numerous hotels on the island Qualia is perhaps the most renowned; a luxury property established in an envious position at the island’s northern peninsula. Established in 2007, each of the 60 free standing pavilions feature a chic and contemporary but all the while environmentally sympathetic design. With stunning views across the turquoise waters and the reefs beyond Qualia promises the ideal symmetry between remote intimacy and modern convenience.
Boat tours of the islands are amongst the most popular activities to partake in with a favourite destination being the extensive shores of Whitsunday Island. The sheltered anchorage of Cid harbour provides the perfect place to disembark and explore the dense woodlands and stunning beaches indicative of the island. Trek up towards the Hill Inlet offering a picturesque panorama of Whitehaven beach below. Whitehaven beach is the island’s most renowned landmark, famous the world over for its stunning white sands and crystal clear waters. Whether you sit and relax, explore the surroundings or take a dip in the bay you are sure to remember your visit to Whitehaven.
The Whitsundays, remote and beautiful as they are could be a million miles away from anywhere but in fact are incredibly accessible making the process of getting there all the easier. I would personally recommend a soothing catamaran ride out from Queensland‘s Airlie Beach, the perfect way to relax and prepare for your Whitsunday adventure.
Mark Preston is an experienced traveller and associate of The Turquoise Holiday Company, experts in luxury holidays and honeymoons.