Lay of the Land
Located off the coast of Queensland, this tropical paradise attracts millions of visitors each year to its brilliant blue waters, powder-sand beaches and incredible marine life. The area extends more than 100 square miles; filled with over 3,000 coral reefs and hundreds of postcard-perfect islands, the reef is known to offer some of the world’s best diving and snorkeling.
While most of these islands are uninhibited, the Whitsunday Islands—famous for their peaceful waters and lush rainforests—are situated directly off the Queensland Coast. Hamilton Island is the most notable of these isles, as the tiny, two-square-mile stretch of land packs a punch with a vibrant dining and shopping scene (this is where The Beach Club and Qualia Lodge are located).
Hamilton Island is a two-hour ferry ride from the Great Barrier Reef itself (otherwise referred to as the Outer Reef, which is the furthest region from shore), while Lizard Island is located only minutes from the Outer Reef. Still, guests need not travel to the Outer Reef to snorkel, as there are plenty of areas closer to both Hamilton and Lizard Island that are convenient for exploration.
Travelers have the option of flying directly from Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne (Tullamarine); however, after international flight times that can be as long as 21 hours, visitors may appreciate a short layover (often in Asia). From Sydney or Melbourne, guests will connect to Cairns (and on to Lizard Island) or Hamilton Island, which has its own airport.
When to Go
The region’s peak season is from June to November, as these months offer utterly perfect weather with clear skies and temperatures in the 70s and 80s. Australian summer (December–March) should be avoided due to excessive rainfall and high temperatures.