The Whitsunday Islands were formed more than 100 million years ago as the result of volcanic activity. After the last ice age around 10,000 years ago, the mountain ranges which form these “Continental Islands” became separated from the mainland by the rising sea, creating the network of islands we see today.
Coral polyps, drifting annually from the edge of the continent, (now the Great Barrier Reef), became attached to the submerged land and formed the fringing reef system which makes our area so unique.
Located in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef system, the 74 islands of the Whitsundays are today included in this World Heritage listed Marine Park. Most of these islands remain uninhabited and the few which contain resorts are mostly unobtrusive to the view of the natural beauty of this region.
The Whitsundays span along the Queensland cost for nearly 160km (100 Miles) from Bowen (South of Townsville) to just below Mackay and are in the region known as the “Dry Tropics”.
The Whitsundays enjoy warm temperatures all year round and are a favourite holiday destination to overseas visitors who include the outstanding Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet on their bucket list. The area is more than just an amazing 6km stretch of dazzling white silica sand though, as the islands are surrounded by fringing coral reefs. The variety and abundance of corals and tropical fish compare to many of the world’s best snorkeling and diving sites.
Passing through these beautiful island groups in 1770, the then ‘Lieutenant’ James Cook, admired and noted the beauty of the area and named the main group as the “Cumberland Islands” after one of his expedition’s sponsors. Perhaps if he had sighted Whitehaven Beach, he may have stayed and history would be changed.
Most of the islands are coated with a lush canopy of native flora including magnificent Hoop pines and these, in some areas grow right down to the water’s edge forming an amazing backdrop when visiting the many bays and beaches.
Beaches range from the fine white silica sands found on Whitsunday and Hazelwood Islands, yellow fine and course sands, course coral ‘bleached bones’, Mangrove estuaries & inlets and even stunning pebble beaches on some of the more remote islands.
Tourism began to accelerate during the 1980’s and today the region supports a thriving industry of Tour operators, charter vessels, hotels, Family accommodation and diverse eating establishments. While initially considered a hub for international backpackers, these days, with improved services in air travel and quality accommodation both on the land as well as on the water, we are gaining an international as well as national reputation for affordable and enjoyable vacations.
Most organised tours and activities for the Whitsundays are based in Airlie Beach, on the mainland, which is the coastal hub and major gateway to the islands.