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Where To Stay In The Whitsundays

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Gabby Boucher
Updated Thu 11 Apr 2024

Wondering where to stay in the Whitsundays? This is a commonly-asked question, considering the Whitsundays are made up of 74 tropical islands. Where should you fly into? Should you stay on the mainland, or on one of the islands? Or should you skip land altogether and sleep overnight on a ship at sea? 

There is no right or wrong answer as to where you should stay in the Whitsundays - it all depends on your travel preferences and your budget! This article will explain the different options for accommodation in the Whitsundays so you can make the best decision for you. But no matter where you choose to stay, the Whitsundays are so unbelievably beautiful that you'll have an amazing trip regardless!

Airlie Beach

Where To Stay In The Whitsundays

There are a number of amazing places to stay in the Whitsundays, from Airlie Beach on the mainland, to underwater hotels on the Great Barrier Reef, to luxury resorts on any of the other islands. You truly have so many options! We'll briefly break down the different places you can stay in the Whitsundays, from islands to boats to the mainland. Each location where people tend to stay during their exploration of the Whitsundays has its own different accommodation options.

Once you pick where you are going to base yourself for your trip, you can pick between the various accommodations on offer. If you're a backpacker looking for a cheap hostel, or a couple looking for an upscale, romantic island resort, or a family looking for a convenient hotel that is located near lots of amenities, there is always something for you. So let's dive into the different places to stay in the Whitsundays and where you can book a room in each location!

Hamilton Island

Airlie Beach

The most common place that travellers stay for exploring the Whitsundays is Airlie Beach. This small yet energetic town on the mainland is a hub for tourism and is often called "The Gateway To The Whitsundays". There are two main ports where day trips, overnight trips, and private charters to the islands and the reef depart daily: Coral Sea Marina and Port of Airlie. If you choose to stay in Airlie Beach, all the exciting excursions are right at your fingertips. 

Airlie Beach has the most variety when it comes to accommodation options in the Whitsundays. There are some excellent backpacker hostels that offer a social vibe and cheap prices. You can also find a number of apartments, hotels, motels, holiday rentals, and luxury resorts. Proserpine Airport is just 30 minutes away from downtown Airlie Beach, and there are airport shuttles every day that can get you from the airport to your accommodation. 

Airlie Beach

Hamilton Island

Another option for those wondering where to stay in the Whitsundays is the famous Hamilton IslandThis gorgeous island is one of the most developed of the 74 Whitsunday Islands, with its own airport, a large marina, a golf course, and plenty of hotels, restaurants, and amenities. You can fly directly into Hamilton Island Airport from other major Australian cities and just base yourself right on the island. There are tons of fun things to do here, and you can also book day trips or private charters right from Hamilton Island

In terms of accommodation, Hamilton Island has mainly resorts and nice hotels, so it's not really geared toward budget travellers. But if you want to treat yourself, you can find some incredible resorts on Hamilton Island! The island is small, so you can easily get around by walking or taking golf carts everywhere. 

Hamilton Island

Other Islands

In addition to Hamilton Island, there are some other islands where you can stay during your time in the Whitsundays. Many islands are completely uninhabited, but there are some that have been built up enough to host guests. But you won't find any backpacker hostels out on these islands. Because these islands are quite remote, they cater to a more boutique, high-end type of traveller. 

For example, Elysian Retreat on Long Island is run on 100% solar power and offers an upscale, organic experience. Hayman Island is entirely owned by Intercontinental Hotels Resort Group, so you can only visit this small island if you're staying at the Hayman Island Resort. Daydream Island is a tiny island with a newly refurbished resort that also has a spectacular living reef aquarium right on the property. 

So throughout the Whitsunday Islands, there are unique places to stay that generally offer a more exclusive and luxurious experience. Each resort will have its own idea of the best way to get there, but it usually involves to Proserpine Airport near Airlie Beach and catching a boat from there. Or sometimes you'll have to book a private seaplane or helicopter to the island if it's in a really obscure location!

Daydream Island

Overnight Sailing Tours

One of the best ways to experience the Whitsundays is by actually staying overnight out on the water! It may seem like staying on land is the easiest way to explore the Whitsundays, but this region of Australia makes it incredibly convenient, affordable, and fun to spend your days at sea. There are 2-day, 1-night tours if you're short on time, and you can even spend up to 5 days or 7 days at sea! But 3-day tours are the most popular option. 

An overnight sailing tour is a super affordable way to sail around the iconic island locations for multiple days. Snorkel, sightsee, and relax onboard an intimate catamaran or a spacious maxi yacht. Either way, you can sleep in a cozy cabin onboard your ship and really immerse yourself in the marine life, natural beauty, and nautical culture of the Whitsundays. All meals and your itinerary around the islands will be taken care of for you! 

Whitsunday Blue

Sleep On The Great Barrier Reef

Another unique way to stay out at sea is Reefsleep or Reefsuites! This unique pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef has an underwater hotel room and comfy outdoor reefbeds so you can actually stay on the reef. Forget booking a hotel on the mainland - head straight to the world's largest coral reef system and sleep right on the Great Barrier Reef with Reefsleep! Spend your days snorkeling, diving, and soaking in the views and enjoy delicious meals and unbelievable sunrises and sunsets. 

The ferry to Reefsleep departs from either Airlie Beach, Daydream Island, or Hamilton Island. So you can choose to arrive at any of these places and then spend one night there before making your way out to the reef. 

Reefsleep pontoon

Overnight Private Boat Charters

If you want to sleep overnight out at sea but you don't want the social aspects of a tour, you can book a private charter! This option is a bit more expensive, but if you bring enough people you can all split the cost and it can still be affordable. You also won't have to deal with sharing your boat with other travellers.

Private charters give you all the amazing features of an overnight sailing tour, but with the added bonus of it just being you and your party on board. Bring your own friends and family and have the adventure of a lifetime as you sail through the Whitsundays, design your own itinerary, and explore at your leisure. Have a knowledgeable local skipper and host there to prepare your meals, navigate around the Coral Sea, find the best places to anchor at night, and basically take care of everything. 

British Defender

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