The Whitsundays is a great location for a family holiday, with its calm, warm waters and beautiful islands. This page contains information on The Whitsundays that may be of value to families including a list of facts and some family friendly advice.
The Whitsunday Islands are the main drawcard to the region, consisting of 74 islands, 8 of which have resorts on them. Sailing around the islands is the best way to see them, and you can charter a boat yourself or join a tour.
From June to September, whales are travelling up the coast. While you're sailing around the islands, you're most likely to see the whales enjoying the calm waters of the Whitsundays.
If you're staying on one of the islands, there are many water sports available including snorkelling, windsurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding or hire a catamaran.
There are a great variety of dining options in The Whitsundays, from fine dining restaurants, to casual, alfresco cafes and restaurants. Local seafood and regional produce feature prominently on menus in the Whitsunday region. However, nothing really beats fish and chips by the beach.
Population: Over 153,000
Location: The Whitsunday region includes the mainland towns of Mackay, Proserpine, Bowen, and Airlie Beach as well as the Whitsunday Islands. Mackay is 970km north of Brisbane.
Climate: The climate is sub-tropical. Average summer high is 30 degrees with the average summer low at 25 degrees. The winter high is 24 degrees and the winter low is 18 degrees. The wet season runs from January to March when the weather is steamy and there are tropical showers.
Time Zone: There is no daylight saving time in The Whitsunday region. Time zone is Eastern Standard Time (EST).
Transport: There is a good rail, bus and ferry network in The Whitsundays, as well as plenty of taxis.
Flying Times To The Whitsundays: Direct flight from Brisbane to Proserpine or Hamilton Island is 1 hr 30 mins. From Sydney it is 3 hrs to Proserpine (via Brisbane) and 2 hrs 20 mins direct to Hamilton Island.
Medical: There are many medical centres and hospitals located on the mainland in The Whitsunday region.
Sun: The summer sun can get very hot especially between 10am and 2pm. Cover up and make sure you use sun protection.
Swimming: The water temperature is an average of 25 degrees, but be careful of box jellyfish from Nov-May. If the beach has them, swim in the stinger net area only.
Airports: Whitsunday Coast Airport is located in Proserpine, a 25 minute drive from Airlie Beach. Great Barrier Reef Airport is located on Hamilton Island.
Electricity: 240v at 50Hz.
Visa/Passport: Visas are required for all visitors travelling to Australia except for New Zealand passport holders.
Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Etihad Airways, and Air New Zealand fly to Proserpine (Whitsunday Coast Airport) from Brisbane. You can fly to Hamilton Island (Great Barrier Reef Airport) direct from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns flying Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Qantaslink.
It's best to book early to get cheaper airfares especially if you plan to travel in the school holidays.
You can check the airlines web sites: Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar.
There is plenty of family friendly accommodation available in The Whitsundays. You can choose from 5 star luxury resorts to basic apartment accommodation.
Check our Whitsunday accommodation page for a listing of the family friendly resorts and hotels available.
Booking accommodation online is now the norm, with most resorts offering an online booking facility. There are also numerous online travel companies where you can check resort facilities and accommodation types, check for availability and price, and book your holiday using a credit card.
In Airlie Beach, the local art and craft market is held on the foreshore every Saturday morning. Markets are held in Bowen every Sunday from April to December and Mackay has weekend markets. Proserpine also has a monthly market and some interesting shops in the main street.
There are many boutiques and souvenir shops in the main street of Airlie Beach.
Larger shopping centres can be found in nearby Cannonvale, Bowen and in the Mackay City Centre.
Things To Do
There are many activities for families to enjoy in The Whitsundays. Here are some of the most popular ones:
There are 25 historic murals painted on the walls of buildings in Bowen, depicting the town's history. There are guided walking tours during the winter months. Bowen is just over an hour's drive north from Airlie Beach.
Peter Faust Dam (Lake Proserpine)
Located 26km west of Proserpine, this is a great fishing spot - especially for barramundi. You will need a permit to fish here. Also a great location for water sports including water skiing. There are picnic and BBQ facilities and a boat ramp.
Cedar Creek Falls
Located 20km from Proserpine, these falls look their best in the wet season. You can swim in the pool and there are great bush walks around the falls.
Whitsunday Great Walk
Located in the Conway State Forest, the trail is 30km long. Shorter walks can be taken off the main track. The walk starts at Brandy Creek, 10km from Airlie Beach. There are 2 camping areas along the walk.
Great Barrier Reef
Easily accessible from the Whitsundays, an amazing place to dive or snorkel. Heart Reef is located in the Whitsundays, and is best seen from the air. There are scenic helicopter and seaplane flights available.
This 7km long beach is located on Whitsunday Island, the largest of the Whitsunday islands. This stunning beach with its pure white sands is the most photographed in Australia. Head to the lookout at Tongue Point for the best views. Many tour companies offer day trips to Whitehaven Beach.
Diving and Snorkelling
Some of the best dive spots in the Whitsundays are the Stepping Stones, Bait Reef, Hardy Reef and the Pinnacles. There are many dive operators located in Airlie Beach.
You can explore the Whitsundays on a sea kayak, either rent your own or join an expedition.
Quad Bikes and Go-Karts
Located on Hamilton Island, kids from 6 years and up can enjoy the fun of quad bikes and go-karts. There are quad bike tours around the island for adults.
Wild Life Hamilton Island
This park has native Australian animals including koalas, kangaroos, birds, snakes and lizards. There is the opportunity to cuddle a koala and get a great souvenir photo. There is a cafe where you can have 'Breakfast with the Koalas'. Open from 7am.
Located in Mackay, the kids will love the 3 pools, waterslide and water park. There is a cafe and BBQ facilities.
Eungella National Park
Located 80km west of Mackay, this park is a haven for platypus. There are many walks and hikes to try and lots of wildlife to observe. There is an Information Centre at Broken River and you can also join a tour.