The Whitsundays in season is a very touristy spot, and let’s be honest, rightly so, consisting of 74 beautiful tropical islands boasting a beach voted numerous times as Australia’s number one, and sitting on a part of the Great Barrier Reef.
So you’d be right in thinking it’s not easy to find a secluded spot off the beaten track – well don’t shout too loud but I’m going to give you 13 options that you won’t see on the standard package tour so if you are looking to get some tranquillity on your trip to the Whitsundays here they come.
I’ll tell you about less-visited beaches, secluded sunset spots, less walked rainforest and a few fun food finds. You won’t find these on many top 10 lists, but if you need a break from the crowds for a couple of days, these are worth your travel time.
Whitehaven Beach stands out as the iconic beach and is the star of the islands, but beaches are plentiful and waiting for you just a boat ride out of Shute Harbour to Bowen.
Rather than sand between your toes, how about the sound of coral splashes from the incoming waves as you settle down in a spot to enjoy this secluded piece of beach. You won’t be fighting for space here either, and this is accessible by a 2km bushwalk after you park the car; great if you like a little exploring and a beautiful quiet sunset or snorkel.
From Airlie Beach go to Shute Harbour and look for the car park on the left-hand side, a little past the harbour.
Cannonvale doesn’t just have a stunning stretch of beach; it has a stunning stretch of beach with a shipwreck not far off-shore. Its Airlie beaches less well-known neighbour. Great for snorkelling and many pro diving companies frequent the wreck.
You can take the walking track from Airlie that ends up directly on to the beach, super easy access.
If you are bringing plenty of beach gear with you and or diving equipment, there is some limited parking available.
3.HYDEAWAY BAY BEACH, CAPE GLOUCESTER
Cape Gloucester if anything is known for it being a serene spot for sunsets, but there are a plethora of other things you can do in the day too.
It’s peaceful sandy beach overlooks Hideaway Bay (aptly named) and is ideal for boating, swimming, snorkelling, beach combing and anything that has salt and sea mixed in.
It’s great for an all day trip, and you can bring a picnic, alternatively, if you’re travelling light, there’s a spot called Monte’s Reef Resort where you can grab a tasty lunch and a few thirst quenchers.
From Airlie head towards Proserpine and follow the signs that direct you to Cape Gloucester.
A beach lover’s dream day out. A good starting point for an afternoon beach crawl around Cape Edgecumbe is Gray’s Bay, in doing so you are making your way to the award-winning Horseshoe Bay.
You can relax on the granite that is prevalent along the shoreline or hit the water; it’s a lovely spot close to sunset to wade out into the calm glistening water.
From Prosperine go north on the Bruce Highway and get off the highway at Bowen, then wind your way to Horseshoe Bay Road.This turns into a dead end right at the tip of Cape Edgecumbe, and you have parking on the right-hand side at Lions Park.
SECRET WALKS, LOOKOUTS AND WATERHOLES
It’s easy to get carried away with the silky pristine sands, azure blue waters in the backdrop of vibrant green palm trees, I’m guilty as charged, but some top-drawer green hills have a different appeal to them especially the hills of Conway National Park.
It is Queensland’s second biggest tropical rainforest, and it’s a stone throw away from Airlie Beach with easy access from Shute Harbour, with plenty of things to do that don’t appear in many touristy sites or reads.
5.CEDAR CREEK FALLS, CONWAY NATIONAL PARK
Just driving along from Arlie to Conway Beach there lots of tropical oasis spots just calling you in. There’s a very picturesque waterfall during and just after the rainy season (November through March) but don’t be fooled by the seasons, Cedar Creek Falls is a stunning emerald green swimming spot when the rain isn’t falling.
You can swim along with turtles and chill in the gum trees, whatever takes your fancy.
Note: Don’t forget the insect spray or cream.
From the Proserpine Shute Harbour Road turn off at Conway Road and follow the signs to Cedar Creek Falls.
6.GREAT WHITSUNDAYS TRAIL, CONWAY NATIONAL PARK
Previously the Whitsundays Great Walk this 27-kilometre trail is a great way to explore Conway National Park. Following an old logging road, the trail weaves its way through lush, tropical rainforest and criss-crosses some freshwater creeks, depending on the season.
If you are doing it on foot, depending on your fitness levels there are circuits and segments for you to choose from. For mountain bikers the whole trail is yours, and for those of you who can’t be bothered with either you can Segway through the National Park, but it’s the ONLY place you can do this in Queensland.
Head for the Kara Crescent trailhead on Airlie Beach. The Forestry Road car park gives you access to the opposite end of the track.
Forestry Road Car park is accessible through Brandy Creek Road.
7.HONEYEATER WALK & LOOKOUT, CONWAY NATIONAL PARK
The Honeyeater Track is a sure way to get on top of everything the islands have to offer.
Note: This is not for everyone you need to look into minimum fitness requirements before ascending.
The ascent is a steep one but, it’s worth the hike, the views are breathtaking, plus you’ll feel like you got a good work-out in too so you’ll be feeling on top of the world up there.
Head to the Kara Crescent trailhead where there is access. Turn off at the Honeyeater lookout on the Conway Circuit. Follow along the Conway circuit to the Honeyeater lookout turn off.
SECRET SUNSET SPOTS
The Whitsundays are in the premier league of sunset destinations worldwide. Here’s the inside scoop on some less-known and more tranquil spots.
8.GRAY’S BAY, BOWEN
As the sun sinks into the horizon, you could be in a worse spot that Gray’s Bay in Bowen, pointing directly west. Sun-warmed granite boulders are dotted around the coastline, grab one and settle down for it.
9.MONTE’S REEF RESORT, CAPE GLOUCESTER
Monte’s Reef has a reputation for unexpectedly taking up more of your holiday time than you had planned. Ideal for an afternoon, the evening or indeed several, the resort is a little piece of paradise.
The beach and the resort are open to day visitors, ideal for swimming and there are various water sports available, and it’s worth staying for at least one night to get a couple of sunsets in here.
It’s very removed from the hustle and bustle, and you’ll be at one with Mother Nature, try to get away before your holiday is over.
10.ABELL POINT MARINA, AIRLIE BEACH
If you’re a little stuck for transportation on Airlie Beach and think you’ll miss out on a Whitsunday Sunset, no need to panic, there is a top vantage point just around the corner.
Just look for one of the many spots overlooking Pioneer Bay, for glorious golden rays it won’t let you down. If you can, Abell Point Marina is the premium vantage point, pointing directly westwards.
Look for a spot along the boardwalk, or if you’re looking for food or drink there are some select restaurants, Barcelona Tapas Bar and Cafe and Sorrento Bar & Restaurant are two that have a good reputation.
The Whitsundays is home to many fine eateries. From The Chefs’ Table to Fish Divine, Qualia’s Long Pavillion and many more, there is opportunity aplenty to indulge and spoil yourself, it’s a foodie’s paradise.
However, sometimes you need to ignore Trip Advisor and go off the path and find some cool hang-outs.
11.THE FAT FROG BEACH CAFÉ
A very hip animal-friendly hangout. This waterfront cafe is renowned for its Campos Coffee and they cook up some great tasting treats, the menu is easy to recommend off but I avoid naming anything as everything is seasonal and the menu is continually changing but rest assured it will be good, and there’s selection for everyone.
12.BOWEN MANGO, OF COURSE
Well, let’s be honest this is no secret that Bowen is affiliated with the Big Mango you can’t miss it on the highway as you are on the way in and I must say they are the tastiest in the region.
So you have to try one wherever you find them, but my advice is if you see ‘sorbet’ get one. I found one at the Bowen Visitor Information Centre of all places; it’s a treat any time of the day.
13.SEAFOOD AT BOWEN MARINA
The freshness, the ambience, it’s perfect.
Moreover, food doesn’t get any fresher than this, let me assure you. You are buying seafood straight from the trawlers as they are coming in and head back to your table at the marina when you dine at Bowen Fisherman’s Seafood Co.
The seagulls have more experience than you of how good the food is so if you’re not the sharing kind then you’d better keep your eyes peeled.
If seclusion and tranquillity are high on your priority list to have the getaway you’re looking for then make sure you find a flexible tour company and customise your trip, now you’ve got some ideas to mix it up a little bit. There are plenty to choose from, sailing the Whitsundays is an unforgettable experience and once there you are never short of Whitsundays sailing options.
Pat is a veteran blogger with a life-long love of global travel and adventure and loves to share his experiences. He has been sailing Whitsundays with SailingWhitsundayssailingAdventures and regularly takes holidays to the Whitsundays.