Quick Guide -

Locals Guide To Whitehaven Beach

Author – Nath J
Published Date 17 April 2024

Welcome to my local guide to Whitehaven Beach, located on Whitsunday Island in Queensland, Australia. I would like to thank the owners Paulette and Geoff for inviting me to write about our region so you can make the most of your holidays staying at Whitsunday Reflections.

Today, I’m thrilled to share my experiences and insights into one of Australias natural wonders—Whitehaven Beach.

Before I start its important to explain as this is one of the most confusing aspects for people wanting to visit Whitehaven Beach.
Whitehaven Beach is 7kms long at the North end of the beach is Hill Inlet where you see the pictures of the swirling sands 

Aerial picture of Whitehaven Beach

Important! Perception vs Reality

Before I start, it’s important to explain this, as it is one of the most confusing aspects for people wanting to visit Whitehaven Beach.
Whitehaven Beach is 7 km long. At the North end is Hill Inlet, where you see pictures of the swirling sands (sometimes). Then, there is the south end of the beach itself, with bathroom amenities and the new South Lookout. So what’s the difference and what are the pros and cons?

Hill Inlet North End

As mentioned, Hill Inlet is at the northern end of Whitehaven Beach. However, only 1 company in the Whitsundays has a permit to access the inlet and drop off guests. Every other company that goes to Hill Inlet Lookout and the beach (more on this below) has to drop off guests on the other side of the island’s point, called Tounge Bay. From here, you walk to the lookout and over the islands point to Hill Inlet Beach.
Regrettably, due to the presence of a large coral reef and the need to protect the delicate ecosystem, boats are unable to access the track at Tongue Point during low tide. This means that, in a nutshell, approximately 90% of all visitors do not get to see Hill Inlet at low tide and, therefore, do not witness the iconic images often used in tourism marketing.
Another technical point: the beach at Hill Inlet is not Whitehaven Beach (don’t worry, it’s the same sand). Its name is Bettys Beach, and until four years ago, there used to be a sign there saying you were at Bettys Beach. National Parks has since removed this sign after multiple vandalism from people who didn’t want it advertised as Betty Beach (politics!).

South Whitehaven Beach

Tours that go to South Whitehaven Beach can access the beach easily at all tides. When you step off the boat, you are officially on Whitehaven Beach; the southern end has a stunning lookout that opened in 2019 and gives you 140-degree views of the surrounding islands and all 7km of Whitehaven Beach.  
The pros are that you get to visit the “official Whitehaven Beach,” as named and signed by Whitsunday National Parks. It has a stunning lookout, compost bathroom facilities, and undercover picnic areas with tables.
The Cons Are – no Hill Inlet Lookout (personally I don’t believe this is a con as the beach and south lookout are better, but I will agree with the masses for this article)

Below I have designed an interactive Google map with the location and photo of each lookout.

Hill Inlet Lookout

This view is from Hill Inlet at low tide, during high tide, you just see water and the sand underneath the water is partially visible.

South Whitehaven Lookout

This is the view from South Whitehaven Lookout. The view is the total 7km of Whitehaven Beach and is not affected by high tides, unlike the northern Hill Inlet

How To Get To Whitehaven Beach

Getting to Whitehaven Beach is an adventure in itself. Located on Whitsunday Island, around 35 km from Airlie Beach township, this secluded paradise is only accessible by boat, seaplane, or helicopter. Each trip feels like an exclusive expedition as you approach the pure white sands and crystal-clear waters that make this beach famous worldwide.

My Top recommendations (and yes, I have been on each tour multiple times)

  1. ZigZag Whitsundays Day Tour—This full-day tour departs Coral Sea Marina in Airlie Beach at 8:30 a.m. and returns at 4 p.m. It visits Whitehaven Beach, South Whitehaven Lookout, Chalkies Beach, Haslewood Island Lookout, and 1 snorkel location on a coral reef. Ticket Prices start at $179 for adults and include lunch and all snorkel equipment. Tip: This is a local company owned and operated by a marine biologist. They have one boat, and their reviews show the accolades they deserve for customer service.
  2. Ocean Rafting—The tour departs Coral Sea Marina in Airlie Beach this day. They visit Hill Inlet and have a permit to access the inlet by boat. You will also visit the northern lookout and one or two snorkel locations. The cheapest ticket price does not include lunch or a wetsuit, but these can be purchased separately for more money, or you can bring your own.
  3. Fly Australia Charters—This is the best way to truly see Hill Inlet and the swirly sands! This Whitsundays Scenic Flight company runs 5 to 6 daily flights over the Whitsunday Islands, Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet, Great Barrier Reef, and Heart Reef. Each scenic flight is 60 minutes long. Every guest gets a window seat for a variety of photo opportunities. While you don’t step onto the beach, this is another way of discovering the region; believe me, it is epic!
  4. Cruise Whitsundays Half-Day Tour—For people who are short on time or don’t like fast boats and aeroplanes, this half-day ride by ferry to Whitehaven Beach is perfect. It departs twice a day and can take up to 200 guests. The ferry stops at Whitehaven Beach’s south end, and you can walk to the south lookout.

What Is So Special About Whitehaven Beach?

The beach stretches over seven kilometres and is renowned for its 98% pure silica sand—so delicate and white that it squeaks underfoot. One of the most mesmerizing sights is the Hill Inlet at the beach’s northern end, where tides shift the sand and water to create stunning patterns of turquoise and blue. With over 20 years of visiting Whitehaven Beach with guests, the guest comments about Whitehaven Beach and why it is so special.

  • The sand is like flour and always cool on my feet.
  • The swirling sand effect at Hill Inlet at low tide differs daily.
  • The beach (and the entire island) is uninhabited and only available by boat and helicopter.
  • The lookout views from the south end show the vast amount of islands that surround the beach.
  • 95% of the year, there is no ocean swell.
  • 90% of the year, the coral sea waters at the beach are clear and have over 10 metres of visibility.
  • The weather in the Whitsundays is warm in winter and hot in summer, making Whitehaven Beach swimmable all year round, with ocean temperatures consistently over 20 degrees.

Conservation and Cultural Significance

Local Aboriginal people, a sea-fearing community, discovered Whitehaven Beach. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Nagaro people lived there up to 8,000 years ago.

In 1879, Staff Commander EP Bedwell was the first European to discover and document Whitehaven Beach; it took until the 1900s for private boats to start sailing and discovering the beaches and islands, making them the massive tourist destination they are today.

The beach is protected under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Whitsunday National Parks, which helps preserve its untouched beauty. This area is also culturally significant to the Ngaro people, the traditional custodians. During my visits, I always respect this majestic place, adhering to guidelines that help minimize human impact and preserve its ecological and cultural integrity. To find out more on the history of the Whitsundays see my full article here.

My Overview Of Visiting Whitehaven Beach

Every visit to Whitehaven Beach relaxes my soul. It’s a place where you can truly escape and immerse yourself in the wonders of the natural world. I invite you to experience this incredible destination and discover why it has become a symbol of pure, unspoiled beauty.

Those planning a Whitsunday trip should consider staying at Whitsunday Reflections. Our luxury self-contained holiday apartments in Airlie Beach offer the perfect base to explore Whitehaven Beach and the surrounding islands. 

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