By Michelle Karaman-Jones
The best way to describe The Whitsundays… it is one of the most serene collection of islands in Australia. Perfectly situated on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, access to all islands comes from the coastal town of Airlie Beach. There is glorious weather, azure waters, brilliant beaches, awe-inspiring coral reefs, fascinating flora and fauna, fine food and wines and activities almost too numerous to mention. It is one of the most amazing destinations I have been to in Australia.
Sail, explore, dive, dine, play, relax, enjoy. The opportunities are endless. Which is why there is no better place to take a well-deserved holiday than the Whitsundays.
The Whitsunday Islands National Park is known for its unspoilt beaches and stunning mountainous backdrop, the latter which is a result of sea level changes drowning a mountain range thousands of years ago. Not to mention the Great Barrier Reef and of course the Whitehaven Beach – recently awarded as the “Best Beach” in Australia and South Pacific (2014 TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Awards) and is Top 5 in the world.
Airlie Beach is a laid-back town between MacKay and Townsville that will be your first port of call to the Whitsundays. As such, it is the best place to base yourself for a Whitsunday holiday to give yourself freedom and flexibility in your choice of activities. With a great variety of accommodation as well as beautiful wining and dining to go along with the famous nightlife, Airlie Beach will have you covered in all facets of holiday-making.
In the past the town was known as a backpacker haven. However the $20 million dollar upgrade of the Airlie Beach town centre has broadened its taste to cater for all types of people seeking to experience the Whitsundays. The development of five-star resorts and apartments along with a focus on quality dining has made this a hub for epicurean tourists, while keeping its backpacker roots around town.
Between the islands you will be mesmerised by the vast collection of reefs around the Whitsundays that make up a small portion of the Great Barrier Reef. Be prepared to spend a lot of time just sitting, watching and letting a vibrancy of colours wash over you.
Easily accessible by air or road, the Whitsundays are located on the eastern coast of Australia in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef – just south of Bowen and to the north of Mackay, around 900 kilometres north of Brisbane.
Here are the highlights of my husband and I’s four funfilled and romantic days.
Day 1; Sydney to Whitsundays Journey
After our 2-hour plane trip we arrived in beautiful paradise – Hamilton Island. Even though I’ve been here before (five months ago) as a travel reporter with popular instagrammers – To me it was return to the paradise and to my husband it was a reminder of home, the South Pacific..
No matter how many times you visit the Whitsundays you will always feel you’re in nirvana.
After a stop over in Hamilton Island, we went on a Whitsundays ferry ride to the mainland to our final destination Airlie Beach, where we nestled in for our four-day stay in Whitsunday.
Day 2; Whitehaven Beach –
We escaped for a day to relax with the uninterrupted views of
the unique expanse of stretching long white sand that is Whitehaven Beach. Only accessible by boat or light aircraft, Whitehaven Beach’s natural beauty leaves you with a panorama of that invokes you with an overwhelming sense of purity. The white sands, sitting underneath the turquoise ocean is truly a sight to behold.
A full day cruise to Whitehaven Beach by Cruise Whitsundays is a great option to experience the full 7km length of the beach in one trip both Southern and Northern end of the beach. We spent six full hours at Whitehaven Beach swimming, snorkelling, walking and just soaking in the serenity.
Cruise Whitsundays Cruises depart from Abell Point Marina. For more details visit www.cruisewhitsundays.com
Day 3; Plane safari flight – Heart Reef
Next day we decided to head back to the islands but this time to have a birds-eye view with GSL Aviation which fly from Whitsunday Airport in Airlie Beach. A one-hour flight with GSL Aviation took us to Heart Reef, which, as its name suggests, is home to a heart-shaped reef around 20 nautical miles north-east of the mainland – a full scenic adventure over the Great Barrier Reef. The view is sensational and great value!
Having experienced some of the area on the ground yesterday, having a top-down perspective on the Whitsundays affirms its status as one of the most unadulterated holiday destinations in the world.
Where to stay
The area is characterised by world class resort facilities blending harmoniously with the pristine natural attributes of the area.
Featuring eight island resorts, including Hamilton Island, Daydream Island and Hayman Island (is now known as One&Only Hayman Island) – a wide range of coastal accommodation and countless activities, let me tell you a taste of what the Whitsundays can offer.
Peppers Airlie Beach – modern accommodation located at heart of Airlie Beach, QLD
A laid back and tropical theme flows through the property from the reception to the rooms, while palm trees and tropical flora line the paths throughout the property grounds.
Peppers offers guests two types of accommodation to choose from; one, two and three bedroom fully self contained apartments or for a bigger family and groups three and four bedroom houses. All come with a magnificent ocean view of the Whitsunday passage and have wide verandahs and a spa bath for that extra relaxation. Rooms are spacious and equipped with all mod-cons The resort is also a home to well known Tides Restaurant & Bar Contact; Phone: 07 4962 5100 Tollfree: 1800 064 080 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.peppersairliebeach.com.au
Marina Shores Resort – 5-star luxurious, spacey and fully self-contained apartment-style hotel is situated on the prestigious oceanfront in Airlie Beach, with views overlooking Abel Point Marina and to the Whitsunday Islands. We had the two-level penthouse with a huge spacious balcony.
Located at 159 Shingley Drive Airlie Beach Whitsundays QLD T: +61 7 4964 1500 or visit www.marinashores.com.au
Coral Sea Resort – have 4.5-star fully self-contained luxury apartments and its located at Airlie Beach, just a short stroll via seaside boardwalk to Airlie Beach resort village. It’s also just a short stroll to Abel Point Marina.
Coral Sea Resort also features a variety of hotel rooms including deluxe suites and one, two and three bedroom apartments, penthouses and beach houses.
The resort offers an enticing array of facilities including; an award-winning oceanfront restaurant, private dining seaside gazebo and cocktail lounge.
The Coral Sea Resort rates as one of the most appealing deluxe resorts in the Whitsundays, combining first-class facilities with award-winning and legendary hospitality. Contact; Phone: 07 4964 1300 Tollfree: 1800 075 061 Email: email@example.com Website: www.coralsearesort.com
Where to EAT;
Surrounded by lush agricultural land, the Whitsunday region boasts a combination of fresh local produce with international chefs who are doing a marvellous job putting the area on the culinary map. From hand-made pizzas to home grown vegetables and an abundance of fresh seafood, we knew we were at the right hangout to eat and relax. Coupled with a great selection of beers and ciders, both local and around the world, as well stunning scenery and great atmosphere, we knew this was the right way to dine.
Here are just a few we have experienced during our stay in Airlie Beach Whitsundays.
Tides Restaurant & Bar – located at the beautiful Peppers Airlie Beach. Modern, chic open-air design with views of the beautiful Coral Sea, offering an a la carte menu of fresh local products with a modern twist served with uncompromising service. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; Bookings preferred.
Denman Cellars – delicious tapas with over 700 beers and wines to choose from all around the world is located at shop G15, 33 Port Drive The Port of Airlie, Airlie Beach, Queensland 4802 (07) 4948 1333
Mr. Bones – the best hand-made pizzas and delicious tapas you will find in the area. Located at the Airlie Beach lagoon just off the main road in the heart of the town.
Clipper Restaurant and Lounge – award winning restaurant located at Coral Sea Resort. It is one of the best restaurants in Airlie Beach with a stunning views of the Coral Sea.
Direct connections into the region: To Whitsunday Coast Airport (Proserpine)
Tigerair direct from Sydney www.tigerair.com
Virgin Australia and Jetstar direct from Brisbane
To Hamilton Island Airport –
Virgin Australia and Jetstar direct from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane
Qantas direct from Sydney (including business class) as of 1 July
Qantas direct from Cairns
Day 4; Back to Hamilton island to connect to fly back to Sydney (wishing still were at the Whitsundays where the weather is just perfect – warm and balmy
For further information visit www.tourismwhitsundays.com.au
Michelle Karaman-Jones was a guest of Whitsundays Tourism