Reefsleeping In the Whitsundays
We’re going to let you in on one of Australia’s best-kept holiday secrets: it’s possible to hire your own yacht, without any prior boating experience, to sail freely around the Whitsunday Islands all on your own! A dazzling collection of 74 stunning islands and a handful of world-class resorts, the Whitsundays not only offers some of the world’s best sailing conditions, it’s also wonderfully safe and sheltered so even first-time captains can drop anchor and easily spend a week or two on its waters. Sleep, cook and eat on board, and spend your days snorkelling, fishing and exploring the many beautiful islands, sailing from one to the next whenever it pleases you. Locals call this ‘bareboating’, as you’re not supplied with a crew, but vessels are certainly well equipped: you’ll find everything from bed linen to bottle openers on board. Be sure to drop by the Heart Reef if you can, roughly 40 nautical miles from the mainland.
Where to Stay
If sleeping on a yacht isn’t your cup of tea, there are a myriad resorts and accommodation options along the length and breadth of the Great Barrier Reef. While there are many suitable for all variety of budgets and getaways, we hope recommend indulging in a stay at the One&Only Hayman Island Resort. While you can look forward to exceptional level of service, and no less than Perrier-Jouët as the house champagne, what makes this retreat so special is that the entirety of Hayman, the very northernmost island in the Whitsundays, is dedicated to this resort, leaving you free to roam about from tip to toe, exploring walking tracks, partaking in aquatic activities such as fishing and snorkelling, and finding bliss in one extremely lovely spa.
Find sanctuary at Whitehaven Beach
The views here are so breath-taking that arriving visitors often forget – just for a moment – to take photos of this incredible scene. Instead, they’re too busy mentally filming the translucent blue waters that glitter like a million diamonds, and the seemingly endless stretch of greenery-fringed beach and silica-white sands here on Whitehaven Beach’s seven-kilometre stretch. This regular contender in Top Ten beach lists around the world is one of those all-too rare locations that actually looks better in real life than the way it’s depicted in brochures or on postcards – it’s just that difficult to do it justice. Take a short bush walk to the lookout at Tongue Point to see the magical swirling of aquatic colours in Whitehaven’s ocean inlet.
Visitors aren’t usually allowed to stay overnight on this beach (unless you’ve received a special camping permit or are commandeering your own yacht), so the beach is always sparkling clean. Add to that the area’s pristine, azure waters, which are protected by the Great Barrier Reefs UNESCO World Heritage listing, vast swathes of untouched, lushly green foliage and that famously white, glitteringly pure sand, you’ve got the perfect formula for paradise. There is a fantastic walk at the northern end of the beach called Hill Inlet Walk, a short trek that will take you up to a lookout offering expansive views over Hill Inlet and Whitehaven.
There are several options for exploring the area, including a full-day cruise that will bring you sailing through the sparkling islands with the wind in your hair. Arrive with a picnic lunch and you can explore the beach at your leisure. Alternatively, make a grand entrance by chopper as you’re whisked through the skies to land directly on Whitehaven’s sparkling sands before the champagne cork is popped for a celebratory drink. Take things up a notch and sail in by seaplane – voted one of the world’s best aerial tours, guests can zoom over the Great Barrier Marine Park and many of the islands before making a gentle landing on the warm, shallow water and stepping out onto the beach. There’s something thrilling about the idea of soaring past one of the world’s most incredible natural wonders that seems to sail above (pun intended) all others – all the more so when you’ve snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef.