Everything You Should Do On A Trip To The Whitsundays To Warm Your Cold, Cold Heart

Maybe it’s La Niña bringing in the sideways rain but I’ve never craved feeling the sun on my pale, Melburnian skin more. That’s why I made like Taylor Swift and jet-set it out of this freezing hell-hole to head to the ~better state~. AKA, the Sunshine State. 

I’ve never been to the Whitsundays before, so when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it like Flipper the dolphin. So, here’s everything you should do when on a trip to the Whitsundays and its surrounds if your cold, cold heart also needs some sunshine. 

Me getting off the plane in my Melbourne-adjacent puffer jacket.

Sleep On The Reef

We’re starting with a bang here. If you ever find yourself in the Whitsundays then you have to spend a night on the Great Barrier Reef. The Reefsleep is an opportunity to sleep under the stars aboard the Reefworld pontoon. You can take off from Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island and by mid-morning you’ll be docked and ready to snorkel, swim, and scuba dive on the reef. 

After 3pm, the day visitors head back to shore and you and up to 24 other guests have the reef all to yourself, baby. Because, while playing on the reef for the day is a privilege and experience in itself, the feeling of watching the day-trippers float back to land is truly unmatched. 

Once we were left alone, a green sea turtle actually came up to the pontoon and I got the chance to dive in (gently, of course) and snorkel alongside the little dude. So cute. 

Because there’s zero reception out on the reef, you get to know your other sea-farers and the kind staff quite well and the evening is spent watching the sun go down and eating a delicious dinner together. When it’s time to get some shut eye for another day of activities you can sleep underneath the stars in the warmth and comfort of the day beds that get turned into cosy swags. 

If you’re feeling super bougie, you can even book a night in one of the two Reefsuites. Head below deck to sleep with the fishes (literally), as the windows look out onto the Great Barrier Reef. Just book early because these experiences sell out quickly. Can you blame ‘em?

Fly Over Heart Reef

While on the Reefsleep, you can purchase different adventure-fuelled add-ons, one of which is a helicopter ride over the reef. A pilot in Top Gun-esque aviators took us up into the sky, quite quickly, I might add. We zoomed over the pontoon and one of the seventh wonders of the world. While out there, our fake Tom Cruise pointed out Heart Reef, which is, you guessed it, a reef in the shape of the heart. 

Apparently, a local couple spotted it while helicoptering in 1975 but then lost it. Lol. It was found again a couple of years later and is now one of the reef’s main attractions. I didn’t realise just how popular it was until I saw it on all of the brochures and souvenir shops when back on land. Blame my Southern ignorance for not knowing about it in the first place but now, I can’t wait to see it IRL again.

Watch The Sunrise and Sunset As Many Times As Possible

This is a bit ~romantic~ but I swear the sunsets and sunrises are different on the Whitsundays. The sky is so clear and blue, I barely saw a cloud for the whole five days. As a result, the horizon was delivering. No matter where we were, whether on Airlie Beach or in the middle of the literal ocean the sunsets and sunrises were breath-taking. There was no grey, Melbourne fog or lack of motivation to leave your warm bed, just a genuine appreciation for mother nature. Wholesome – and also, free.

Feel The Need For Speed On A Jet Ski

If swimming isn’t your thing but you still want to see the ocean then why not jump onto a Jet Ski? The Whitsundays JetSki Tours are actually voted Australia’s number one tourism experience and it quickly becomes apparent why. After some very important safety briefing, our tour guide took us out of the marina and into the beautiful Airlie Beach. We stopped as a group every few kilometres for check-ins and to learn about the history of the islands. If you do the Airlie Beach JetSki Tour then you also go for an exploration in Turtle Bay. I spotted another turtle, but this time it was a huge Hawksbill Sea Turtle. It came out of the water like a pseudo-Loch-Ness-Monster (but way cuter) and quickly ducked back down. 

Aside from the cute turtles, flying over the crystal blue water (not an exaggeration) was the most refreshing and unique way to spend a morning. I was shit-scared to get behind the gears but after some lovely words of encouragement from our guide, Alex, I actually found myself loving the speed. Siri, play Highway To The Danger Zone.

Drink The World’s Best Mojito

When a local told me that Fish D’Vine’s Rum Bar in Airlie Beach had the world’s best mojito, I thought it was an Elf moment. 

But after a quick Google, I found that they were, in fact, correct. The longest established independe
nt restaurant in Airlie has fresh seafood by the buckets and a damn good mojito as well. Perfect for sipping slowly whilst watching the sunset. 

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Kayak On The Sea

Anddd we’re back on the ocean. Because I’m now addicted to adventure, I also took a kayaking tour with Salty Dog Sea Kayaking. Before I left, I had a quick Google search and thought the images were too perfect and must be photoshopped. Nope, the water is just that crystal clear. I know, sickening.

I did the half-day tour which is perfect for beginners. We paddled out to different islands, learnt how Captain Cook came up with the name, the Whitsundays, and heard some local Indigenous history as well. About half-way through, we paddled to a secluded beach and ate some fruit under the shade of a tree. It was giving Pirates Of The Caribbean – which isn’t exactly wrong because some scenes were actually filmed on the almost-untouched islands. 

Kayaking was an incredible way to see the islands, just make sure you’re able-bodied because paddling through the wind was certainly a solid workout.

Buy some Indigenous Art From Nunkeri Place

One of the beautiful things about the Whitsundays area is the strong Indigenous history of the Ngaro people. And you can’t miss the opportunity to support local by visiting Nunkeri Place. The Indigenous gallery hosts stunning art, didgeridoos, and fun souvenirs as well. The friendly face of owner Peter Santo will also make you feel as welcome as an Airlie local. I definitely didn’t buy a kitchy tourist t-shirt, why do you ask? 

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Stay In A Lush Resort

Although some may prefer to sleep on the reef, others enjoy the sweet, sweet feel of land underneath their feet. While there are (almost) too many to choose from, the Mantra Club Croc Hotel and Shingley Beach Resort are the upper echelon of Whitsunday accomodation. The staff are super friendly and on-hand to give you local recommendations. You know when you meet a hotel receptionist and they make you feel like you’re old friends reuniting? Queensland always gives those friendly vibes and I’m HERE for it.

Shingley Beach Resort feels like a home-away-from-home in its whicker furniture and seaside interiors, while Mantra Club Croc Hotel is perfect for families thanks to its buffet breakfast and swimming pool. Both resorts boast incredible views that dead-set look like something from a screensaver. Too good to be true.

Shingley Beach Resort or an aesthetic, wanderlust screensaver, you choose.

Go To The Pub – No Really, The Pub.

While every town has The Pub, not every town has one with such a literal name. Located on the esplanade in Airlie Beach, The Pub is a sprawling drinking hole with enough seats to fit the whole bloody population of the seaside town into it. It’s a part of the Airlie Beach Hotel where you can stay right in the heart of restaurants and the beachfront. Can’t go wrong, really.

Eat Hot Chips And Prawns On The Beach

What better way to end a tropical trip than by whipping up a make-shift picnic? Nab some fish and chips (or a bucket of prawns if you’re so inclined) and head to the shore. The local Mom and Pop shop is the Whitsunday Seafood Bar on the esplanade (just a few steps from The Pub). It’s very popular so make sure you time the sunset properly to not miss this incredible natural light show.

So there you have it. By the end of this Whitsundays tour you’ll have enough warmth in your heart to last you to the blooming days of spring, (as well as a game plan to escape next winter). Happy holidaying.

To learn more about The Whitsundays, head to Tourism Whitsundays.