FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Slice of Paradise: Australia’s Whitsunday Islands

by Jillian Dara

Jan 27, 2023

Whitehaven Beach © Johncarnemolla | Dreamstime.com

January/February 2023

Australia’s Whitsunday Islands are an unimaginable destination. As many screensavers or wanderlust-worthy documentaries as you may come across of the 74 continental islands off the central coast of Queensland, located within the Great Barrier Reef

Marine Park, none of them quite do this site justice. That may seem unlikely given the location’s perfectly azure waters punctuated by 1,430 miles of reefs, but as someone who’s visited firsthand, I can vouch none of my carefully snapped photos of Heart Reef from a helicopter tour above the chain of coral systems can compare to the image imprinted in my mind when I put down the camera and simply absorbed the panorama through my own eyes.

Perhaps this is the reason for the Great Barrier Reef ’s listing as one of the seven natural wonders of the world; the destination cannot be oversold, and it’s one of my few trips that exceeded expectations.

Elysian

© Elysian

The ocean inarguably boosts the beauty of this region — after all, 2,900 coral systems surround it — but it’s not simply a beach destination. The Whitsundays showcase the locale with a plethora of ocean activities, discoverable both above and below the surface, including not only the obvious beach lounging or afternoon yacht excursion but also floating dive centers and tours way above the surface in helicopters and seaplanes. Of course, you can scuba dive and snorkel to experience the vast marine life here — UNESCO records 400 types of coral; 1,500 species of fish; and 4,000 types of mollusks — and hike on the individual islands to witness soaring views in case flying high above the reefs seems unnerving. (I promise, it’s worth it, though.)

Due to a unique topography, there are no bad views, even at sea level. In fact, you can view the swirls of powdery sand stirred up in the aqua waters like a detailed watercolor from the snow-colored beaches. This is why picnics and day excursions to Whitehaven Island, consistently recognized as Australia’s most beautiful beach year after year, remain so popular, with the possibility to make the day leisurely or adventurous.

As revered as the destination is, during my time in the Whitsundays it never felt overcrowded, perhaps because most resorts inhabit their own island, which adds an extra step to an already lengthy travel day (if you’re coming from the United States) but also adds to the luxury castaway feel: your own secluded slice of heaven. When I wasn’t out adventuring, I tucked into a beachfront suite at Hayman Island, toying between a dip in the plunge pool and a long soak in the salty ocean. Luckily, being on island time, I had hours for both.

villa

© InterContinental Hayman Island

The Whitsundays’ isolation means you’ll likely eat on property most of the time, but with the marine bounty in its backyard, ingredients are fresh, innovative and representative of the regions’ flavors (think wild-caught fish like coral trout or snapper and Moreton Bay bugs, a species of slipper lobsters commonly found in northern Australian waters).

All this is to say if you’re planning a trip to Australia, the Whitsunday Islands undoubtedly merit a necessary extension. However, as someone who traveled exclusively there from the U.S. East Coast, I can certainly say it’s a destination worthy of its own trip.

LODGING

Elysian Retreat

Expect to be spoiled at this all-inclusive, adults-only, nine-room resort with included activities like daily yoga, use of non- motorized watercraft and a three-course chef’s choice menu nightly. The eco-retreat operates on 100 percent solar power.

Long Island, Whitsundays, Queensland $$$$$

Lizard Island

© The House at Lizard Island

The House at Lizard Island

Larger groups seeking privacy will want to settle into this secluded three-bedroom, three-story residence that debuted in June 2022. Tucked between the inner and outer reefs, The House offers an ideal jumping-off point for scuba excursions to the GBR or snorkeling off its private beach.

PMB 40, Cairns, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland $$$$$

InterContinental Hayman Island Resort

This private-island resort’s newest offering caters to couples with its 12 freestanding beach-front pavilions reserved for adults only. Families are welcome at the main resort, and all guests have access to its five restaurants, white-sand beach and one of Australia’s largest swimming pools.

Hayman Island, Queensland $$$$$

DINING

Bommie Restaurant

This waterfront venue serves a modern Australian tasting menu yet pays homage to the country’s Aboriginal roots, shortening the word bombora, referring to the colorful reef patches found in the surrounding waters, for its name. Dishes rely on seasonal ingredients and locally caught seafood.

Hamilton Island Yacht Club, Front Street, Hamilton Island, Queensland $$$$

Elysian Retreat Dining

The all-inclusive Elysian treats guests to a rotating menu decided by its on-site private chef. Dishes are seafood-centric but tailored to guests’ preferences and dietary needs, personally discussed with the culinary team upon arrival.

Elysian Retreat, Long Island, Whitsundays, Queensland

Pebble Beach

Located at Qualia resort, this restaurant has become renowned for its six-course degustation menu paired with wines. Though reserved for guests, it’s the spot on the main island and worthy of the splurge.

Qualia, 20 Whitsunday Blvd., Hamilton Island, Queensland $$$$$

INFO TO GO

Hamilton Island Airport is the destination’s most convenient airport, primarily serviced by Virgin Australia and private aircraft via one-hour direct flights from Cairns (CNS) or Brisbane (BNE). Though a number of resorts and restaurants call Hamilton Island home, many travelers hop on additional transport, either private yacht or helicopter, to check in at their private island resort.

 

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Explore Excursions

#globility

Insta Feed
Daily
Feb 23, 2024

The Radical: A New Boutique Hotel, Opens in Asheville, North Carolina’s, River Arts District

Once an abandoned 1923 constructed warehouse in Asheville, North Carolina, it took a creative group of designers, artists, musicians, chefs and business folks to transform a neglected, 100-year-old structure into one of Asheville’s most interesting and daring hotel projects.

Exclusive Savings: Cruise Along the Danube River with Global Traveler

Exclusive Sailing with Global Traveler

February 2024
Feb 23, 2024

Pickle Up: Get in on America’s Fastest Growing Sport

Early on, pickleball had something to do with pickles. Pickles the dog, that is. In one story, the game was named for a family dog that ran off with the ball between sets.

Daily
Feb 23, 2024

Hôtel Norman Opens Near the Top of Champs Elysées

Located a short walk from the Arc de Triomphe, Olivier Bertrand recently opened Hôtel Norman for those looking to explore the city.

The Argosaronic Islands Are Calling

The Saronic or Argo Saronic Islands of Greece call travelers to explore its seven small islands and islets brimming with history, natural sites and more. With most easily accessible by boat, the islands’ proximity to ports of Athens make the Saronic Islands an ideal destination for those preferring shorter boat rides. In fact, trips from Athens ports to the islands take only between 10 minutes and two hours, depending on the island you choose, making them perfect for day or weekend trips. From Piraeus port, you can access Hydra, Spetses, Aegina and Poros directly. Come explore these stunning islands with us and find the inspiration to plan your next trip to these islands. Hydra Hydra town curves around a slope overlooking the Argosaronic Gulf like an amphitheater and is considered one of the most romantic destinations in Greece. Most unique to the island is its lack of vehicles. People on the island get around on mules and donkeys as well as water taxis, making for a peaceful and laid-back day. Hydra lies a two-hour ferry ride from Piraeus port in Athens.

Daily
Feb 23, 2024

JW Marriott Hotel Mexico City Polanco Completes Renovations

JW Marriott Hotel Mexico City Polanco recently completed renovations of its entrances, lobby, culinary concepts and meeting space. This marks the final stage of the renovation, which began in 2021 with the revitalization of its 269 guestrooms and 45 suites.

Daily
Feb 21, 2024

Make Alberta, Canada, Your Next Wellness Getaway

Rich in mountains, prairies, forests and hot springs, Alberta, Canada, takes nature and wellness travel to a whole new level. Combine the beauty of this western Canadian province with relaxation and you’re in for a treat.

Fill Your Heart with Ireland

Whether it's the people, the craic (fun) or the coasts, travelers always find something to love about the island of Ireland. What fills your heart?

eFlyer Reviews
Feb 21, 2024

Amantaka Review

You know what you’re going to get at an Aman hotel, and also you don’t. Expect peerless service, obsessive attention to detail, architectural elegance worthy of a fashion magazine, a holistic approach to wellness and astounding levels of comfort. But each property is also intimately connected to its setting, and that’s where the surprises lie. For instance, finding yourself on your knees on a sidewalk in Luang Prabang handing out sticky rice to Buddhist monks at 5:30 a.m. isn’t something we expected.