FAQ's - The Whitsundays QLD
The Whitsundays, Queensland.
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Water Safety in The Whitsundays

Water Safety Handbook

Check our weather page for up-to-date weather information and web cams around the Whitsundays!

Where is the Whitsundays?

The Whitsunday region is located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, on the central east coast of Queensland, Australia. We are situated between Mackay and Townsville, and are approximately 630km south of Cairns and 1100km north of Brisbane. 

The Whitsundays is situated approximately 400km north of the Tropic of Capricorn, which crosses the east coast of Australia at the town of Rockhampton. 
Go to our Interactive Map for more information

Which airlines service the Whitsundays?

Jetstar, Qantas, TigerAir and Virgin Australia fly direct from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns to Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) and Great Barrier Reef Airport (Hamilton Island). Mackay Airport is about 2 hours drive on the Bruce Highway from the Whitsundays.

How do I access the Whitsundays from the various airports?

Ferry services with Cruise Whitsundays meet each flight from Great Barrier Reef Airport (Hamilton Island) connecting to Long Island, Daydream Island and Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach. Coach transfers with Whitsunday Transit, and share taxi’s with Mackay Whitsunday Taxi’s. Mackay Whitsunday Taxi’s meet each flight at the Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) Airport and can be pre-booked or booked on arrival. The Mackay Airport is serviced by Greyhound and Premier Coaches however departures to the Whitsundays are limited. Whitsundays 2 Everywhere are a dedicated and convenient airport shuttle servicing both the Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) and Mackay Airports to your accommodation in the Whitsundays.

What should I pack?

Come as casual as you like as you will probably spend most of your time in your swimsuit soaking up the sun, swimming and snorkelling. Don't forget a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, thongs/flip-flops, sand shoes (they'll probably get wet), and perhaps jeans and a jacket for cooler evenings. If you are planning on spending a night out on the town, casual dress is all that is required, but please note that rubber shoes such as thongs/flip-flops are not permitted in most nightclubs.

What about snorkelling and sailing?

Stinger suits and wetsuits are available to hire, as is all snorkelling/scuba diving equipment. If you have specialist equipment or a prescription mask, you are most welcome to bring them and use them on any tour. Most day and overnight cruises supply you with snorkelling equipment and protective suits as part of the price. 

If you're planning to sail, hard suitcases are difficult to stow. Bring soft luggage wherever possible, and some vessels require you to have a bag without zippers. Consider drawstring bags instead.

Is Heart Reef in the Whitsundays and can I swim or snorkel there?

Naturally formed Heart Reef is located in the Whitsundays, within Hardy Reef, however you can not swim or snorkel here. We recommend enjoying a scenic flight over Heart Reef either by helicopter or seaplane, for a brilliant photographic opportunity. Some people choose to surprise their loved ones with a flight over this romantic sight for a special occasion, with more than a few proposals taking place mid-air over the natural heart formation.  

Will I be able to visit the Great Barrier Reef from the Whitsundays?

Most definitely, the Whitsundays feature the ultimate Great Barrier Reef Experience - under, above and on the reef! You can do a tour to the reef from Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday Coast, and from all the resort islands. Depending whether you have just half a day, a whole day or want to spend extended time on the reef and stay overnight, you can do it all in the Whitsundays. Find out more about visiting the Great Barrier Reef

How long does it take to get to the Great Barrier Reef?

Cruising time is approximately 2 hours from Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday Coast or 1 1/2 hours from Hamilton Island. Alternatively, a seaplane or helicopter flight takes approximately 30 minutes direct.

Can I swim in the water and what are the odds of getting stung by jellyfish or marine stingers?

Yes you can swim in the Whitsunday waters however we recommend wearing a full length lycra suit during the higher risk period (October – May) which reduces the risk of stings and is great sun protection too. Of the 8 million users of the Great Barrier Reef/North Queensland region each year, the percentage of Irukandji stings is minimal and far fewer Box Jellyfish stings occur. Whitsunday locals often swim during the ‘stinger season’ without any stinger suit protection, however it is best to heed the advice of your tour operator and wear a stinger suit to ensure increased protection and safety. Find out more about Stingers

What about sharks in the Whitsunday waters?

We offer this safety advice to guests entering the water:

  • DO NOT swim at Cid Harbour
  • DO NOT swim directly from the back of the boat
  • DO NOT swim at dusk or dawn
  • Never swim at night
  • Always snorkel in buddie pairs
  • Do not dispose of food scraps or fish carcasses from fishing in to the ocean
  • Do not swim in murky water anywhere
  • Swimming in other areas is fine as long as they observe the guidelines for their safety and the safety of their guests.

Cid Harbour, while a good sheltered anchorage, is not a known or popular swimming/snorkelling destination in the Whitsundays and well away from the popular destinations in the Whitsundays for which it is famous for. Like travelling anywhere in the world, it is important to understand the environment and heed the safety messages provided by operators. 

Water Safety Handbook

What public transport is available in Airlie Beach?

There are regular, scheduled bus services across the Whitsunday mainland with Whitsunday Transit and Bowen Transit - you can check the timetables online. Whitsunday Transit operates a regular bus service across the whole coast, from Proserpine to Shute Harbour via Airlie Beach. They also offer easy airport transfers, which will pick you up and drop you off, directly at your accommodation. 

Taxis operate throughout the coastal region, call a local cab on 131 008. Get more info on the Getting Around page.

Someone told me there is no beach at Airlie Beach, is that true?

There are two swimming beaches in the town of Airlie Beach itself, Airlie Beach and Boathaven Beach. Boathaven Beach is a new public beach, built when the Port of Airlie marina was developed. It has soft, white sand, and a swimming enclosure in summer, with ample parking adjacent. If you have a car, there are plenty of beaches a little further afield. Cannonvale Beach is dog-friendly and has a swimming enclosure in summer as well. Dingo Beach, Hydeaway Bay, Conway and Wilson Beaches are off the beaten track, and often you can have a whole stretch of beach all to yourself. These beaches are also dog-friendly. Bowen has 7 beautiful beaches, with soft sand, ample parking and a very quiet, peaceful atmosphere. 

Where can I see short videos on the Whitsundays?

On our very own YouTube channel 

Where can I find information about holding an event, conference meeting or incentive trip in the Whitsundays?

We have a full-service Convention Bureau who offer their services to event planners and organisers free of charge. Visit our Business Events Menu for more information. 

Where can I download a copy of your Visitors Guide?

Please click here to view an electronic version of our 2018/2019 Whitsundays Visitors Guide.

Can I have a hard copy of the Visitors Guide sent to me by post?

If you live in Australia or NZ and would like a hard copy of the Visitors Guide posted to you, please click here and a copy will be sent to you shortly. 
Unfortunately, we can not post hard copies of the Guide to countries other than New Zealand, but you are able to view the guide online above.

Can I study English in the Whitsundays?

Yes you can. For more information visit Queensland College of English or Pacific Center - Planet of Adventures

I'd like to stay in the Whitsundays, or Australia, permanently, how do I go about it?

Pacific Center - Planet of Adventures is a registered migration agent and can assist you with everything to do with visas, residency, and migrating to Australia. 

When is whale season?

The official months for whale season are from July to September with some sightings outside that time. Whales pass through the Whitsundays on their annual migration from the colder southern seas to the tropical waters of the Whitsundays during the winter months. Humpback and Pilot Whales are a common sight, including the famous Migaloo, the white humpback whale, and other species come all the way from Antarctica to calve and breed in the warm sheltered waters of the Whitsunday Islands. Find out more about whales in the Whitsundays here.

Where can I camp with pets?

From July 1, 2011, BIG4 has allowed its member parks to decide whether or not they would like to take dogs. 

Pet Friendly:

  • Le Sorelle Coffee House - allow pets on the front patio
  • Abell Point Marina - however guests requesting pets to stay need to fill out a form before it is approved
  • Rose Bay Resort - two pet-friendly apartments available, please request when booking
  • Whitsunday Rainforest Retreats - when booking a whole villa
  • Seabreeze Tourist Park
  • Airlie Cove Resort and Van Park
  • Fat Frog Beach Café - also have a menu especially for dogs
  • Airlie Motor Lodge - $25 per pet per night
  • BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort

Pet off lead areas in the Whitsundays:

  • Bowen
    • Southern end of Queens Beach
    • Northern end of Kings Beach, enter at end of Rose Bay Road
    • Front Beach from the jetty heading south to Doughty Creek Mouth
    • The mud flats from Doughty Creek Mouth heading south to just past the Big Mango
    • Denison Park on Hay Street
  • Cannonvale
    • Far end of Cannonvale Beach off Coral Esplanade
    • Dog park area between Coral Esplanade and Shute Harbour Road
  • Jubilee Pocket
    • Park between Jubilee Pocket Road and Sunbird Close
  • Proserpine
    • Park on Renwick Street

On-lead areas in the Whitsundays

  • Airlie Beach
    • Airlie Beach to Cannonvale foreshore walk (Bicentennial Walk)
    • Boathaven Beach
  • Bowen
    • Hansen Park to Horseshoe Bay Walk
    • Muller’s Lagoon to Queens Beach
    • Cape Edgecumbe Walking Trail
  • Cedar Creek Falls
  • Conway Beach
  • Dingo Beach
  • Hydeaway Bay
  • Peter Faust Dam, Proserpine
  • Shute Harbour 

Can I camp on the Islands?

There are numerous island camp sites dotted around the Whitsunday Islands, and you might be lucky enough to get a small camp site all to yourself, or to join a larger group, of up to 24 other campers. Scamper can help you to get to the islands if you don't have your own boat. More information on Whitsunday Island Camping can be found here

Can I stay overnight on Whitehaven Beach?

Whitehaven Beach is on Whitsunday Island which is a National Park. There is no fixed accommodation at Whitehaven Beach, however, camping and overnight boat moorings are a great alternative. 

Can I take my car to the islands?

The Whitsunday Islands do not allow guests to bring vehicles and island ferry services do not have facilities for guests to transport personal vehicles. Cars and vehicles alike should be parked in public or secure car parks upon departure of the Whitsunday Coast to visit the Whitsunday Islands. 

Where can I go 4WDing, trail bike or mountain bike riding?

Cathu State Forest, about 50km south of Proserpine, west of the Bruce Highway is an area where you are allowed to drive or ride your registered vehicles, motor cycles, trail bikes or bicycles.  A special permit is not required unless it is a commercial activity, an organised group activity or a competitive event. Conditionally registered vehicles are not permitted. Horse-riding is also permitted on open roads and tracks in Cathu State Forest. More info

In addition, the Conway National Park, between Proserpine and Airlie Beach, has recently been opened up to mountain bikes. 

What type of parking is in Airlie Beach? Where can I park my camper van?

Ask your Airlie Beach caravan park upon check out if they offer an overnight/weekend parking service for a nominated fee, if you intend to visit the islands. 

Alternatively, there are numerous paid parking facilities throughout the Whitsunday Coast. A variety of holiday parks offer affordable camping options with powered and non-powered sites available. Camping on the roadside is discouraged. 

Where can I fish?

The Whitsundays has some great fishing. From catching a huge Barramundi at Peter Faust Dam, to fly fishing to deep sea game fishing, the Whitsundays has something for all fishing fans. There are a number of tackle shops along the main road into Airlie Beach and the highway at Proserpine, who can help you with gear, bait, charters, information, sites, permits and zoning maps to help make your Whitsunday fishing trip a successful one. For maps and fishing zoning information click here

Where can I do my Open Water Dive Certificate?

There are a variety of companies that offer Dive Certification Courses, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. our team at the Whitsunday Information and Booking Service for Whitsunday Dive Operators and Dive Sites. 

Is there much to do in Airlie Beach?

There's heaps to do in Airlie Beach! Visit the markets on Saturday mornings along the beach for a souvenir or gifts for friends and family at home and go shopping along the main street. Hire a scooter or car and go exploring - the Whitsunday Coast is full of hidden surprises, slightly off the beaten track. Go for a swim at the Airlie Beach Lagoon, it's free. Eat your way along the main street, there are delicious feasts to be enjoyed in the wide variety of restaurants and much fun to be had on a night or two out in the bars and nightclubs of Airlie Beach. Listen to local musicians, try some of the magnificent day tours and water sports on offer, experience a once in a lifetime scenic flight... find out more about Airlie Beach here.  

Where are the markets in the Whitsundays?

The Airlie Beach markets are held every Saturday from 7am -1pm. You will find the markets on the Airlie Beach foreshore. The open air markets include premier art and hand craft showcases, locally made jewellery, clothing, souvenirs, books, fruit and vegetables and lots of entertainment. 

The Bowen markets take place on Sunday mornings at Hansen Park, on Horseshoe Bay Road from 8am - 12pm.



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