Beautiful Whitsundays Accommodation: where to stay on each island

A trip to the Whitsundays is truly a holiday in paradise. Pristine white sand beaches, turquoise sea, and palm trees by the dozen, it doesn’t get any better than these islands off the coast of Central Queensland.

There are many different islands to stay and a range of accommodation options whether you want the full luxury experience or that apartment with a seaview and a balcony where the cockatoos arrive at sunrise every morning.

Whilst we’ve only been lucky enough to visit the Whitsundays once so far, we’ve planned other people’s trips so the places we’re including are based on personal experience, feedback and research.

So here’s our guide to the hotels and accommodation in the Whitsundays that will make your trip to paradise perfect.

Whitsundays Accommodation

Something unique

If staying in a hotel sounds a bit mundane, then check out Reef Sleep where you can sleep on the Great Barrier Reef itself, waking up to seeing this wonder of the world at sunrise is near top of our Australian bucket list.

Cruise Whitsundays offer the opportunity to sleep in a swag (true Aussie style) under the stars and on-top of the Great Barrier Reef for an exclusive experience most people don’t even know is possible! It all happens on the pontoon at Hardy Reef and includes all the food you’ll need (alcohol and additional drinks aren’t included).

The Pontoon for Reef Sleep

The Pontoon for Reef Sleep

We visited Hardy Reef during the day with our family and it was a fantastic experience, the only disappointment was that we didn’t get to stay and sleep under the stars!

Two of our friends have done the Reef Sleep and they absolutely raved, their pictures of the sunrise and the chance to experience the reef in utter tranquility are something that we won’t forget.

You can check the rates and specifics on Get Your Guide below.

Hamilton Island

The only island in the Whitsundays that is built up with its own airport, grocery store and marina, Hamilton Island is most people’s choice for accommodation. It has a lot going for it: several restaurants, a beautiful beach, a couple of hiking trails and the full range of hotels to pick from.

The view from Catseye Beach

The view from Catseye Beach

We also like it as you’re not far from Whitehaven Beach, the outer reef for that magical trip to Reef World. You won’t have it to yourself, but seeing as the main mode of transport is golf cart, then you’ll understand why this isn’t a noisy tourist trap!

Unless you have a huge budget, we’d recommend Hamilton Island as the place to base yourself for your trip.


Hamilton Island Accommodation

There aren’t many options in Hamilton Island, but they all come well reviewed and my parents loved their stay at the Whitsundays Apartments. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, it is worthwhile checking on AirB&B or one of the many holiday rental websites as many people will hire out their holiday homes.

Hamilton Island from our scenic flight

Reef view

As the name suggests, this place comes with a view over the beautiful Catseye Beach to the reef that isn’t far away. The rooms here are modern and beautifully furnished and we recommend spending a little more to get that room with the sea view and private balcony - the perfect place to be to watch a stunning sunset.

Reef View is in close proximity to everything you need with restaurants and the beach closeby, and you’re quite likely to get a cockatoo or three appear by your room and say hello!

One of the locals

Our friends chose this as their wedding accommodation and have since returned which is always a good sign.

Whitsundays Apartments

This is the place we chose when booking a trip for Joe’s parents. We thought it was the perfect combo of a comfortable stylish apartment allowing you to cook but also with an amazing sea view. They loved the apartment and watched sunset from the balcony every night and even got up to star gaze. It’s cheaper than the Reef View (or was for our dates) so it might not be quite as luxurious but is still a fantastic base.
Catseye Beach

Catseye Beach

Beach Club

As the name suggests, this hotel is right on the beach, ensuring you’re never far away from the sea and footsteps from the sand. All rooms are facing Catseye Beach with ocean views from your own private balcony. Add in modern and stylish rooms and you have a place that ticks a lot of boxes.

It also has its own tennis and squash courts as well as snorkelling gear for hire, making it the kind of place you can happily keep yourself busy at. It’s currently getting rave reviews online.

Palm Bungalows

It you fancy staying somewhere which isn’t apartments or rooms bundled together, then Palm Bungalows fits the bill. Here you’ll have your own private, luxury bungalow in beautifully manicured gardens, that are still pretty close to Catseye Beach.

The bungalows are luxuriously styled and even come with a hammock on your balcony! Each bungalow has a small kitchenette if you want to make a basic meal which is ideal when you see how pricey food can be on Hamilton Island and in fact how hard it can be to make a reservation! A couple of times we couldn’t get in and had to cook unexpectedly. We picked this place for it’s great online reviews.
One Tree Hill bar

One Tree Hill bar

One of the best in Australia - Qualia

If you’re looking to stay at one of the best hotels in the whole of Australia, look no further than Qualia. This is 5 star luxury at its top-end and attracts the Taylor Swifts of this world to relax in a truly unique hotel. Chances are if you’ve seen pics of a celebrity visiting Hamilton Island, they were staying a Qualia.

Every private pavilion (yes the rooms here are pavilions) faces the ocean and are surrounded by lush rainforest. This is the place you want to head if you want a truly memorable experience.

We met people at the beach who were staying here (they’d been given chairs, a blanket, a picnic basket and even champagne to take on a boat trip over to the beach!) They loved the place.

Other islands in the Whitsundays

If you’re looking for an even more relaxed island stay then you need to think about some of the smaller islands. At the very top-end is Hayman Island, a luxurious 5 star island resort. If you don’t quite have the big bucks for Hayman Island, you could try Daydream Island or even camp (you can stay on a beach in Hook Island, next to Hamilton Island - check out this blog for more info).

In fact you can even camp at Whitehaven beach which is definitely what we’ll be doing one day!

However, paradise to yourself comes with compromises. Your food and tour options are limited to whoever operates on the island you stay on, often meaning the prices begin to rocket up.

Hayman Island - Intercontinental

This 5 star resort has recently been bought by Intercontinental who have kicked off with a $100 million refurbishment that will be completed by July 2019. This will bring new residences to take this simply stunning resort to the next level. It is the only one on the tropical Hayman Island.

The rooms are incredibly stylish and luxurious with private balconies that overlook the rainforest or the sea, ensuring you have a tropical view to wake up to. Add in gourmet restaurants, a beautiful spa and you have the kind of place you’ll find hard to leave.

We’ve looked at staying here before but could never quite bring ourselves to pay the price tag but maybe one day…. : )
Whitsundays hotels sunset

Daydream Island Resort

Following the cyclone that hit the Whitsundays in 2017, Daydream Island Resort went under a refurbishment that opened in April 2019. This mid-range resort has blissful isolation as the only place to stay on the island, but it won’t break your bank.

The new rooms are really stylish and modern, making for the perfect place to retreat to after a day exploring the reef.

Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach is the closest town on the mainland and is a good option for a budget traveller wanting to see the Whitsundays. This small town has a lot of accommodation options and also has cheaper tours and scenic flights than those on Hamilton Island and surrounds. It has plenty of restaurants at all price ranges and it fits pretty nicely into an East Coast of Australia road trip.

The downside is that Airlie Beach isn’t the nicest of places and doesn’t have the atmosphere of any of the islands. We stayed here as well as on Hamilton Island and we’d really only say to choose Airlie if you want to save money. However, you can get a stunning view at many hotels away from the bustling town, so don’t despair!

You should also consider that you will be further away from the islands, so staying at Airlie Beach can add on another hour each way to Whitehaven Beach or the Outer Reef. However, you will save quite a lot by basing yourself here.

Whitehaven Beach - Hotels in Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach Accommodation

Budget: Sunlit Apartments

Sunlit is one of the best value places to stay in the Whitsundays where you can get a studio for under AU$100 per night. All rooms are simple, but clean and well maintained and have fully equipped kitchenettes so you can make your own meals.

It is close to the restaurants and the main part of town, so you aren’t far from everything you need. If you plan on spending most of your days out exploring, but want a nice place to rest in the evening, then this could be a great option.

Luxury: Pinnacles Resort

We stayed at Pinnacles during our trip to the Whitsundays and it offered beautiful rooms and a truly stunning infinity pool that sits above the town, overlooking the ocean. The rooms was huge and comfortable, offering stunning views out to the sea as well.

The infinity pool at Pinnacles was great in that Queensland heat

The infinity pool at Pinnacles was great in that Queensland heat

All the rooms are self-contained apartments, so you don’t need to eat out for every meal.

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