The Whitsundays, A Holiday Blockbuster

The Whitsundays, a Holiday Blockbuster

With Ticket to Paradise in cinemas from 15th September, we decided to have a look at some of the other Hollywood films that called The Whitsundays home.

Dead Calm

Let’s start back in 1989 with Dead Calm, the movie that put Nicole Kidman on the Hollywood map. This Aussie thriller was filmed in The Whitsunday Passage using a local tall ship, the Golden Plover, as the sinking vessel. The Whitsundays hosted Nicole Kidman and Sam Neil, largely unknown actors back then, for the filming period.

Lady Enid Tall Ship

Fun fact: the Stormvogel (the name of Nicole and Sam’s vessel in the movie) was too narrow to film any of the below-deck scenes so a replica of the saloon and bedroom was built in a studio. Only one side of the saloon was recreated, look closely and you’ll see that only one side of the saloon is ever shown.

Muriel’s Wedding

There’s something about Muriel’s Wedding that turned it into a cult classic in Australia, we’re betting it was Hibiscus Island aka Hamilton Island! The Bougainvillea and Main Pools on Hamilton Island served as the set for Hibiscus Island scenes, look closely and you’ll pick the timber bridges in the main pool and the waterfall of Bougainvillea pool.

Photo credit: Tourism and Events Queensland, Hamilton Island


Fast forward to 2007 and Bowen took a huge step back in time and was dressed as 1930s Darwin for Baz Luhrman’s Australia. With wide streets and historic buildings already in place, it was an easy decision for producers and a welcome attraction for The Whitsundays. Looking closely at the bombing of Darwin scenes, it’s easy to see the foreshore trees and The Grandview Hotel when you know to look for them.

TW_Bowen Summergarden Cinema

Bowen Summergarden Theater

Fun fact: Baz Luhrmann didn’t know that the Summergarden Theatre was in Bowen before arriving, once he discovered it, he used it every day to review the footage shot that day. Nicole Kidman turned the big 4-0 while filming Australia and held her party at the Summergarden Theatre, a party to rival any premier.

Fool’s Gold

Show us a better movie pairing than Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson’s luscious locks, tanned bodies and an exciting love story; Fool’s Gold had it all. In amongst the treasure hunting and action, you might spot some familiar stretches of very white sand, most recognisable when Matthew McConaughey’s character wanders around shirtless (necessary detail) with his metal detector. If you miss the in-movie scenes, don’t worry, just start from the beginning and enjoy the full screen of Hill Inlet in the opening credits.

Hill Inlet | Whitsunday Island

Fun fact: Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey stayed at Coral Sea Resort and were regularly spotted out and about immersing themselves in the local nightlife.

Pirates of the Caribbean | Dead men tell no tales

Deserted white sandy beaches with sparkling blue water aren’t as common outside of The Whitsundays, as we might think. Another movie shot on Whitehaven Beach for its expanses of deserted beaches, white sands and sparkling water is Pirates of the Caribbean. The title Pirates of the Caribbean does make you think it would be filmed in the Caribbean, but Whitehaven Beach was the beach of choice for scenes of Johnny Depp on shore and Salazar’s Ghost army coming out of the water. As far as big names filming in The Whitsundays, Pirates took the top spot for many years.

Whitehaven Beach | Whitsunday Island

Fun fact: Whitehaven Beach is a high-profile national park so producers had to bring in every single palm tree that was used in the beach scenes and at the end of filming took away every single one, leaving absolutely nothing behind.

Ticket to Paradise

Knocking Pirates out as the highest profile film made in The Whitsundays is Ticket to Paradise. Starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney (aka Hollywood royalty!) the producers transformed several locations in The Whitsundays into a Balinese paradise. Palm Bay Resort on Long Island served as the family compound for many months, complete with a seaweed farm in the bay. The luxurious qualia resort on Hamilton Island was the location for some pre-wedding celebrations and the Bougainvillea Pool on Catseye Beach was the location for a black-tie event, you’ll recognise the palm-tree-lined beach in the background. There were also some Whitehaven Beach scenes after George’s character, David, is bitten by a dolphin – the dolphin scenes were not filmed in The Whitsundays!

Palm Bay Resort

Fun facts: While filming, Julia Roberts and George Clooney stayed on Hamilton Island while filming in the Pallion and Aquila houses. Best bit? They are available for anyone to hire through Hamilton Island Holiday Homes (Pallion) or their own website (Aquila).

It’s easy to see why The Whitsundays is a favourite with producers, there are no touch-ups required the waters are that blue and the beaches as untouched and stunning as the movies