I’m on the tail end of an epic trip to Queensland with Queensland Tourism, seeing as much of the state as I can fit into three weeks. I started the trip off with a place I’ve wanted to visit ever since I first saw photos of it – the Whitsundays. A collection of islands off of the central coast of Queensland, even before I first set foot in the area they seemed like paradise made suddenly real. So many times we’re disappointed by how reality seems in comparison to the photos, but if anything seeing the Whitsundays in person was even better than I could have hoped. As a way to offer a first introduction, here are some photos and stories of my first thoughts about this beautiful part of Queensland.
Hill Inlet, Whitsunday Island
Arguably the most iconic photo from the Whitsundays, it was also my first introduction to the islands. Flying high in a helicopter seeing the swirling waters of Hill Inlet was a beautiful thrill. As the tide shifts, the white silica sand and turquoise blue waters of the inlet blend seamlessly to create a breathtaking view of swirling waters. Even better than flying over the inlet was landing on adjacent Whitehaven Beach, routinely named one of the best beaches in the world.
Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island
After landing the helicopter on the beach, the pilot gave me a picnic lunch and a towel and told me to enjoy myself. Spending a couple of hours there, almost alone except for my thoughts was a moment of true and utter perfection. I’m not usually a beach guy, but that warm afternoon there was no other place in the world I wanted to be more. Accessible only by boat or helicopter, Whitehaven Beach is something right out of a dream. This 7-kilometer stretch along Whitsunday Island in Queensland is known for its brilliant white sand thanks to the 98% silica composition, which also means it doesn’t get too hot (great for walking) and oddly enough is good for cleaning jewelry. Standing there alone with only the bright blue sea in front of me is what I always imagined the Whitsundays would be like, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. An odd name, Whitsunday comes from the voyage of Capt. Cook in 1770 when he sailed through this passage on what he believed to be the religious holiday known as Whitsunday – the Sunday of the feast of Whitsun or Pentecost observed 7 weeks after Easter. No matter what you call it, there’s no doubt in my mind that not only is Whitehaven Beach and the entire Whitsunday collection of islands one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, they just have to be one of the most beautiful places in the world – period.
The hub of tourist activity in the Whitsundays, Hamilton Island is popular and with good reason. A small island, it features not only amazing beaches and beautiful views, but it’s a great place to launch day trips to other parts of the region, including the Great Barrier Reef. Every night, many of the visitors to the island take their golf carts (the only mode of transportation on Hamilton) up to One Tree Hill, to watch this legendary sunset over the nearby islands and the Coral Sea. It’s a beautiful moment made better by sharing it with others, all brought together for the same reason.
Heart Reef, Great Barrier Reef
A bucket list item for me for many years, finally visiting the Great Barrier Reef was just as wonderful an experience as I’d always hoped it would be. A great way to understand its size and beauty though is from the air. I traveled out to the reef by boat for a two-day, one-night experience and my first order of business once I got there was to go on a brief, ten-minute helicopter ride along this small sliver of the reef. A collection of reefs, it’s the largest living organism in the world and can even be seen from space. It’s hard not to feel small seeing it from above, but it immediately instilled in me a deep love for this natural wonder and an excitement to explore it on my own.
Great Barrier Reef
Sure, seeing the reef from above was great, but the experience everyone longs for is beneath the waves. I’ve snorkeled all around the world, but in all honesty I’ve never seen anything as impressive as what I found along the reef. Beautiful waters teemed with fish of nearly every size, shape and color. It was like living inside an aquarium and I kept jumping back in the waters, eager to see something a little different or new. I also used the opportunity to do my first scuba dive; an intro experience that allowed me to see even more of the coral and fish from an entirely different point of view.
These are just a few preliminary photos and thoughts about this one region of Queensland. I have a lot more to say not only about the Whitsundays, but Queensland as a state but I first wanted to share with you my own sense of wonder and awe at spending a few days living inside a postcard.