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Which Whitsunday Island is best for me?

Wanting to pay a trip to Australia's island paradise - the Whitsundays - but not sure which island is best for you? We break each one down including what each offers (and for who) in detail here.

While Queensland's stunning Whitsundays group is commonly said to consist of 74 individual islands (in reality there are roughly 150 in total), many of these are uninhabited and there are thus a far smaller number which serve as go-to destinations when it comes to escapist travel. With each offering its own stunning scenery, differing levels of facilities, options for accommodation, snorkelling and diving conditions and much more, choosing an island that's right for your personal circumstances can be daunting. We factor in all of the above variables to recommend the best island in the Whitsundays for your tropical getaway in detail here.

Click an island name on the map below to find out if it's the right one for you ↓

Choose your Whitsundays experience

The Main Islands of the Whitsundays

Brampton Island

Brampton Island

Note: Brampton Island is currently closed to the public pending future redevelopment current as of December 2014.

Once a popular spot for honeymooners and those looking to indulge, Brampton Island was home to a resort that combined luxurious surrounds with a secluded environment that offers privacy amongst stunning surrounds. However, since its sale and subsequent re-purchase in 2011, this lovely little slice of the Whitsundays has been left in relative limbo as beaurocracy, red tape and drawn-out developer planning have left the island without a clear direction. With 12 sandy beaches, numerous walking trails and several fringing reefs, it's a great all-round getaway island that is being mentioned as a target for a massive, 6-star, world-class resort to be built in the coming years.

Watch this space for future updates on Brampton Island's developments.

Daydream Island

NOVEMBER 2017 UPDATE: DAYDREAM ISLAND WAS HEAVILY DAMAGED BY CYCLONE DEBBIE AND IS SET TO RE-OPEN IN MID-2018

Best for: Families, those looking for resort-style comfort & facilities

Avoid if: You're a couple looking for a peaceful and quiet getaway

Accommodation options: Daydream Island Resort & Spa

Activities & things to do: 20 minute walking track; Living Reef outdoor aquarium; mini golf; rainforest walks; off-shore snorkelling

Getting there: 30 minute boat trip from the mainland

Pricing: Moderate to expensive

Easily accessible and developed with an ideal combination of relaxation and activities in mind, Daydream Island - part of the Molle Group of islands and previously known as West Molle Island before its current re-brand - is a tiny island that makes up for its lack of size with what it offers in terms of facilities. Largely covered by the Daydream Island Resort and Spa complex, Daydream Island sits roughly a 30 minute boat ride away from the mainland, a fact which highlights its accessibility, and features a nice cross-section of activities, dining options and natural scenery - as well as a couple of unique attractions and quirks that help it stand out from some of its other nearby island neighbours.

Daydream is a solid choice of islands for families as many of the activities and facilities on offer cater towards making things enjoyable for kids; many of the things to do on the island involve getting hands-on, with little ones getting the chance to get up close and interact with marine animals, while there's a dedicated club for entertaining children - while parents get some much-needed R&R. The island boasts three individual beaches, one of which - Lover's Cove - is fringed with living coral reef and provides enough of the expected sand-and-snorkel, Whitsundays-esque environment to satisfy most tastes without needing to pay for a trip to the Outer Reef. Daydream Island also features a pleasant rainforest walk that spans the length of the island and offers some extremely pretty outlooks along the way, with guided interpretive options available for some further insight into the island's structure and history.

"It's a solid choice of islands for families as many of the facilities on offer cater towards making things enjoyable for kids; plenty of the things to do involve getting hands-on, and little ones can get up close and interact with marine animals, while there's a dedicated club for entertaining children. "

Several other standouts help differentiate Daydream Island from its peers, including its open air cinema which makes for a wonderful outdoor viewing experience - particularly in the warmer months; excellent pool areas that provide a more safe and reassuring swim for kids instead of the open ocean; and plenty of other optional paid activities to take part in both within the resort and on the waterfront. The true star of the show that separates Daydream from other islands however is its excellent "Living Reef" outdoor aquarium that offers a taste of the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef without having to invest the great deal of time, money and energy a full-scale day tour to the reef requires.

Daydream Island 1 Daydream Island 2 Daydream Island 3 Daydream Island 4

While it obviously can't fully emulate the beauty of the actual reef, the "Living Reef" does a very good job of coming fairly close, with a layout that flows throughout the island and allows guests and their kids to have physical interaction with the likes of rays, sharks, barracudas and more. Watching the fish, seeing them being fed and otherwise interacting with marine life without having to leave the shore is a luxury few other islands offer, and is thus a major selling point for choosing Daydream as your destination of choice.

Price-wise, food and drink items trend toward the upper-end of the scale, so be prepared to spend a significant chunk of your budget towards consumables, with restaurants on the island following the same trend. While it may not have the sheer array of activities and facilities bigger islands in the group such as Hamilton can offer, it's hard to find one that's better suited to those travelling to the Whitsundays with kids in tow than Daydream Island.

Hamilton Island

NOVEMBER 2017 UPDATE: HAMILTON ISLAND WAS THE LEAST DAMAGED BY CYCLONE DEBBIE, AND REOPENED AS NORMAL IN APRIL 2017

Best for: Families, active visitors, those who prefer facilities/shopping/socialising over peace and isolation

Avoid if: You're wanting to escape from civilisation on an uncrowded island

Accommodation options: Qualia Resort, Beach Club Hamilton, Reef View Hotel, Hamilton Island Holiday Homes, Whitsunday Apartments, Palm Bungalows

Activities & things to do: 20 minute walking track; Living Reef outdoor aquarium; mini golf; rainforest walks; off-shore snorkelling

Getting there: Direct flights available from Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne & Sydney; regular ferry services available from mainland's Shute Harbour, takes approx. 30 minutes

Pricing: Moderate to expensive

As one of the most easily recognised names in the Whitsundays chain, Hamilton Island boasts the largest amount of development of any other island on the list, and as a result it offers one of the best all-round balances of things to see and do that's available for visitors. It's a large island aimed to cater to all tastes, and while there is plenty of luxury on offer here, there are also some reasonable alternatives for the more budget-conscious traveller who still wants a well-equipped slice of paradise. In short, if you're the type of traveller looking for a modern, sleek, resort-style operation for your trip that offers plenty of chances for pampering, dining and activities - and you don't mind sharing all these benefits with plenty of other people - then Hamilton Island ticks all the boxes, and then some.

While it's undergone continuous development over the years, Hamilton still boasts an impressive amount of natural highlights that make it much more than simply a built-up resort hotspot; the island is fringed by a blend of white beaches and coral shelves, and still retains roughly 66% of the island as undeveloped land. As a result, it makes for one of the most interesting examples of ultra-modern architectural development in Australia, as the various man-made constructions manage to coexist with the island's natural beauty quite well. Plenty of amenities aimed at providing high-end recreation and relaxation abound on Hamilton Island, including a world-class golf club, an impressively designed yacht club, and other fun-focused activities such as go-kart racing, tennis, quad bikes and more.

"In short, if you're the type of traveller looking for a modern, sleek resort-style location for your trip that offers plenty of chances for pampering, dining and activities - and you don't mind sharing all these benefits with plenty of other people - then Hamilton Island ticks all the boxes and then some."

Given the expansive size of Hamilton Island, 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 accommodations on offer on the island include this as part of their packages, and thus the sight of guests zooming around on buggies is a staple of the Hamilton experience. Looking off-shore meanwhile, and Hamilton doesn't disappoint either - the fringing reef that surrounds the island is one of the main selling points for easily accessible snorkelling, with plenty of colourful fish that have become increasingly tame and used to interacting with humans over the years - allowing for some truly up-close views. Kayaks and jet skis are also available for hire for those looking to be more active and explore the water further out from the shore.

Due to Hamilton Island's relatively central location amongst the Whitsundays chain, it's also a solid choice as a staging point for those looking to make day trips over to some of the other regional highlights in the area. Trips and tours to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island from Hamilton are especially popular, while the Outer Great Barrier Reef can be reached in roughly 2 hours' boat ride from the island. Given its inherent nature as a transport hub, various other tours to more obscure locations you'll encounter typically either depart from Hamilton Island, or include pickups from the island as part of their route. In short, you'll be spoiled for choice here if you're looking for trips further afield.

Hamilton Island 1 Hamilton Island 2 Hamilton Island 3 Hamilton Island 4

All this activity and convenience does come at a cost, however; given its popularity and almost eternally-busy nature, Hamilton Island is rarely a quiet affair outside of its premier resorts, and in all but the slowest periods of the year there's quite a bit of bustle with both staff and visitors scurrying from points A to B. In addition, while the increased choice and ensuing competition on the island means prices tend stay somewhat competitive and self-regulated, staying on-island is still far more expensive than remaining on the mainland at nearby Airlie Beach and taking day trips out to some of the various reef highlights (although Hamilton Island still offers a typically more peaceful stay than backpacker-heavy Airlie).

If you want a comprehensive array of choice in all aspects of your Whitsundays holiday - from shopping to dining to tours and more - and are happy to pay "island" prices for a slice of luxury, then Hamilton Island is the best all-rounder of any of the islands given its size and development. Likewise, if you're looking to island-hop and spread your stay out amongst other islands, then Hamilton Island makes for an ideal starting point, as there's simply an overwhelming amount of things to do here.

Hayman Island

NOVEMBER 2017 UPDATE: HAYMAN ISLAND WAS HEAVILY DAMAGED BY CYCLONE DEBBIE AND HAS BEEN SOLD TO NEW OWNERSHIP WITH AN EYE TO FAST-TRACKING REDEVELOPMENT

Best for: Honeymooners, high-end travellers, those wanting luxury and pampering

Avoid if: You're looking for a less sterile, “roughing it” island adventure; budget is a primary concern

Accommodation options: One&Only Hayman Island Resort

Activities & things to do: Various walks and hikes to lookouts; snorkelling; poolside relaxation and dining; day spa pamperings and treatments

Getting there: transfer from Hamilton Island via water or air

Pricing: Expensive

When it comes to luxury, the Whitsundays has always been a renowned go-to destination, and there are few islands in the region that better exemplify this upmarket, deluxe-island-paradise-style iconography quite as well as the Cumberland group's Hayman. Dedicated to all things luxurious, Hayman Island is the northernmost of the main Whitsundays chain and has undergone extensive recent renovations as well as considerable commercial investment to now offer exquisite, modern facilities that put it on par with other high-budget getaway spots overseas. Few expenses have been spared in Hayman's enhancements which came after the island was hit hard by Cyclone Yasi back in 2011, and now the island boasts a range of top-notch accommodations, beauty spas and more that augment its inherent beauty incredibly well.

The island's activity centres around the hub of the One&Only Hayman Island Resort, which has had some 80-million-plus dollars invested into its refurbishment and is nestled around a beautiful bay, and this extravagance sets the tone for the island as a whole. The complex is oriented around upper-end accommodation – think penthouses, villas and other luxurious offerings – and as a result it's become a veritable Mecca for honeymooners and those wanting to hold their weddings in a pristine island environment without the hassle of travelling abroad.

"When it comes to luxury the Whitsundays is a renowned go-to destination, and there are few islands in the region that better exemplify this upmarket, deluxe-island-paradise-style iconography quite as well as the Cumberland group's Hayman."

The island itself is relatively small at only 4 kilometres long, with a structure that's quite mountainous and hilly, which can be both a blessing and a curse – it makes traversing to scenic parts of Hayman more tiring, but the resulting reward is some outstanding views of the impressive island surrounds. Hayman has four major lookouts that require only a relatively small amount of walking to reach, with the 250m-high Cook Lookout the tallest of these which offers great views out to neighbouring Hook Island and beyond. The majority of these walking areas on Hayman Island involve trekking through dense eucalypt forest, and there's an extensive number of bushwalks available for those who are more focused on the exploratory side of their holiday.

Hayman Island 1 Hayman Island 2 Hayman Island 3 Hayman Island 4

Activity-wise, Hayman has a balanced but not overwhelming amount of things to do; as it's a resort that's generally focused more on the relaxation and pampering side of the holiday spectrum, the majority of the focus is given to the likes of spa and beauty treatments, poolside drinking and dining, and generally soaking up the exclusive atmosphere. Snorkelling off one of the island's beaches on the south side is relatively good; enough that all but the fussiest of snorkellers should be able to come away with some decent marine views without having to travel further afield on a trip to the Outer Reef although they remain an option. These extended reef tours offer more advanced diving and snorkelling opportunities for an obvious extra cost, while scenic seaplane and helicopter tours are also available for some amazing views from the air.

Kids are also very well catered for here with a number of child-oriented programs in place to keep them occupied both in and out of the water, while there's also a kids club that has a babysitting service available (for an extra fee). This comes in addition to the two excellent pool areas that both kids and adults can enjoy that are both exceptionally well done; the investment in the resort's upgrades really shine here, with its Aquazure restaurant being an integral part of the poolside scene. There are a range of other bars and restaurants on the island too which offer some quite outstanding dishes covering a variety of cuisines including Asian, Italian, modern Australian and more, although you'll definitely pay for the privilege of dining within.

In terms of facilities, being a self-contained resort Hayman Island has only the bare, commercialised necessities; there are several high-end boutique mens' and womens' clothing stores, a gift shop selling basic souvenir-style goods, and a chemist for medical essentials, but no main place to buy food or snacks. The resort itself is thus the main highlight, and it's a large complex that is spread out into two separate major “wings”, with the restaurants clustered towards the middle. Both of its pool areas are fully serviced, and its gardens are amazing and represent some expert planning and craftsmanship.

Access to Hayman Island is obtained via boat transfer, helicopter charter or seaplane and has to be prearranged prior to arrival. These transfers are typically conducted from central hub Hamilton Island with its airport being where you'll fly into initially; as a result, many choose to combine stays on both Hamilton and Hayman into a split-stay which provides a solid balance and variety between activities and relaxation.

In the end, what you get out of a stay on Hayman Island will depend largely on two main factors – how deep your pockets are, and how concerned you are with enjoying a resort-style experience that remains largely on-island. If you're willing to open your wallet, Hayman Island is one of Australia's most indulgent spots and a worthy standard bearer for luxury travel in our country.

Hook Island

Best for: Experienced divers and snorkellers; self-sufficient campers

Avoid if: you're looking to stay in a resort or man-made accommodation

Accommodation options: 4 campgrounds at several beaches; Hook Island Wilderness Resort (semi-operable)

Activities & things to do: Perhaps the Whitsunday's best snorkelling and diving; hiking and wilderness adventures

Getting there: transfers from the mainland & Hamilton Island - fee charged per person; included on various tour itineraries

Pricing: currently N/A

The second largest island in the Whitsundays chain, Hook Island its known for not only its expansive size but for its dense greenery; approximately 95% of the island is covered by thick National Parkland, and as a result it's mostly uninhabited. Wild, rocky and rugged, Hook Island is an example of what the Whitsundays might look like without any human development – while it's home to a single accommodation offering (the now-semi-defunct Hook Island Wilderness Resort, which is currently under proposal for redevelopment) – the vast majority of its surface and shorelines remain untouched. It's an island that remains brimming with potential that remains unharnessed for the time being.

This doesn't make Hook Island any less of a popular stop for those who love their water-based adventures, however; its main reef section concentrated on the island's northern end offers some of the best snorkelling and diving opportunities in the entire Whitsundays chain, and is thus ideal for those who are confident in the water and that are looking for quality marine exploration without the need to fight tourist crowds.

"Hook Island's main reef section concentrated on the island's northern end offers some of the best snorkelling and diving opportunities in the entire Whitsundays chain and is thus ideal for those who are confident in the water and that are looking for marine exploration without fighting crowds. "

The island is also home to various camping grounds that make overnight stays a possibility for the self-sufficient traveller at the likes of Steen's, Curlew and Crayfish Beaches that are perfect for those looking to go "off the grid" and get back to basics. Various coves and bays around the north side of the island are great places to both relax on-shore and snorkel or dive offshore, with a number of large coral bommies that reach almost to the surface that are ripe for exploration. Corals of various colours are plentiful in the water here, and it's one of the most popular spots in the Whitsundays for spotting Manta rays, as well as various impressive species of fish including massive Maori Wrasse that make for quite the spectacle for the advanced diver.

Hook Island Whitsundays 1 Maori Wrasse Hook Island Whitsundays Hook Island Whitsundays 2 Hook Island Whitsundays 3

This high quality of snorkelling and diving off Hook Island is comparable to some of the top spots in the Outer Great Barrier Reef, and as a result it's the destination of choice for a number of day tours and trips which depart from Hamilton Island. With a generally high degree of visibility and numerous fish, if you're serious about seeing the best and brightest marine life the Whitsundays has to offer then be sure to include a visit to Hook Island on your itinerary. Hook Island's Nara Inlet is one of the island's most popular anchorage points and is also the location of some significant historical sites; the inlet is home to an area previously inhabited by the indigenous Ngaro people, and is considered to be the oldest sign of Aboriginal inhabitance in this part of Eastern Australia.

Transfers to Hook Island can be arranged via a number of companies depending on your desired departure point, including both the mainland and other more populous islands in the chain; these operations typically charge a (not insignificant) $-per-person rate and drop travellers off at one of the island's campsites. As these sites possess a minimal amount of facilities, it's important to bring enough supplies to be entirely self-sufficient during your stay.

Depending on what happens with the status of the Hook Island Wilderness Resort in the future, Hook Island is a destination that looks poised to either become THE major go-to hotspot for marine activity enthusiasts, or remain an underrated and stunning dive and snorkel site for visitors to the Whitsundays who are otherwise in the know.

Lindeman Island

Lindeman Island

Note: Lindeman Island is currently subject to plans for a major redevelopment and is set to receive a massive investment of money for its future enhancements; as a result its resort is currently closed to the public current as of December 2014.

Formerly home to the Whitsundays' Club Med, Lindeman Island lies towards the southern end of the islands and was recently purchased for redevelopment by a Chinese conglomerate. Featuring a well-established array of facilities and wonderful bushwalks through national park, it's an island that looks set to reclaim some headlines in the near future, with a plan that includes developments suitable for both residents and holidaymakers and designed to appeal to the international tourist.

Watch this space for future updates on Lindeman Island's developments.

Long Island

NOVEMBER 2017 UPDATE: HAYMAN ISLAND WAS DAMAGED BY CYCLONE DEBBIE, HOWEVER ITS POPULAR PALM BAY RESORT HAS RECOVERED AND REMAINS OPEN

Best for: The budget traveller, couples, people wanting convenience yet a stay off the mainland, those short on time

Avoid if: You're a family looking for loads of activities; you want a variety of shopping options

Accommodation options: BreakFree Long Island Resort, Palm Bay Resort, Paradise Bay Resort, Barefoot Lodge (backpackers)

Activities & things to do: Plenty of walking tracks; beachfront relaxation; offshore snorkelling; mini golf

Getting there: 20 minute boat ride from Shute Harbour on the mainland; ferries from Hamilton Island also available

Pricing: Moderate

One of the first and easiest-to-recommend ports of call for those visiting the Whitsundays region who are also short on time is Long Island – as the island of the group situated closest to the mainland, it's both easy to reach and generally more reasonably-priced than some of the other more developed alternatives. Long Island offers a blend of scenery and relaxation along with a relatively compact layout that makes enjoying its beauty a breeze; the island derives its name from its unusually thin and narrow shape with the majority of its surface covered by National Park.

Long Island's proximity to the shore means that it takes a mere 20 minutes' ride via one of the available regularly-scheduled ferries from the nearby Shute Harbour, and upon arrival you'll instantly get a sense of its pretty, greenery-draped offerings. Long Island offers plenty of opportunities for exploration both on and off shore, and it's an island that's far more suited for those looking for a “relaxed getaway” as opposed to an activity-laden adventure hub. Possessing a generally tranquil atmosphere and a typically smaller number of guests to some of the more robust islands, Long Island is thus an ideal choice for visitors wanting to chill out and take things at their own pace.

"Bring your own food and alcohol over to the island, relax and read a book under the shade of a palm tree, take a leisurely snorkel, or simply plug in your headphones and relax in the sun – that's what a trip to Long Island is all about."

The island's walking and hiking opportunities are extensive; there's around 13 kilometres of bushwalking track on offer here, and during the various leisurely strolls native wildlife such as kangaroos and goannas can be encountered. Each of the tracks lead to a variety of fairly secluded spots, including lovely beaches that epitomise the term “natural escape”. Its this escapist nature that gives the island its overall appeal; don't expect any of the glitz and glamour of the likes of Hamilton Island here as this is definitely not what Long Island is about – it's much more of a back-to-basics holiday environment that brings the benefit over reduced prices to reflect this. This combination of factors makes Long Island a good place to use as a base if you're planning to relax before heading back to the mainland to take some day trips or tours further out to the reef and other islands.

Long Island Whitsundays 1 Long Island Whitsundays 2 Long Island Whitsundays 3 Long Island Whitsundays 4

Most of the activities on Long Island are limited to the island itself, with offshore snorkelling being very viable in the island's surrounding fringing reef roughly 150 metres from the shoreline. Otherwise, the amount of activities on the island will be largely determined by your choice of accommodation options – the BreakFree Long Island Resort offers traditional resort-style activities as well as the likes of jet ski hire, parasailing, and even sailing upon booking, while Palm Bay Resort offers boutique accommodations that specialise in seclusion - again suited more to adults. As a result, if you're looking to bring children along for your Whitsundays trip, in most cases you'd be best to look elsewhere; while Long Island offers a mini golf course, the chance to feed kangaroos, and a small kids club, it's an island mostly suited towards adults wanting to unwind.

Long Island also suffers slightly from a lack of on-island food purchasing options that makes relying on restaurants for the majority of your dining a necessity. Alternatively, pre-purchasing food and provisions from the mainland and transporting them over is another option, and which you'll be able to use to take advantage of the barbecue facilities to cook a meal. This lack of development is also reflected in the area of on-island transport as you'll have to travel from point A to B entirely on foot – which some would argue is part of the island's charm. Ferries to Long Island from the mainland depart roughly ever 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.

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

South Molle Island

NOVEMBER 2017 UPDATE: SOUTH MOLLE ISLAND WAS HEAVILY DAMAGED BY CYCLONE DEBBIE, AND EXTENSIVE DEMOLITION AND RENOVATIONS ARE UNDERWAY

Best for: a no-frills island experience; those who want great views and relative peace and quiet in a generally uncrowded spot while still having access to basic resort facilities at a reduced price

Avoid if: you expect high-end accommodation with first-class service; you're looking for loads of activities

Accommodation options: Adventure Island Resort; campgrounds at southern end

Activities & things to do: Range of walking tracks and excellent bushwalks; low tide walk to Mid Molle Island; 9 hole golf course

Getting there: Transfers from Abel Point Marina at Airlie Beach

Pricing: Cheap to Moderate

Not all inhabited islands in the Whitsundays are modern examples of upper-tier commercialisation; those looking for a balance between minimalistic resort offerings and some decent peace and quiet can turn their eyes towards the Molle group's South Molle Island, a pleasant destination dotted with numerous bays and inlets as well as a close and accessible physical connection with its nearby island brothers. The largest of the Molle Island group, South Molle Island has been a longstanding destination for Whitsundays travel with its lone resort being one of the longest-operating in the region and which offers more of a laid-back and informal operation than the bigger commercial operations on the likes of Hamilton, Hayman or Daydream Islands.

First thing's first: if you're planning to travel to South Molle Island for your Whitsundays stay, it's important not to expect a 5-star experience – South Molle's Adventure Island Resort is an accommodation facility that walks the line between resort and backpackers with facilities that are adequate if not spectacular, and which carries with it a much more casual atmosphere. The resort itself is actually quite large and spacious, and relatively lower overall guest numbers make for a destination that tends to be surprisingly peaceful while still providing access to facilities that help to make an on-island stay more comfortable. While it's the only current accommodation choice on South Molle, there are an impressive number of pure beachfront units here, and this helps to evenly distribute guest numbers so that the end result is a far more private offering than the bigger islands.

"From a natural perspective, South Molle Island itself is a wonderful island that is inherently hilly and thus exceedingly popular amongst hikers; there are a variety of walking tracks that range from anywhere between 2 and 10 kilometres long and which provide plenty of impressive lookout points along the way."

The resort boasts both a great location and views, however its age is beginning to become more and more of a factor over time and it thus may soon be in need of renovation and further investment. Others would argue otherwise – it's this lack of modern development which keeps South Molle from becoming another more commercialised island, which is a delicate balance to walk. Regardless, this lack of cutting-edge construction comes with the benefit of a far cheaper average cost of stay than most other islands; it makes South Molle a much more appealing budget destination even though the cracks do tend to show in places.

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From a natural perspective, South Molle Island itself is a wonderful island that is inherently hilly and thus exceedingly popular amongst hikers; there are a variety of walking tracks that range from anywhere between 2 and 10 kilometres long and which provide plenty of impressive lookout points along the way. Perhaps the most popular of these is the walk to Mount Jeffreys on the island's southern end that grants outstanding views, particularly at sunset. Named the Spion Kop climb, it's widely considered one of Queensland's best bush walks and is generally both well kept and well-signed making navigating its path fairly easy. Decent snorkelling is also available at both Sandy and Paddle Bays on the island, with the water tending towards a greater level of clarity at the northern end.

South Molle's proximity to its other group islands – they are practically interconnected at points – means one of the most popular activities is walking from South Molle to neighbouring Mid Molle island via a sandbar that becomes accessible at low tide. This is a wonderful walk that makes for amazing views, and is a pleasant way to get a dose of nature as both of these Molle islands are rich in wildlife – particularly birds, which can be both seen and heard in abundance.

In addition, the island's relative closeness to Whitsunday Island makes day trips to the essential Whitehaven Beach a viable option without too much of a significant time investment. Lastly, no mention of South Molle's offerings would be complete without a tip of the cap to its 9-hole golf course, which provides the opportunity for some golfing enjoyment all while surrounded by the spectacular blues of the nearby water. Restaurant and dining options here are minimal, with food preparation only being conducted between certain pre-allocated times of the day, so bringing your own supply of snacks or filler-food to fill the gaps in between meal times comes recommended.

South Molle Island is reachable via transfers from Abel Point Marina at Airlie Beach, and is a destination of choice for those wanting an on-island stay without (and without paying for) any of the extended resort frills. If you're happy to “rough it” a little bit in order to save some coin, then it just may be the island for you – just don't expect to be blown away by modern conveniences.

Whitsunday Island

Best for: day tour trippers looking to visit Whitehaven Beach; campers looking for amazing beach surrounds

Avoid if: you're not a fan of camping; you're not wanting to fork out extra money for a day tour

Accommodation options: multiple campgrounds throughout the island; require advance bookings

Activities & things to do: Everything about Whitehaven Beach; walk to Hill Inlet; ocean rafting tours

Getting there: numerous day tours available from Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island

Pricing: dependent on day tour company & length of tour; prices begin from approx. $99 for standard half-day Whitehaven Beach tours

The largest island in the Whitsundays is also perhaps the most often used as the key subject of the majority of Whitsunday-related promotional material including brochures, flyers, TV ads, websites and more largely due to one single reason: it's the home to the spectacular Whitehaven Beach. Considered by many to be the most beautiful beach in Australia and one of the top in the world, Whitehaven Beach is a wondrous 7-kilometre stretch of pristine silica sand stretched out along the eastern side of Whitsunday Island that features a myriad of small coves, lagoons and inlets along its expanse that add to both the physical beauty and exploration options available. There's no Photoshop needed here; the imagery you see in pictures of Whitehaven is exactly what you get, and the yellow-white of the sand contrasts brilliantly with the turquoise-blue of its water to make for one of Oz's most impressive panoramas.

It's common to come across promotional material for Whitehaven Beach where special care is taken to mention its “white silica sand” as a major natural selling point, which is all well and good, but what does it actually mean? Silica is a substance that's contained in a very high-purity form of sand in which the grains are extremely fine, and as a result it's simultaneously soft to the touch and doesn't get too hot underfoot. Coupled with the bleaching effects of the sun, the sand is an almost pure-white colour that contributes to the overall magic of Whitehaven and is a large factor in it being the most photographed beach in the country.

"There's no Photoshop needed here; the imagery you see in pictures of Whitehaven Beach is exactly what you get, and the yellow-white of the sand contrasts brilliantly with the turquoise-blue of its water to make for one of Oz's most impressive panoramas."

It's thus no surprise that Whitsunday Island is the target destination of numerous tour and cruise operators who aim to bring eager guests to catch a glimpse of Whitehaven Beach as well as the island's other natural highlights. Whitsunday Island itself is huge in comparison to many of its neighbours, and its central location surrounded by various other islands and islets makes for a wonderful outlook from various vantage points; the island has two main walking tracks that both culminate in lookouts that offer lovely panoramas.

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The Tongue Point Track is a roughly 15 minute walk which culminates in a wonderful view of Whitehaven Beach itself, while the Dugong Beach to Sawmill Beach track provides some excellent scenery looking out over the surrounding bays. Both of these beaches have their own substantial camping grounds that make for idyllic spots to spend a night, and they're surrounded by a blend of woodland and pine / palm hybrid forest that blankets the island as a whole. There are a number of other campsites on the island as well – including Whitehaven Beach itself - with booking required in advance if you're planning to stay there. Various companies that provide both camp bookings and transfer packages are in operation and can be contacted to arrange this.

Getting to Whitsunday Island from the mainland takes a fair amount of time investment in comparison to some of the other islands on this list – the island lies approximately 30 kilometres off the coast, so expect it to take roughly 2 hours one way – and departs from Airlie Beach, however this option tends to be far cheaper than the alternative of travelling from Hamilton Island. Other alternative options – such as high-speed rafting adventures – provide a more adrenaline-filled way to get there and allow for several hours to spend on Whitehaven Beach and exploring Whitsunday Island before returning on the same day.

If you're travelling to Whitsunday Island bringing 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, if you're considering travelling to the Whitsundays and Whitsunday Island in particular, there's no better time to do so than now.

To book a trip to one of these iconic slices of island paradise, be sure to browse our main Whitsundays region section for all the top things to do.

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