Whitsunday Islands Attractions
The Whitsunday group consists of some 70 islands lying within a 50km radius of Shute Harbor, the main starting point for trips to the islands.
They are perhaps the best-known group, and the best-equipped to cater for tourists, in the Great Barrier Reef area.The islands were given their name by Captain Cook, who sailed between them (through what is now known as the Whitsunday Passage) at Whitsun 1770. The name is not quite correct, for Cook in writing his log forgot that he had crossed the international date line. He did not at first observe the outer reef, some 60km from Shute Harbor - though he had been surprised at the unusually calm sea - and noticed it only when his ship, the Endeavor, ran aground on the reef off Cooktown which thereafter was known as the Endeavor Reef.The Whitsunday Islands are continental islands, the summits of a coastal range of hills emerging from the sea which has submerged them. All but five of them have been declared National Parks. On the mainland opposite the islands is Conway National Park (Airlie Beach).
This continental island (i.e. an island on the continental shelf), the most northerly of the inhabited islands in the Whitsunday group, has an area of 4 sq.km, with hills rising to 250m. Hayman was one of the first islands on the reef to be developed for tourism (from 1935 onwards), originally for fishing holidays. The American writer Zane Gray, who was a keen fisherman, helped to make the island known. In 1950 an attractive hotel was built on Hayman, and in 1985 this was enlarged and remodeled, at great expense, as a highly exclusive and luxurious resort complex set in a magically beautiful landscape.
Hayman Island offers a wide range of water sports and charming excursions to the outer reef. There are beautiful walking trails through the forest to the Whitsunday Lookout and Cook's Lookout. A number of tiny uninhabited islets off the main island can be reached on foot at low tide.
South Molle Island
South Molle is a continental island with an area of 4 sq.km and hills rising to 198m. Much of its area has been declared a national park, and the vegetation has now recovered from earlier over-grazing. It has long beaches of sand and coral and a number of short walking trails. The island lies in the middle of the Whitsunday group, of which there are fine views from Mount Jeffreys, Spion Knob and the Balancing Rock. It was named after George Molle, governor of New South Wales (1815). The island is covered by forest in the north, round the resort complex, and in the extreme south; the center is largely covered by grassland. It is home to many species of birds. There are facilities for many types of sport, diving instruction and a variety of other leisure activities. The island is well suited for family holidays with children.
Lindeman Island, with an area of 8 sq.km and hills rising to 210 m, is popular with families, since it offers a great variety of activities for children, including an adventure playground. Unlike some of the other islands (e.g. Hamilton), it is not overcrowded, being too remote for day trips and cruises. It has facilities for many kinds of sport, particularly water sports, and also has a beautiful golf course. There are 20km of walking trails, all starting from the small island airstrip. The island has a varied flora and fauna and a butterfly valley. From the top of Mount Oldfield there are magnificent views. Excursions to the neighboring islands of Seaforth and Shaw.
Long Island, also known as Molle Island, has an area of 12 sq.km and hills rising to 270m. This long, narrow island lying close to the coast is separated from the mainland only by a narrow channel (strong currents). There are 13km of walking trails. The beaches on the west coast are sandy, on the east coast rocky.An old holiday village dating from the 1930s has been redeveloped as three comfortable resort complexes known as Kontiki, Palm Bay and Paradise Bay.
Hook Island is a continental island, with an area of 53 sq.km, hills rising to 454m and beautiful beaches. There are safe anchorages in two long fjord-like inlets on the south coast, Nara and Macona Inlets.There are camping grounds on Macona Inlet and elsewhere in the National Park (Stonehaven, Butterfly Bay). At the southeastern tip of the island is a modest resort complex, with an underwater observatory.
Daydream Island, also known as West Molle, is the smallest island in the Whitsunday group, with an area of only 10ha. It is covered with dense rain forest vegetation, with hills up to 50m high.There is a resort complex on the island.The island features watersports, coral viewing and reef fishing.
Whitsunday Island, the uninhabited main island in the group (area 109 sq.km), is separated from Hook Island by a narrow channel. It has good beaches and diving grounds, a network of walking trails and a notably rich flora and fauna.