The Whitsundays is famously known as the home of Whitehaven Beach, Heart Reef and Hamilton Island. What isn’t as well known though is that the Whitsundays is also made up of 74 islands and several beautiful beachfront communities that stretch up the coast to Bowen.
For 4 days we were lucky enough to explore these lesser-known but equally impressive natural beauties and I’ve put together an Instagrammer’s Guide to help you find these hidden gems and get those picture-perfect photos to post on your Instagram account!
Haslewood is a close neighbour to the world-renowned Whitehaven Beach and you can actually see all the yachts anchored at Whitehaven and the day-trippers coming and going. Looks are deceiving though, it’s about an hour by boat from Whitehaven to Haslewood and as such there are no regular day trips to Haslewood which is good news, it means you can have it all to yourself!
With no tourist operators visiting Haslewood the only way to get there is to charter a boat and that’s exactly what we did with Queensland Yacht Charters. The freedom to be able to visit anywhere you want and pick out the best spots depending on the tides and the weather is a huge advantage. We made the most of this and specifically chose Haslewood and anchored in Windy Bay as it is very rarely visited but has lots of photographic opportunities.
The island itself is quite spectacular with huge boulders dotting the headlands and pristine beaches along its coastline. High tide is a great time to photograph the beaches here and sunset is just magical as you watch the sun dip behind the nearby islands. Bring a picnic with you and enjoy having this little piece of paradise all to yourself with a few glasses of bubbly!
Sunrise is best photographed from the yacht or a tender and if you’re lucky enough you’ll get glass out conditions like we did where the sky will mirror itself on the ocean. Try out a few different angles including getting as close to the water as possible, just don’t fall in! Keep an eye out for a potential ‘reverse sunrise’ as well where the skyline opposite the actual sunrise can light up in a spectacular display.
During the day is the perfect time for some snorkelling and there’s a tiny island with a great reef at the northern tip of Haslewood that we spent a few hours exploring. Bring your underwater camera and jump in, you won’t be disappointed! If you can time your snorkel so that it lines up with a low tide during the middle of the day, then this will be a big help for your photography. At low tide, the coral and fish are a little closer to the surface of the water and the less water the sunlight has to pass through to light up the marine life the clearer your shots will be. Combining a low tide with the sun directly overhead will provide you with the best lighting conditions and you’ll be able to get some fantastic images!
When chartering a boat in the Whitsundays, I’d recommend allowing 4-5 days to get the most out of it, there are so many islands to explore and that timeframe gives you lots of opportunities to travel a couple of hours each day to a new spot and explore it for the afternoon before sleeping overnight and setting off somewhere new the next morning. A lot of places look close to the naked eye but it can take a few hours to get there by boat so having 4-5 days up your sleeve means you don’t have to rush and you can really enjoy your surroundings. I’ve already got half a dozen new places on my list I’d love to visit on our next sailing trip!
Make sure you get in touch with the awesome team at Whitsunday Provisioning before your adventure for all your food needs, you’ll work up quite an appetite out on the water and they know how to satisfy your hunger with delicious spreads!
The mainland hub for the Whitsundays is Airlie Beach and you’ll soon discover that some of the best photographic locations here are up on the hill overlooking the town. Lucky for us that’s exactly where we were staying thanks to Accom Whitsundays! With great views from the hill down over Airlie and the Coral Sea, it’s impossible to take a bad photo! What was even better was that these views were a part of a 3 storey mansion with its own swimming pool!
If you’re looking for a place that presents you with fantastic photographic opportunities no matter what the time of day, go no further than Northerlies Beach Bar and Grill. It’s about a 10min drive from Airlie and is set right on the beach. We arrived just before sunset and were treated to sensational platters and an amazing dinner. The bar looks out over the ocean with views back towards Airlie as well which are quite unique. I’d love to come back here for a sunrise shoot, there are a number of palm trees along the beach that combined with a stunning sunrise and Airlie in the background would come up a treat.
A 40 min drive north from Airlie will bring you to an iconic little palm tree-lined paradise called Monte’s Reef Resort. The ocean literally laps up at the base of the palm trees here which provides amazing photographic opportunities. I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few times and can also vouch for the stunning sunsets here. To get the ultimate palm-tree-over-the-water shot you’ll need to time your visit with high tide, at low tide the water recedes out so try and check the tide times before you pop in here for that photo.
At the very northern end of the Whitsundays is also one of my favourite weekend escapes, Bowen. The Cape Edgecumbe area of Bowen is home to several beaches and bays that provide a range of different photography opportunities depending on the tides and time of day. It also just happens to be one of the rare places on the east coast of mainland Australia where you can watch both the sunrise and sunset over the ocean!
Bowen is a vibrant coastal town with a super relaxed vibe. The culinary experience offered by restaurants, cafes and pubs is definitely not to be missed. Bowen is known for its fresh seafood and remarkable cooking and food styling skills. If you’re in Bowen, stop by the Grand View Hotel located on the main street of Bowen. They have been serving up a good time since 1919. There’s a lot to choose from the menu, and most will agree their deliciously cooked beef is worth a try. You can enjoy your meal in their newly renovated and beautifully designed dining room, courtyard, or waterfall and garden area. The small courtyard complete with fairy lights is a crowd favourite.
Le Sorelle The Sisters Coffee House & Florist is the place to be for a coffee and breakfast fix. This upscale café is famous for its amazing service and brilliant food presentation. Run by three sisters, Le Sorelle offers some delicious lemon meringue and smashed avocado on sourdough among other things.
Enjoy freshly caught and cooked seafood at Birds Fish Bar – Bowen Fishermans Seafood Company. To enjoy the Birds Fish Bar experience, sit by the marina taking in the beautiful view and order a delicious, wholesome fish platter. Watching the seagulls and trawlers while you eat is an experience you won’t forget. Their calamari, coral trout and Red Throat Emperor are a must-try when visiting Bowen.
Rose Bay is the southern-most bay at Cape Edgecumbe and is the ultimate sunrise shoot location. I stayed at the Rose Bay Resort which meant I could get maximum sleep and just walk straight out of my room and onto the beach to watch the sunrise. The beach here is very photography friendly with a large number of palm trees, a sensational sandy shoreline and granite boulder headlands at either end of the beach.
The next bay along and probably the least known, but in my eyes the most spectacular, is Murrays Bay. Very few people visit here which is great if you want a quiet day at the beach all to yourself! The beaches around Cape Edgecumbe are blessed with numerous palm trees which really give it a tropical feel and Murrays is no exception. It’s a short 5 min walk from the carpark down to the beach and one of my favourite angles of the beach to shoot is from the southern (right-hand side) of the bay back up to the north where you can capture the water, the palms along the beach and the large hills in the background.
Horseshoe Bay is the most famous of Bowen’s beaches and very popular. Having said that though you can come here and only see a handful of other people! There are many photography options here starting with sunrise. As the day progresses you can snorkel straight off the beach around the rocks where there is a nice little coral garden. It’s one of the few places I know of on the mainland where you can snorkel right off the beach and I prefer snorkelling and photographing in the water here at low tide. Another good low tide option is to do the walk up to Rotary Lookout above Horseshoe Bay for great views out over the beach and the ocean.
For the best beach shots, high tide is the pick of the times to shoot with the water coming right up the beach and leaving just a few of the boulders visible above the waterline.
The last two spots in Edgecumbe Bay are the Cove and Greys Bay and they sit right next door to each other. They’re great sunset locations as well as being particularly good during the day at high tide. They both face west and the Cove generally has fewer people as you need to walk past Greys Bay to access it. There’s a nice little palm right on the shoreline at the Cove and it lines up nicely with the sun setting over the water on the horizon.
Sitting between the Cove and Greys Bay is a series of large granite boulders which we love to sit upon with a camera and a picnic just before sunset and it’s the ideal way to end a perfect day in Bowen!
Tourism Whitsundays would like to extend a special thanks to Mark Fitz and all of our amazing partners involved!