Uninhabited Whitsunday Island is well-known for the Whitsundays’ world-famous beach – Whitehaven beach. Comprising fine powdery white sand with 98% pure silica content, and surrounded by warm clear turquoise water, the seven-kilometer beach is picturesque. Whitehaven beach is considered to be Australia’s “most beautiful beach” according to Keep Australia Beautiful (and Australia’s most photographed beach), and one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Because of this, many folks consider Whitehaven beach to be a must-see attraction, and a large number of people visit the island – the largest of the Whitsunday grouping.
The island does not have any accommodation (except for basic camping facilities), restaurants, or bars – tourists visit the island via arranged tours, which usually allow for 2-3 hours on the beach. For more than a cursory visit, consider camping and enjoying the island once the multitude of day-trippers re-board their boats.
Whitehaven beach has won the following awards recently:
- Queensland’s Most Beautiful Beach (awarded to a beach for the first and only time in 2007 by Keep Australia Beautiful Queensland)
- North Queensland’s Cleanest Beach 2009
- Australian winner for the Resource Recovery Award – 2009 National Clean Beach Awards
- Queensland’s Friendliest Beach 2009
- Environmental protection – 2006 and 2007 Regional Clean Beach Challenge, Queensland’s Cleanest Beach 2008
- Australia’s 20 Best Experiences in the category of Island Experience – Whitsunday Islands
Whitehaven Beach is made up of minute pieces of coral from the Great Barrier Reef. Over millions of years, this coral has been crushed by ocean waves into the fine powdery sand seen today.
The sand might have been transported over the years from Fraser Island in the Goldcoast region, by a longshore drift current system. During transport the heavier mineral sands separated from the lighter pure quartz sand, which continued to be moved towards Whitehaven beach.
There is an eddy at Whitehaven beach, which many say explains why the sand is “dropped off” and accumulates at the beach.
Activities (Nature and Wildlife Interest)
Visits to Whitsunday Island are typically day-trips from neighbouring islands or the mainland. Most often, visitors take a snorkeling or diving trip offshore then visit Whitehaven for a couple of hours. Visitors can alight at Whitsunday Island via ferries, cruising yachts, or multi-day chartered sailing adventures. Sailing catamarans to the island are very popular. One can also see the island by air, from the seat of a scenic seaplane or helicopter.
Adventure tours to the island are also available – for example, sea-kayaking, ocean rafting, or jet boating.
On the island, one can walk along the beach, swim, or simply relax. Be sure to have a look at Hill Inlet (northern end of the beach), where the tides shift and leave beautiful colour patterns in the sand. There are two bushwalks away from the beach – one to Tongue Bay (where charter vessels often stay overnight) and another to the Tongue Point lookout which offers stunning views of the beach. The lookout is a 20-minute walk from the beach.
Tour companies usually provide snorkeling gear, umbrellas, refreshments, and in some cases picnic lunches or dinners.
There is no accommodation on the island apart from basic camping facilities.
Chartered boats can anchor in Cid Harbour, or Tongue Bay – a short bushwalk from the beach. The anchorage is quite sheltered (except from northern winds) and offers plenty of opportunities to see the sea turtles which inhabit the bay. If the winds are strong sailors opt to stay at Chalkies Beach on Haslewood Island.
There is a camping facility located near Whitehaven beach – the island’s only accommodation option. A camping permit is required (easily purchased at Airlie Beach) as this is a National Parks-run camp site.
The island offers an eco-friendly toilet, but no running water – remember to bring your own water supply. The camp site has a picnic area, as well as shaded and sheltered areas for tents.
Most visitors reach Whitsunday Island from Airlie Beach by boat transfer, which takes about 90 minutes.
Airlie Beach is 1115 kilometers north of Brisbane, and can be reached by plane, train, bus, or car.