The largest island in the group, National Parks-run Whitsunday Island, is also one of the most enjoyable. Its east coast is home to the 5km-long Whitehaven Beach, easily the finest in all the islands, and on the agenda of just about every cruise boat in the region. Blindingly white, and still clean despite the numbers of day-trippers and campers, it’s a beautiful spot so long as you can handle the lack of distractions. The campsite on the southern end of the beach facing Haslewood Island is above the tide line, with minimal shelter provided by whispering casuarinas, and the headland here is the best place for snorkelling. On the northern end of the beach is a short track leading up to popular Hill Inlet Lookout with its keenly photographed views of the sand-ridden bay.
Over on Whitsunday’s west side, Cid Harbour is a quieter hideaway that lacks a great beach but instead enjoys a backdrop of giant granite boulders and tropical forests, with several more campsites above coral and pebble shingle. Dugong Beach is the nicest, sheltered under the protective arms and buttressed roots of giant trees; it’s a twenty-minute walk along narrow hill paths from Sawmill Beach, where you’re likely to be dropped off.