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Sail, swim and stay on the Reef
Home to 74 islands in the World Heritage–listed Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands boast some of Australia’s best beaches and luxury accommodation options. Countless activities make it easy to create a winning three-day program that includes sailing regattas, snorkelling, scenic helicopter rides and golf.
Arrive at Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island, the largest inhabited island of the 74 Whitsunday Islands. Board a luxury yacht and begin your cruise to the privately owned InterContinental Hayman Island Resort, the northernmost island. Enjoy Australian sparkling wine during your one-hour journey, then once you arrive at the marina, transfer by golf buggy to one of the resort’s outdoor event spaces.
Take in the views of the Coral Sea as you enjoy lunch and welcome drinks at Aqua restaurant, featuring a fresh seafood menu. After lunch, take a private charter to the Cruise Whitsundays Reefworld pontoon, located on Hardy Reef. Spend the afternoon snorkelling or diving, getting up close to local marine life including parrotfish, angelfish and turtles. For those who want to stay dry, the pontoon has an underwater observatory with full-length windows, as well as a semi-submersible for guided tours under the waves.
Return to Hayman Island via a scenic helicopter flight over Bait, Hook and Hardy reefs. Sunset drinks will be served on the lawn before heading down to the private Coconut Beach for a seafood barbecue dinner for up to 120 people seated. Finish the evening with an after-dark tour in search of the endangered Proserpine rock wallaby, a nocturnal marsupial that can only be found in Queensland.
Begin the day with a sea kayak to Bali Hai, also known as Black Island. Only accessible by kayak, this tiny isle is located south of Hayman Island. Stop to snorkel on the surrounding reef, which is teeming with marine life including green sea turtles and giant clams. Once you’ve returned to Hayman Island, take a scenic seaplane trip over Heart Reef, a composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart, before landing at Whitehaven Beach for a picnic lunch. Whitehaven Beach is 7 kilometres (4 miles) long and known for its brilliant-white sand that is 98 per cent pure white silica. No wonder it’s regularly ranked as one of the best beaches in Australia.
After swimming in the turquoise water, take a luxury launch to your next destination, Hamilton Island. This popular island has five accommodation options, including luxury lodgings at qualia and Beach Club. Transfer by golf buggy to Hamilton Island Wildlife for the opportunity to get up close to kangaroos and have your photo taken holding a koala. In the afternoon, break up into teams of two or four for a golf-buggy scavenger hunt around the island. Then race to the finish line at One Tree Hill for sunset drinks and to take in the 270-degree views that include Dent Island, Passage Peak and Catseye Bay.
Tonight’s dinner is at qualia’s restaurant, Pebble Beach, which is available exclusively for guests of the luxury resort. The waterfront restaurant showcases a contemporary Australian menu featuring local seafood and organic produce. Soak up the views of the Coral Sea while you indulge in a six-course tasting menu, paired with premium Australian wines.
Take a 10-minute transfer by boat to Dent Island for a private breakfast at Hamilton Island Golf Club’s Clubhouse Restaurant. Play a round on the 18-hole, par‑71, championship-grade golf course designed by five‑time British Open winner Peter Thomson. The course features a variety of challenging obstacles as well as views of nearby islands. Although this course caters for all experience levels, an alternative to playing golf this morning is a spa session at Spa wumurdaylin. The treatments use LaGaia Unedited products, a 100% Australian owned company that seeks to use sustainable ingredients in their skincare products to protect our reefs.
Lunch will be on the Bommie Deck at Hamilton Island Yacht Club. Overlooking Dent Passage and the marina, this outdoor space can host 100 people for a seated lunch or 250 for cocktail functions. In the afternoon, participate in a sailing regatta, taking to the water on one of Sunsail’s nine catamarans, which can each accommodate up to 10 people.
Take in a sunset dinner cruise on the Denison Star, one of the largest vessels ever built from Huon pine. The boat can accommodate 46 people for a seated dinner and 75 for a cocktail function. Begin with drinks and canapés on the upper deck before taking a seat on the air-conditioned lower deck for a three-course meal.