The Whitsunday Islands are one of the most beautiful places that I ever laid my eyes on. Imagine the sand being as white as your tee shirt, the water as clear and blue as the sky and landscape just straight islands everywhere. I’m sure that the picture you have in your head is gorgeous, but times it by 1000 and you have the most breathtaking place.
There are a couple of ways to go on exploring the Whitsunday, and if you have never been, don’t know anyone who has gone, or doesn’t have a travel guide it takes some trial and error to actually get the most out of the time here.
There are a few different areas within the Whitsunday where you can stay when making the trip. The most popular is Airlie Beach which is a port town. Most tourists on a budget choose to stay in Airlie Beach because it’s the least expensive option. Off of the main street are a bunch of different hostels and hotels. Magnums Backpackers and Nomads are two of the more popular ones. Both hostels have open seating areas, bars, and restaurants. I stayed at Magnums which was recommended as the place to be, however when at the time I was there Nomads was the more popular one.
If you are looking to have a luxurious vacation and have the option of spending a little more money I would opt to spend your time on one of the islands: Hamilton Island, Daydream Island, and Long Island. There’s a ferry from the port in Airlie Beach, however, it is very expensive for a round trip ticket (starting price is AUD 40 roundtrip).
Another option that you have is that you’re able to sign up for a boat and spending a couple of days at sea. Again this is also another pricey option, but most of the tours provide everything you need within the package.
Getting to the area isn’t the easiest. There are a few different ways, no matter which way you choose it will definitely cost a pretty penny to get there.
There are a few airports to fly into but the flights up are few and far between. For direct flights, you will most likely fly out of a larger city hub. Proserpine Airport is on the main island and tends to be the least expensive of the two. Virgin, Jetstar, and Tiger Air all fly into Proserpine (PPP). BEWARE when you are booking your ticket with the budget airline. Be cautious of the weight of your bag because you have to prepay and have your bag weighed before stepping onto the plane. If you’re over the amount, even by 0.1 kilograms, you will need to shell out a few more dollars.
Great Barrier Reef Airport brings you directly to Hamilton Island. Flying straight onto the island you forgo taking the ferry, which costs a lot and doesn’t come frequently. The same carriers fly into the airport subbing out Tiger for Qantas.
Another popular way to get here, if you feel like saving a few bucks, is taking the bus to the Whitsunday. While this the cheaper option, it is also the longest option. Depending on where you are coming from different companies, Greyhound Australia, Premier, and Oz Experience, provides rides from all the major cities. Cairns is the biggest city that is the closest to the Whitsunday but it is still about a 7-hour drive.
There are two common ways to get from Proserpine Airport to your hotel on the mainland. The first option is taking a bus. There are only two charter bus options when you arrive at the luggage claim. Both are the same price (~ AUD 35 roundtrip) and relatively make the same stops. At the end of the day, it comes down to where there is a seat and which kiosk has a shorter line.
Another option to get around the mainland is to rent a car. I would highly recommend this option if you are planning on staying in staying onshore the entire time you are there. This was the mistake I made since there’s not too much to do in this port town. While there is a free bus that goes back and forth, it doesn’t come too frequently.
What I didn’t realize until getting Airlie Beach and checked in is that this is just a port town. The majority of the activities to do are excursions. Excursions can definitely make a deep hole in your pocket so you definitely have to preplan.
If you don’t have the luxury to spend a few days on Hamilton Island or at sea there are still options to keep you entertained in Airlie. There’s the main strip in the town filled with clothing shops, souvenir shops, and a couple of restaurants. While the beaches don’t exist unless you take a boat out to the islands, there is a man made lagoon where you can cool down in.
You will need a car if you’re looking to go on more of an adventure. This includes driving to some of the national parks that are surrounding the town and checking out the Cedar Creek waterfall.
However, if you have the means to be able to do partake excursions are the way to go. I had the opportunity to skydive and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. I wish that I was able to spend time on Hamilton Island and a couple of days at sea.
While my time in the Whitsunday was full of beginner mistakes, it definitely doesn’t deteriorate me from wanting to come back. Next time I’ll make sure to carve out a nice budget to be able to experience every part of this amazing area.