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The article is written by Candice Locklee

If you find yourself spending your study breaks wishing you were relaxing beneath swaying palms on white sandy beaches and snorkelling the kind of blue water that dreams are made of – we’ve got the perfect solution for you. Grab your sunscreen and a pair of thongs and hop on a plane to paradise, AKA The Whitsunday Islands.

Located off the central coast of Queensland about 900km north of Brisbane, the Whitsunday Islands are a chain of 74 tropical islands of varying sizes that boast stunning beaches, dense rainforests, rocky mountains and a range of world-famous destinations, including being home to the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.

The area is renowned for its limitless opportunities to swim, snorkel, dive, cruise and sight-see your way across the islands no matter what budget you’re travelling on.

It’s the perfect place to spend a much-deserved break this summer – here’s our helpful guide on how to get the most out of 48 hours in the Whitsunday Islands.

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SNORKELLING

Snorkelling is a must-do activity when visiting the Whitsundays. With the Great Barrier Reef stretching over 2000km along the coast of Queensland, the Whitsundays is located near the centre of this natural beauty and they are the perfect place to explore this underwater wonderland of coral and marine life.

There are many snorkelling spots all over the islands that you can dive into, but we’ve collected a handful of the best ones for you to try out.

Hook Island is a popular island for snorkelling and diving due to its abundance of stunning coral reefs and sea animals, including fish, turtles, dolphins, manta rays and humpback whales. It’s full of bays and coves that are perfect for dipping into the pristine water. Some of the best are Manta Ray Bay (where you can spot Manta Rays in their natural habitat from around May – September), Butterfly Bay (famous for its colonies of beautiful butterflies during certain months of the year as well as its spectacular underwater world), Luncheon Bay (which offers a huge variety of coral and reef fish) and the Pinnacles.

Other popular spots for snorkelling are Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island and Cateran Bay on Border Island, both relatively shallow reefs full of striking coral and marine life which make them perfect for underwater exploring.

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BEACHES

It goes without saying that the beaches in the Whitsunday Islands are the best you’ll find in this country. It’s almost impossible to pick a beach that isn’t Instagram worthy, but we’ve gathered together some of the ones that will really make your jaw drop.

Whitsunday Island, the largest island in the Whitsundays, is home to the world famous Whitehaven Beach. If you haven’t seen any pictures of this dreamy destination, go ahead and google it – we’ll wait. Whitehaven Beach is a glorious 7km stretch of powdery white sand (among the whitest sand you’ll find in the world) and endless aqua sea that swirl together in amazing natural patterns as the pure sand shifts through the water.

You can see this at the northern end of Whitehaven Beach at a place called Hill Inlet.

Another beach worth checking out is Catseye Beach on Hamilton Island. With its long stretch of white sand and swaying palms, it’s a popular spot for weddings and offers plenty of spots for relaxing and water sports.

Horseshoe Bay in Bowen is in the northernmost part of the Whitsundays. With picturesque beaches and opportunities for snorkelling, it’s worth the journey up there.

For a bit more privacy, Chalkies Beach on Haselwood Island is a neglected paradise that lies opposite the more popular Whitehaven. With the same white silica sand and aqua water, Chalkies is just as photogenic without all of the tourists getting in the way of the perfect shot.

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HIKING

While there’s plenty to do underwater, there’s also no shortage of fun things to do on land too. The Whitsunday Islands is a national park that features lush rainforests, hills and mountain ranges, dense bushland and waterfalls for you to explore on foot.

They are home to many hiking trails that range from short 1km strolls to lengthy bush treks for a real challenge. The Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail is considered one of Queensland’s Great Walks and it features many of these bush walks on Whitsunday, Hook and South Molle Islands. The walks will take you through beaches, eucalypt forests, rainforests and grasslands, with many ending in spectacular views over the island and beyond.

Some of the best ones to try are Passage Peak trail on Hamilton Island (for those spectacular views we mentioned), the Great Whitsunday Walk (a crazy 28km trek that has many smaller trails leading off of it so you can pick and choose your starting point) and the Honeyeater Walk on the mainland (a very popular 8km return bushwalk that begins in Airlie Beach and boasts some of the most spectacular views over the entire Whitsunday Islands).

Keswick Island and Lindeman Island also offer some great options for walking through green rainforests, as well as any of the diverse trails on Long Island.

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CAMPING

If you’re after a true wilderness experience that you can brag to all of your friends about when you get home, camping under the stars is a great way to go.

Camping is available at a number of different locations around the islands – Whitsunday Island, Hook Island and the Molle Islands being among the most popular. Some campsites are located on the beach so you can wake up to your very own glorious sunrise, others are situated further back in the bush which is a great option if you prefer a bit more shade during the warmer months.

Wildlife and nature are all around you and there are countless opportunities to spot native animals on the many walking trails on the islands.

While some campsites offer eco-toilets and picnic tables, others are more remote for a true camping experience. You won’t find toilets, drinking water or reception at these sites so make sure you prepare beforehand!

If you decide camping is for you, visit the Queensland National Parks Booking Service to select your location and dates and get your camping permit: https://qpws.usedirect.com/qpws/

Once you’ve booked your spot, check out this website for great prices that will give you everything you need to start your adventure: https://www.whitsundaycamping.com.au/ They offer camping kits to set you up with all the necessary equipment, such as tents, gas stoves and an esky, as well as return transfers on a water taxi to your chosen site starting at $65.

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HELPFUL LINKS

To plan your trip, we suggest checking out this link for some great deals on tour packages to suit any budget. Tours are a fantastic way to see the islands and you can pick one that includes everything you have your heart set on doing while there. They even offer backpacker and student deals, so you can grab your friends and head off for a party in paradise you’ll never forget!

Be sure to also download the Visitor Guide which is packed full of important information on everything you can see and do on the land and under the water, including detailed info on all hiking trails in the area.

 

For more great tips and tricks on being an international student living in Australia, visit Study Anywhere

 

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