I remember the moment when I saw the Whitehaven Beach for the very first time on Instagram. It was at the time, when I did not plan to come and live in Australia, but I knew that someday I have to go and visit this place. The picture absolutely mesmerized me – the clear aquamarine sea with crisp white whirls of sand, surrounded by green forests - for me it was a definition of paradise. After moving to the Land Down-under, this place was on my “must-see” list and I would 100% recommend you to add it to as well to your itinerary if you are planning a trip to Australia!
Whitehaven Beach is often voted as one of the top beaches in Australia and, indeed, in the world. It is around 7 km long with pure white silica sand, located on the Whitsunday Island – the biggest island in the Whitsunday group that is made up of 74 beautiful islands in total. Each of them is offering access to the Great Barrier Reef. If you are not road tripping the coast, the easiest way to get to Whitsundays is to fly either to Proserpine or Hamilton Island. You can find great sales for flights from any major cities in Australia.
We flew from Sydney to Proserpine - a small inland town with an art deco architecture and the main (but tiny) airport for Whitsunday getaways. We booked a shuttle bus from Proserpine to Airlie Beach and it took us about an hour to get to our hotel. Before I booked the flights, I honestly thought that Airlie Beach is “just a beach”, but actually it is a cute town situated on the coast with the mountainous backdrop of Conway National Park.
Airlie Beach offers great variety of accommodations, restaurants and bars, and it is also the main access to the Whitsundays. On the Esplanade you will find many agencies offering boat trips - there are different options for every type of travel and every budget - you can choose either one day trip that leaves in the morning and comes back the same day, or multi-day tours. We opted for a 2-night trip as some of our friends regretted that they did only one day tour and they felt like it was not enough.
I booked our cruise in advance with Sailing Whitsundays, where they helped me with everything and patiently replied to all my questions. They have online customer support and they will gladly help you to choose which tours are best suitable for you (if you travel with family, solo, if you want to party etc.).
Initially, I wanted to go on a sailing boat because I loved our previous experience from Cairns, but because our tour did not fill up the required amount of people, they moved us on a catamaran – The Adventurer (which was in the end much better, so we basically got a free upgrade!). For the price approx. $500 AUD per person, we spent 2 nights on the boat with all the meals, sting suits, snorkeling gear, paddle board and canoes included. The Adventurer has got also a hot tub, which was a like a sweet cherry on top! I wrote ‘approximately $500’, because we paid less for our original sailing boat and we were staying in a private cabin, so the prices differ.
The first thing you have to realize before spending two nights on the sea is, that the boats are small. We booked a private cabin, one of three private cabins available and the rest slept in the common area – for the night they turned the benches into beds. It was 12 of us there, plus one host and a skipper/captain. There are 2 bathrooms, but only one has got a shower. You have to be quick when showering and save water as much as possible, because if you run out, your trip is over and you will have to get back to the port. Or, even worse case scenario, there won’t be any water left to fill up the hot tub! The same applies to energy.
We travelled in mid-March, when the rainy season is slowly coming to an end, but still it was cloudy and it rained like 10 times a day, every time for 15 - 20 minutes, and it was very hot and humid. The rainy season lasts from November till March and this period is also significant with higher rate of monsoons. But even though there’s no monsoon on sight, on the sea it can be very windy (and stormy)! The sea was really rocky during our trip, we were getting splashed all the time and even during the night you could feel the waves shaking the boat. If you suffer from motion sickness, you should rather reconsider taking trip like this. I personally liked the rocky feeling. I felt like a baby sleeping in a crib, it was actually very cozy.
Most of the boats are BYO alcohol, but make sure it is all in cans or plastic bottles (you are allowed to bring only one bottle of wine or spirit in glass).
The first day we left Airlie Beach around 2 pm and there was no special plan for that day, we were just getting closer to the Whitsunday Island. It was quite a strange feeling being on a boat in the middle of nowhere during a storm at night. The Adventurer has got blue night lights that attracts sea life, so all sorts of fish came to see what’s happening and say hi! We even saw some sharks and dolphins, is was really awesome.
We left our spot quite early in the morning so we are one of the first people on Whitehaven. The beach, even though very popular, is still quite untouched. It is a part of the national park, so there are no beach bars or toilets or anything where we could hide from upcoming storm. After 15 minutes of intense rain the sky cleared a little and we could go swimming and enjoy the little bit of sun. The shallow waters of Whitehaven beach are popular among the sting rays and you can (usually) see plenty of them.
Even though we were unlucky with weather, I really loved Whitehaven and I don’t feel sorry that sun wasn’t out. The national park is beautiful, the water is very clear, the sand is super soft (it feels almost like flour under your feet), the jungle around is lush green buzzing with noises from all the different animals, birds and insects that live there. A real piece of paradise!
After Whitehaven, we got on the boat again and after a lunch we continued our voyage. The whole day was just about relaxing, snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking… and having fun! We spent the night at the Hayman Island that is considered the most luxurious island from all the Whitsunday group. Rumor has it that The Red Hot Chilli Peppers were kicked out from the resort once, because after the host asked them to wear ties to the restaurant, they came back and wore only ties. :D At the time we were “parked” there, the resort was closed due to renovations because of Cyclone Debbie that destroyed the area in 2017.
In the morning of our last day we snorkeled around Hayman, had breakfast and came back to Airlie Beach at about 2 pm.
One more thing I need to mention is, that you cannot take any bags with zip on the boat, because apparently bed bugs, if there are any, like to put their eggs down in the zip and they can be very dangerous for a boat, they can literally destroy it – weird and disgusting, I know. So bring only small soft bag, most of the hotels in Airlie sell them, or we took the blue Ikea bag with us. In most of the accommodations they allow you to leave your other belongings there free of charge.
Whitsunday Islands are Australia's real gem! Even if you don't have enough time to spend two nights on a boat while sailing around, I would definitely recommend visiting this area at least for a day. You will not regret it!
Explore the outer coast of Pohatu Marine Reserve and marvel at its spectacular towering cliffs, rock stacks, reefs, and deep sea caves. Observe the diverse wildlife and marine species such as penguins, seals, various sea birds and possibly the world’s smallest dolphin!