Backpackers from around the world know the Whitsundays are a ‘must’, so why not grab a few mates and check out this paradise in your own back yard?
You can explore the Whitsundays the ‘regular way’, on a day boat—nothing wrong with that. Or, for a totally brag-worthy experience, why not grab your mates and kayak the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail—a network of seaways and walking trails? You can cruise into bays that boats can’t reach, conquer lofty peaks, snorkel the reef and visit an 'art gallery' way older than your grandmother. We can guarantee you’ll have an 'oarsome' time!
From Airlie Beach, you can paddle to Whitsunday Islands National Park or, if time is tight, organise a drop off. No kayak—no worries! Jump on a commercial kayaking tour—they’ll provide all the gear, or you can hire a kayak and do your own thing. Pro tip: Make sure you grab a waterproof case for your mobile!
With an incredible 30 islands in the park, it can be hard to know where to begin. So, we’ve taken out the guesswork with our top 5 'must dos'.
1. Be wowed by Whitehaven
Whitehaven Beach camping area | Justin Heitman © Queensland Government
You haven’t ‘done’ the Whitsundays until you’ve been to #whitehavenbeach—one of our most photographed beaches, and voted one of the best in the world! As you paddle into the 7km long beach, check out the bright-blue water brimming with tiny fish and sand-coloured stingrays (this is where the waterproof phone case comes in handy!).
Sink your toes into the warm, white, silica sand and watch the sea turtles cruise by, or don the boots and check out a couple of walking tracks. Solway circuit (1.2km return) winds its way up to a rock platform with 'Insta-perfect' views over Solway Passage and surrounding islands, while secluded forests and a private bay are your reward for hiking the 7.2km Chance Bay track.
After a busy day on the water, Whitehaven Beach camping area is a great place to spend the night. Kick back and enjoy the views of Border Island from your camp site. Have one mate bring the gas or fuel stove and another pack the water, as you’ll need to be totally self-sufficient. There are toilets to make travelling a little more visitor-friendly 😀.
2. Snap a selfie at Hill Inlet
Hill Inlet | © Tourism and Events Queensland
Just a short kayak paddle from Whitehaven Beach is Hill Inlet—a stunning cove filled with a fusion of colours. The beach is beautiful but it’s at the lookout, just a 15min climb along an easy walking track, where Mother Nature will blow your mind like an episode of the Big Bang Theory. The swirling sands and turquoise water of Hill Inlet provide the perfect backdrop for a million dollar selfie or two (or three or four…)—no filter required!
Locals’ tip: You’ll get the best pics of this natural sand art if you hit the lookout at low tide!
3. Escape to a deserted island (or at least a camp site)
Curlew Beach camping area | © Jana Hummelshoj
After the craziness of Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, your group can chill out for a night at Curlew Beach camping area, tucked away in Macona Inlet, on the southern side of Hook Island. Only shallow craft at mid to high tide can reach this site, so your ‘paddle party’ is likely to have it to yourselves. Snorkel or fish off the beach or just share your best pics of the day.
While toilets and picnic tables make life easier, you’ll have to be self-sufficient for the rest (there are no coconuts on this deserted island!).
If Curlew Beach is not your speed, then try one of the other ten camping areas in the Whitsunday Islands National Park. You’ll find camping of all kinds—big and small, popular and remote.
4. Go time travelling at Nara Inlet
Visitors at the Ngaro Cultural Site in Nara Inlet | Justin Heitman © Queensland Government
After an unforgettable night under the stars, you won’t want to miss Nara Inlet, just a short paddle from Curlew Beach. The ‘aww’ moments begin before you even step on shore, as the water in the bay is so clear it reflects the dense forest that covers the island, making for a gnarly 'pic'.
'Insta-time' over, take to the land and embark on an amazing cultural journey. Quicker than you can say Doctor Who, you’ll be transported back to a time when the Ngaro Aboriginal people thrived on the ocean’s rich resources. Be captivated by the 9000 year old Ngaro rock art decorating the once-hidden cave, the middens and the stories they reveal at one of the oldest Indigenous sites on Australia’s east coast.
5. Conquer a lofty peak
View from Whitsunday Peak | Justin Heitman © Queensland Government
Paddling covers the upper body workout, but for a challenging leg session take a hike up the 5km return Whitsunday Peak. Pull up the kayaks on Sawmill Beach before winding your way through a diversity of landscapes including rainforest gullies and windblown heaths. At the top, celebrate your achievement, marvel at the heart rate and be rewarded with spectacular 360-degree vistas on the ‘roof of the Whitsundays’—another selfie 'must do'!
There are heaps of short and long walks along the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail. So grab your boots, your sunscreen, hat and plenty of water and experience more than just the beaches in the Whitsundays.