9 ways to see the Whitsundays above, on and under the water

Grab your sense of adventure: we’re off to see the Whitsundays.

The collection of 74 islands wedged between the northeast coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef are world-famed, and for good reason. Sure, the Whitsundays screams romance with its postcard-perfect scenery and ample seclusion. But by no means is the gaggle of islands in Tropical North Queensland for honeymooners only. There’s simply too much to do. But don’t feel overwhelmed; you’ll arrive armed with our guide on how to do the Whitsundays best.

By sky

Seaplane your way to Heart Reef

Heart Reef, Hardy Reef, The Whitsundays

The Great Barrier Reef boasts plenty of iconic landmarks, but none are quite so Instagram-friendly as Heart Reef.

As its name suggests, this heart-shaped mass of coral sits right in the reef centre, and is best viewed from the air with a private seaplane with GSL Aviation. Those feeling indulgent can choose to join the Journey to the Heart Tour, stopping on nearby Heart Island to snorkel and swim the lagoon with only five other guests.

By land

Ride around Hamilton Island

One of the more popular destinations in the Whitsundays is Hamilton Island, thanks to the bevy of resorts that call it home.

This amiable destination isn’t just famed for its natural wonders and beautiful beaches, but the army of golf buggies carting around its residents. Jump aboard your own and navigate your way around Hamilton. Just don’t forget to make your way to the top of One Tree Hill just before the sun sets for breath-taking views of the region.

Take a tuk tuk

Ride your way around Airlie Beach by tuk tuk with local business Just Tuk’n Around. This novelty new take on a regional tour showcases some of the beachside town’s best kept secrets from a fleet of 14 vehicles.

With a series of different tours to choose from there’s something for everyone; picture a progressive dinner trailing a trio of Airlie’s best restaurants, morning tours accompanied by Champagne, and a ride while watching the sun set.

Meander bushwalking tracks

Armed with your own two feet and a sturdy pair of hiking boots, trek your way through the varied terrain of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays collection.

There are plenty of different walking trails to choose from, each offering a glimpse of native flora and fauna. Stand-outs include Passage Peak on Hamilton for a panoramic view out onto neighbouring islands, or the more demanding Whitsunday Cairn on Whitsunday Island if you fancy a challenge.

By sea

Sleep on the Reef

Reef Sleep in the Whitsundays

Photo by @slizweigh

Camp out on the reef with a night aboard the ReefSleep. The experience, conjured up by Cruise Whitsundays, is a part of a multi-day cruise which will see you explore the Great Barrier Reef by day, swimming and diving on Hardy Reef, and taking a closer look at marine life courtesy of the on-board underwater observatory.

Once the sun sets, you’ll find yourself tucked up in a suavely styled pontoon, at the reef’s first underwater hotel ReefSuites.

Pop on a snorkel

Considering the bounty of marine life that calls the Whitsundays home, spending plenty of time under the sea is a non-negotiable here.

Diving and snorkelling are two of the most popular ways to get better acquainted with the Whitsundays’ native fauna and there’s no shortage of space in which to do it. After all, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, stretching across 344,400 square kilometres.

Cruise by kayak

Paddle your way around the turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef aboard a sea kayak.

Depending on your knowledge of the district you can take a self-guided tour, or follow in the footsteps of experts like celebrated local business Salty Dog Sea Kayaking, who will lead you through along the likes of the Ngaro Sea Trail onto iconic Whitehaven Beach.

Sail your way on a bareboat


Photo by @reubennutt

Summon your inner captain; the Whitsundays is the only place in the world where you can hire your own yacht without a sailing licence.

Depending on your experience and confidence with sailboats, you can choose to bareboat your way around the 74 islands residing here, or charter a crew to do the hard work for you.

Take to the seas at speed

The more adventurous among us will delight in a day spent exploring the seas at speed. Join the Whitsunday Jetski Tours in Airlie Beach.

Make your way to the Whitsunday Islands to traverse the natural wonders of the world heritage Whitsunday Island Marine Park. Pause for photos, snacks, and occasionally an encounter with local residents, like turtles and dugongs.