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Top 10 THings to do in the Whitsundays
Experience Oz + NZ Presents

Top 10 Things to do in

The Whitsundays

by Matt Hobbs

Australia's own little slice of island heaven can be found in the Whitsundays, a chain of pristine and beautiful islands off the coast of Queensland that provides visitors with some of the most idyllic and photogenic locations in the entire country.

Consisting of 74 individual islands, the Whitsundays offer a bevvy of marine and shore-based entertainment, with each of its islands bringing something slightly different and unique to the table.

The archipelago is a destination that's often used as a showcase of Australia's coastal beauty both domestically and abroad, with its position right amongst the heart of the incredible Great Barrier Reef making for some of the most vivid combinations of natural colours available.

Pristine, clear waters, vibrant white beaches and bright and beautiful coral reefs with their fishy inhabitants all make for a spectacular display of nature at its finest.

Divided up into several separate sub-groups – including the Whitsunday, Lindeman, Molle and Northern Groups – they offer one of the best getaways in Australia for those seeking a postcard-perfect destination.

With multiple popular islands available to the public to choose from – each with its own character and specific activities to offer – there's a dizzying array of choice when planning a trip here. From the incredibly luxurious to the more budget-conscious, the choice of not only which island to visit (or to stay on) but what activities to take part in will likely come down to some combination of your personality and how deep you're willing to reach into your wallet.

With this in mind, here's our list of the Top 10 Things to do in the Whitsundays.

10. WILD LIFE Hamilton Island

WILD LIFE Hamilton Island

Location: 1 Resort Drive, Hamilton Island

The Whitsundays isn't all just about hitting the reef particularly for those who are planning to make the trip with kids along for the ride. It's only fitting that Hamilton Island, which is widely considered one of the most family-friendly islands in the Whitsundays, is home to a popular wildlife attraction, WILD LIFE Hamilton Island. This attraction provides families with the chance to get up close and interact with all of the most popular Aussie animals with on a smaller scale.

While it is relatively small, all the major species of animals live here. You'll find wombats, kangaroos, crocodiles and other domestic staples, while the ability to hold and cuddle a koala that is always a hit with the kids.

Meanwhile, twice-daily park keeper tours are available that provide further insight into some of the creatures on display. The morning session (10am) showcases marsupials such as wombats, kangaroos and koalas, and including crocodile feeds during the warmer months, lizards and more.

Informative, knowledgeable and friendly staff make these mini-tours pleasant and enjoyable for kids and adults alike. Given that these are two of the major highlights of visiting the park, it's thus advisable to try and time your visit to coincide with a keeper talk. Plus, the entry pass you purchase allows you re-entry for the entirety of your stay on Hamilton Island, so it's possible to attend the morning session, head out to grab some lunch, and then return for the afternoon talk later on in the day.

This opportunity for repeat visits helps add to the value of park entry (children will no doubt want to go back at least once more during your stay) – plus, if you're a holder of an annual Merlin Pass (one that provides access to many of their attractions around the country), you'll be able to enter for free.

Other optional additions can add a different aspect to the experience here and make for something that is fairly unique – their “Breakfast with the Koalas” offering provides a buffet of warm and cold foods such as bacon and eggs, pancakes, cereals and fruit whilst surrounded by koalas, which is a nice touch and worth the investment considering the uniqueness of the experience.

A Nocturnal Tour is also available in the evenings, featuring an Aussie style BBQ with food items such as salads, potatoes and of course plenty of meat.

Once guests have finished their meal they will have the opportunity to head out on one of our exclusive night tours of the park that only our Nocturnal tour guests get to experience. Many of the animals are nocturnal, which means they are very active once the sun goes down making it one of the best times of the day to see them.

In all, WILD LIFE Hamilton Island is a nice little gem on Hamilton Island that's kept in fantastic condition and is staffed by passionate people who truly care about the animals – what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality, and if you're planning to use Hamilton as your island of choice and have little ones with you, this is likely to be one of the kids' highlights of your trip.

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9. A One-day Escape to Long Island

Location: 1km off QLD mainland, Whitsundays

As many visitors to the Whitsundays will likely choose to base their adventures out of accommodation on the mainland in order to cut down on the costs often associated with island-based stays, shore-based town Airlie Beach is the spot of choice for many given it serves as an easy springboard to the nearby islands.

By the same token, the Whitsundays' Long Island is thus one of the first and easiest to recommend ports of call for those who may not have a ton of time allocated for their holiday.

As the island situated closest to the mainland, Long Island offers a blend of scenery and convenience that makes enjoying its beauty a breeze – deriving its name from its unusually thin and narrow shape, the island can be easily reached via one of its regularly scheduled ferry services.

The trip over from the mainland's Shute Harbour to Long Island takes roughly a mere 20 minutes, and upon arrival you'll be presented with a pretty, National-Park laden piece of island paradise that offers plenty of opportunities for exploration both on and off-shore.

It's an island that's far more ideal for those looking for a “relaxed getaway”, however – a tranquil atmosphere and a typically smaller number of guests to some of the more robust islands make it the perfect choice to chill out and take things at your own pace.

Long Island features around 13 kilometres of bushwalking track to explore, and during the leisurely stroll native wildlife such as kangaroos and goannas can be encountered on the way to some great little secluded spots – including a lovely little beach - that epitomise the word “natural escape”.

Most of the activities on Long Island are limited to those on and around the island – if you're looking to truly experience the aquatic life of the Great Barrier Reef in its fullest, you can book a day tour that will take you further out into the heart of the reef – however snorkelling offshore is very viable, with a lovely little fringing reef located just 150 metres from the shoreline.

If you're looking to kick things up a notch activity-wise, the island's Breakfree Long Island Resort offers the ability to take part in the likes of jet ski hire, parasailing and even sailing upon booking.

Given the escapist purpose of the island, however, most people here will be simply looking to unwind and unplug from the world – bring your own food and / or alcohol over to the island and take advantage of the barbecue facilities, relax and read a book under the shade of a palm tree, or simply plug in your headphones and relax in the sun – that's what a trip to Long Island is all about.

If you're looking to take children, Long Island offers a limited number of facilities to keep them occupied – there's a mini golf course, the chance to feed kangaroos, and a small kids club, however it's an island that's mostly suited towards adults wanting to unwind.

Ferries to Long Island from the mainland depart roughly every 2-3 hours throughout the day, while one-day tour packages that include return transfer and which allow full use of resort facilities are also available, making it a top spot for those who are short on time.

8. Whitsunday JetSki Tours

Whitsunday JetSki Tours

Location: Abel Point Marina, Airlie Beach

Those wanting a more upbeat and hands-on approach to their Whitsundays cruise / tours experience can kick things up a notch by heading out on the open water with local operator Whitsunday Jetski Tours, who specialise in catering for the more adventurous traveller.

Featuring a pair of tour itineraries that head at high-speed to different parts of the Whitsundays, it's an exciting and fun way to explore some of the amazing coastal and island highlights while taking control of your own vehicle.

In many ways, this provides the best of both worlds – you get all the sightseeing of your standard cruise tour, but also a dose of adrenaline and physicality, ticking two boxes at once for a single one-off price.

There's something about the feeling of freedom that exploring blue, open sees that's purely exhilarating, and the skis are designed to deal with bumpier conditions, which ensure that the experience can still be fun even when it's choppy on the water.

The Whitsunday Jetski Tours team is friendly, fun and energetic, yet still patient enough to deal with nervous or inexperienced riders who may not be too confident in the water, or should they fall of their ski – safety is taken seriously here, and guests are given a full safety briefing as well as quality life jackets before heading out.

Your choice of their available jet ski tours will vary based on two factors – how adventurous your temperament is and how long you're looking to spend on the water. The morning Airlie tour is slightly more laid-back and showcases the best of Airlie Beach and its neighbouring Pioneer Bay, a particularly marine-life-rich stretch of water that's nicknamed the “Turtle Tour” due to the large number of sea turtles which can be found in the water.

It's not uncommon to spot anywhere between 10 and 20 sea turtles on each trip! The afternoon “Daydream Extreme” itinerary, meanwhile is more adventurous, lasting for 4 hours and heading out to more open waters for a visit to a deserted offshore island before ending up at Daydream island for lunch and use of the facilities at Daydream Island Resort.

Throw in a bunch of thoughtful extras included such as bottled water (a necessity to wash out the salt taste you'll no doubt end up with), courtesy photos taken for you during the tour that provide a great way to commemorate the experience, and return accommodation pickups/drop offs and you've got a comprehensive and fast-paced way to see some great Whitsundays highlights in a fun, lighthearted and more daring manner than your average relaxed cruise itinerary.

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7. Go Sailing with Sailing Whitsundays

Location: Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach

On the opposite end of the water-exploration spectrum, kicking back and enjoying the atmosphere of a sailing boat is one of the more luxurious ways to take in the spectacular Whitsundays environment – one that Sailing Whitsundays provide to the fullest.

Featuring a cavalcade of itineraries, vessel types and sizes and budget ranges, if you're looking to indulge with a high-end yet laid-back cruise experience that can span anywhere from half a day to a one-week epic, they've got an itinerary on offer to suit.

A number of different islands and island environments are also available, allowing for a degree of customisation that helps ensure that any adventure you choose to make can be truly your own. Not exactly sure where you want to go? They'll be able to advice the best itinerary whether your priority is snorkelling, diving, romance or something in-between.

Depending on your choice of tour plan, you'll have the chance to visit all the major highlights of the region, as well as take part in a range of activities that use the boat as a launching pad from which to enjoy them.

The likes of kayaking through mangrove-laden “water-forests”, diving amongst pristine corals and doing some top-notch snorkelling - the crews of this long-running company are familiar with all the best snorkel sites and the most efficient ways to get to them – are supplemented by the inherent beauty of the region as a whole.

These are relaxed trips that are a far cry from the “party boat” style atmosphere available on different tours, so if you're looking for that type of cruise you may want to look elsewhere.

It's the multi-day trips that truly shine here, as staying on board a vessel you get to witness all the aspects of the Whitsundays from dawn until dusk, and the effect of both the rising and setting sun casting its glow across such a stunning island environment is one that's bound to be remembered.

All the necessary supplies for a multi-day liveaboard trip are included on their itineraries, and as such guests only need to take long the minimum amount of equipment – a change of clothes, sunscreen and a towel (and seasickness pills if you're of a weaker stomach) and you'll be set, as everything else is provided – with cooking done on board.

While it's difficult to go into detail on all the available trip options in this space, the friendliness, care and experience of the crew coupled with the sheer amount of choice in itineraries makes this the ideal choice for commemorating a special occasion in the Whitsundays.

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6. Enjoy all the offerings of Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island

Location: 16km off QLD mainland, Whitsundays

The flagship and most famous island in the Whitsundays, Hamilton is easy to recommend as one of the best all-round offerings in the chain with a diverse array of accommodation and activity choices available for visitors.

It's also the largest developed, and thus one of the most well-equipped, islands in the Whitsundays in terms of facilities, with plenty of shopping, restaurants and even its own commercial airport.

As such, if you're the type of traveller looking for a “resort style” location for your trip that offers plenty of chances for pampering, dining and activities and don't mind sharing all these benefits with other people, then Hamilton Island ticks all the boxes – and then some.

While it's seen increasing development over the years, Hamilton Island is still largely untouched by human hands, with only 33% of the island having been commercialised. It's thus one of the most interesting examples of ultra-modern architectural development in Australia, as the luxurious man-made constructions still manage to strike a solid balance with the island's natural beauty.

As such, it's a place that boasts plenty of facilities aimed at high-end recreation – Hamilton has a world-class golf club, an architecturally-interesting Yacht Club, and a range of luxurious resorts for those looking to splash out on their accommodation. It's also a lively and event-filled spot that has all the benefits of modern convenience, and as such it is perhaps the best choice of islands in the Whitsundays for those travelling as a family.

Aside from the aforementioned WILD LIFE Hamilton Island, there are two main pools available for public use so that children can enjoy the water that are both right on the beach and thus easy to access, mini-golf set amongst a maze of plants and palms, a purpose-built go-kart track, kids quad bikes and much more.

Adults, meanwhile will be spoiled for choice in terms of on-island activities and will largely depend on which side of the island you're staying on – one contains the majority of the resorts and thus tends to be quieter and more laid-back, while the other serves as the hub for most of the shopping and restaurants. Indulge in some pampering at a day spa, take a bushwalk through the winding tracks to sandy coves or lookout points, play golf or tennis – the choices are nearly endless.

Given Hamilton Island's expansive size, getting from one side to the other can take a fair amount of effort, and thus hiring a golf buggy to zip around the island can be a life-saver; fortunately, many of the accommodation options on offer include this as part of their packages. Looking to the water, meanwhile, and Hamilton doesn't disappoint either – the fringing reef that surrounds the island is one of its main drawcards for some light snorkelling, with plentiful colourful fish that are unusually tame and have become used to interacting with humans.

Kayaks and jet skis are also available for hire for those looking to explore the water further. If you're looking for a full-blown Great Barrier Reef experience you'll have to be prepared to invest a significant amount of time, as popular spots such as the Reef World pontoon involve a longer journey of around 2 hours each way, while trips to iconic Whitehaven Beach (mentioned elsewhere on this list) are also a viable choice.

If you're after options and diversity when visiting the Whitsundays, then few other places can compare to basing yourself on Hamilton Island – it's got a smorgasbord of ways to spend your time.

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5. Spend a day at Daydream Island Resort and Spa

Location: 5km off QLD mainland, Whitsundays

Part island, part relaxation oasis, Daydream Island is another offering of the Whitsundays that is both easily accessible and a wonderful spot to de-stress. A relatively tiny island at only 1km long, the island is covered by the Daydream Island Resort and Spa complex which offers a place more focused on relaxation and rejuvenation while still providing access to all the “mod cons” that can help make life easier.

The island is thus another solid choice for families, featuring a nice cross-section of activities, dining options and natural scenery as well as a couple of little quirks and attractions that help it stand out from some of its other island brothers.

As with Long Island mentioned above, Daydream Island lies very close to the mainland, and as such it's only a roughly 30-minute boat ride away, scoring points for accessibility while providing more modern conveniences than the less developed Long Island.

Boasting three individual beaches, one of which – Lover's Cove - is fringed with living coral reef, the island offers enough to support the typically-expected Whitsundays sand-and-snorkel environment, while its rainforest walk offers a pleasant way to explore the greenery of the island.

This roughly 20-minute track spans the length of the island and offers some extremely pretty outlooks, with a guided interpretive option available to provide further background on the environment.

Other standouts that help differentiate Daydream Island from its peers include its open-air cinema – a wonderful outdoor viewing experience, particularly in the warmer months, excellent pool areas that are ideal both for cooling off and giving the kids the chance to enjoy the water, and lots of other paid activities to take part in all available from one centrally situated location.

The undeniable star of the show on Daydream Island, however, is its excellent “Living Reef” outdoor aquarium facility that offers a taste of the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef without having to invest too much time or energy in a bigger, full-scale day tour. This wonderfully designed attraction flows throughout the island and provides guests with the ability to have physical contact with the likes of rays and sharks – an exceedingly rare and highly memorable experience.

There's also plenty of room to laze away the day, with ample sun lounges usable either poolside, on the lawns or the adjacent beach, while other smaller highlights such as a playground on the north side for the kids and an “Around Australia” themed mini golf course help round out the offerings.

While it's not as large as Hamilton Island, Daydream has a slightly more intimate feel and is slightly easier to access – if you're looking for a relaxed alternative that also offers a smattering of activities, it may just be the island of choice for you.

4. High-speed Adventure with Ocean Rafting

High-speed Adventure with Ocean Rafting

Location: Oceanview Ave, Airlie Beach

Looking for a speedy, and efficient water-borne way to do a tour of the Whitsundays' highlights for groups that manages to simultaneously be scenic and exhilarating? A high-speed trip out on the water with Ocean Rafting should do the trick.

Featuring inflatable vessels that put a focus on fun and pack a powerful punch to boot, their lightweight construction couples with a 450hp engine to make for a thrilling way to zip through these pristine waters. The tours here aim to emphasise some of the less-commercialized aspects of the Whitsundays, with a detailed look at some of its uninhabited areas that are teeming with local wildlife both on land and in the water.

The speed of the ocean rafts means that within the allotted tour time you'll cover a fairly substantial chunk of the Whitsundays as they wind their way in and out of the various bodies of water. Where you'll go on the journey depends on which itinerary select – guests are given a choice of two different tours, one which focuses on the water and the other which allocates more time to the beach.

Both tours pay a visit to spectacular Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, and as the only tour with access to Hill Inlet beach, it's a trip that ensures the only crowds you face will be the maximum 25-person numbers of your fellow tour travellers. After landing on the beach you'll have plenty of time to feel the iconic silica sand on your feet and take a walk up to the top of Hill Inlet Lookout for one of the Whitsundays most spectacular vantage points.

If you're looking to spend more time on the beach itself, the “Southern Lights” itinerary is the one for you – however if the aquatic activity is your primary focus, the “Northern Exposure” option provides more time for snorkelling, with two separate stops for snorkelling. The first of these snorkel stops tend to have a larger quantity of fish – albeit with less variety – while the second has fewer, larger fish with sea turtles that can often be encountered as well.

Regardless of if you're primarily looking to get up close with the fish or lounge on the beach, both itineraries will have you amongst a stunning backdrop. Staff here are friendly, funny and enthusiastic, and unlike with many other tours that don't offer a choice, guests are welcome to bring along their own food and drink for some additional savings – although a quality lunch is available for a reasonable $15 addon.

There are few tour options available in the Whitsundays in which the journey itself is one of the main parts of the adventure rather than just the destination, but the jet-boat-esque rush within this wonderful area is just that. Add it to the joys of snorkelling or beach exploration and it's a double-dose of sightseeing pleasure.

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3. Take a Scenic Flight with Air Whitsunday Seaplanes

Take a Scenic Flight with Air Whitsunday Seaplanes

Location: Shute Harbour Rd, Airlie Beach

Gaining a full level of appreciation for the many colours, shapes and sheer scale of the Great Barrier Reef and its islands is not easy to do in the course of a single holiday, however when viewed from a few hundred metres above the ground this incredible panorama takes on a whole new life.

It's here that local operator Air Whitsundays come in, providing some truly epic adventures above some of the most recognisable and iconic parts of the region – many of the best shots you've likely seen in promotional material showing off the Whitsundays' beauty have been captured on flights just like these.

The amazing juxtaposition of greens and blues on display from high above is truly incredible and depending on your choice of flights you'll be able to gain a look at some famous white beaches as well.

Having been in operation for over 40 years, Air Whitsunday has a fleet of light aircraft that takes lucky travellers on an intimate journey to view some spots that are inaccessible by boat and also have the added benefit of getting guests further out on the reef at a faster pace than water-borne vessels.

Picture-perfect spots such as the oft-romanticised Heart Reef, luxurious Hayman Island, and incredible Whitehaven Beach are obvious highlights, while the angle granted by being airborne provides an awe-inspiring spectacle that you'll almost certainly want to capture via a proper camera; smartphones simply don't do the view justice. The combination of coral cays, marine life, fringing reefs and much more will be something you'll want to look back on in years to come!

Pilots here have a vast degree of knowledge and experience to pull from and are familiar not only with all the natural highlights but also providing flight paths that provide customers with the best possible view of each. During the tours, you'll have the option to perform water landings and then transfer onto glass-bottom boat vessels for a firsthand look directly into the water, as well as go snorkelling (typically at Hardy Reef) which makes for a great air-and-water combined experience.

In addition, the Whitehaven Beach itinerary is one of the best ways to experience this stunning stretch of sand, as you'll be taken to a secluded area of the beach away from more crowded sections, which in turn offers a quieter atmosphere that makes one of the most beautiful parts of Australia even more special. Throw in the ability to land in the water which helps separate the experience from other scenic flight options, and it's something that's hard to match.

Tours with Air Whitsunday depart from a terminal on Shute Harbour Road around 10 minutes drive out of the centre of Airlie Beach, while private charters are also available that allow for more personalised itineraries – and, incidentally, one of the most memorable spots for a marriage proposal in the country (hint, hint guys).

While scenic flights can be pricey, if you're only going to be making the trip to the Whitsundays once, it's well worth biting the bullet and paying for an experience that many often cite as the most unforgettable part of their trip to the region.

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2. Dive the Outer Reef with Cruise Whitsundays

Dive the Outer Reef with Cruise Whitsundays

Location: Maritime Terminal, Port of Airlie, Airlie Beach

While all of the islands of the Whitsundays are spectacular in their own way, the region wouldn't be what it is without all the watery goodness that makes it possible. As one of Australia's true worldwide phenomena and one of Earth's true “natural wonders”, the Great Barrier Reef is – along with #1 on this list below – one of the two core reasons that most people choose to visit the Whitsundays in the first place.

Fringing reefs around islands are all well and good and offer convenience in their own way, however in order to experience the reef at its most pure and unadulterated form a trip to its outer reaches is necessary. As the largest and most experienced cruise operator in the Whitsundays region, Cruise Whitsundays provide a proven and comfortable method for getting there, with a pair of reef pontoons moored at Hardy (ReefWorld) and Knuckle Reefs operating as floating “activity platforms”.

These pontoons serve as fully-fledged bases of operation with the luxury of being surrounded by pure reef – it's an interesting contrast of environments as all the conveniences you'll need such as seating, tables, shade and showers are here coexisting right alongside a true natural showcase, but it's both convenient and it works. Once you've arrived, the range of things to see and do here is amazing regardless of if you're a non-swimmer or a more seasoned snorkeller.

As a starting point, the pontoons come equipped with underwater viewing chambers that make for a great taste of things to come and the ability to stare directly into the life-filled waters (it's even possible to dine here – likely to be a place for a meal unlike you've ever had before).

The next logical step is then the semi-submersible rides that take you out into the water and are ideal for those who aren't confident in the water, and also great for kids - who will literally be able to “find Nemo” here as the waters are renowned for their populations of Clownfish.

Those looking to actually hit the water will be able to take part in some of the best snorkelling that the accessible parts of the Great Barrier Reef have to offer, and the setups here off the pontoon are great for those who aren't expert swimmers – the snorkelling section utilises a rope system providing hand-holds in the water and floating rest stops that prevent you from needing to permanently swim or tread water.

There is a section of the snorkelling area at the pontoon's rear where the staff do the fish feeding, which allows for some amazing viewing as hundreds of fish flock to get a bite to eat. Thousands of colourful fish of all sizes can be seen nestled amongst the coral here, and given that the majority of them tend to congregate near the surface, you won't need to go scuba diving to get a varied and impressive dose of marine life – reef favourites such as angelfish, surgeonfish, starfish and much more are all staples here.

Cruises out to the reef platforms are conducted via large reef catamarans that make for an optimal balance of size/space and speed, with the trip out itself being quite spectacular. Given the length of the journey to the Outer Reef (expect around a 2.5 hour one-way trip from the departure point at Airlie Beach) however, the trip can sometimes be a bumpy ride over open ocean, and seasickness can sometimes be a factor – it's thus advisable to ensure you bring along anti-seasick pills for the ride.

All equipment such as snorkelling gear, wetsuits and life jackets are provided, while lunches are also included as part of the deal in buffet form consisting of fresh meats and salads, which makes for a good excuse to take a break and recharge for more marine fun in the afternoon.

It's highly recommended to bring along an underwater camera – they are available for increasingly cheap prices nowadays, particularly if you purchase a disposable one – to grab some snapshots while you're snorkelling. In all, while it requires an increased combination of time investment and money over some simple island snorkelling, if you're looking to get the most out of your reef experience an Outer Reef trip is more than worth it.

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1. Visit Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island

Visit Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island

Location: Whitsunday Island, Whitsundays

The Great Barrier Reef is always going to be a major highlight for those visiting the Whitsundays, however, given that it can also be explored and enjoyed from such other destinations as Cairns, Port Douglas or Townsville, it's not necessarily an attraction that can't be experienced anywhere else. Thus, position #1 on this list goes to the Whitsundays' most unique and visually impressive calling card that's distinct from any other accessible spot in Australia – Whitsunday Island's spectacular Whitehaven Beach.

Considered by many to be the most beautiful beach in the country, Whitehaven is a staple of brochures, posters, and other marketing materials used to promote Aussie natural beauty all over the world, and with good cause – at first glance upon coming into view of Whitehaven Beach, it's easy to think it was something put together in a studio for a magazine shoot; it's simply that perfect.

This is not just some tiny little-isolated cove that happens to be ideal either; Whitehaven Beach stretches out over 7 kilometres along Whitsunday Island, meaning that even when travelling during peak times it will rarely be crowded enough to ruin the atmosphere. The myriad of small coves, lagoons and inlets that dot its surrounds only serve to add to the mystique and exploration options, with low tide widely considered the best time for overall sightseeing experiences.

You'll often see in brochures for Whitehaven Beach that special care is taken to mention its “white silica sand”, which is all well and good, but to someone who has never visited, what does this actually mean? Silica is a substance that's contained in a very high-purity form of sand, with extremely fine grains that simultaneously make it soft to the touch and also prevent it from getting too hot underfoot.

Coupled with the bleaching effect of the sun, the sand is an almost pure-white colour that forms a wonderful and striking contrast to the vivid blue of the waters that lap at the beach and contributes to the sheer magic of Whitehaven. As the country's most photographed beach, it's also no surprise that Whitehaven Beach is thus the target destination of numerous tour and cruise operators – some of which are mentioned previously on this list – who aim to bring eager guests to catch a glimpse of its offerings.

The majority of these depart from the relatively-close-by Airlie Beach, and to get the most out of your trip it's a solid idea to book one of the full-day tours – you'll likely want to spend several hours here, whether it's to take a walk, play some beach volleyball, or simply laze in the sun amongst these unmatched sea-and-sand surroundings.

The hike to the lookout point on Hill Inlet is well worth doing, and offers perhaps the best possible spot for getting some incredible photos of the beach and its surrounds, so be sure to allot enough time on your itinerary to do this. Also, bringing along your own supplies is essential unless you have them included as part of a tour – there's no commercialisation or shops here, and thus no food or drink to purchase.

With issues such as climate change and overuse possible factors in the deterioration of Whitehaven Beach's perfection in the future, it's highly recommended to pay a visit as soon as you possibly can – Australia's most beautiful beach has certainly earned its reputation, but exactly how long it will last for remains to be seen.

With a comprehensive itinerary that includes the lookouts of Kata Tjuta, the base of Uluru, cave paintings, salt flats and a visit to the Cultural Centre, this is an exhaustive itinerary all full of local character conducted by people who know their stuff – and it's for this combination of reasons why this comes as our top recommended thing to do in Alice Springs.

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In addition, if you're looking for more things to do in the Whitsundays, including some of the best tours, attractions and activities, be sure to check out our main region section to browse for more information online.

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