Whitsunday Islands National Park Whitsundays

Take the steep and challenging Whitsunday Cairn track to the rock outcrop below the towering cairn. Photo credit: Justin Heitman © Queensland Government

The iconic Hill Inlet is not to be missed on a visit to Whitsunday Islands National Park. Photo credit: © Tourism and Events Queensland

Whitsunday Cairn track

Explore the steep slopes of Whitsunday Cairn—a towering volcanic mass perfect for those looking for an uphill hiking challenge.

Journey type
Walk
Distance
4km return Start and finish points are the same and the traveller must return via the same path
Time suggested
Allow 4hrs walking time.
Grade
Difficult (walk)

Accessible by

  • Boat
  • Canoe or kayak

Journey facilities

  • Lookout (natural)
  • Walking

Journey through dry rainforest, open woodland, hoop pines and groves of giant grasstrees on this short, demanding hike from Cairn Beach.

Emerge from rainforest onto a windswept, rocky outcrop below the imposing form of Whitsunday Cairn. Feel on top of the world gazing out at sensational views over the coastline and across to Hook Island. Have your camera ready—the images you'll capture will be nothing short of amazing!

Stay overnight at Cairn Beach camping area and head out next morning to snorkel and dive around the coral reef fringes.

Whitsunday Islands National Park is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, famed for its superlative natural beauty, outstanding examples of reef ecosystem development, evolutionary history and amazing diversity.

Getting there and getting around

The Whitsunday Cairn track is on Whitsunday Island in Whitsunday Islands National Park, located offshore from the Queensland central coast, 25km east of Airlie Beach.

  • The Whitsunday Carin track begins at Cairn Beach. Cairn Beach is located on the western side of the northern most tip of Whitsunday Island and is about 35.1nm (65km) from Shute Harbour (travelling in an anti-clockwise direction).
  • Anchoring is permitted (outside of Reef Protection Markers); however, Cairn Beach offers a poor anchorage. There are Public Moorings located at Cairn Beach. Mid to high tide access is required to access this site.
  • Read boat and fish with care for tips on boating and fishing safety and caring for parks.
  • For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Getting to the Whitsundays

  • Travel on the Bruce Highway to Proserpine, 125km north of Mackay.
  • From Proserpine, drive 25km east along Shute Harbour Road to Airlie Beach, and continue a further 10km to Shute Harbour. Book your tour or charter boat or launch your vessel from here.
  • All roads to the boat launch sites are suitable for conventional 2WDs.

The islands' national park is easily accessible by commercial tours and transfers, charter boat and private vessel from the coastal towns of Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. Hamilton Island (20km south-east of Shute Harbour) is also accessible by aircraft.

Commercial tours

  • Commercial operators offer day trips, camping tours and boat, camper and kayak transfers departing from Abell Point Marina at Airlie Beach and from Shute Harbour.

Charter boat

  • Bare boats or private charters are available from Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour and Hamilton Island.

Private vessel

  • There are public boat ramps at Port of Airlie and Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour, Cannonvale (4km east of Airlie Beach), Dingo Beach (50km north-west of Airlie Beach), Conway Beach (38km south of Airlie Beach) and Midge Point (60km south of Airlie Beach).
  • Always take the weather and tidal influences into account when boating in the Whitsundays.

Aircraft

  • Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach have airstrips and commercial operators offer sightseeing tours.

Wheelchair access

There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities.

Before you visit

Opening hours

Whitsunday Cairn track is open 24 hours a day.

Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.

Visiting safely

For more safety information see Visiting Whitsunday Islands safely and Walk with care.