Paddle, pedal, soar or sail—explore The Whitsundays your way!
Issued: 22 Nov 2018

White sands, rich green landscapes and turquoise waters combine to make The Whitsundays your ultimate tropical getaway.

Photo credit: Justin Heitman © Queensland Government

White sands, rich green landscapes and turquoise waters combine to make The Whitsundays your ultimate tropical getaway, the stuff of dreams! Scuba dive from the sand, camp among rainforests and mountains, or hike the many short and long trails—The Whitsundays has something for everyone!

With six mainland and island national parks, it’s hard to know where to begin or how to make the most out of your Whitsundays adventure. So, here's our pick of a few different ways you can explore this romantic island idyll. Over to you—will you choose to paddle, pedal, soar or sail?

Set sail into the sunset

Two white sailing boats bob on the ocean under a purple sky with a backdrop of tree covered hills.Sailing in The Whitsundays | © Tourism and Events Queensland

You don’t need to travel to the Bahamas or the Greek Islands to have a tropical sailing adventure. Breathtaking around every bend—the 74 islands in The Whitsundays will have you spoilt for island-hopping choice.

Imagine spending your days counting marine turtles as you sail from island to island, wandering stunning beaches, hiking rainforest summits and snorkelling coral reefs filled with tropical fish, before pulling into a sheltered inlet or secluded bay, just in time to see the sunset. After dark, bioluminescent plankton light up the ocean (just wave an oar through the water) while overhead the sky is a blanket of twinkling stars.

Sounds perfect? Then grab your family and friends and charter a boat. You can be the captain of a sailing yacht, catamaran or power boat as you cruise under sail or motor your way around the islands, choosing your own route and going at your own pace—no licence necessary, although some sailing experience is definitely an advantage!

Park Ranger’s tip: Tie up to one of over 100 public moorings and you won’t have to worry about your anchor slipping overnight. Check the park’s web page for more information.

If that sounds too much like hard work then you can hire your own skipper and kick back on the deck as you decide ‘where to’ next. You can even hire a cook or complete crew! There are also more budget overnight options with tour operators.

Soar skyward

Red helicopter on sandy beach in background with picnic lunch and chair in the foreground.Flying high in The Whitsundays | © Tourism and Events Queensland

If you like to ‘fly high’ then head skyward on a helicopter or seaplane for a birds’-eye view of The Whitsundays. Only then will you get a true appreciation of the size and diversity of our reefs and their vibrant greens and blues. You can cruise the coast and soar above The Whitsundays' key icons—Heart Reef, Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet—or land in your own private sheltered lagoon. If you are a keen photographer, then this is a ‘must do’—the colours, patterns and landscapes of the reef make even the novice photographers look like pros!

Aerial photograph of heart-shaped reef in turquoise waters. Aerial view over The Whitsundays | © Tourism and Events Queensland

If adrenalin is your thing, then take to the air for a skydive. You’ll experience about a minute of exhilarating (or terrifying) freefall at over 220km/hr, before your chute opens and you can take in the unforgettable views over Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands. Just like snorkelling and diving the reef, you’ll never forget the first time you see it from the air—pure magic!

Pedal your 'pushy'

Young woman stands with her mountain bike on a high vantage point, taking a photograph of the islands and ocean in the distance.  South Molle Island | Maxime Coquard © Tourism and Events Queensland

If heights aren’t your thing, then ‘shh’, we’ll let you in on a little secret: You can mountain bike your way around Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays. Whether you enjoy a family-friendly ride, or you live for a tough and challenging trail, you’ll love these tracks with simply jaw-dropping rainforest and island backdrops. Stay on your toes though— they are all shared trails, so walkers may be wandering about.

For a real adventure, tackle the Conway circuit—an epic 27.1km ride (about 4hrs) through Conway National Park—a peaceful coastal park that overlooks the Whitsunday Passage. While parts of the track are easy (from the Forestry Road end) there are sections which are extremely steep and difficult. If you are a fit and experienced mountain biker, this tropical rainforest ride—including both rugged fire trail and singletrack—will reward you with creek crossings (also great for a dip to cool down during the ride), views over the islands and wildlife encounters (think unadorned rock-wallabies, brush turkeys and Ulysses butterflies).

Feeling like something a little more chilled or perhaps you’re mountain bike ‘newbies’? Then pack a picnic, throw the bikes in the car and head to the Conway picnic area—it’s all very civilised with toilets, barbecues and picnic tables. After downing a few snags, you can hit the Coastal Fringe circuit and Hayward Gully track (about 3.2km altogether, easy and relatively flat rides) through lowland rainforest and rocky gullies.

If the allure of the Whitsunday Islands is speaking to you—don’t worry, we’ve got that covered as well. Pack your camping gear and mountain bikes, jump on the ferry and head to Sandy Bay on South Molle Island for a few days of riding the rainforests, snorkelling the reefs, discovering amazing views of the Whitsunday Passage and cooling off with a dip in the aquamarine ocean. You’ll love the 14km of easy, untechnical shared trails—both singletrack and fire trail.

Park Ranger’s tip: While the toilets make life easier, you’ll have to be self-sufficient for everything else (there are no coconuts or water on this deserted island).

Cruise in a kayak

Two people paddling kayaks on a blue ocean with an island in the background.  Kayaking in The Whitsundays | Matt Harvey © Tourism and Events Queensland

Not everyone feels the need for speed! If you prefer to take your time and really get to know a destination— its hidden coves, tiny inlets, secret beaches and curious and quirky wildlife—then grab your friends and use paddle power to explore the Whitsundays.

Become one with nature as you silently glide across the brilliant-blue waters and appreciate the local wildlife that are happy to share their space with you. Bobbing about just above the water’s surface, like a rubber duck in a bathtub, you’ll have front row seats in the ‘soapy’ that is the day-to-day lives of Whitsundays’ critters.

A marine turtle bobs its head out of the shallow blue-green ocean. Green turtle | Justin Heitman © Queensland Government

Green and loggerhead turtles will be a common sight, popping their heads up around the kayaks, while large rays swim underneath and, soaring high above, white-bellied sea-eagles keep watch over the comings and goings.

You’ll be amazed at the brightly coloured fish and corals, so clearly visible through the water’s surface. One of the most memorable and humbling experiences you’ll have on a kayak is the breathtaking sight of humpback whales (between June and September) as they frolic in the warm Whitsunday waters.

When the beach calls, nose your kayak towards the shore. You can explore the many walking tracks, go for a snorkel or just watch the sunset. Set up camp and fall asleep as the waves lap against the shore.

Three yellow kayaks lie on a white sandy beach with the bright blue ocean as a backdrop.Beached kayaks in The Whitsundays | Justin Heitman © Queensland Government

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.

Park Ranger’s tip: The Ngaro Sea Trail is a great place to start your Whitsundays kayaking adventure. It’s a network of seaways and walks spanning Whitsunday, South Molle and Hook islands. We’ve made the planning easy with a trip planner.

All set for your Whitsundays adventure?

If you are keen to ‘do’ the Whitsundays differently, find out more about Whitsunday Islands National Park, Molle Islands National Park, Lindeman Islands National Park, Conway National Park and the Ngaro Sea Trail. Always check park alerts before you set out.