While exploring beaches in the Whitsundays, you'll find no shortage of secret coves, long stretches of white sand, beachcombing opportunities, and beautiful bays tucked away from crowds.

The Best Beaches in the Whitsundays & Airlie Beach

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Whether you're chartering a yacht through the Whitsunday Islands or visiting the Whitsunday region, discover these top Whitsunday Beaches

The beaches in the Whitsundays are world-class. An archipelago of 74 Islands, the Whitsunday Islands are spectacularly pristine with crystal clear waters, white sandy shores, rainforests meeting the coastline and abundant marine life.

The best way to experience the Whitsunday Islands is from a hired bareboat or private tour to experience the beaches at first light and sunset. However, there are many ways to get out to the Islands, whether on a day tour from Airlie Beach, hiring a seaplane, joining a skippered cruise or booking a private tour.

In this post, we’ll feature the best beaches to see if you embark on a private yacht charter or tour and for those who can’t hire a boat, we’ll list our favourite beaches on the mainland.

whitsunday beach

What’s so special about the Whitsundays?

So many factors make the Whitsundays special, to name a few:

  • They are within a subtropical climate.
  • The outer Great Barrier Reef protects the islands from large ocean swells making the waters calm for sailing.
  • Most of the Islands are pristine and protected with long-standing National Park status. Through various hiking trails, you can experience rainforests featuring hoop pines, eucalyptus, grass trees, mangroves and a range of bird and animal life.
  • Accommodation choices on the islands range from several Island resorts to camping on remote uninhabited islands to anchoring in a protected cove.
  • Fringing coral reefs surround the Islands with many fantastic diving and snorkelling sites.

Why is the Whitsunday water so blue?

When you look at photos of beaches in the Whitsundays, you can’t help but notice the turquoise colours of the sea. Scientists say this striking colour occurs when sunlight penetrates the water, hitting fine silicon sediments which reflect the sunlight.

The depth of the water also contributes to its colour. The deeper the water, the darker blue it is. The average depth around the Islands is 20 meters, allowing light to reach the ocean floor, lighting up the sand below.

When can you not swim in the Whitsundays?

You can swim all year round in the Whitsundays if you wear a stinger suit. Stinger suits are light and easy to move in, providing extra sun protection.

Stinger season runs from October to May. This is when warm water attracts dangerous Irukandji and Box Jellyfish. It is important to wear a stinger suit at this time of year.

whitsunday beaches

The Best Whitsunday Beaches

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island

Whitehaven Beach is consistently voted as one of the best beaches in the world and has won countless awards, such as Queensland’s Most Beautiful Beach.

Perhaps its biggest claim to fame is that Whitehaven is the most photographed beach in Australia. Visiting the Whitsundays and not seeing this picture-perfect location is like visiting Rome and not seeing the Sistine Chapel.

Stretching 7km long, with incredible turquoise water at a temperature close to 25 degrees’ year-round, Whitehaven is the perfect place for a day trip in paradise. It’s the uninterrupted white silica sand that makes Whitehaven so unique. The sand is so soft that when you walk on it, it squeaks, and it’s so fine that it can polish jewellery.

When you walk to the north end of the beach, you’ll come to a track going up to the Hill Inlet Lookout. The lookout is where you’ll see one of the most photographed views in Australia. Looking over Hill Inlet, the shifting tide carves winding channels into the sand, creating swirling white and turquoise patterns.

Schedule a full day to enjoy this incredible world-class location. Take a picnic, enjoy a walk, sit in the shade and swim until your heart’s content. Whitehaven is a must for people on a charter or visitors to Airlie Beach.

If you are on bareboat charter and plan to spend the night near Whitehaven, see this post on Whitehaven sailing and anchorage tips.

whitehaven beach

Langford Spit, Langford Island

Sometimes referred to as the disappearing beach, Langford island is relatively small, narrowing down to a tidal sand bar beach on the east.

We recommend you plan to visit Langford on low tide to get the most out of the sand spit. The long narrow beach surrounded by crystal clear water is the perfect base for swimming,  spot for sunbaking & even cricket.

Snorkelling is one of the best activities to do off Langford Spit. A group of local turtles frequent the area and on the north-western end of the beach. You’ll also find great fringing reef corals and fish.

On the island,  there’s a short walk to a view which looks over to the Whitsunday passage.

whitsunday beach

Dugong Beach (Cid Harbour), Whitsunday Island

Within Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Island, is picturesque Dugong Beach.

As the name suggests, dugongs are in this area; They’re seen feeding off seagrasses along the coast. If you’re lucky, watch out from the beach and see if you can spot one of these gentle, shy creatures. Dugongs are very wary of humans, a trait that may come from when Ngaro people hunted them.

A popular group camping spot, Dugong Beach camping is set up for larger groups with facilities including a composting toilet and picnic tables. YOu will need to bring drinking water.

What makes Dugong Beach so great is the walking trails it gives you access to. Enjoy the quaint 1.5km walk through coastal rainforests to Sawmill Beach. For the more adventurous, take a steep 2.5 k trail to the lookout at Whitsunday Peak (not for the faint-hearted).

Please note that snorkelling is not permitted at Cid Harbour to stay safe within SharkSmart guidelines.

Whitsunday Peak

Catseye Beach, Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island can be a great place to stop on a yacht charter. Located conveniently in the middle of the Whitsunday’s Cruising Area, this popular resort Island has many facilities, restaurants, cafes and shops to help with stocking supplies or enjoying a meal.

You can book an overnight berth at the Hamilton Island Marina or visit hourly for a fee. Visitors are welcome to hire a golf buggy and drive around the 16km road looping the island, taking you to its pools and beaches.

Catseye Beach, with its clear water, a long stretch of palm trees and sun lounges, is a great place to soak up the resort vibe of Hamilton Island. You can enjoy a cocktail from a hammock, get into some water sports, go snorkelling and even swim in one of the three (free) resort pools skirting the bay.

At low tide on Catseye Beach, you can walk out onto the flats and take in Hamilton Island from a different perspective. The kids will love spotting hermit crabs while keeping an eye out for turtles popping their heads up

Hamilton Island Photo credit Queensland Tourism and Events

Cateran Bay, Border Island

Cateran Bay is a beautiful, secluded place to stay and enjoy. Surrounded by imposing cliffs, the sandy beach feels like you’re in your private paradise. We often tell couples to visit Cateran Bay for a romantic escape because it’s one of the more secluded overnight anchorages on the Islands.

Border Island has been a protected green zone for a long time, meaning that snorkelling and diving are fantastic at Cateran Bay. The best snorkelling sites are on the east and west sides of the bay.

You can also hike up to the top of the hill to experience incredible views of the southern island groups.

Note that the beach is accessible by dinghy on mid and high tide.

Best Whitsunday Beach Border Island

Chalkies Beach, Haselwood Island

If you want to experience the famous sand found at Whitehaven Beach, visit Chalkies Beach. Located across from Whitehaven and popular with locals, Chalkies is equally spectacular without the day-tripping Whitehaven crowds.

You could spend a whole day soaking up the salt and sand at Chalkies and taking the newly established hiking trail to a lookout with views over Whitsunday Island.

Another excellent spot for snorkelling and swimming, the northern end of Chalkies showcases some great fringing reefs. You’ll be able to safely swim right off the beach and experience fantastic coral gardens and marine life

Moorings have been installed to protect the reef at Chalkies; anchoring is not allowed.

best beaches whitsundays

Chance Bay, Whitsunday Island

Chance Bay is a little cove tucked around the Eastern side of large Whitsunday Island. It’s an excellent place for snorkelling, kayaking and sunbathing. There are some camping facilities and plenty of shade to escape the heat.

Chance Bay is the best place to anchor if you want to see Whitehaven Beach, and the winds are coming from the North. You can take a  3 km walking track to Whitehaven Beach from Chance.

Whitsunday Beaches chance bay

The Best Beaches near Airlie Beach

Amazing Whitsunday beaches are not exclusive to the islands. We understand that not everyone can take a charter yacht or tour, so we wanted to list a few favourite beaches that anyone can drive to when visiting Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Coast Region.

Montes Resort, Hydeaway Bay

Ask any local where you should go when you visit Airlie Beach and they will say “have you been to Montes?”

You’ll wonder why this place isn’t world-famous. It feels like you’ve stumbled across a secret, and well, you have.

About an hour’s drive to the north of Airlie (on the way to Cape Gloucester) is Hydeaway Bay. When you arrive, you’ll wonder where the town is… keep driving past the holiday houses, over the ridge until you hit a dirt road and watch for the turnoff to Montes Reef Resort.

Trust us, you’ll pinch yourself when you arrive and won’t want to leave. Montes Resort provides the most incredible setting and fantastic food. After lunch, you can swim off the stunning beach, throw a line in or take a cocktail down onto the sand lounges.

Montes Resort Best Beach

Dingo Beach

Neighbouring Hydeaway Bay is Dingo Beach. Thankfully, this charming spot hasn’t changed much in 30 years.

Dingo Beach is quiet and secluded. You’ll find a great shaded BBQ area, and the beach is long enough to enjoy an enjoyable walk.

A visit to Dingo Beach is not complete without stopping off at the pub, you can’t miss it, apart from the general store it’s the only shop in town! The pub offers a classic Queensland experience with open walls and local characters, which is what travelling is all about.

Cape Gloucester

Cape Gloucester is located in the northern end of the Whitsundays Region, just up past Hydeaway Bay.

There are stunning views of the Coral Sea as you drive from Hydeaway Bay towards Cape Gloucester. Drive to the end and select a sandy beach or secluded cove.

We suggest allowing a whole day to enjoy beachcombing, swimming, fishing and a long lazy lunch at the Cape Gloucester Eco Lodge. Resort visitors can swim in the fantastic pool or soak up some sun on the deck.

Australia has many beautiful deserted beaches, but finding an undeveloped beach in Queensland so close to a major tourist town is still amazing.

Best Beaches Whitsunday

Horseshoe Bay, Bowen

Situated in the northern region of the Whitsundays, Bowen is a charming older-style town just an hour north of Airlie Beach. Famous for its mangos which have been grown in the district since 1880, a visit to Bowen is not complete without stopping past the “Bowen Big Mango” at the information centre

After getting your selfie with The Mango, make sure you head to a beach constantly voted one of the best in Queensland, Horseshoe Bay. Framed by two stunning granite outcrops and surrounded by fringing reefs, you can snorkel and dive off the beach.

In 2019, Bywa, an inter-tidal sculpture, was installed in the bay as part of the Whitsunday Reef Recovery and Public Art Project. Bywa was created by Indigenous artist Brian Robinson and tells the reef’s creation story. Over time the sculpture will change and interact with its environment, making this art piece an interesting attraction for snorkelers.

Treat yourself to a meal at the fully licenced Horseshoe Bay Cafe and Beach Bar to round off a wonderfully relaxing day exploring the bay.

Best Whitsunday Beaches Bowen Beach

Boathaven Beach, Airlie Beach

Often referred to as “New Beach” by the Airlie locals, Boathaven Beach consists of 60,00 cubic meters of soft white sand. How do we know how much sand is on the beach? Because it has been entirely man-made.

In 2013, with the opening of a new marina development at the Port of Airlie, this beach was created with one thing in mind, swimming and relaxing. New Beach was designed not to be affected by low and high tides. Plus, the location lends to great views over the Whitsunday Islands.

Best Beach Airlie Beach

While exploring beaches in the Whitsundays, you’ll find no shortage of secret coves, long stretches of white sand, beachcombing opportunities, and beautiful bays tucked away from crowds. Enjoy! And send us a photo or tag us in your social media photo sharing so we can see which Whitsunday beach is your favourite.

Border Island; A nature lovers hotspot

Border Island; A nature lovers hotspot

Border Island is a local favourite destination in the Whitsunday Islands. It's far enough away from the day tour crowds, yet close enough to be within comfortable sailing reach. Perhaps what makes Border Island such a special place is its natural beauty:  its been...

Exploring the 74 Whitsunday Islands

Exploring the 74 Whitsunday Islands

The Whitsunday Islands are located off the east coast of Queensland in Australia. Part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, each Island in the Whitsundays has a unique draw card, whether it be a stylish resort, world-famous beach, spectacular snorkelling site or...

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