Whitsunday Islands National Park Whitsundays

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

Things to do

    Camp and relax at one of many national park campgrounds. Photo: J Heitman.

    Camp and relax at one of many national park campgrounds. Photo: J Heitman.

    Camping and accommodation

    Camping

    Most of the Whitsunday islands are national parks and great places for camping. Choose from a range of camping options, depending on your needs.

    • Facilities vary; usually limited to toilets and/or picnic tables.
    • Campers must be self-sufficient—take enough food, fresh water and personal insect repellent.
    • Open fires and generators are not permitted—bring fuel or gas stoves for cooking.
    • Take all rubbish back to the mainland please.
    Camper numbers are limited

    This helps to ensure a good, camping experience.

    • Book your site and purchase your permit in advance.
    • Display your camping permit tag prominently on your tent; penalties apply if you don't.
    Camp site summary
    • Camp sites near Cid Harbour—Dugong Beach, Naris Beach and Joes Beach—are reasonably sheltered camping areas, but please Be sharkwise!
      • Cid harbour on the western side of Whitsunday Island, is a known site for shark attacks. But sharks are present at all times of the year in the open ocean, estuaries, freshwater canals and streams.
      • See swimmer safety for more information.
    • Other sites on Whitsunday Island include the popular Whitehaven Beach and Cairn Beach.
    • Other small camping areas on Hook Island—Maureens Cove, Crayfish, Steens and Curlew beaches—all offer great snorkelling from shore.
    • Northern Spit on Henning Island is accessible at all tides and popular with kayakers to break their journey.
    • Book your camp site online
    • If you cannot book online, see camping bookings for further options.

    Read more:

    Walkers enjoy the amazing view from Whitsunday Peak. Photo: J Heitman.

    Walkers enjoy the amazing view from Whitsunday Peak. Photo: J Heitman.

    Walking

    Whitsunday Islands National Park has many walking tracks—many with staggering views. Choose one that suits your ability and time available.

    Take the opportunity to explore some of the rugged, densely vegetated islands. All the walks on Whitsunday Island are part of the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail one of Queensland's 10 Great Walks.  It's a boating-walking trail around the beautiful Whitsunday islands.

    Whitsunday Island

    Solway circuit (Grade: moderate)

    Track map: Whitsunday Island (Whitehaven Beach; Tongue Point) walking track map (PDF, 241.5KB)

    Distance: 1.2km circuit

    Time: Allow 40min

    Details: Starting from Whitehaven Beach, this one-way circuit winds its way uphill to a natural rock platform offering spectacular views over Solway Passage and surrounding islands. Trackside information signs offer walkers an insight into how Whitehaven’s landscape was formed.

    Chance Bay (Grade: moderate)

    Track map: Whitsunday Island (Whitehaven Beach; Tongue Point) walking track map (PDF, 241.5KB)

    Distance: 3.6km return

    Time: Allow 2.5–3hr

    Details: Escape the sun and follow this track through some of Whitsunday Island’s more secluded forests to the peaceful Chance Bay. This enjoyable walk branches off Solway circuit which starts at Whitehaven Beach.

    Hill Inlet lookouts (Grade: easy to moderate)

    Track map: Whitsunday Island (Whitehaven Beach; Tongue Point) walking track map (PDF, 241.5KB)

    Distance: 1.4km return

    Time: Allow 40min

    Details: Take an uphill stroll to look over the turquiose waters to Hill Inlet, a culturally significant area to the Ngaro people. All the lookouts have excellent views, so if the first one is too crowded, simply move on to the second or third lookout platform. Continue the circuit track, heading downhill to the track junction, which leads either back to Tongue Bay or over to Lookout Beach.

    Lookout Beach (Grade: easy to moderate)

    Track map: Whitsunday Island (Whitehaven Beach; Tongue Point) walking track map (PDF, 241.5KB)

    Distance: 500m return

    Time: Allow 20min

    Details: Branch off the Hill Inlet lookout track and head downhill to the ivory-white sands of Lookout Beach. Situated at the mouth of Hill Inlet, you can enjoy the sunshine or rest in the shade.

    Dugong–Sawmill Track (Grade: easy to moderate)

    Track map: Whitsunday Island (Whitsunday Cairn; Dugong-Sawmill track; Whitsunday Peak) track map (PDF, 241.5KB)

    Distance: 3km return

    Time: Allow 1hr

    Details: The track starts from either Dugong Beach or Sawmill Beach. Near Dugong Beach, you'll wend your way beneath towering hoop pines and rainforest stands among vivid mosses, lichens and fungi; almost a fairy-tale scene. From Sawmill Beach, you will need to cross Sawmill Creek to reach the track. Be prepared to get wet, especially at or nearing high tide.

    Whitsunday Peak (Grade: difficult)

    Track map: Whitsunday Island (Whitsunday Cairn; Dugong-Sawmill track; Whitsunday Peak) track map (PDF, 241.5KB)

    Distance: 5km return

    Time: Allow 4hr

    Details: Stand at the top of the island and enjoy uninterrupted views of the Whitsundays. Accessed from Sawmill Beach in Cid Harbour, the Whitsunday Peak track offers a great getaway from the busy beaches. Walk through rainforest gullies and uphill to windblown heaths to see spectacular views from the ‘roof of the Whitsundays’.

    Warning: This track is steep and physically demanding. Consider your fitness and walking experience carefully before setting out. Wear appropriate shoes, hat and take plenty of drinking water (at least 2–3 litres per person on a hot day) and good food and energy snacks.

    Whitsunday Cairn (Grade: difficult)

    Track map: Whitsunday Island (Whitsunday Cairn; Dugong-Sawmill track; Whitsunday Peak) track map (PDF, 241.5KB)

    Distance: 4km return

    Time: Allow 3hr+

    Details: Steep and challenging, the track to Whitsunday Cairn leads off Cairn Beach, the most northern beach on Whitsunday Island. A very, steep ascent takes you through hoop pines and dry rainforest. Stay on the ridge line as you walk through drier open woodland where the giant grasstrees live. Take in breathtaking views when you reach the windswept and exposed, rocky outcrop below the towering Whitsunday Cairn.

    Warning: There is no defined track. Look for triangular track markers that intermittently mark the way. This walk is for fit and experienced walkers only.

    Hook Island

    Ngaro Cultural Site (Grade: moderate)

    Track map: Not needed; track is well signed.

    Distance: 340m return

    Time: Allow 20min walk and 1hr stopover

    Details: The Ngaro people have walked this land for over 9,000 years. Protected from the elements, in a once-hidden cave, Ngaro artwork adorns the fragile rock surface and tells the story of these sea-faring Aboriginal people. The track begins deep inside Nara Inlet—an excellent overnight anchorage. Short and initially steep, the stepped track leads up the side of the inlet to a viewing platform at the cave’s entrance. Allow at least 1hr to immerse yourself in the stories of the site. Please do not touch or tamper with the art.

    Read more: Walking in the national parks of the Whitsundays.

    Border Island

    Cateran Bay track (Grade: easy to moderate)

    Track map: Border Island short walk track map (PDF, 1.8MB)

    Distance: 1.2km return

    Time: Allow 1hr

    Details: Moor in the quiet waters of Cateran Bay and go ashore to take a superb walk to two different lookouts with views east to Deloraine Island and an ocean that seems to go on forever. The track has an initial, very steep section, then meanders along the island's 'saddle' of native grassland and grasstrees. It's a beautiful, windswept setting with clean, fresh air to fill your lungs. Look low at the miniaturised plants adapted to the exposed, rocky conditions and the tiny wildlife that rest and nest in rocky crevices and overhangs. You'll be mesmerised and will want to sit and stare for ages. Wear sturdy shoes, a broad-brimmed hat, and take enough drinking water, some energy snacks and a camera!

    Langford Island

    Track map: Langford Island short walk track map (PDF, 1.5MB)

    Distance: 600m return

    Time: Allow 20min

    Details: Stroll along the mangrove-lined shore before walking up a gentle slope through a mix of tall trees in a ferny understorey. You'll see a magnificent specimen of the Whitsunday bottle tree Brachychiton compactus growing here, right next to the lookout. This form of bottle tree, a near-threatened species only found in rocky areas and lower slopes around the Whitsundays and Proserpine areas and one patch further west inland, has slightly different leaves to the Queensland bottle tree. It's a sight to see in October–November when compact clusters, up to 80 blossoms, burst out in flower.

    Guided tours and talks

    Many commercial operators offer tours to sites throughout Whitsunday Islands National Park. See tourism information links for more information.

    Picnics

    Some of the islands offer picnic areas (day-use areas) and most are near a beach. Facilities vary, but may include picnic tables and toilets. For a complete list check the Parks of the Whitsundays map (PDF, 360.8KB) .

    Be aware: Open fires and ash-producing stoves are not permitted on national park islands or intertidal lands adjacent to national park islands. Use gas or fuel stoves for cooking.

    Boating and fishing

    It's all about boating in the Whitsundays. In fact, the area is described as a boating paradise with secluded islands to explore.

    Read more: Boating and fishing.

    Swimming and snorkelling

    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.

    Read more vital information: Swimming and snorkelling in the Whitsundays.

    Viewing wildlife

    You can spend a few idyllic hours or a week exploring this beautiful park.

    • Shorebirds and waders are plentiful, particularly from October to March, when thousands migrate here to nest. Be aware: Some boating restrictions apply in October to March.
    • Look out for sooty oystercatchers, white-faced herons and reef egrets on the shoreline and around rocks.
    • You might also see Brahminy kites and white-bellied sea-eagles soaring above or perched high in the tree tops.
    • Don't forget the tiny wildlife; rainbow skinks, colourful insects, flashy butterflies and the giant burrowing cockroach up to 8cm long.

    At low tide

    • Oysters and snails seal their shells and worms retire to their burrows at low tide.
    • Rock crabs dart for the nearest crevices as the shadow of a soaring Brahminy kite skirts the rugged shoreline. Inevitably, some crabs are surprised and fall prey to these handsome white and chestnut-coloured raptors.
    • Learn more about the nature, culture and history of the Whitsundays.