But while Fiji and the Maldives are all very well and good, why go any further than Queensland’s back doorstep?
Comprised of 74 islands, the Whitsunday Islands make up a beautiful archipelago dotted throughout the Coral Sea just off the shores of the Gold Coast. They lie amidst the Great Barrier Reef and have sand, sun, and pristine shores that could rival any island paradise.
With only a handful of islands offering accommodation, the rest are mostly beautifully tropical and deserted. Sheltered by surrounding reefs, the waves are gentle, rippling, and perfect for diving and water sports. Whatever your interests may be, you’ll find them at the Whitsundays, where the islands vary in character but all share an indiscriminate natural beauty.
If you’ve seen postcards or read pamphlets on Australian beaches, chances are you’ve seen the number one reason for visiting Whitsunday Island – Whitehaven Beach. The pure white silica sand dramatically contrasts the pristine blues of the water making it one of the most dramatically beautiful beaches in the world. While there are several camping grounds on the island itself for those who wish to stay longer and snorkel, it’s an unmissable day trip for visitors staying on any of the other Whitsunday islands. At the end of the 7km strip of beach is Hill Inlet, a beautiful cove where the shifting low tide exposes the sand through shallow waters. The reflective white sand and the water blend to create a seamless swirl of every shade of ocean blue the Whitsundays have to boast. For an unforgettable sight and photo op, head to Tongue Point to take in views of Hill Inlet during a sunset.
Hook Island is the second largest of the Whitsundays and remains 95% national parkland. Instead of luxury resorts, you’ll find beach campsites and one semi-operable grounds for lodging for a no frills yet affordable experience, better suited to the self-sufficient camper not looking for a self-contained resort weekend. It instead offers some of the best sights for confident snorkellers and divers and doesn’t require you to fight crowds of tourists for your own spot of beach.
Hamilton Island is one of the most recognisable names among the Whitsundays, boasting the most tourism developments and infrastructure. This allows it to offer the greatest range of island activities for visitors such as sailing, kayaking, jet skiing and skydiving, just to scratch the surface. If you don’t mind sharing your holiday with crowds and are looking for a modern, pampering resort that offers the qualities of a small city rather than an island getaway, Hamilton Island beckons and its possibilities leave you spoilt for choice.
Image: Paradise Bay Eco Resort
For a back-to-basics holiday, Long Island offers the perfect spot for beach-front relaxation. While there is little opportunity for adventure sports or high-end pampering, you’ll find plenty of time to snorkel offshore and find some native animals on their many walking trails. There are several options for lodging that are suitable for any budget, however Paradise Bay Eco Resort offers a unique and environmentally friendly way to travel with its solar power, natural gas, and collected rainwater that make it self-sufficient and promotes sustainable tourism.
South Molle is the largest of the Molle Island group that are all in close proximity to one another. A highlight is to walk to the Mid Molle Island during low tide when the sandbar is exposed, which makes for a beautifully picturesque walk and offers great opportunities for bird watching. The island has many hills and bush walks making it very popular among hikers, while offering more privacy due to the fewer number of tourists.
For the travellers with deeper pockets, this island is a self-contained paradise that is dedicated to pampering and putting your feet up to be massaged in luxury. Ideal for honeymooners and those looking for a relaxing escape, the island offers every indulgent comfort you could want, with a price tag to match. The island itself is dedicated solely to the one resort, not offering too many activities outside of it as the spa treatments, pool-side drinking, and high-end accommodation are the most attractive draws of a Hayman Island stay.
Haslewood Island’s greatest draw is Chalkies Beach, which offers an uncrowded alternative to its neighbouring Whitehaven Beach. Chalkies is made up of the same white silica sand, beautiful to look at and soft underfoot, though receives much less publicity than Whitehaven. A perfect location for an undisturbed snorkel and relaxation session, this underrated spot is untouched by commercialisation and makes for a great day trip from a stay on one of the surrounding island resorts. The seclusion of Chalkies Beach makes it a true embodiment of an island getaway – even if just for a day.
Daydream Island is a mere 30-minute boat ride from Australia’s mainland, which makes it a popular destination for day visitors. As a result, it’s very busy and, while not well-suited to those looking to relax in privacy, the island offers a great range of activities that will cater to most. As well as your pick of water activities, there are many walking tracks through rainforests, and Living Reef Aquariums for those who want to pet stingrays, fish, and sharks. You didn’t need your fingers anyway…
Border Island is a small, mountainous island that is most acclaimed for being a fantastic snorkelling destination. It’s officially designated a ‘green zone’ which allows for its immaculate preservation. As a result, the undisturbed nature produces waters brimming with a wide range of corals and fish that are the competent diver and snorkellers’ dream. For those wanting to relax, there is a stunning bay on the northern end of the island that allows for a relaxing day trip, as there is no accommodation on the island itself.
Further away from most of the major built up islands, Thomas is quite easy to access, though is much less visited. It’s covered by national park and while there are almost no facilities available, there are camping grounds for the self-sufficient traveller seeking isolation and privacy. The rich waters are renowned for having a large population of sea turtles, which allows for some interesting and exciting snorkelling and diving opportunities.
Images: Tourism & Events Queensland and iStock