Local's Guide: Whitsunday Drive

Whitehaven Beach Whitsunday Islands my nrma local guides
Whitehaven Beach Whitsunday Islands my nrma local guides

Off the coast of northern Queensland, hopping through the Whitsundays Islands, the sea is your highway, a Whitsunday Cruises boat is your car, and each island is a small town with its own character.

The whole Whitsunday experience offers a tropical getaway without the drama of passports, customs, and half a day wasted in the air.

  • Enjoy the climate at Daydream Island
  • Cruise through Airlie
  • Dent Island at Hamilton Island
  • Relax on Whitehaven Beach

Hamilton Island

Know that feeling when you return from a holiday and the prospect of your regular life fills you with doom and drudgery? That feeling is called the holiday hangover, and the place that gives the worst one is Hamilton Island. According to the CEO of Tourism Whitsundays, Greg Turner, Hamilton Island enjoys a 95 per cent occupancy rate – a figure most operators can only dream about.

Stay at Unit 9 in Pinnacle Apartments, which has gorgeous views out to Dent Island and Plum Pudding Reef, yet is relatively affordable. The drawback of its position near the summit of One Tree Hill is that golf buggy hire is essential, unless you enjoy long, steep walks climbing Whitsunday Boulevard.

Driving a buggy is an integral part of the ‘Hammo’ experience. And for a small fee you can go on a ‘buggy rally’ that encourages you to explore the island while answering a series of trivia questions (prizes are awarded the following the day). If structure isn’t your thing, you can just devise your own miniature road trip.

Hamilton Island Whitsunday Drive my nrma locals guide

Hamilton Island (Photo credit: Tourism and Events Queensland)

Whitehaven Beach

This stretch of beach on the eastern side of Whitsunday Island has become a travel cliché, yet it never fails to impress. The pristine silica sands stretch away in a 7km scimitar and, standing on the shoreline, one looks out onto Haslewood Island, which creates a natural craggy skyline between the turquoise water and the clouds.

Opt for the half-day tour from Daydream Island and share the beach with another hundred or so tourists. It’s a pleasant way to pass an hour, but if you can fork out the extra money, get a private charter to a more secluded part of the beach – you can stay longer and it offers that ‘deserted island’ feel.

Whitehaven Beach my nrma locals guide

Whitehaven Beach

Daydream Island

While the Whitsundays is best known for snorkelling, diving, jet-skiing and so on, it’s also an ideal place to do very little. Aside from the wet season (this region gets most of its rain in the months between December and March), the climate is close to perfect. Temperatures range between the mid 20s and low 30s for most of the year and there’s less of the oppressive humidity one encounters further north. This makes for the ideal poolside climate. At Daydream Island, drift about in the pool or recline on deckchairs in the shade with a drink in hand.

A brief ‘island hop’ visit suggests Daydream has a theme-park vibe – and it does cater well to children – but if you stay a while, it becomes clear adults are also looked after. The breakfast area, for example, has an adults-only section (so loved-up couples need not listen to squealing toddlers), and the island has one of the largest and most high-tech day spas you’ll find anywhere.

Lovers Cove Whitsundays my nrma locals guide

Lover's Cove, Daydream Island

Port of Airlie

The waterfront east of Airlie Beach has been opened to development and now hosts numerous residences, as well as the Cruise Whitsundays terminal, which has moved from Abell Point to shiny new digs at the Port of Airlie. The main street through Airlie Beach has also gone through extensive upgrades in the past few years and has become a thriving hub with shops, pubs and restaurants galore.

Stay at Peppers, which is built into the hillside and, from some rooms, has a vista of the port and sea. The outdoor buffet breakfast area gets the morning sun and at night becomes Tides restaurant.

Airlie Beach Brisbane to Cairns road trip in a week my nrma road trips

Airlie (Photo credit: Tourism and Events Queensland)

Hero image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

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