Visiting Whitsunday Islands safely
Getting there and getting around
Whitsunday Islands National Park protects 32 islands, including Whitsunday Island with its world-renowned Whitehaven Beach, Black, Hook and Langford islands. The park is readily accessible by private or commercial boat from Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour, east of Proserpine in central Queensland.
The Ngaro Aboriginal people, have lived in the area for over 9,000 years. They are one of the earliest recorded Aboriginal groups in Australia, and were seen in 1770 by Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook while exploring the Whitsunday Passage. The Ngaro people lived well throughout the island chain, now popularly called The Whitsundays, and on the nearby mainland.
Access is by private or commercial boat from Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour. Some commercial transfer companies drop off and collect campers. See tourism information links and arrange your passage before booking your campsite.
If travelling by private vessel, getting to the park can present navigational challenges. Always take the weather and tidal influences into account when boating in the Whitsundays. Ensure you read Planning your trip to the Whitsundays and Getting there and getting around the Whitsundays before your departure.
There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities in Whitsunday Islands National Park.
Be aware of the hazards on the Whitsunday islands
You are responsible for your own safety.
- The islands are isolated and remote.
- Medical help can be hours away.
- There are no lifeguards.
- Most islands have no fresh water available.
- There is no mobile phone reception at Whitehaven Beach or Tongue Point.
- Dangerous marine stingers, sharks and crocodiles can be in the sea at all times of the year.
Have fun, but always take safety seriously.
Carry a hand-held EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or satellite phone. Register your EPIRB before departure. For further information on how to obtain and register an EPIRB or PLB contact the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on 1800 406 406 (business hours),or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. EPIRBS and satellite phones can be hired from various outlets.
Stingers, also known as irukandji, or stinging jellyfish, can cause extremely painful, burn-like, stinging welts, which need urgent medical attention. Children may be particularly affected due to their size.
- Wear 'stinger suits'—full-body, Lycra suits—or protective clothing when snorkelling or entering the water.
- Always supervise children near water.
If stung, immediately leave the water and douse the affected area with vinegar. Continue this for several minutes, or as long as possible, to ease the pain. If you run out of vinegar, use sea water. Do not rub sand into the welts or use fresh water. Arrange urgent medical help and monitor the patient constantly.
Also see: Marine Stingers information.
Many species of sharks live in the Great Barrier Reef and all along the Queensland coast. 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.
For more information:
Keep the waters clean.
- Never clean fish or throw food scraps over the side of your boat while at anchorages.
- Even black waste (sullage) attracts fish, which attract predators.
Large, salt-water (estuarine) crocodiles live in the waters around the Whitsundays and can attack without warning. Old adults can be nearly 4m in length. These predators are present and hunting at most times of the year, but particularly around summer wet seasons, and are difficult to see in the water. They lie still under water for hours, watching, and can attack from the shallows.
Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings at all times
- Never swim or wade at dawn, dusk or night.
- Never swim or wade when drunk or affected by drugs.
- Stand at least 2m from the water's edge and do not stand or sit in one place for too long.
- Move away quickly if you see a crocodile; you are vulnerable even in small boats, jet skis, kayaks, canoes or on surf or paddle boards.
- Camp at least 50m from the water's edge.
- Never leave rubbish or fish cleaning remains around your camp or picnic spot.
- Also see Be croc-wise information.
Look but do NOT touch
Some marine creatures are deadly. Cone shells, blue-ringed octopus, and stonefish will sting. It's painful and can be fatal.
- Never touch, take or tamper with any marine animals or plants.
- Everything is protected by law. Penalties apply.
Never dive or snorkel alone
- Stay in a group when snorkelling or diving, so someone knows where you are and when you are expected back.
- Check local conditions; do not get caught out by tides or strong currents.
Bring plenty of water
There is no fresh water on any of the uninhabited islands.
- Bring plenty of your own drinking water; at least 2 litres per person, per day.
- Campers must bring extra water for washing, bathing and cooking.
Avoid heat exhaustion and sunburn
- Drink plenty of water—at least 1-2 litres per day.
- Stay in the shade as much as possible.
Read more: Staying safe in national parks of the Whitsundays.
Before you visit
Ensure you read before you visit for national parks of the Whitsundays.
- Upcoming works: Whitsunday public mooring installations 8–30 June 2023
- Visitors to Great Barrier Reef reminded to be SharkSmart 14 October 2020 to 22 August 2023