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Whitsunday Island Cruises

About Whitsunday Island, Australia

Stumbled upon in 1770 by Captain James Cook, the Whitsunday archipelago emerges from the Coral Sea amid the Great Barrier Reef. Cook named the islands after the day he thought it was when he discovered them: Pentecost, or Whit Sunday, 49 days after Easter. The explorer got the day wrong as he didn’t account for the day lost by his trans-Pacific voyage, but the name stuck. Even after his discovery, the seafaring Ngaro people called this paradise home until 1870, hunting these waters in bark canoes carved from the island’s trees. In fact, though little evidence of it survives today, logging was common among the aboriginals who lived here.

Nature’s brushstrokes are astonishing here: pure-white sands meet cerulean waters, swirling together at sandbars to merge into a palette of turquoise, cream and emerald-green hills. From the moment Cook recorded seeing them, it has been every sailor’s dream to witness these 74 islands firsthand. Glassy, invigorating and impossibly blue, the waters provide the ideal oasis for relaxation and idling away a few hours on the beach.

Whitsunday Island Lifestyle and Culture

Though Whitsunday Island is uninhabited, it offers some campgrounds inland just off the beaches. The lifestyle here moves to the slow rhythm of the tides, to the daily arrival and departure of those seeking sun and sand and to the mooring of yachters seeking an overnight idyll in paradise. Snorkeling, sun bathing, beach combing, shell seeking and bush walking set the tone for one of Australia’s most spectacular leisure destinations, as more than 150 species of birds take wing above you and enliven the forest with song.

Across the island, the east-facing Whitehaven Beach stands out for its astonishing vistas, often called the most beautiful beach in the world. A three-mile ribbon of white sand kissed by soft surf, it is 98% pure silica and it’s been said this composition deflects the heat of the sun, making for comfortable barefoot walks even on the hottest of days. The sand, with its near-perfect purity, attracted the attention of the US military in the 1960s as a possible ingredient for satellite dishes. Thankfully, the idea to mine it for such uses was never pursued. A trek up the trails of Tongue Point lead to a magnificent lookout spot over Whitehaven’s bright, gleaming sands.