Australia’s Whitsunday Islands, a collection of 74 tropical islands off the coast of Queensland, is less well known and less travelled than the Caribbean, but arguably more natural and unspoiled.
Iconic with its crystalline Whitehaven Beach, turquoise water, Heart Reef, calm seas, and hilly archipelago, the winter dry season offers respite from the cold south-east with an average daily temperature of 24 degrees Celsius, and clear skies.
Throughout the islands, visitors are spoiled for choice in terms of activities and options. These include self-directed sailing around the chains, guided sailing tours and island transfers, island hopping via seaplane, or simply relaxing the premium accommodation and cuisine available at the luxury and boutique resorts.
Hamilton Island is the largest and most central of the islands, and the most convenient way to enter the Whitsunday Islands by air. The island’s airport, known as Great Barrier Reef Airport, handles regular scheduled flights by major domestic airlines from major eastern cities, and is a full service airport capable of all manner of private and business aircraft.
Alternatively, Whitsunday Coast Airport (also referred to as Proserpine Airport) is a thirty minute drive from the town of Airlie Beach, the mainland gateway to the Whitsundays and often likened to a tropical version of Queenstown, New Zealand. Again, Proserpine Airport is a major domestic airport, handling a range of scheduled services and suitable for private and business jet aircraft.
What to do
From arrival by air, visitors are spoiled for choice in terms of how to enjoy the islands. Options include self-directed sailing around the chains, guided sailing tours and island transfers, island hopping via seaplane, or simply relaxing the premium accommodation and cuisine available at the luxury and boutique resorts.
Where to stay
Qualia and Elysian Retreat are two of the finest resorts in the islands.
Opened in 2007, Qualia, on the northernmost part of Hamilton Island, has won numerous awards and accolades for its luxurious service and exquisite cuisine. The name means “a collection of deeper sensory experiences” and the private resorts strives to blend nature and luxury in a seamless, memorable way. As one would expect, guests have a range of options available to them during their stay – from spa treatments, reef exploring, sightseeing, island hikes, or simply enjoying the resort.
The resort hosts its own helipad, allowing direct helicopter transfers from either Hamilton Island’s airport or Proserpine. Alternatively, guests can sail to Qualia, or take swift VIP road transfers from Hamilton Island airport.
Elysian Retreat is the most secluded island retreat in the Whitsundays, tucked away on Long Island, home of the Molle Island National Park. Elysian. An eco retreat and the first solar powered resort on the Great Barrier Reef, Elysian is positioned on a private cove with a rocky beach, surrounded by rainforest, with no other habitats on the island. The resort caters to only a handful of guests at any time, and offers a locally sourced custom menu, personalised organic spa treatments, and local guided adventures or the facilities to simply enjoy the island tranquility.
Getting to Elysian is via scenic helicopter transfer from Proserpine, Hamilton Island, or Airlie Beach.
Another quintessential Whitsundays resort is Hayman Island, the most northerly of the Whitsunday Islands, and a private island famous for its luxury resort – now named the InterContinental Hayman Island Resort. Although the island’s first resort was opened in the 1950s, the resort was significantly renovated and upgraded in 2011. These improvements gave Hayman Island a botanical garden as well as private villas to complement the main resort and premium facilities.
Getting to and from the island is again part of the Whitsundays experience, with the resort offering private charter helicopter, seaplane, or aboard a luxury powered yacht.
Late winter hosts the Hamilton Island Race Week, one of Australia’s largest offshore regattas featuring a range of racing, super, and sports yachts competing on the tropical waters. While the Whitsundays are wonderful to visit any time of year, for sporting excitement and an opportunity to see high performance race crews and their nautical equipment competing, Race Week is one of the best opportunities worldwide.
How to book
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The price of a private jet to the Whitsundays does vary depending on your departure point and how long you’ll stay.
To book a private jet from Brisbane to Hamilton Island budget $16,000-$30,000, $25,000-$30,000 from Sydney and $35,000-$45,000 from Melbourne.