It’s pretty hard to find one spot on Australia’s north-west coast and say, definitively, ‘Yep, that’s as good as it gets.’ But having recently travelled by road from Cairns down to the Gold Coast, I’m going to put a vote in for Whitehaven beach and the Whitsunday Islands. Filled with rainforest, the sort of beaches they put on postcards, and an abundance of native wildlife, these islands are practically untouched (you know, apart from the odd stunning resort or two).
Whitehaven. The jewel in the crown
Spread for miles like a blue rainbow had just exploded from the sky, Whitehaven Beach was the most alluring thing I had ever seen. For those who are willing to take on the short five-minute hike to the top of the island, Whitehaven beach offers something pretty special, even by northern Queensland standards. And let me tell you, it’s worth the trek. It was like a Pinterest board came to life and painted itself in front of my eyes. Built entirely from the world’s tiniest, whitest, purest sand, Whitehaven is something that would look just as good from space. And I was standing on the darn thing.
Feeling our planets’ smallest specks between my toes, I took full advantage. I’m talking full body exfoliation; a deep hair conditioning and even cleaning my teeth (Yes, I put sand in my mouth). I ran straight into the crystal-clear waters, filled with friendly stingrays and the few happy faces lucky enough to be there and rinsed it all off. I emerged from the water floating on cloud nine, softer than my best cashmere sweater.
Although our time was limited before our catamaran, parked across the island, sailed away, I spent hours snuggling up under the warm Australian sun; on the best beach I had ever been to with a shatterproof ear-to-ear grin.
All this talk and you’re probably wondering how to get there? By boat is the answer. I wouldn’t recommend rowing there yourself due to the dangerous currents and let’s face it, navigating around 74 islands isn’t exactly easy. Tours are available and easily found in the nearest inhibited mainland, Arlie Beach. The town is accessible by airplane, although most travellers make their way through by bus. If you’re traveling up, down and all around the coast, it’s a pretty easy stopover.
I would fully suggest arriving in Arlie Beach a day or two prior to your sailing tour. And I would definitely suggest staying a day or two after. Depending on the way you like to “cruise” you may find that a little down time is necessary.
What to do in Airlie Beach
If you’re worried that a week is too long to spend on the coast, don’t be. There’s plenty to do. If the weather is putting on a show, you won’t be leaving Airlie’s local lagoon any time soon. Grab a beach towel, some SPF 30, your favourite bangers and post up. Because this place is not one you’ll want to leave. The Airlie Beach lagoon is a man-made pool easily accessible from the main street in town. Whether you are a backpacker looking for a nap outside of your pitch-black hostel dorm room or a family looking for some outdoor fun, the lagoon is hard to beat.
The best time to visit
The ideal time of year to see Whitehaven, Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays is around September– there’s good weather, low humidity and an avoidable stinger season. All good things. Stinger season is the main concern you should have when planning a trip to the Whitsundays, which typically falls between October and May. However, most local swimming areas and tours will put up signs and explain the current water conditions and stinger suit recommendations before you go splashing, so don’t worry too much.
The weather on the East Coast of Australia is quite consistent. I felt it would be beautiful regardless of the conditions. We hit some rain, wind and cool temperatures by night and I still have zero complaints. I was able to snorkel, dive, sail, swim and sunbathe during the daylight hours. The main difference in winter is waking up a bit earlier and packing a bit heavier. I suggest taking a thin waterproof jumper if you’re traveling in the winter. But if you happen to hit some nasty weather, there are plenty of shops, cafes and pubs to see. A little downtime never hurts.
If you’re lucky enough to get to Arlie Beach, you must see Whitehaven Beach and the Whitsundays. This picture-perfect place is like stepping into the center spread of a travel magazine. And if you find your way out, the memories will forever be cherished. I’ll miss you, Whitehaven. Til next time.
Fancy a small group tour through Queensland? Of course you do, you’re only human. Check out Adventure Tours Australia.
Feature image c/o Jan Ainali, Flickr