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Cruise Whitsundays

Home > Brisbane > Boating | Day Trips | Escape the City | Outdoor
by T. A. Rose (subscribe)
From Brisbane, Australia, I mainly write for WeekendNotes, and at present, I enjoy challenging myself to add reviews on many diverse topics to this vast library of articles.
Published March 28th 2021
The boats on the turquoise waters
Cruise Whitsundays Port of Airlie
Terminal at Port of Airlie.


I was at Cruise Whitsundays today where I got to see Whitehaven Beach, Daydream Island and Hamilton Island, stopping over at Hamilton Island. The Cruise Whitsundays inter-island boat service is one aspect, but another aspect is the more advanced specialist cruises. This review discusses some aspects of my Whitehaven Beach Cruise, my experience in the terminal and at the stop at Hamilton Island, and touches on the specialist cruises, as inter-island cruising doesn't usually involve a pontoon, and the costs are naturally lower.

Cruise Whitsundays Port of Airlie
Souvenir shop within terminal


My Whitehaven Beach tour sort of got cancelled half-way through the trip, as they (the tour operators) must attach a much smaller boat to the main boat to get passengers from around 50-100 metres out from shore to the beach itself. That's because the boat is big and can't get too close to the beach. From there, I should have been able to walk the fine white sand at Whitehaven, and on the day I saw it, the photos sort of tell a story about a beach with that finer more lovely white sand, yet, the tides meant some of the tourist brochure-like photos weren't going to be as dramatic looking as they look in the brochures.

The water is so calm, yet somehow just as it gets to higher seas, around the back of Whitsunday Island from Hamilton Island, it gets bumpy, which I compare to a plane experiencing turbulence. Like in the airplane versions, the crew and captain know how to ride it out, but, it's deceiving, and in the boating case, causes sea-sickness. Keep that in mind, I claim you are safe, but it is a bit nerve-wracking, or a more optimistic way of putting it is enthralling! Crowds are still quite heavy which is good for the Cruise Whitsundays business, and so it should be, but, on the day of my cruise, they couldn't lower the attached smaller boat, due to an equipment failure yet agreed to drop everyone back at Hamilton Island and bring a new boat out. By that stage, I'd used up all my skin sunburn tolerance, but I was using that as a motivating excuse - the truth is I wasn't keen to see the choppy ocean again, that seemed the dominant factor when I really stop and think about it. Even so, the friendly staff back at Port of Airlie terminal processed for me a refund accordingly.

Whitehaven Beach Whitsunday coast, Cruise Whitsundays
Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island, the Whitsundays.


The Boat Terminal is clean with a fun souvenir shop, cafe, and places where baggage can be checked in for island transfers. There are many loading jetties and some fuel pumps.
The check-in staff seem like pleasant people, as are the crew on the boats themselves. Definitely, it seems one of those industries where due to the raw fact that they are trying to take people out to sea, they need to be caring and friendly yet also assertive enough to do what's best for their passengers.

The decision to turn back at Whitehaven Beach was the right one, and the depth of the water and stingers means they did the right thing (took the appropriate course of action). There are, on the Whitehaven Beach cruise, meals served as part of the ticket, and, stinger suits provided for safe swimming - no suit, no swim - as they have a way to keep people supervised to a certain extent to make sure they are safe, and along with all that, a specialist photographer. The Whitsundays, due to the silt in the ocean, have uniquely turquoise waters, and, that adds to the jaw-dropping effect of the region. That's one reason I was content just to cruise through the islands - it's very picturesque. It's another reason why these holidays aren't something to take for granted, as they are expensive, can often involve flying/airplane travel, and leave many memories for tourists. An even more memorable experience can be had via more specialised tours which are a bit more expensive, however, are likely worth the rates.

Cruise Whitsundays Port of Airlie
Whitehaven Beach from boat.


The Hardy Reef is a heart-shaped reef or the heart of the reef, in the Whitsundays, 39 nautical miles out to sea. The specialist tours all involve a boat trip out there, to stay at the pontoon for half-day, full-day, and longer stays such as in the reef-suites package. That's because, at the outer reef, the tour companies have built a pontoon, which is a lot more than the average pontoon. There are luxury stays involved in these cruises but they are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to see such an array of wildlife, such as reef sharks, turtles, giant fish and a multitude of corals.

The Cruise Whitsundays boat tours company are naturally quite a large operation and hence often can be very busy and tied up with many aspects of running this busy trade. But I think their staff are supportive and friendly, and more importantly, experienced, in the right way, so, they are a great help and a highly useful business in the Airlie Beach area. Do take a trip with them today as part of your Whitsunday Islands experience, and, enjoy the turquoise waters and the largely smooth ride through these majestic islands.

Cruise Whitsundays Port of Airlie
Hamilton island airport, as seen from a Cruise Whitsundays boat.


Note that all photos courtesy of author March 29 2021.
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Why? Boat trips around the many Whitsunday islands.
When: All year round.
Phone: (07) 4846 7000
Where: Office at Port of Airlie, Airlie Beach, Qld, 4802.
Cost: $120 dollar for a Whitehaven Beach Cruise from 7AM - 3 PM Ex Port of Airlie.
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