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The Whitsundays is a famous group of 74 islands in the heart of the magnificent Great Barrier Reef. If you are looking for an unforgettable holiday while in Australia, this is it. This guide is perfect for anyone looking for pristine beaches, swimming/scuba diving with brightly colored marine life, and enjoying a few days on a boat! People are the most familiar with Whitehaven Beach as it is one of the most instagrammable beaches in the world and was voted as one of the best beaches to visit. Keep reading to find out how to get the most out of your Whitsunday holiday.
Arlie Beach is the best access point for being able to set sail on the Whitsundays. Even as a small town, there is an airport with transfers, charming restaurants, and various touring companies to help you with your adventure. As with most of our adventures, we usually opt to stay in an Airbnb as we find this the cheapest option and enjoy having the option to cook. Things to not miss in Arlie Beach are their local market every Saturday and a fantastic fresh seafood restaurant called Fish D’vine Restaurant and Rum Bar. This was suggested to us by a local and was by far one of our favorite meals. They have a selection of over 500 rums, a great cocktail menu, and fresh-caught seafood where you can even go and pick out what fish you want for your dinner.
There are a few options for booking tours when it comes to the Whitsundays. You can choose to do half-days, full days, or even multiple day trips. It really depends on how much time you have and what your budget is. If you can spend a few days here, it is well worth the money to make a multiple-day trip. Our friends had previously done a half-day tour of Whitehaven beach but were quite disappointed as they only went to the beach and left feeling underwhelmed.
We decided to do a two-day boat experience with True Blue Sailing that gave us a little bit of everything for an all-around experience. True Blue Sailing company is a local Australian company with over 16 years of experience, ECO certified (hello ecotourism), and offers both multi-day packages and day packages. We chose to do the 2-day/2-night excursion on the Atlantic Clipper. This tour is more promoted to a younger population, whereas the New Horizon tour is more for everyone. The tours all include your accommodation on board, equipment needed for activities, and meals (that was surprisingly good!).
The first day is when you arrive at the docks and get loaded onto the boat. Once you set sail, you are introduced to the fantastic crew, given your safety talks, and then you can mingle with the other people on your tour from all over the world. The boat sails by different islands that make up the Whitsundays, and you will come to an area where the boat docks for the night. The rooms are below deck and consist of four people to a room. The rooms are relatively small, so they recommend packing light because of this. There is access to bathrooms and showers throughout the living quarters.
You are allowed to bring your own drinking beverages aboard, and it is highly recommended that you do. They are locked up during the day to help avoid any safety concerns, but the cooler is unlocked in the evening when everyone is relaxing on the top deck. Soon the music starts, games are being played, and you are usually up late into the night. You can often see dolphins and reef sharks swimming up near the boat, eating all the little fish and providing some great entertainment.
The next morning, you are setting sail at 0700 sharp, and the wake-up call will come very loudly. Not super great when you are hungover and on a rocking ship. If you are feeling a little queasy, head up to the top deck for some fresh air. After a light breakfast, the tour officially starts at Whitehaven. To begin the tour, one of the crew takes the group up to Hill Inlet outlook. As the fourth most photographed location in Australia, you get your first glance at the stunning swirling sand that makes this area so famous. After the lookout, it is time for a swim within Whitehaven Beach. The sand is made up of 98% silica which makes it incredibly soft and gives it its pure white color. We found schools of fish swimming, reef sharks, and stingrays! The water is warm, crystal clear, and the feeling of the sand between your toes is indescribable.
At around lunchtime, you are taken back to the boat to enjoy a nice lunch. While you are eating, the crew begins sailing to the next destination. This destination depends on the weather, but the next activity will be snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. An add-on option they have is to scuba dive. It is an extra expense, and they recommend signing up early as they can only take six people. In groups of two, you are taken out with a certified diving instructor. The experience is out of this world and is a lot of fun. You get to see parts of the Great Barrier Reef that you would never usually get to see. One of the great things about this tour is that they have a heavy focus on protecting the Great Barrier Reef, so extra caution is taken so that you do not disturb any part of the ecosystem. This was a definite bucket list item that was checked off and probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While other people are out scuba-diving, you do have a chance to snorkel with the rest of the group, so you are not missing out on anything.
After dinner, the fun begins again. If you thought the first night was a party, the second night is definitely an even bigger party. There is lots of laughter, dancing, and just enjoying the warm Australian night. However, the final day still starts at 0700. No sleep for the wicked! Before heading back into Arlie Beach, there are opportunities to enjoy the water and have some fun. You can choose to slide off one of the slides, swim in the water, paddleboard, or just relax in the hot tub. If you plan on sticking around Arlie Beach for another night, the company does offer an after-party at one of the town’s bars with discounts for food and drinks.
Overall, this trip was just one big check off my bucket list. The tour was entertaining, the crew superb, and we had such a great experience. Find the tour here through TripAdvisor!
Remember to pack your reef safe sunscreen! Did you know that sunscreen bleaches and kills coral and kills marine life? Do your part in helping to protect our oceans. Looking for a recommendation? Try Think Sport! A great lightweight sunscreen that is safe for our bodies and the environment