With Air New Zealand teaming up with Virgin Australia we now have direct access to one of Australia’s best kept gems – the Whitsundays, and with the time difference in our favour you can fly out from New Zealand at breakfast and arrive in time for lunch.
Situated in the heart of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays is comprised of 74 islands and boasts one of the best climatic conditions in the world with temperatures year round sitting between 25 and 30 degrees and the water a mind-blowing 23 to 28.
Chelsey had the privilege of experiencing The Whitsundays first hand to create the following top 10 must do checklist.
Considered the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, you'll be amazed at the beauty of this idyllic region from the beach front lagoon to the bustling main drag which is set to undergo a $17m makeover.
With a range of accommodation options from backpackers to the quintessential Airlie Beach Hotel and top end apartments nestled in the hillside amongst lush tropical gardens like Water’s Edge Resort you’ll be more than accommodated for.
Airlie Beach also sports a number of award winning restaurants, make sure boutique restaurant Deja Vu is on your list along with Capers of which both present an incredible line up of local seafood and fresh regional produce for your tasting pleasure and if you’ve got an edge for partying you’ll find Airlie Beach booming on any night of the week from the backpackers bar, Irish pub to a selection of night clubs
For those wishing to experience the Whitsundays without leaving the main coast make sure you book in with Salty Dog Sea Kayaking and ask for ex-pat kiwi from Rotovegas - Mark to be your guide for the day.
As part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the tropical, clear, warm waters off the coast of Airlie Beach offer some of the most breathtaking and accessible paddling in the world and with guides who have an intimate knowledge of the area and its rich history won’t leave you disappointed.
Champagne on Whitehaven Beach
Whitehaven Beach is stretched out over seven kilometres along Whitsunday Island, the crystal clear aqua waters combine with the whitest of white sand making it easy to see why it is the most photographed beach in Australia and one of the world’s top 10 beaches – and there’s no better way to enjoy it than with a glass of ice cold champagne in hand.
There’s a multitude of day trip options to Whitehaven Beach by ferry, power boat or luxury yacht and with helicopters or sea planes you can also package in your trip with other island experiences in the Whitsundays.
Hamilton Island is the largest inhabited island of the Whitsunday Islands and is used almost exclusively for tourism.
Set amidst pristine surroundings, Hamilton Island offers a multitude of activities and luxurious accommodation options to suit the most discerning traveller. You'll be spoilt for choice with sea-kayaking, game fishing, scenic helicopter flights and 'Breakfast with the Koalas' at the Koala Gallery.
Choose from the luxurious and intimate setting of qualia (more to come below), the beachfront luxury of the Beach Club or the sweeping views of the Coral Sea at The Reef View Hotel with accommodation and nightlife options there is something for everyone here – specifically of note should be the Hamilton Island Yacht Club for your next work conference.
From half day to overnights it’s too easy to organise a boat and a skipper, however for those that want independence and freedom chartering a bare boat is definitely the way to go. Generally, a bareboat is a charter boat that comes without a skipper or crew however if you wish you can tee up with a sail guide, and even organise provisions and a cook before you arrive.
If you’re looking for advice track down Geoff Wilson from Sunsail , he and his beautiful wife sailed the world for four and half years so you can place some good faith that he knows what he’s on about when he says the Whitsundays is the number one sailing spot in the world given the close proximity of all the islands and array of features this stunning landscape holds.
For the adrenaline junky in all of us the high-speed adventures available on a high-powered jet ski are always a great kick, especially if you can time your excursion (like I did) with Hamilton Islands three metre tide pushing its way through the channel with an oncoming 30 knot wind - then you’ve got a absolutely stunning recipe for double overhead swells to fly around on.
For those aiming for a tamer experience they’re equally perfect on a quiet day with the freedom and manoeuvrability to navigate your way into secluded inlets, circumnavigate islands and throw zigzag curves under the sun with your friends.
Jet Ski Tours is based out of Hamilton Island and the machines are built for solo or double-act thrill seekers.
Hamilton Island Golf Club
Five minutes ferry from Hamilton Island is also a golf course that will take you on like our very own Kauri Cliffs.
Opened in just August 2009 the par 71, 18-hole course features two distinctly different nine hole circuits and has some of the most spectacular views of any golf course in the world.
The course is designed by champion golfer, Peter Thomson, and is the only championship golf course on its own island in Australia. Making its debut entry into Australia’s top 100 golf courses at 39th this will be a course to watch.
Whether you are an avid golfer or not, a visit across to Hamilton Island Golf Club , located on neighbouring Dent Island is an experience not to be missed with the Clubhouse serving an incredible lunch each day perched overlooking the stunning views of the sparkling coral sea.
Australasia’s most awarded luxury nature resort the renowned Hayman is a magnificent five star resort wrapped in flora and fauna and is situated on its own exclusive island in the Great Barrier Reef.
Comprising 210 rooms, suites, penthouses and beach villa’s, all with breathtaking vistas of the island and its superb surrounds there’s an accommodation option for all discerning travellers and with plenty of activities ranging from bushwalks, spa treatments and trips the Great Barrier Reef on offer alongside a reputation as a food lover’s paradise - Hayman is the picture perfect resort for those that wish to kick back, relax and indulge.
Access to Hayman Island is by luxury launch transfer from Hamilton Island or Airlie Beach, or by seaplane or helicopter connections from Proserpine (Whitsunday Coast) Airport, or seaplane from Airlie Beach.
When you’re handed a glass of Veuve Cliquot on arrival you know you’re in for something special.
‘qualia’ in Latin means "a collection of deeper sensory experiences" and mate, do they deliver.
Situated on the secluded northern-most tip of Hamilton Island surrounded by all the splendour of the Great Barrier Reef - qualia is Hamilton Island’s world class luxury accommodation.
The service is first class; friendly without being intrusive. The rooms are incredibly well furnished with excellent attention to detail and with native bush surrounding your view out to the harbour on either side you’re left with a blissful feeling of seclusion.
With golf buggies for each room and kayaking, catamarans and the likes surrounding the resort alongside a huge infiniti pool you’re set perfectly to find your balance of relaxation and luxury enjoyment at qualia that will set you bliss.
This is the resort that renowned Formula One driver Mark Webber chose to recently spend some time, and you know those guys know a thing or two about the best!
Great Barrier Reef
As one of the seven wonders of the natural world the Great Barrier Reef there was no question that as Australia's most breathtaking natural gift this would wrap up our top 10.
The reef contains an abundance of marine life and comprises over 3000 individual reef systems and coral bays with some of the world’s most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches.
There are a number of options to choose from to get out there and enjoy this gem – the first of course being by boat so you can enjoy the reef up close with snorkelling and scuba or in looking skyward with a charter plane or helicopter to see the incredible textures and colours of the Great Barrier Reef in its entirety.
That being quite a difficult choice it becomes a no brainer when you’ve come this far to shoot for a double up with a sea plane for Air Whitsunday’s which includes a spectacular scenic flight over the Whitsunday Islands, Heart Reef and exclusive snorkelling and coral viewing from their private semi submersible at the reef in small groups.
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