If you're looking to truly escape the modern world and take a break from bustling cities like Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane, then the Whitsunday Islands are the perfect island getaway on Australia's East Coast.

The 74 Whitsunday Islands are situated between the northeastern coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Surprisingly, the majority of these islands are uninhabited!

These islands are home to incredible marine life, wildlife, some of Australia's most beautiful and iconic beaches, as well as the best diving and snorkeling spots.

Not to mention, they're home to some of the country's best resorts and hotels, making them the perfect spot for your next Queensland holiday.

With so many different islands to choose from, it can be overwhelming to pick the one that suits you best. But don't worry, that's why I've put together a guide to help you decide where to stay in the Whitsundays, featuring my favorite islands and hotels.

Best areas to stay in the Whitsundays

Out of the 74 islands, only a few are actually inhabited and are home to resorts and hotels that allow you to stay and explore the Great Barrier Reef.

If it's your first time, Hamilton Island is definitely the best choice. It's the most developed, with its own airport and an actual town where you can find plenty of restaurants and shops.

For those on a tighter budget or backpackers, Airlie Beach is the ideal area. It's actually a town located on the mainland but still features amazing beaches and easy access to all the Whitsundays' incredible islands and landmarks.

Long Island is the perfect choice for all nature lovers. It consists of 75% national park, making it ideal for hiking and enjoying the great outdoors.

If you're looking for luxury and true relaxation, Hayman Island is the way to go. This private island is home to only the Hayman Island Resort, offering perfect seclusion, making it a honeymooner's top choice.

For a couples getaway, Daydream Island is the place! This private island is also home to just one resort, the Daydream Island Resort, which is perfect for couples and also attracts honeymooners.

1. Where to stay in the Whitsundays for the first time: Hamilton Island

Where to stay in Whitsunday - Hamilton Island

Arrive on Hamilton Island and you'll instantly be in island mode. There are so many reasons to visit Hamilton Island as it offers everything you could want for couples and families, which is why it's perfect for your first time in the Whitsundays!

From vibrant nightlife and shopping to luxurious hotels and picturesque beaches, Hamilton Island truly has it all.

So, if you're seeking a vacation where everything you need is right at your fingertips, then Hamilton Island is the place to be! However, keep in mind that it's a popular destination and can get quite busy during peak tourist season and I recommend booking your hotel ahead.

Best area for:

  • First-timers

  • Nightlife

  • Shopping

  • Easy access

Things to do on Hamilton Island

One of the most fun things to do on the island is rent a golf buggy for the day and explore all the amazing beaches and lookouts.

Coral Cove, Escape Beach, and South East Head are the best spots to check out and are just a stone's throw away from Catseye Beach, which serves as the Main Beach. Just a heads up, some of them may require a little hiking, so make sure you dress accordingly!

Let me also give some recommendations for all you foodies out there. On the island, my top two favorites are Coca Chu and Bommie. Coca Chu serves up delicious Vietnamese and Thai cuisine that is absolutely spot on.

The more luxe Bommie is located within the Yacht Club at the Hamilton Island Marina and offers traditional Australian cuisine and seafood. Trust me, their oysters are out of this world!

From Hamilton Island, you can also do plenty of day tours. Visiting Whitehaven Beach is a must when you're on Hamilton Island.

Whether you choose to go on a guided boat trip or explore independently, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy one of the world's most beautiful beaches and the stunning Whitsunday Islands. Make sure to hike up Hill Inlet and take in the views!

Best hotels to stay in Hamilton Island

($$$) Reef View Hotel

($$) Palm Bungalows

($) Whitsunday Apartments

For more popular hotels on the island, read my full guide on where to stay on Hamilton Island.

2. Where to stay in the Whitsundays for backpackers & nightlife: Airlie Beach

Where to stay in Whitsundays - Airlie Beach

If you're on a budget and looking to explore the Whitsundays, Airlie Beach is the place to be. Airlie Beach also has the most accommodation options.

You can enjoy all the stunning landmarks in the Whitsunday Islands such as Whitehaven Beach, and sailing through other popular islands without breaking the bank. 

Here are some of the best Whitsunday sailing tours that you can book:

Furthermore, Airlie Beach offers more affordable accommodation compared to the resorts and hotels on the islands.

It is also perfect for backpackers, as the nightlife here is amazing, and many great hostels are located in this little town as well.

Best area for:

  • Budget travelers

  • Backpackers

  • Nightlife

Things to do in Airlie Beach

One of the most amazing activities in Airlie Beach is skydiving. Take a leap of faith and witness the breathtaking Whitsunday Islands from above. There are some great skydive companies in Airlie Beach, but my favorite is Skydive Australia and you can book with them through here.

I recommend you book your skydive in advance to not miss out. Note that your jump day and time might change according to the weather forecast closer to the date.

From here, you can also easily book various tours to the Whitsunday Islands. The most popular ones are 1, 2, or 3-day sailing trips around the Whitsundays. You'll get to go snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef and make stops at Whitsunday Island, Whitehaven Beach, and Hook Island.

If skydiving isn't your thing (which is totally understandable), you can still have an amazing experience by booking a scenic flight over the Whitsunday Islands.

It's a super popular way to see the islands from above without jumping out of a plane. I still have vivid memories from my own flight over the Whitsundays as we had a super clear day and a very fun captain showing us wildlife from the air as well as various islands. In the scheme of things, I found the flight very affordable as well!

Best hotels to stay in Airlie Beach

($$$) Coral Sea Marina Resort

($$) Airlie Beach Hotel

($) Sunlit Waters Studio Apartments

($) Best hostel in Airlie: Nomads Airlie Beach

3. Where to stay in the Whitsundays for nature lovers: Long Island

Where to stay in Whitsundays - Long Island

Long Island is the perfect destination for nature and outdoor enthusiasts. This amazing island, as the name suggests, is 9km long and only 400m wide.

The majority of the island is covered in National Park, offering countless opportunities to explore cool wildlife and hike along its 17km of scenic trails.

Best area for:

  • Outdoor lovers

  • Relaxation

  • Seclusion

Things to do in Long Island

Long Island is an absolute paradise for nature water enthusiasts like myself. With its surrounding reef, you'll be able to spot plenty of marine life while snorkeling. You can easily bring your own snorkeling gear, but the resorts here will also provide it for you.

If you're up for some land adventure, make sure to explore the numerous hiking trails on the island.

You'll have the chance to spot kangaroos, a variety of birds, and even goannas – they are big lizards!

The resorts on Long Island also offer a wide range of activities like yoga, paddleboarding, and kayaking.

Plus, some fabulous spas where you can indulge in different treatments after your island explorations. It's all about enjoying the best of both worlds!

Best hotels to stay in Long Island

When it comes to accommodations, you have limited, yet two fantastic options.

One is a luxurious high-end island resort, while the other is a great mid-range choice. Both are incredible options.

However, there's a third option that might not be for everyone. It's the Sand Bay Campsite, located on a beautiful beach and only accessible by boat. If you're up for a nature adventure that feels absolutely remote, this is definitely the way to go!

($$$) Elysian Luxury Eco Island Retreat

($$) Palm Bay Resort

($) Sandy Bay Campsite

4. Where to stay in the Whitsundays for luxury & honeymooners: Hayman Island

Where to stay in Whitsundays - Hayman Island

Hayman Island is definitely a well-known island but may not be affordable for everyone as it's one of the most luxurious Whitsunday Islands!

This private island is home to the fabulous InterContinental Hayman Island Resort, which only had a refurbishment in 2019 and it is your ticket to absolute paradise. The journey to get to Hayman is already luxe as you choose from a luxury boat and/or helicopter transfer to the Hayman Island Marina or the hotel's own helipad.

Once you're on the island, get ready to explore the breathtaking cliffs, white sand beaches, and crystal-clear waters.

This island has it all – hiking trails, countless beaches, and of course, the resort itself offers a ton of activities. Here you can do anything from lounging by the large outdoor swimming pool, pampering yourself at the spa, to enjoying the various bars and restaurants.

Whether you're planning a luxurious family vacation or a romantic getaway, Hayman Island has got you covered. The resort offers family rooms and even ocean-side villas that can accommodate larger families.

Best area for:

  • Honeymooners

  • Relaxation

  • Luxury

  • Families

Things to do on Hayman Island

On Hayman Island, it's all about luxury and a touch of adventure. And what better way to combine those things than with a scenic helicopter flight over the Great Barrier Reef? You can book a 20-minute, 30-minute, or even 60-minute flight to see the stunning Whitsundays, including Whitehaven Beach, from above.

You can also charter various private yachts and sailboats to explore the other islands of the Whitsundays. Charter prices range from around AUD$2000 to almost AUD$4000 and can even include fishing, scuba diving, and other water activities for a whole day.

Best hotels to stay in Hayman Island

($$$) InterContinental Hayman Island Resort

InterContinental Hayman Island Resort is a luxurious tropical getaway situated in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Enjoy modern accommodations with private balconies, stunning sea or garden views, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary breakfast. The resort offers a spa, fitness center, tennis court, swimming pool, and five dining options with diverse cuisines, all set on a private island accessible by boat or helicopter for various excursions and water activities.

Check availability & best rates

InterContinental Hayman Island Resort

5. Where to stay in the Whitsundays for couples & seclusion: Daydream Island

Where to stay in Whitsundays - Daydream Island

Daydream Island is an amazing destination for couples searching for a romantic getaway.

Daydream Island is a serene and picturesque destination, making it an ideal spot for relaxation and water-based activities. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, water sports lover, or simply looking for a relaxing escape, there's something for everyone on this beautiful island in the Whitsundays.

Best area for:

  • Couples

  • Seclusion

  • Honeymooners

Things to do in Daydream Island

From the island, you can join plenty of amazing day tours that you can easily book through the official Tourism Whitsundays website.

The resort also offers plenty of activities to choose from, such as kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and even a fish-feeding experience where you can discover the colorful marine life of the Great Barrier Reef. 

Choose a day tour, ranging from thrilling jet ski adventures, and exciting fishing trips, to breathtaking scenic flights over the iconic Heart Reef. 

And if you're looking for a more laid-back experience, you can simply relax by the pool or take a leisurely stroll along one of the island's stunning beaches.

Best hotel to stay in Daydream Island

($$$) Daydream Island Resort

You'll only find one hotel on Daydream Island and that's the recently renovated Daydream Island Resort, which features spacious rooms and suites, multiple restaurants, and beach bars where you can unwind and enjoy yourself. The resort features three outdoor pools, including an adults-only pool.

Check availability & best rates

Where to stay in the Whitsundays – Frequently Asked Questions

⛵ How do I get to the Whitsundays?

There are plenty of different ways to get to the Whitsundays! You have options to fly directly into one of the local airports, Hamilton Island (HTI) or Whitsunday Coast Airport (PPP), from major cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Alternatively, you can enjoy a scenic ferry ride from Airlie Beach on the mainland to any of the islands mentioned above. And of course, if you have your own boat or are keen on renting one, you can anchor near one of the islands. So many ways to explore this beautiful destination!

📆 How many days should I spend in the Whitsundays?

 If you really want to soak up all the awesomeness that the Whitsundays have to offer, I'd suggest spending at least a few days around the Whitsundays. Whether you're up for some natural beauty, adventures, total relaxation, or a romantic escape, each island has tons of activities and sights. To truly make the most out of your trip, I suggest staying for a minimum of 4-5 nights. But hey, if you can extend your stay for a week or two, why not? These islands are like serious paradises!

💰 Are the Whitsundays expensive?

The Whitsundays is definitely a luxury destination, but don't worry, you can still have a great time on a budget. Depending on your preferences, prices can range from affordable to a bit more expensive. But here's the good news: there are plenty of free or low-cost options for things to do, such as hiking, swimming at the beaches, and exploring the islands on your own. Airlie Beach even has some campsites where you can pitch a tent or park your caravan for a smaller fee.

🏨 What is the best hotel in the Whitsundays?

It's hard to say what the absolute best hotel in the Whitsundays is because it really depends on your personal preferences. However, the InterContinental Hayman Island Resort is a 5-star option on a private island that is hard to beat. For couples seeking seclusion and romance, Hamilton Island offers some super romantic hotels. Qualia is a great luxury choice on Hamilton Island while Coral Sea Marina Resort in Airlie is another option on the mainland. There really is something for everyone when traveling to the Whitsundays.

Where to stay in the Whitsundays – Final Words

The Whitsundays is an absolute must-visit destination for anyone looking for a tropical paradise getaway! With stunning beaches, crystal clear waters, and plenty of activities to choose from, you'll never run out of things to do. 

It's no surprise that visiting the Whitsundays is on many travelers' bucket lists, as it truly has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. 

I'm totally in love with this part of Australia, and I hope that my guide will make your decision on where to stay in the Whitsundays a little easier.

Please note, this post may contain affiliate links, which means that – at absolutely no cost to you – we earn a small commission on sales generated through this website. We only recommend sites we actually use and thank you for your support!