Whitsunday national park islands Whitsundays

Photo credit: ©Tourism and Events Qld

Things to do

    The parks of the Whitsundays offer diverse experiences for visitors. Check each park’s page for specific information.

    Camping and accommodation

    Camping

    There is a range of camping opportunities, depending on your needs.

    Camp at 25 locations in the Whitsunday islands. Photo: J Heitman.

    Camp at 25 locations in the Whitsunday islands. Photo: J Heitman.

    Find our more about camping in these places:

    Camping information

    • Camper numbers are limited to ensure a quality experience.
    • Camping permits are required from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) and fees apply.
    • You will need to book your camp site/s and purchase your permit in advance.
    • Camping permits must be displayed prominently on your tent; penalties apply for camping without a valid permit.

    Boat access only

    • Check mooring locations and best anchorages for each area.
    • A number of commercial boat operators will take campers to national park islands.
      • These 'transfers' must be booked well in advance with the operator, not QPWS.
      • Book your transfer before booking your camping permit.

    Also see: Tourism information links

    Camping bookings

    Camping bookings open 11 months in advance to help visitors fit in with charter boat operators who have long lead times in yearly schedules. School holiday periods are often fully booked soon after bookings open.

    Set up and camp carefully

    Camp only in designated camp sites
    • Display your camping permit tag.
    • Do not clear vegetation.
    Do not dig trenches around your tent
    • Choose your site so that water drains naturally.
    • Trenches disturb the soil and encourage weeds.
    Look up and live
    • Do not camp underneath trees with dead branches.
    • Check overhead for other hazards.
    Freestanding camping structures
    • Bring enough tent pegs and ropes.
    • Sand pegs work best in sandy areas.
    • Tents, tarpaulins, hammocks and clothes lines must not be attached to tree or facilities.
    • Do not hang anything, like rubbish bags or towels, in trees.

    Remember, trees and shrubs are protected here. The weight and friction of your ropes can scar the trees forever. Brittle branches can snap without warning.

    Do not clear vegetation
    • Everything is protected by law.
    • Vegetation includes grasses, vines, fallen timber and leaf litter.
    • Collecting is not permitted—leave things as they are.
    Never hang rubbish bags from trees or tents
    • Wildlife such as birds, goannas and native mice and rats can eat through thin plastic bags.
    • The contents scatter on the ground and attract other scavengers.
    • Even small scraps of food will attract them.
    Keep watercourses clean
    • Do not use detergents, toothpaste or soap in watercourses; they foul the water.
    • Take dish water at least 50m away from watercourses and beaches.
    • As an alternative to using a lot of detergent, try using sand to scour dishes before washing.
    • Only use biodegradable detergent products.
    • Scatter dish water away from the camping area or tip into a hole and cover over.
    • Never let litter blow away—plastics can choke marine life.
    Use toilets where provided
    • Practise good camping hygiene—always use toilets when provided.
    Bush toileting
    • Pack a small spade and toilet paper in case you have to bush toilet.
    • Walk at least 100m from camp sites or watercourses.
    • Bury the toilet waste (including the paper) at least 15cm deep and cover the hole.
    Cooking

    Campfires and ash-producing stoves are not permitted on national park islands.

    • Use gas or fuel stoves for cooking.
    Generators
    • Generators, compressors or similar motors are not permitted:
      • in any national park island in the Whitsundays
      • on the beach at Jonah Bay or at Nelly Bay, near Dingo Beach, on the mainland.

    Other accommodation

    A range of holiday accommodation—resorts, hostels and units—can be found in the district near the national parks and on particular islands. For more information see tourism information links.

    Walking

    Walking tracks and beaches allow you to explore the fringes of these rugged, densely vegetated islands.

    The Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail brings together a variety of walks across three national park islands. Visitors can choose to walk a small section or stay overnight and link the walking tracks with short boat or kayak trips.

    If you don’t have a boat or kayak, you can access these islands and their walks either on day tours with a variety of tour operators or by ferry transfer to island resorts.

    Read more:

    When walking

    Keep to the track

    • The islands are rugged and densely vegetated.
    • These are not places to explore off-track.
      • You can get lost or hurt if you wander off the track system.
      • You can damage the soil surface, which increases sediment run-off and smothers coral.

    Follow sign directions

    • Some walking tracks may be closed for maintenance, fires, cyclone damage or other safety reasons.
    • Access to some areas is restricted—do not enter.
    • Signs are there for your safety.

    Wear sturdy footwear

    • The terrain is uneven and rocky in places.

    Do not touch stinging tree leaves

    • These almost heart-shaped leaves have fine hairs with an irritant poison.
    • When you touch them or brush up against the leaves, the hairs break off.
    • The poison is almost 'injected' into your skin; extremely painful!—like a nettle burn.
    • Use sticky tape to remove the hairs.
    • Do not wash the area under water or vinegar; it just pushes more of the irritant into the skin.
    • Do not rub the area or use sand.

    Take plenty of drinking water

    Generally in this climate 1-2 litres per person per day is recommended.

    Wear a hat and sunscreen

    Swimming in a thick, long-sleeved shirt or a wet suit can avoid polluting the water with sunscreen sediment.

    Guided tours and talks

    Many commercial operators offer tours throughout the Whitsundays. See the tourism information links for more information.

    Picnic and day-use areas

    • Some of the islands offer picnic areas for day-use.
    • Most are near a beach.
    • They may include picnic tables and toilets.
    • Some have no facilities at all—be prepared.
    • For a complete list see the Parks of the Whitsundays map (PDF, 360.8KB) .
    • You must use gas or fuel stoves for cooking—open fires and ash-producing stoves are not permitted on national park islands or intertidal lands adjacent to national park islands.

    Boating and fishing

    This area has been described as a boating paradise with deep blue waters, tropical weather and secluded islands to explore. It has rules and regulations to help keep it that way.

    • The waters of the Whitsundays are internationally significant and protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
    • Marine park zones surround the islands and provide a balanced approach to protecting the reef while allowing some recreation and commercial use.
      • Zones include both intertidal areas and the sea.
      • Some activities, like fishing or collecting, are not permitted in some zones and penalties apply.
    • Use public moorings
      • help to reduce coral damage from anchors
      • provide safe and sustainable access to popular reefs and islands.
    • Moorings accommodate a variety of vessel sizes and are accessed on a first-come-best-placed rule.
      • Day-time moorings—time limits may apply.
      • Overnight moorings (3pm–9am); available to everyone at any time, if there's space.

    Learn more:

    Fishing is not permitted in Marine National Park (green) zones

    These zones include, but are not limited to, locations such as:

    • Whitehaven Beach
    • Denman Island
    • Armit Island
    • northern Hook Island bays.

    Go slow when boating

    Take care and obey speed signs

    Skippers and boaties, please look out for surface marine life and go slow for those below.

    • Please keep to slow speed restrictions, which are set for good reasons.
      • Boats, at slower speeds, don't frighten shorebirds off their nests.
      • Turtles are vulnerable to boat strike because they often bask at the water surface.
      • Dugong, whales and dolphins need to come up for air and are vulnerable to boatstrike too.
      • The increasing number of high-speed vessels in reef waters increases the likelihood of such collisions.

    Also read: Take care of nesting seabirds

    Report marine strandings or injured wildlife

    Call the Wildlife Hotline 1300 130 372 to report injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife.

    Do not collect coral, starfish or shells

    Picking up or taking an animal or even an empty shell is robbing something of a home.

    • Take photographs—they last longer.
    • Limited collecting is allowed in some areas.
      • Generally, not more than 5 of any one species can be taken at a time.
      • No coral or clams (alive or dead) can be taken without a permit.

    Learn more: Refer to your marine park zoning map.

    • Remember—everything is protected in a national park.

    Swimming

    In an area surrounded by water, swimming is a much-loved activity. It is not recommended, but if you choose to swim, you are responsible for your own safety. There are dangers:

    • strong currents
    • sharks
    • marine stingers
    • crocodiles.

    Snorkelling

    Snorkelling and diving is best one hour before or after high or low tide (slack water). Photo: J Heitman.

    Snorkelling and diving is best one hour before or after high or low tide (slack water). Photo: J Heitman.

    Snorkelling over the reef flat at high tide can be exhilarating. The water is usually clearer at the northern sides of the outer islands. Scuba divers can explore coral bommies, crevices and caves along the reef perimeter and slope.

    • Consider wearing diving boots to protect your feet, as you may have to walk across coral rubble to the water.
    • Never walk or stand on corals; help protect these easily damaged structures.
    • A boat is the only safe way to reach distant snorkelling and diving sites.

    Warning: Beware of strong currents and changing tidal conditions.

    Watching wildlife

    Explore the Whitsunday islands’ habitats.

    • Walk along isolated beaches to see local fauna.
    • Goannas and flying-foxes are common, but tiny wildlife can be fascinating to look for.
    • Go birdwatching in the forest or on the beach.
      • White-bellied sea-eagles and Brahminy kites soar overhead.
      • Pied oyster-catchers probe for small molluscs on the rocky shores.
      • Eastern reef egrets stalk small fish in the shallows.
      • Shorebrids and waders are plentiful, particularly from October to April when thousands of waders migrate here to nest.

    Read more: Nature, culture and history of the Whitsundays.

    Nesting birds

    Migrant sea and shorebirds come here to nest and feed. They are easily disturbed, using their energy reserves, which they need for their return flights. These birds are protected.

    Significant-site protection regulations

    Please observe boating restrictions (see table below) and take care of nesting seabirds.

    Significant-site locations
    • A 6knot speed limit, within 200m of the low water mark, applies as shown in the table below.
    • Around significant sites, aircraft are not permitted:
      • to fly below 1,500 feet (above the ground or over the water)
      • to approach within 1,000 feet.
    • Stay out of intertidal beaches that are closed temporarily to protect any endangered wildlife.

    * Boat-free zone applies at East Rock, Edwin Rock and Olden Rock (south of Olden Island):

    • between 1 October and 31 December each year
    • within 200m of high water mark.

    Restrictions apply all year

    Restrictions apply 1 October to 31 March (inclusive)

    • Bird Island
    • East Rock*
    • Edwin Rock*
    • Eshelby Island
    • Little Eshelby Island
    • Armit Island (southern beach)
    • Double Cone Island (western island only)
    • Grassy Island (southern beach only)
    • Little Armit Island
    • Olden Rock (south of Olden Island) *
    • Shaw Island (east of Burning Point)
    • South Repulse Island (western beach)

    Keep wildlife wild

    All wildlife in national parks is protected. You can help care for wildlife by following these guidelines.

    Goannas, brush turkeys and some other animals are scavengers and sometimes bully visitors for food or scrounge for rubbish. They can rip into plastic bags or cardboard packaging.

    • Never feed them directly, or accidentally by leaving food or rubbish on tables.
    • They lose their fear of people and can bite and scratch you.
    • Keep your food and scraps safe from wildlife in secure containers.