This is a beautiful place and I mean it when I say one of the best if not the nicest place in Australia. We have everything here you could want in a tropical holiday destination and the best of it is available to all budgets. I think the special places lay on the islands without the resorts, so make sure whatever you do or wherever you stay you see some of them.
Where you stay to experience The Whitsundays is up to you, I'll try to point out the benefits and pitfalls of each and I will be honest, but remember, that is my opinion and other people will differ from it, thankfully, that is why we have the diversity we have here. If this helps you decide on the best way for you to see the best place in Australia, I'll be happy.
Here we go, how do we describe this place. OK depending on who you ask there are 72-96 different Whitsunday Islands (maybe more on an ebb tide hehe) but the consensus lately is we settle on 74, 8 with resorts on them.
The Whitsunday Islands are situated very close to each other and the mainland and are easily accessible from the mainland at Airlie Beach. Airlie Beach is about a 2 hour drive north of Mackay or 3 hours south of Townsville.
On the other side (East) of the islands lays the Great Barrier Reef in all it's glory.
To get here you have a few choices.
As we have mentioned you can drive The Bruce Hwy along Eastern Qld.
You can fly into either Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) Airport on the mainland or Hamilton Island Airport on Hamilton Island itself. You don't have to stay at Hamilton island if you fly into there, you do have transfers connecting you to other resort islands as well as Airlie Beach.
You can also boat it up if you have your own and there is a small craft airport at Airlie Beach itself if you have your own plane. Nice joint if you like it and have the money you can build your own house there and fly your plane into the hanger under it, hey you can do just about anything in The Whitsundays.
Airlie Beach is a relative new comer in terms of Nth. Queensland towns, while there has been a little settlement around the area since the turn of the 20th century it is only the last 40 years that have seen the substantial change into the tourism gem that we have today. It's maturity continues while hopefully maintaining the village atmosphere that is unuiqely Airlie. The main street is 800 metres long and a very social setting. Enjoy a drink and a good meal as well as the vibe Airlie provides, its a great place to relax after a hard days exploring.
Now here is what to expect, not much of a beach, although on a high tide the main beach at Airlie does have a nice sandy strip and generally flat water, nice for a sunbake. We don't get any surf here due to that large lump of coral called The Great Barrier Reef so leave the boards on the roofrack. There is a nice beach, within a good walk along the foreshore boardwalk, called Canonvale Beach. Look at the island 500metres offshore on a high tide, then walk out to it 6 hours later on the low tide. that might tell you that we get some decent tides here. It is all that movement of the water that helps create the right conditions for the coral to thrive on the islands and Great Barrier Reef. Some people don't like it, they're the ones stuck on the island when the tide returns lol, but that is the way it is. No surf, big tides don't come here looking for Bondi.
Why come to Airlie Beach then??
Easy. Airlie Beach is the "Gateway to The Whitsunday Islands". It is why Airlie exists. Depending on where you stay you get tremendous views out to The Whitsunday Islands and the beautiful aqua, turquoise coloured seas. Hayman Island sits just 15 nautical miles to the east of Airlie so it is the perfect spot to explore the The Whitsunday Islands from. You have the choice of a myriad of daytrips to the islands, both resort islands and the nicer ones that maintain the serenity that mother nature had the foresight to instill in them. You can choose to cruise The Whitsunday Islands for1 night, maybe sail The Whitsundays for 2 nights or even better cruise Whitsundays Waters for up to 6 nights. these cruises take you to all of the best spots the islands have and some will take you out to the Great barrier Reef as well. Do it on a budget or in style the choice is yours.
And that is the thing about Airlie "choice". Choose a bed for under $20 p/night or stay in 6 star accommodation. Choose a budget daytrip to a beautiful spot, or take a bubble helicopter out to the Great Barrier Reef. Cruise on a backpacker special or take a more comfy approach on a boat that will have as good a menu as you can find anyhwere. Choice. We will have a page dedicated to Airlie and everything about it shortly.
Whitsunday Island Resorts
As we have mentioned we have 8 island resorts here. Some very big, some very limited in numbers. We have backpacker resorts all the way up to 5star plus. We have resorts that cater for families or those who want a romantic escape without the interuptions kids can provide. We have islands that you can fly into from most East Coast capitols and some that are only accessible via chopper. Some are like a mini city and some are very laid back. All are with close proximity of each other and the mainland , but you will feel a million miles from anywhere.
I will get a page for each of the island resorts as we get further into the blog.
So why stay on an island??
Well there is a special feel you get knowimg you're on an island, I suppose it is that island perspective or just "the vibe" to borrow a quote from a great Aussie movie. whatever the island experience you're after The Whitsundays will be able to provide it for you.
Downsides to islands, they can be expensive and you are locked into certain companies for daytrips. Generally speaking Airlie does have a far greater range and cheaper than the island resorts, why? Island politics I suppose with preferred suppliers.