The Whitsunday Islands Location Facts History Queensland

The Whitsunday Islands Location Facts History Queensland

A group of 74 islands lying off the coast of Queensland, Australia, between Townsville and Mackay, the Whitsunday Islands are part of the Great Barrier Reef and one of Australia’s most popular destinations attracting over half a million visitors each year. These forested mountainous islands are surrounded by spectacular coral reefs, warm crystal-clear aquamarine waters and white sandy beaches.

They were first discovered by Captain Cook in the 1770s on his fraught voyage to try to find an exit from the reef system without destroying it was Whit Sunday on the day he discovered them, though it turned out he was wrong. The name, however, stuck.

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Most of the islands are designated as a national parks, although some are privately owned. Apart from the bigger more developed islands, the majority are uninhabited, unspoiled wilderness. There are small resorts on some of the islands, and campsites on others if you want to get away from it all.

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Hamilton Island is the most developed and many visitors use it as a base from which to access the Great Barrier Reef. There are many other activities on offer from Hamilton, including sea kayaking, twilight, sailing, game fishing, scenic flights over the Great Barrier Reef, diving, cuddling a koala, bushwalking and waterskiing. Despite its development, the island is still untouched and has some lovely beaches, coves and inlets.

Hook Island, the second largest of the islands, is another popular destination for tourists. It is best known for its colourful coral gardens, a great place for snorkelling and diving.

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Whitsunday Island is the largest of the islands of the group and is best known among boating types for Hill Inlet, the secure anchorage of Cid Harbour, the sheltered waterway of Gulanre Inlet, and the famous Whitehaven Beach, with its 7 km (4.3 mi) of pure white silica sand. This stunning beach attracts lots of day-trippers from the mainland ports of Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour.

There is a bewildering variety of organised tours on offer, with the sailing boast, catamaran and cruise trips to the Islands and reef, many to sites where visitors can snorkel in the reefs and watch the fish, Several companies also run trips in glass-bottomed boast or semi-submersibles.

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The islands are not only worth visiting for marine life, however. Many have walking trails up their peaks through a lovely rainforest full of birdsong, and there are so many beaches you are bound to find one for yourself.

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