Australia

Whitsunday Island: 1st Stop Cruising the Whitsundays

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As our time traveling up the coast of Australia is coming to a close, we’re limited in how much time we can spend along the way. But for 6 nights, we enjoyed two completely different bays on Whitsunday Island.

About the Whitsundays

The Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands in the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Australia near Airlie Beach.  Airlie Beach (pronounced like early) is a 12-hour-and-30-minute drive north of Brisbane or 7 hours from Cairns.  The Whitsundays are the charter capital of Australia, with a huge variety of charter companies based in Airlie Beach.

About Whitsunday Island

Whitsunday Island is the largest island in the Whitsundays and was our first stop after coming in from Middle Percy.  The island is completely uninhabited.

Whitehaven Beach

Our first anchorage was Whitehaven Beach.  Whitehaven Beach runs 7 km long and has a wide stretch of fine white sand.  Because of this, the beach and anchorage are super popular.  Every day, we shared our view with seaplanes, helicopters, mega yachts, power cats, sailboats, and the twice-a-day Cruise Whitsundays ferry that came in and unloaded their guests.   Cruise Whitsundays sets up a beach volleyball court, a massage tent, and has guided activities all day long.  Not only did helicopters and seaplanes fly over, but they landed on the beach or in the water (respectively) for their guests.

A cruiser's party at Whitehaven Beach on the Whitsundays. Dingies are everywhere!Amy walking across Whitehaven Beach on the Whitsunday Islands.

At night, Whitehaven is relatively deserted – the planes, helicopters, and ferries have all taken off, and what remains is about a dozen boats, mostly charter boats with a few cruisers thrown in.

Whitehaven Beach has a reputation for being rolly, but there appeared to be just enough South in the wind for us to prevent that from happening.  We also had a few days that were flat calm.  I had a great time paddleboarding every day.

Hiking from Whitehaven Beach

There are two trails that can be taken from Whitehaven Beach.  The first is the Solway track, which usually is a loop (the loop was closed during our visit).  Our return hike took us up to a lookout with Whitehaven on one side and a view south, over the Lindeman group, on the other side.  The Solway trail is 1.2km and took about 35 minutes.

The view from the hike at Whitehaven beach on Whitsunday Island.
The view at the lookout facing towards Whitehaven Beach.

The second trail leads to Chance Bay.  This trail is 3 km from where it meets the Solway Circuit, which is another 600 m to Whitehaven Beach.  I took it at a good clip and was able to get back within an hour.

Chance Bay

After four nights at Whitehaven Beach, the wind turned into a rare northerly.  It was still light, but we took advantage of the opportunity to sail to Chance Bay, on the south coast of Whitsunday Island.  Chance Bay had the occasional charter boat, but for the most part, we shared the bay with other cruisers – sail and power.

Drone photo of boats anchored at Chance Bay on Whitsunday Island.

Snorkeling Chance Bay

Most of the coral in Chance Bay is pretty dead, but we did locate one bommie that was still quite lively.  We took a short snorkel with the fish and soft coral.

Where to Stay on Whitsunday Island

There are no hotels or resorts on Whitsunday.  Whitehaven Beach and Chance Bay both have campsites.  The Whitehaven Beach campsite was popular during our stay.  Chance Bay’s campsite was empty.

Connectivity

We did not have cell phone service in either bay.  We caught a few minutes of signal when we were traveling within sight of nearby Hamilton Island.

Up Next: Hamilton Island

Watch the Video: Celebrating my BIRTHDAY in the Whitsundays!

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