The Whitsunday Islands look just like the granite mountain peaks they once were before rising sea levels cut them off from the mainland six thousand years ago. They were seasonally inhabited by the Ngaro Aborigines when Captain Cook sailed through in 1770; he proceeded to name the area after the day he arrived, and various locations after his expedition’s sponsors. Today, dense green pine forests, vivid blue water and roughly contoured coastlines give the 74 islands instant appeal, and the surrounding seas bustle with yachts and cruisers. Resorts first opened here in the 1930s and now number eight, but the majority of islands are still undeveloped national parks, with campsites on seventeen of them. Resorts aside, the few islands left in private hands are mainly uninhabited and largely the domain of local yachties.

There are two ways to explore the Whitsundays: staying on the islands or cruising around them. Staying allows you to choose between camping and resort facilities, with snorkelling, bushwalks and beach sports to pass the time. Cruises spend one or more days around the islands, perhaps putting ashore at times (check this, if it’s the islands themselves you want to see), or diving and snorkelling. Don’t miss the chance to do some whale watching if you’re here between June and September, when humpbacks arrive from their Antarctic wintering grounds to give birth and raise their calves before heading south again.