By Experience Oz

Best time to visit The Whitsundays

Planning to visit the beautiful Whitsundays in Queensland but not sure when to go? Here we break down the best time to visit this North Queensland paradise.

As a group, the Whitsundays form an island paradise rivalling other international locations such as Bora Bora. With an immense amount of variety and a consistently high level of natural beauty, the Whitsundays allows for a sense of escapism from the day-to-day grind that is within most people's budgets and time constraints. The various destinations in the region offer some truly epic snorkelling, scuba diving and simple beach relaxation adventures just off Australia's east coast.

Combining feedback from local and regional tourism organisations, travel operators and locals, we found that the best time of the year to visit the Whitsundays is... September, for a variety of reasons. So, what exactly makes September in the Whitsundays such a widely-recommended time to visit? Read on to found out!

About The Whitsundays

The Whitsundays is made up of 74 individual islands, divided up into four groups in total. Each group and by extension, each island offers something slightly different, with some specialising in more developed resort-style facilities, while others focus on eco-tourism and more marine and aquatic-based experiences.

Exactly which island in the Whitsundays will provide the best balance is entirely up to you as different islands provide huge variations in budget requirements due to a combination of their accessibility, development, and exclusivity.

Why September?

When someone's planning a trip to an almost entirely outdoor-focused destination such as the Whitsundays, one of the primary concerns is the weather. It's in this regard that September both delivers and yet is not quite at the maximum possible peak level that the Whitsundays can reach.

It's still comfortably warm in September, with temperatures reaching as high as 26 degrees Celsius (78.8 degrees Fahrenheit) and as low as a very tolerable 19.2 degrees Celsius (66.6 degrees Fahrenheit), yet it doesn't quite reach the tropical atmosphere of the summer months that bring with them higher temperatures (along with increased humidity). Combine this with one of the lowest levels of rainfall in any month of the year as well as avoiding the region's annual stinger season, and September serves as an ideal all-round destination that balances all the aspects perhaps better than any other alternative.

Navigating your trip around the peak times for stingers in the Whitsundays is an important aspect of planning any trip there, and one that often falls to the wayside for those more focused on money, the weather, or school holiday periods. This is in large part due to the danger that these stingers present as both Irukandji and box jellyfish often populate the waters in the warmer weather. Stinger season generally runs from October through to May, however, the majority of operators offer complimentary use of stinger suits to help protect you when you're in the water.

Enjoying the water is one of the key drawcards of the Whitsundays, and September provides reasonably comfortable water temperatures that hover around 25 degrees Celsius. If you're particularly sensitive to cooler waters, you may want to aim for the end of the month to time your visit in this case.

During September you will also be able to enjoy beautiful blue skies as it is generally the month with the least amount of rain, meaning you'll be able to make the most of all the things to see and do in the region. This is most definitely a good thing, as the sheer variety of things to see and do in the Whitsundays is staggering, and limited only by how deep your pockets are and how much free time you have. The Great Barrier Reef is perhaps the most obvious focus here, and while it's slightly further out from the shore when compared to its northern neighbour of Cairns, it is still an accessible destination providing an incredible adventure.


Your choice of how to access the reef comes down to where you choose to base yourself when visiting the Whitsundays. Most choose to stay in the popular seaside town of Airlie Beach and then venture out to individual islands via tours or other available day trips, while the more extravagant among us may instead wish to stay in facilities on any of the islands themselves. Obviously, staying on one of the islands is generally more expensive than picking a spot in Airlie, but there's truly something to be said for the experience of an island stay.

The most popular islands are Hamilton Island and Daydream Island for their affordable choices and range of accommodation options. For those chasing a more exclusive and luxurious island getaway, One&Only Hayman Island is the way to go.

Daydream Island

Those wanting a quick dose of island action will likely want to opt for Daydream; a simple half-hour ferry trip from Airlie Beach is enough to get you on shore at its popular Daydream Island Resort and Spa, and the ferry departs frequently enough that you'll be able to form enough of a suitable itinerary to suit your own desires as long as you're willing to put in a little effort.

Alternatively, a range of tours are available that will both get you to Daydream and include access to a host of its facilities and activities once you're there. Daydream Island focuses on providing a breadth of options that one might expect from a fully-fledged island resort â both on and off-shore things to do are available in abundance, such as tennis, volleyball, live music and playgrounds for the kids on the land and snorkelling/diving courses along with kayaking, catamarans and simply swimming in the water.

Daydream is also smaller and has perhaps more of an intimate feel than its larger brothers, so if going somewhere in the Whitsundays that you can experience the most of within walking distance is a priority for you, it makes for a solid choice. Lastly, it's worth nothing that Daydream Island is more oriented towards families, so if you're travelling to the Whitsundays with kids then it may be the island of choice for you.

Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island, sits on the opposite end of the scale as it's large, has been largely developed, and has the feel of a small town as opposed to a solitary island. This, of course, comes with both its benefits and its drawbacks as the huge range of things to do means you'll likely never get bored or be lacking for entertainment, but those wanting a more exclusive and isolated holiday may want to look elsewhere.

In addition to all of its water sports and shore-based activities, Hamilton Island also offers a range of shopping options and a variety of restaurants and other dining facilities as well. Hamilton Island has a true party atmosphere that permeates its shores, with bars amongst its beautiful scenery a popular pastime, as well as numerous spots to simply relax and absorb the island environment.

The island also presents more accommodation options as opposed to Daydream Island. You can choose from backpackers to 5-star resorts and everything in between, meaning that there's more of a range to suit a broader spectrum of budget levels. Given the island's size, one of the most popular on-shore activities is hiring a golf buggy to zip from place to place and adds an amusing layer to the proceedings.

Hamilton Island also offers the convenience of its own airport, allowing it to serve as a direct point of access to the Whitsundays and the other islands surrounding it. Hamilton is suitable for a range of visitors including young families looking to getaway, couples looking to relax, and young travellers looking to explore.

Hayman Island

Hayman Island is more of a relaxation-focused destination that caters towards the upper-end crowd that fits most people's bill who are looking for a getaway without exerting themselves physically. Hayman's facilities have had a modern makeover in recent years, and its luxury bearing truly shines through; its new Beach Villas are sight to behold, albeit with a price tag befitting their on-the-water location.

Offering a sense of exclusivity, the island and its resort often play host to a collection of big named celebrities from both Australia and overseas. The beauty of the resort mixed with the beauty of the island makes it one of the most exclusive and relaxing destinations that are not accessible to the public, only guests of the resort.

Whitsunday Island

Lastly, the other major island of note is Whitsunday Island. The largest in the chain, Whitsunday Island boasts one key highlight that none of its other neighbours can offer; the world famous Whitehaven Beach. Enough has been written about Whitehaven to sing its praises that you've most likely heard it all by now; suffice to say the beach's pristine silica sands make it beautiful enough to serve as the postcard-worthy highlight of many a Whitsundays promotional brochure. Simply put, when most people think Whitsundays, what they are truly imagining is Whitehaven Beach.

This 7km-long stretch of paradise is accessible via a variety of means; a range of tour operators provide itineraries which make a point of including Whitehaven as the main focus or indulge yourself and make a grand entrance via seaplane instead.

In short, coupling the comfortable weather/temperatures and near-constant sunshine with relatively stinger-free waters and an absence of a school holiday rush, and it's easy to see why September stands tall as the best time of the year to visit the Whitsundays.

Can I experience the Whitsundays in one weekend?

If you're content with simply getting a quick dose of this beautiful destination, then yes. Our sources say that many people actually choose this option due to time constraints; it's extremely popular for visitors to base themselves on, say, Hamilton Island and then use it as a springboard to soak in as much of the reef and island scenery in the surrounding area as possible. The vast majority of tour companies operate with this kind of limited-time schedule in mind and have put together itineraries to serve this exact purpose.

Destinations such as Whitehaven Beach, Long Island, and the Outer Great Barrier Reef is all viable to get a taste of what each has to offer, with both full and half day itineraries typically provided that will allow you to split days up into a (recommended) maximum of two destinations. This allows for perhaps the best available balance between covering as much as possible without feeling like you're rushing.

The relatively close proximity of one major island to another makes island hopping a breeze, with tours available to will cater to most, depending on your budget. Most full day tours aim to let you experience multiple reef activities such as snorkelling/scuba diving, glass-bottom boat trips, underwater viewing chambers and the likes, while also including meals. So if you're looking for a worry-free holiday and willing to fork out a little more cash to get it, then the Whitsundays over a weekend in September is one of the best options for you.

If you're looking for a range of things to do in and around the Whitsundays not only in September but various other times throughout the year as well, be sure to check out our main Things to do in the Whitsundays section.

Experience Oz

We acknowledge and pay respect to the Traditional Custodians of Country and their connections and continuous care for the skies, lands and waterways throughout Australia.