We found paradise in The Whitsundays. Right in the Heart of the Great Barrier Reef is a group of 74 islands that make up The Whitsundays. This area is known for its incredible snorkelling, pristine beaches, and sailing! So if you’re looking for the perfect tropical vacation, this is it!
My name is Amber Storie from A Blissful Wanderer travel blog, and here’s my 6-day itinerary sailing around the Whitsunday islands, and exploring everything between Airlie to Bowen.
Getting to The Whitsundays:
From Brisbane, it’s less than a 2 hour flight to Whitsunday Coast Airport, and then it is a 40-minute drive to Airlie Beach. Book a transfer ahead of time, or you can find one at the airport for $22 per person one-way or $35 return.
Day 1: Airlie Beach
We checked into our beautiful ocean view room at the Mantra Club Croc just in time to enjoy the sunset. With palm trees swaying and a warm ocean breeze, I automatically felt relaxed and settled into vacation mode.
Day 2-5: 3 Days Sailing the Whitsundays
Boat Company: We booked the Whitsunday Blue 3-day 3-night trip through, Sailing Whitsundays who gave us the best deal. This catamaran boat typically fits eight people and two crew, but due to new socially distancing protocols, we only had six people on our trip, plus two staff, Claire, our Captain and Ginny, our Skipper. Each couple had a private bedroom and ensuite bathroom.
Our Sailing Experience: Sailing the Whitsundays is an absolute dream with no worries in the world! Every morning we’d wake up to blue skies and sunshine, enjoy a freshly made breakfast and hot coffee, and then sail off to a new destination to discover more of this tropical paradise.
We spent our days spotting humpback whales, jumping off the boat with our new friends, swimming and snorkelling with turtles and tropical fish and admiring some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets while sailing. Every day was packed full of exploring new islands or bays, but we still felt relaxed thanks to our trusted boat crew who spoiled us with delicious meals, new experiences and taught us about the area. In the evenings, we’d all enjoy a drink and dinner while the sun went down, and then we’d stay up chatting, exchanging travel stories and playing card games.
Overall, sailing the Whitsundays is the ultimate way to see this part of Australia.
One of the main reasons people sail the Whitsundays is to see Whitehaven Beach, which is named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and the #1 best beach in Australia. Start at Hill Inlet lookout to admire the turquoise blue waters swirl with miles of white sand. After, splash and swim in some of the clearest water, soak up the sun, and relax on this tropical island!
My highlight from the day was finding a hidden hammock up on some rocks, where we were able to admire Whitehaven Beach from a unique angle. Are you interested in discovering this secret spot for yourself? When you are on Whitehaven Beach facing the ocean, turn left and walk to a tucked-away cove at the end of the beach. Climb up those rocks, and at the top, you’ll find this hammock. Enjoy!
Onboard, all your meals and snacks are covered and cooked for you, and I was blown away by the quality of food. For example, on our first evening, Ginny cooked nachos for a pre-dinner snack and then pan-seared salmon and vegetables, followed by chocolate cake for dessert – yum! The only thing that is not included was beverages, besides coffee, tea and water. So if you like juice, pop, wine or other alcoholic drinks, you can bring them, and they will refrigerate them for you.
I highly recommend a 3-night trip versus a 2-night journey if you have the time. The whole experience felt more relaxed, and we saw so much more than the quick 2-night excursion. Plus, the cost isn’t too much more for an entire extra day and night compared to the 2-night trips.
Day 5: Off to Bowen
After disembarking the boat and saying goodbye to our new friends and crew, we drove an hour up the coast to Bowen! Bowen is a relaxing beach town at the top of the Whitsundays, known for growing most of the mangos Australia consumes. If you love all the ‘big things’ across Australia, be sure to stop at the Big Mango for a classic photo-opt and Mango Sorbet!
That afternoon we relaxed at Bowen’s most famous beach, Horseshoe Bay, a calm bay lined with massive boulders and palm trees swaying in the breeze. I’m not kidding when I say this beach looks like something off a postcard. Be sure to hike to the lookout (an easy 30-minutes return walk) for stunning views of the area and snorkel the bay to see the underwater sculptures.
That evening we were spoiled with some of the best fish & chips we’ve ever eaten from Bird’s Fish Bar! We grabbed it for takeout, but if you can, sit on the back patio and watch the fishing boats roll in and deliver their catches of the day! This restaurant is a hidden gem.
With belly’s full and the soothing sound of waves lapping against the shore, we fell asleep right away at our beautiful hotel, Rose Bay Resort. Rose Bay Resort is one of the few hotels in Bowen to be located right beside the beach. Plus, their rooms are spacious with a dining table, a large bathroom and a kitchenette if you plan to stay for a while. I highly recommend it!
Day 6: Morning in Bowen then Head Home
The next morning we rolled out of bed and watched another spectacular sunrise straight from our Rose Bay Hotel balcony. This place is paradise! We brought coffee down to Rose Bay Beach for a swim and a walk, which is my favourite way to start a day.
By now, our tummies were starting to rumble, so we drove to the adorable ‘Le Sorelle Sisters Cafe’. I ordered the eggs benny wrap and a flat white, Ben got the eggs and bacon wrap, and my friend Danielle got a classic avocado toast. We all agreed the food was sensational. They also have incredible fudge. So if you go, be sure to try some!
Spend an extra day in Bowen relaxing at their beautiful beaches, reading a book, snorkelling the calm bays, and chilling out. You’ll return home feeling rejuvenated and not exhausted from your holiday.
More Things to Do
There are so many incredible experiences you can have on the Whitsundays, and we only scratched the surface. For example, next time we come, I’d love to stay on one of the islands, like Hamilton Island, Hayman Island, or Daydream Island, which have some of the most spectacular resorts.
This blog was written by Amber Storie as a guest of Tourism Whitsundays.