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The Whitsundays are made up of 74 Island Wonders, on the beautiful tropical coast of Queensland, Australia. Right in the Heart of the Great Barrier Reef, a visit to the Whitsundays is a feast for the senses. The stunning natural landscapes of coast and islands are dotted with secluded beaches and friendly towns. Whether you choose to base yourself on the coast or on the islands, there's so much to do, you'll have to work out how to fit it all in!

Select a region
for more details

The Whitsundays are made up of 74 Island Wonders, on the beautiful tropical coast of Queensland, Australia. Right in the Heart of the Great Barrier Reef, a visit to the Whitsundays is a feast for the senses. The stunning natural landscapes of coast and islands are dotted with secluded beaches and friendly towns. Whether you choose to base yourself on the coast or on the islands, there's so much to do, you'll have to work out how to fit it all in!

HEART OF STORIES

Tuesday, 03 September 2019

David and Carolyn Colfelt are among the Whitsundays’ original bareboat charterers. 

Their first self-skippered sailing holiday around the 74-island paradise was in 1978.

Fast-forward to 2019 and they are still returning to the area they came to love – not just as avid bareboaters, but also authors of the Whitsundays’ boating bible. 

‘100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef’ is the quintessential guide to boating, camping, fishing and snorkelling the sailing Mecca off the Whitsunday coast. 

It’s also a must-read for anyone thinking of a bareboat trip, and a wonderful souvenir at the end of a charter holiday.

With the 13th edition now hot off the press, #GoBareboating spoke to David Colfelt about the history of ‘100 Magic Miles’, as well as what’s new and improved.

 In the beginning… 

 David and Carolyn’s first charter all those years ago made such an impression on the couple they decided to go home and write about it.  

 The story was published in Australian Sailing Magazine and caught the eye of the company they’d chartered with, Whitsunday Yachting World.

 Before they knew it, the Colfelt’s were back in the Whitsundays writing that company’s charter manuals.

 Soon, they discovered gaps in the information available through Admiralty Charts and struck a deal with Whitsunday Yachting World to produce ‘The Complete Yachtsman’s Handbook to the Whitsunday Passage’.

 That arrangement lasted until 1983 when the Colfelt’s partners sold the business and the new owners didn’t agree on the vision for the book.

 “We wanted to kick it into the 20th century,” David explained. 

 “The area was growing rapidly so we completely re-did the book, updating it and basing the charts on aerial photography instead of old Admiralty Charts.” 

 In 1985, ‘100 Magic Miles’ as we know and love it today was finally born. 

 

 

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 A love affair with the reef 

 For David, the book was many things, but most of all the beginning of a love affair with the Great Barrier Reef. 

 “It was also the start of a relationship with a great bunch of people who were just getting off the ground and that was the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority,” he said. 

 “They were always very supportive of us because we were helping them to advance the story they were trying to get across.

 “We worked very closely with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service from the beginning as well.

 “Once again they feel we help them – we’ve probably become one of their primary ways of getting information to people on the water.”

 

The 13th edition 

Over the years, David and Carolyn have returned to the Whitsundays regularly to complete necessary updates and produce new editions. 

“Every time we go through the whole thing,” David said. 

“In recent years we’ve done an update just about every year as a result of the many changes, but before that it was once every two to two-and-a-half years.

“This book is known as the ‘bible’ and it needs to reflect the current situation as faithfully as possible.”

In April 2019, the Colfelt’s travelled north once more, leaving their home on the New South Wales south coast, to research the latest rendition of their beloved book. 

With so many upgrades to infrastructure and island resorts post Cyclone Debbie, the 13th edition is a significant revision. 

“Firstly, QPWS and GBRMPA have installed a multitude of new moorings and reef protection markers, which is very important for a lot of charterers,” David explained. 

“National Parks have done so much work on new viewing platforms and ways of getting to them.

“In the previous edition Hayman Island and Daydream Island resorts were still closed but now they’ve re-opened and they’re bigger and better than before. 

“There was no such thing as Elysian Retreat, but that’s now opened on the bottom of Long Island. 

“In fact, quite a lot of change has come to the fore in the last year-and-a-half since we did the previous issue.”

The 13th edition of ‘100 Magic Miles’ contains updates on walking and camping in the Whitsundays, as well as reflecting changes on the mainland. 

“We’ve done a general update on Airlie Beach with the new Coral Sea Marina Resort, plus the plans for Shute Harbour,” David said. 

“Things are really picking up in the Whitsundays and we were very encouraged to see the developments on the waterfront and at Airlie Beach, which is looking great.” 

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Read ahead

Why read ‘100 Magic Miles’ before you even arrive at your bareboat? 

“Because you’ll be much better prepared,” David says.

“The Whitsundays can be a very challenging place for people who’ve spent their life sailing on Sydney Harbour or other waters, anchoring in sand or mud. 

“You’ve got coral to contend with, which is hard to see sometimes, and good anchoring technique is absolutely paramount in the tradewinds. 

“Anyone who reads the section on boating in the Whitsundays will be told everything they need to know to have a pleasant, safe trip around the islands. 

“It’ll save you hours off your briefing time and you’ll be able to get out on the water quicker.” 

David’s hot spot!

So where does the man who arguably knows more about the Whitsunday islands than anyone else recommend as a not-to-be-missed ‘hot spot’?

“We love Border Island,” David said.  

“It’s an outlying island that’s not as frequented as the others; it’s got some lovely coral and an excellent walk to the saddle with beautiful views – you really get a sense of adventure when you sail out there and back.” 

Border Island  markfitz

Border Island: Photo Credit @_markfitz

Get your copy… 

All five of our #GoBareboating member companies have copies of ‘100 Magic Miles’ on board every charter vessel whether power or sail.

You can also buy the book while checking in or out. 

If you want to order ahead, copies are available via www.100magicmiles.com 

“There’s been no price increase from the last edition, and when people buy direct from us they get them for the retail price of $94.95 including GST, and we ship at no extra cost,” David said. 

The first 2,000 copies have just arrived in Sydney and David expects to deliver them to the Whitsundays by the end of the first week in September as well as making copies available on the website.

Ever modest about authoring a guide so many people have come to rely on, he admits “it’s a great responsibility on our shoulders”.

“But yes, we’re proud of the book,” he said. 

For more information or to book a charter holiday with any one of our five member companies, visit #GoBareboating 

Friday, 12 July 2019

When David Hutchen started the Whitsunday Reef Festival 19 years ago, little did he know it would one day come of age as the ‘Great Barrier Reef Festival’.

In fact, he didn’t know whether it would even survive its first year.

The clock had just ticked over to 2001 and the Whitsundays was rapidly rising to prominence as a Great Barrier Reef destination, but David didn’t feel it was properly recognised as such.

Looking to the Port Douglas Carnivale for inspiration he decided what the region needed was an event.

“A reef festival just seemed obvious to me, and it was also obvious we had to do something to get the whole community involved,” he said.

With around 200 staff at his Great Barrier Reef operation, Fantasea Cruises, David had the crew to set the Reef Festival afloat.

Tacking it on to the popular Airlie Beach ‘Cracker Night’ he knew he would pull a crowd.

“Lots of people came from Mackay and Proserpine and Bowen, so it was pretty easy to see we could expand it,” he said.

After funding the inaugural event himself, David found the local business community keen to come aboard.

“I think they thought it’d be an absolute fizzer but when they saw how that first one turned out they wanted to get involved and I reckon they chipped in near half,” he said.

After five happy festival years David sold Fantasea Cruises and left the Whitsundays in 2006.

“The new owners didn’t want to carry on with it and I was bitterly disappointed but what could I do?” he reminisced.

For the next few years the festival was taken on by a committee of passionate locals who faced challenges to keep it going without the same level of financial and managerial backing.

Whitsunday resident Margie Murphy was keen to be involved, initially by performing in her band ‘Cactus’ at a festival fundraising show in 2009, which led to her joining the volunteer committee.

“The next minute I was chairwoman,” she laughed.

“It was a struggle without a major sponsor or manager, but the committee I joined weren’t going to give up and it has grown from strength to strength from there.”

Becoming an incorporated association helped the festival secure government grants and slowly new partnerships formed.

Fast forward to today and it is part of Tourism and Events Queensland’s Destination Events Program, featuring on the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar, worth $800 million to the state’s economy in 2019.

The Whitsundays’ premier reef operator Cruise Whitsundays has taken up the mantle of platinum partner and the Whitsunday Coast Airport has partnered on the now famous fireworks night.

With the help of a Whitsunday Regional Council Special Projects Grant and the generosity of Brisbane-based creative agency ‘Nick Did This’, the festival has re-branded to the ‘Great Barrier Reef Festival’, complete with a fresh, new look.

“I think it’s fantastic,” David said.

“Really, the Great Barrier Reef Festival is its correct and proper name.

“It’s now 10 times bigger than it was, more people come to the area for it, more wealth comes to the area and everybody does better.”

The 2019 Great Barrier Reef Festival will be held from August 1-4.

For more information visit www.greatbarrierreeffestival.com.au and follow the festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Blog written by Sharon Smallwood/iTalk Communications

Cover Photo: credit - Andrew Pattinson Vampp Photography

Monday, 17 June 2019

After the long North Queensland summer comes the absolute pinnacle of living in the tropics! WINTER! Beautiful sunny mild days, slightly cooler nights. As winter rolls around every year and we listen to the news reports of freezing southern temps, we smugly enjoy PERFECT winter weather!

We’ve listed the best things to do in the glorious Whitsundays winter – especially for our freezing southern friends (smug wink face emoji)

1. The Great Whale Migration – one of the most amazing things to see in the Whitsundays during the cooler winter months is the majestic humpback whales swimming the turquoise waters of the Whitsundays. While you’re out on the water during the migration (July – September) keep your eyes peeled – there is nothing more incredible than witnessing these gentle giants breaching! Flagstaff Hill in Bowen is a TOP SPOT for whale watching on the mainland!

Photo Credit: @oceanrafting

2. The Whitsundays has some of the most scenic bushwalks in Australia – Hill Inlet anyone!? And what better time of the year to get back to nature and explore what the amazing Whitsundays has on offer. There is a walk for everyone at any fitness level, discover the walks the mainland has, or jump a ferry and see what walks some of the resorts have.

Locals Tip: Pack a lunch if you’re planning the Conway Park Great Walk

Whitsundays-bushwalk-adventure-australia

3. Ok we’ll admit it, sometimes the weather can be a little unpredictable during our summer wet season, but during our winter months you can be sure to get perfect sailing weather – and hey – what better chance to get to see that Great Whale Migration we mentioned earlier than to be on the water!!

intercontinental-hayman-island-sailing-whitsundays

Photo Credit: @intercontinentalhaymanisland

4. Too cold to swim down there….?? Not here! It’s seriously time for beautiful Whitsundays beach days… we’re not kidding! The day time temp here is perfect for swimming – honestly!

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Photo Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland with Jason Hill

5. If you’re like the rest of the world… and for some reason the years seem to be going in fast forward, I mean you’re probably still wishing people Happy New Year and boom you’re grabbing the winter woollies out from storage – why not just come here and oh, I don’t know – RELAX! Get that book you’ve been lying to book club about reading and get on a beach chair!

Hamilton-island-whitsundays-australia

6. The Whitsundays always has plenty of events throughout the year, but especially in our cooler months. If you’re a keen sailor, you’ll know that Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island Race Weeks happen during our winter months (because it’s amazing sailing weather!! Told you so!) We also have the Great Barrier Reef Festival in August and the annual Bowen Walk to The Lighthouse these two events are serious fun for the whole family!

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Photo Credit: @julesingall

This Blog is brought to you by Liza Muller of Tourism Whitsundays

Tuesday, 04 June 2019

Recently I was lucky enough to be invited on a trip with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) to check out the conditions of some of the various Whitsunday islands walks they have and also to check the construction of the new Whitehaven / Hill Inlet viewing platform.

Breathtaking Views from Border Island

First, we headed to Border Island, the water was a wee bit choppy, but they say the worst day on the water is better than any day in the office! As we made our way to shore, I caught a glimpse of a path etched into the side of the island, like a faded but present scar. The walk is a quick climb, with so much to take in along the way. From the top you are treated to breathtaking views of the Whitsunday Islands. I was captivated, I can see many pausing for reflection and meditation. It was here at the summit I took stock of how lucky I am to call the Whitsundays home; this is my backyard.

Hill Inlet Lookout

Credit: Tourism Queensland 

From here we jumped back on the boat and powered onto Tongue Bay where Nah and the Parks team gave me an overview of the upcoming plans for the intersection that gives access to the Hill Inlet Lookout.

It should be said that I have been to this lookout countless times but each and every time as I reach the top I lose my breath (And not just because I am really unfit and actually out of breath) ... there are no real words that can explain just how significantly beautiful this spot is, even on an overcast day but I'll try ...

Azure blue waters and the purest, whitest sand laid bare before you. As the tide subsides it is reminiscent of a watercolour painting, the artist having mixed white and blue together in an effort to create the perfect combination of colour ... It is nature at its most spectacular! I could sit here for an age and not feel like any time has passed.

Lunch, Camping and Secrets

Our next journey after a spot of lunch was the Southern End of Whitehaven Beach. It was here I got to see the exciting new addition added to make our guests from near and far feel as comfortable as possible as they enjoy one of the world's most awarded beaches!

Did you know you can camp here? The camp sites are delightful little nooks, each set apart from the next so you can feel a world away from your nearest neighbour.

camping-whitehaven-whitsundays-australia

Credit: Tourism Queensland and Levi Caleb Allan

Next was the absolute highpoint of the trip ...but unfortunately, I’ve been sworn to secrecy… I can tell you though, it was amazing!!!

As mentioned, I am not a fit person so this last (secret) walk was a challenge for me, but the Parks team were super encouraging and patient. They knew what I was going to see at the top, they knew the reward that was coming and once I reached the peak, I forgot how I got there and just marvelled in the extraordinary landscape before me.

 

Hand on heart – this walk is a game changer.

I cannot thank Tourism Whitsundays enough for the remarkable opportunities this role offers me daily and to Queensland National Parks, thanks for the invitation, the information and in depth commentary provided along the journey. You're all a credit to this region! The amazing effort you go to ensure the integrity of this beautiful part of the world is maintained whilst still endeavouring to offer a world class experience for our visitors is beyond commendable.

Blog written by Kylie Forgione - Sales & Marketing Coordinator with Tourism Whitsundays

Tuesday, 04 June 2019

A guide to the top 5 snorkelling spots by Daydream Island marine biologist Johnny Gaskell

 

More often than not these days the eyes of the world are on the Great Barrier Reef.

There is much concern about the health of this global natural wonder and how it will survive the various challenges such as Crown of Thorns starfish and climate change.

While the Whitsunday islands and reefs have not been without these challenges, happily we have a good news story to tell, and one that you can be part of when you #GoBareboating with us.

 

Johnny’s mission

To help us tell the true story about “what lies beneath” the surface of our seas, we’ve enlisted the help of local expert Johnny Gaskell.

As the resident marine biologist at Daydream Island, Johnny is passionate about the Great Barrier Reef.

“It’s well known that above water, the 74 islands of the Whitsundays all have their own story, but below the surface, each island has an equally fascinating story that is often overlooked at many of the lesser known Whitsunday Islands,” Johnny says.

Over the past two years, Johnny has made it his mission to attempt to explore the underwater world of every Whitsunday Island; the aim, to document the locations where coral is most abundant and see which sites contribute the most to the ecology of the Marine Park.

 

Where to start

Being a Daydream Islander, the obvious place for Johnny to start was the Molle group of islands and the nearby northern group.

After a few trips out to some of the protected bays post cyclone Debbie, Johnny was surprised to find undamaged coral cover at a number of spots including on North, Mid and South Molle islands and also at Armit Island.

“We also found a number of healthy coral sites down south in the Lindeman Group with some bays exhibiting great hard coral cover,” Johnny says.

Following the missions to some of these less visited parts of the Whitsundays, exploration of the more famous Whitsunday Group uncovered some amazing sites.

“After looking around in some of the more protected areas, the resilience of these islands was soon evident. Some of the protected bays on the east and west sides of these islands were in close to perfect condition,” Johnny says.

Looking at the best options for bareboat charterers, factoring in easy access to moorings and the presence of resilient species, Johnny’s Top 5 spots include:

 

Cairn Beach, Whitsunday Island

Here you’ll find a great example of a fringing reef that has, over time, extended out from the edge of the island.

“This long stretch of reef has one of the most densely covered reef edges in the Whitsundays,” Johnny says.

“There is a mix of hard and soft coral cover, which supports an extensive community of damsel fishes and fusiliers. Manta Rays can also sometimes be seen here in the winter months.”

This site can be visited in most weather conditions except when the wind is dominated by a strong southerly.

Cairn Beach Aerial Cairn Beach Coral

 

Butterfly Bay, Hook Island  

Butterfly Bay has a diverse range of soft and hard corals spread over a large patch of fringing reef.

“It’s a good site to see rays, schooling fish and invertebrates such as nudibranchs,” Johnny says.

The site is located on the northern side of Hook Island where it is generally well protected from any wind that is not north dominant.

Butterfly Bay Aerial Butterfly Bay Coral

 

Peter Bay, Whitsunday Island

On the western Side of Whitsunday Island, Peter Bay has a well-protected reef network that supports a range of marine animals.

“The coral structures are made up of a mix of large bommies and fringing reef edges,” Johnny says.

“The cracks between some of the bommies here resemble scenes more common out at the Great Barrier Reef.”

Peter Bay Aerial Peter Bay Coral

 

Stonehaven Bay, Hook Island

At Stonehaven bay you can find some of the largest coral bommies in the region.

“Large Boulder corals with soft corals growing on the sides are common tucked away in the shallow parts of both bays near the moorings,” Johnny says.

“Visibility can be limited so the best time to go is during neap tides.”

Stonehaven Aerial Stonehaven Coral

 

Chalkie’s Beach, Haslewood Island

If you’re looking to swim off a pure white sandy beach out to a coral reef, this is your spot.

“Chalkies Beach on Haslewood Island has a soft coral dominant reef and plenty of colourful fish,” Johnny says.

Chalkies Aerial Chalkies Beach Coral

 

The bigger picture…

Having now explored the underwater landscape at most of the islands over the last two years, it is clear to Johnny that the Whitsundays still has widespread coral cover, with many spots thriving.

“After the region suffered significant coral loss at some of the iconic sites in early 2017, the remaining corals at many sites are now fighting back,” he explains.

“These colonies are vital for local spawning events, which should eventually repopulate the areas that have lost cover.”

Although it’s not yet evident at many of the Whitsundays’ sites, coral bleaching as a result of global warming and macro algae dominance caused by an increase of nutrients in the water, remains one of the biggest threats to the future off the region’s reef habitats.

“The recovery and longevity of these complex ecosystems around our islands depend primarily on water quality, which ultimately depends on us,” Johnny says.

Like Johnny, we can’t wait to get out there among the islands and explore these beautiful spots.

We also want to ensure we continue to play a part in conserving them.

We hope you will join us in doing both.

 

Blog provided courtesy of GoBareboating All images provided courtesy of @johnny_gaskell

#lovewhitsundays

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