By: JENI BONE, Photography by: SUPPLIED

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  • Trade-A-Boat

The Whitsundays is more than a boaties’ paradise: new walking trails, onshore attractions and a calendar bursting with events provide myriad reasons to rediscover this tropical treasure trove.


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On Whit Sunday, 4 May 1770, Lieutenant James Cook sailed through what he named the Cumberland Islands, calling the passage between the northern islands the Whitsunday Passage. For thousands of years, traditional inhabitants, the Ngaro, or ‘Island People’, enjoyed the bounty of these islands for their food, recreation and social gatherings.

The Whitsundays are a patchwork of 74 islands, positioned in the living, thriving heart of The Great Barrier Reef: an enormous ecosystem, occupying an area of 348,700 km² (the size of Italy) that’s composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 1,000 islands.
Declared one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Great Barrier Reef is World Heritage listed. In 1975, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority was established to protect and manage the home of 400 of the 450 known coral species, 1,500 different types of fish, 4,000 types of mollusks, and shelter for a huge variety of creatures including endangered species.

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Port Douglas

Port Douglas in the tropical Far North of Queensland, is a great springboard to the islands and fishing grounds of the Coral Sea; onshore, the marvels of World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, local Indigenous culture and a plethora of wilderness activities will occupy even the most active traveller. Sir David Attenborough called this region "the most extraordinary place on earth" and for good reason. The Daintree is the oldest rainforest in the world. It is home to 3,000 or so unique flora and 13 mammals found nowhere else on earth.

From Port Douglas, you can charter or cruise your own boat to the Outer Great Barrier Reef, where multi-level pontoons are moored and provide a stable base enjoy a wide range of reef activities such as diving or simply observing the dazzling marine life from its glass-walled depths.

For the avid angler, Lizard Island is Australia’s northernmost island resort, located 150 miles north of Cairns and 57 miles north east off the coast from Cooktown. Famous for its fishing, there are abundant supplies of Mackerel, Tuna, Trevally, Mahi-mahi, Sailfish and Black Marlin at certain times of the year.


Cairns and Townsville

An hour’s drive south of Port Douglas, Cairns is a bustling regional city which offers the best of the Reef and the Rainforest. With its vibrant Esplanade, city beach, markets, marina and events all year round, Cairns welcomes close to two million tourists each year.
The anticipation of the world’s most spectacular mass coral spawning each November and December during the full moon entices divers, scientists and tourists to the Reef in great numbers too.

South of Cairns, Townsville is a pleasant coastal town which attracts its share of tourists for its balmy weather, The Strand pier and water park, Reef HQ Aquarium and sea turtle hospital, as well as Billabong Sanctuary wildlife park.
Offshore, fishing and diving enthusiasts can savour some world-class sites, including the wreck of the Gothenburg in Flinders Channel as well as Keeper Reef, while Hinchinbrook Island and Magnetic Island are renowned for their plentiful sportfish such as barramundi, mangrove jacks, trevally, queenfish, salmon, fingermark, grunter and cod.


Airlie Beach

South is Airlie Beach, where the sophisticated hospitality of Abell Point Marina is legendary. Owner Paul Darrouzet has invested millions in amenities, including an event centre, restaurant, upgraded marina berths, helipad, crew lounge and other facilities for boaties and visiting superyacht guests and crew.
Festivals worth timing your trip for include the Airlie Beach Festival of Music over three days in November and the Reef Festival in August — a four-day celebration combining family fun, community events, food, fireworks and a massive street party.
A hidden gem, just around the corner from Hamilton Island is Long Island. Accessed by boat, helicopter or aircraft from Shute Harbour or Hamilton Island, Long Island boasts just one resort comprising Balinese-style bures and villas, and the rest is national park, with 13km of walking trails to explore against a pristine backdrop of verdant island and azure waters.

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Hamilton Island

The yachties’ traditional northern home each winter — and these days, all year round — Hamilton Island needs no introduction. A recent flurry of renovations means there’s now even more to love. Whether you’re there to compete or as a spectator during Race Week in August — or simply wish to pull up a sun lounge and catch up on your reading, or dozing — this is the place.

Hamilton Island offers a rare blend of eco-activities and high-end attractions, a range of accommodation from budget to 5-star, a host of dining venues, boutiques, galleries, a wildlife park, hiking, karting, golf and aquatic diversions by
the dozen.

If you’re into golf (or if you just like a scenic day out and gourmet lunch with a spectacular view at the Club House), there’s a championship golf course on Dent Island, a short ferry trip from Hamilton Island.


The par 71 course was designed by five-time British Open winner, Peter Thomson and it is truly breathtaking from every vantage point. World-renowned Whitehaven Beach is a 12 nautical-mile voyage from Hamilton Island through Solway passage. Whitehaven Beach makes nearly every list of the world’s best beaches, prized for its fine white sand beach and crystalline waters. A Whitehaven "must do" is to explore the iconic Hill Inlet walking trail for breathtaking views of the Whitsunday Islands.

Located on the largest island, Whitsunday Island, and accessed from Sawmill Beach in Cid Harbour, the five-kilometre return Whitsunday Peak track rewards hikers with awe-inspiring 360-degree views.

Hook Island, accessed from Nara Inlet, abounds in traces of the Ngaro people, custodians of this region with a history stretching back 9,000 years. Protected from the elements in a cave are some marvelous examples of their art. The bush track to the cave is well-marked and accessible by people of all fitness levels. Interpretive signage along the way explains the significance of the site and the cave paintings.


If being one with nature is your priority, camping is a fantastic way to experience the Whitsundays. You can camp at one of 29 camping areas across the islands or mainland parks, and in some cases, you may have the entire site to yourself. Book your national park camping online at qld.gov.au/camping

More at www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks


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