100 things to do in the Whitsundays

In a place as diverse as it is beautiful, it pays to have your wits (or, should we say, Whits?) about you.

With 74 islands to explore, you certainly won’t be short on things to do in the Whitsundays.

So you aren’t between paradise and a hard place, we’ve done the hard work and narrowed down the 100 things you must do when visiting this beauty.

ReefSleep | 8 ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef
1. Feel the solitude of the reef without the tourists and camp out on Reef Sleep pontoon with Cruise Whitsundays. You get two days on the reef, comfy swags and a million stars at night. Not bad, hey?

2. Strap on a snorkel and dive in the Living Reef guided experience at the newly renovated Daydream Island. You, your mates and a marine biologist can swim with over 100 species of marine fish and coral in an underwater observatory right on the island.

3. Can you keep a secret? Do as the locals do and head to Cape Gloucester Resort restaurant. All you’ll need to do is pick the perfect palm tree to picnic under and bask in the sunset.

4. Feel the spray of the ocean with Island Jet Boating and cruise through the waterways of Airlie Beach, South Molle Island and Daydream Island.

5. Master and commandeer the Derwent Hunter, a tall ship crafted in 1946 that plies the pristine waters in a bygone style.

6. Rest your head in the best spots in The Whitsundays.

7. Warm up on the world’s whitest sand on Whitehaven Beach, listed as the No. 1 Beach in Australia and the South Pacific, and No. 12 Beach in the World in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Beaches Awards.

8. Tee off at Australia’s only island championship golf course located on Dent Island.

9. Spot a swarm of majestic blue Ulysses butterflies at Butterfly Bay on Hook Island as they fly out over the ocean every morning and afternoon.

10. Sign up for Salty Dog Sea Kayaking‘s half-day, full-day or a marathon six-day tour and power yourself through the Whitsundays.

11. Walk from your lounge to the lawn, set up a banana chair and snooze just metres from the impressive Whitsunday Passage at Marina Shores.

12. Jump on board a ferry and island-hop the passage to Hamilton Island. Taste test a poolside Pina Colada at each resort.

13. It’s not called the Great Barrier Reef for nothing. Jump in and get diving.

14. Say hello to the local cockatoos who like to drop in and say hi on every balcony in town.

15. Breathe in the fresh sea air when you set sail for the 74 islands of the Whitsundays on a bareboat charter.

16. Zip, zoom and zap along Whitehaven Beach from your very own jet-ski on Cruise Whitsundays‘ Whitehaven Beach & Jetski Snorkelling Adventure.

17. Who needs St Tropez when you can sail the coral blue waters on a 14-metre fantasy powerboat?

18. Have a heart-to-heart at Heart Reef on the Journey to the Heart tour departing from Hamilton Island.

19. Hire a buggy and circumnavigate Hamilton Island and get up close to the multi-million dollar digs and soak in the divine island views.

20. Eat a Bowen mango where it all started (in Bowen) at the home of summer’s favourite tropical fruit.

21. Take a flight to Palm Bay with Air Whitsunday Seaplanes. You’ll spend six hours immersed in a rainforest national park where you can also play tennis, go kayaking, snorkelling or fishing, or just laze by the pool with a complimentary arrival drink and lunch voucher.

22. Grab your crew and see racing yachts set their sights on the finish line at the Whitsundays Clipper Race.

23. Croon your heart out on karaoke at the lively bars in the main street of Airlie Beach.

24. Make a splash at the Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim.

25. Work up a sweat in paradise and run the half marathon, 10km or 5km on the Great Whitehaven Beach Run.

26. Check out the Saturday markets on the Airlie Beach foreshore for the usual jumble of fresh fruit and veg, coffee, clothing – and one of the cheapest places for a massage.

27. Grab a hand line and land a prized barramundi, the prince of freshwater catches, just 30 minutes from Proserpine at Peter Faust Dam.

28. Protect the Great Barrier Reef with Eco Barge Clean Seas Inc., a hands-on volunteer experience where you help pick up marine debris from the beaches of the Whitsunday Islands.

29. Sip on an aperitif and watch the sunset from the Roman Pool at Clipper Restaurant, Coral Sea Resort.

30. Take a natural shower at Cedar Creek Falls, located 20kms from Proserpine on Saltwater Creek Road.

138962 Cedar Creek Falls Whitsundays
31. Trek the lowland tropical rainforest along the Conway Circuit.

32. Fire up a free BBQ at the Airlie Beach and Shingley Beach lagoons or Cannonvale Beach in a safe stinger-free environment surrounded by relaxed landscaped gardens.

33. Order a seafood platter at Hemingway’s and then wash it down with a cocktail served with full views of the boats bobbing around in the marina.  Warning: The food is seriously good. We’re talking Chef’s Hat good.

34. Travel in an open-air tractor-drawn wagon train with Whitsunday Crocodile Safari and take a cruise to spot flocks of Magpie Geese, agile wallabies, resident brolgas, and the prehistoric saltwater crocodiles.

35. Set sail from Abell Point Marina on a dreamy day trip to secluded bays and beaches like Macona Inlet and Butterfly Bay with Airlie Beach Day Sailing. The French chef will prep the nibbles and you can BYO tipple.

36. Book into BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort just so the kids can wear themselves out in the water park. With 13 colourful slides, large tipping buckets flowing into the pool area, and smaller slides for little ones, they’ll turn into prunes before anyone’s ready to call it a day.

37. Picnic on the soft white sand at Boathaven Beach and suck up the stunning views of the Coral Sea and islands beyond.

38. Relax beside the plunge pool at Mirage Whitsundays and do little but sip on bubbles and guzzle down the Whitsunday Passage views.

39. Jump on board with Just Tuk’n Around pedicabs who run short tours of Airlie Beach as well as progressive dinners. Start at Sorrento for pizzas and sundowners, then onto Shucks for oysters and Denman Cellars for share platters, finishing at KC’s Chargrill & Bar for live music.

40. Polish your engagement ring (or any sparkler for that matter) on the finest silica sand at Whitehaven Beach.

41. Hike your way to Coral Cove, a hidden bay fringed by reef and surrounded by tall pines, accessed from Saddle Junction on Hamilton Island on a 4.6km round trip. Don’t forget to pack your togs – there are plenty of swimming spots along the way!

42. A place as iconic as the Great Barrier Reef is worth celebrating, right? Join the conga line at the Whitsunday Reef Festival.

43. Test your endurance at the Hamilton Island Triathlon. Channel your inner athlete with a 750-metre swim in Catseye Bay, a 20-kilometre ride around the island and airport runway, and a five-kilometre run.

44. Dig into a degustation dinner at Tides Restaurant & Bar at Peppers Airlie Beach and taste the local flavours.

45. Engage your core and zoom your way around Airlie Beach or join a tour through Conway National Park with Whitsunday Segway Tours.

46. Whip around some of the most beautiful waterways in the Whitsundays on Ecojet Safari departing from Montes Reef Resort at Cape Gloucester.

47. Visit this lesser-known island paradise (AKA Long Island).

48. Slide into total relaxationwith a spa treatment Spa qualia at qualia Hamilton Island.

49. While at Hamilton Island, order the dribble-worthy ‘son-in-law’ eggs followed by ‘twice-cooked crispy duck’ at coca chu restaurant. No need to fly to Asia.

50. Enjoy the serenity and sunsets from your hammock on the verandah of your private Balinese inspired beachfront villa, at secluded Palm Bay Resort on Long Island.

138577 Palm Bay Resort
51. Sit on the beach and enjoy live music every Sunday at the Airlie Beach Esplanade.

52. Hire one of Australia’s most exclusive holiday rentals, the luxurious Woodwark Bay near Airlie Beach and buy yourself 1618 hectares of manicured gardens, a lush tropical rainforest, a private beach, waterfalls and picnic huts. Surrounded by 20000 hectares of uninterrupted and untracked national parkland.

53. What to do in the Whitsundays when it’s raining? Heed the advice of this local.

54. Bite into the best dining spots in the region.

55. Heck, while you’re in the Whitsundays, why not get married? There happens to be a chapel on Daydream, Hayman and Hamilton Islands.

56. Sip cocktails at the Hamilton Island Yacht Club Marina and watch as fleets of sailors work on multi-million dollar yachts.

57. If you’re bareboating, chart a course to Langford Island and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to picnic on your own private sand spit.

58. Visit the ‘wild side’ of the Whitsunday Islands on the exhilarating Ocean Rafting. The vessels were originally designed and built as rescue crafts and are driven by 450hp engines.

59. Dive The Pinnacles, one of the best sites in the Whitsundays off the western beach of Hook Island and discover large coral boulders manta rays and white tip reef sharks.

60. Splash out for a night at the world’s best  – qualia on Hamilton Island has been rated the number one resort by Conde Nast Traveler. Admire the 14kms of immaculately trimmed hedges and the divine views.

61. Flex your inner frugal with these free experiences.

62. Dress up and join in the Whitsunday Fun Race, part of the Airlie Beach Race Week finale every August.

Sailing | Free things to do Airlie Beach Whitsundays
63. Directly after Airlie Beach Race Week, head to Hamilton Island Race Week for more sailing action. 

64. For less than the cost of a coffee, learn the history of this sugarcane and cattle town at the Proserpine Historical Museum.

65. Walk, run or ride the 3.7km Bicentennial Walkway from the Airlie Beach Lagoon, past the Botanic Gardens to Cannonvale Beach (and check out the outdoor gym along the way!).

66. Snorkel with 1500 species of fish and 400 types of coral, and spot turtles, dolphins and stingray in the fringing reefs around the Whitsunday Islands.

67. Ready to live your best life? We’ve saved you a spot on the sand with these luxury experiences.

68. Spot the new underwater sculptures as you snorkel the reef along the Ngaro Trail. You will find the Manta Rays at Hook Island, the Maori Wrasse at Hayman Island and the Turtle at Langford Island.

69. Watch the sunset from the decks of Sundowner Cruises’ flat-bottomed boat and absorb the twilight hues with beautiful views.

70. Cuddle a koala or any other furry marsupial at Wildlife Park Hamilton Island.

71. Walk one of nature’s gifts at low tide and spot starfish, crabs, stingrays and other marine life along the myriad of Whitsundays’ sand flats.

72. Blend in with the locals by lunching at Northerlies (while pretending you’re used to seeing such ridiculously turquoise water every day).

73. If you’re partial to an iced latte or three, get your hands on a bottle of Mr Bean cold brew concentrate from the Airlie Beach markets or in select cafes around town.

74. Walk in the footsteps of the Ngaro people at Nara Inlet on Hook Island and discover ancient Aboriginal artworks on the fragile rock surface.

75. Get inspired by Hamilton Island’s palm-fringed beaches, then take an on-island art class to capture the beauty first hand.

76. Fly a kite at Conway Beach.

77. Go whale watching in July just by being on the water at the right time.

78. Throw a line in with Whitsunday Fishing Charters during a half-day or full-day fishing charter.

79. End the week with a Sunday session at Dingo Beach Hotel.

80. Hike to the lookout at Hill Inlet for stunning views over Whitehaven Beach.

81. Hike to the top of Passage Peak for a view that *might* leave you breathless in the best way.

138948 Passage Peak, Hamilton Island
82. Choose from two free audio tour options and learn about the history of Hamilton Island. Tours can be downloaded onto your smartphone.

83. Line up for an old-fashioned country pie like Hugh Jackman did at Jochheim’s Pies and then visit the sites of Bowen and spot where Australia the movie was filmed.

84. Listen for the deep croak of the male green tree frog as the January breeding season ramps up in the forest.

85. After you’ve polished off your mango sorbet from The Big Mango in Bowen, grab some of their Bowen mango fudge to go.

86. Wake up to a box-office view and more likely a cockatoo hoping for a feed at Hamilton Island’s Reef View Hotel.

87. For the best morning brew with a view, head to the Fat Frog Beach Café at Cannonvale Beach.

88. Walk to the top of Mount Whitsunday – it’ll test your fitness (and your legs) and the views over Airlie Beach to the Coral Sea are worth the effort.

89. Hire a stand-up paddleboard from Whitsunday Stand Up Paddle at Shingley Beach and go exploring.

90. Forget Scuba Steve and explore above and under the water off Heart Pontoon with your very own Seabob. These motorised jets are an optional extra on Cruise Whitsundays‘ popular Great Barrier Reef Adventure Day cruise.

91. Hire a set of fins and a snorkel from the dudes at Catseye Beach at Hamilton Island and snorkel the fringing reef directly off the island at low tide.

92. Holiday big on a small budget and go camping on the largest island in the Whitsundays, Whitsunday Island. Permits are around $6 per night.

138946 Whitehaven Beach
93. With the world-famous Whitehaven Beach on the opposite shore of Whitsunday Island, Chalkies Beach is often forgotten about. But with its white silica-sand and fringing coral reef that lies just offshore, steal away from the crowds for an underwater adventure with the fishes.

94. Get can’t-be-beaten views of The Whitsundays as you hurtle towards earth with Skydive Airlie Beach.

95. Toast the sunset with craft beer and tapas, on the water at Denman Cellars at the Port of Airlie.

96. Sail to Bali Hai Reef (also known as Black Island) with seven of your closest mates aboard the S.V. Domino and enjoy lunch on the island.

97. Time your trip to coincide with the Airlie Beach Festival of Music and rock out to more than 70 bands performing across three days.

98. Take in the full panorama of Bowen, the islands and countryside from Flagstaff Hill.

99. Grab a tent and your mountain bike for an off-the-grid camping adventure on one of the isles of the Molle Islands National Park. Access can be arranged from Abell Point Marina.

100. Take the family on an island-hopping holiday around the islands of the Whitsundays.