In the heart of the central Queensland coast, the 74 tropical Whitsunday Islands are the main reason to visit the Whitsunday Coast, which stretches from Mackay to Bowen. The islands form the border of the southern Great Barrier Reef, and are extremely popular not only with private yacht charters but also backpackers on a budget. With long white beaches and incredibly clear water bordered by palm trees and pristine wilderness, the islands are an irresistible outdoor playground for many visitors. There are opportunities for sailing, cruising, rainforest trekking, camping, snorkelling, and of course, spectacular diving.
Mackay, the region’s sugar processing city, is often overlooked by travellers or used as a base to explore Eungella National Park, with its famous platypuses and other abundant wildlife. Finch Hatton Gorge offers excellent walking trails leading to waterfalls and swimming holes. Another popular stop is Cape Hillsborough National Park, with its rich Aboriginal history and nice beaches. Prosperine is a small town at the turnoff for Airlie Beach. It is an administrative centre and home to the Whitsunday Information Centre, a sugar mill tour and a museum. Backpackers usually head directly to Airlie Beach, which is the lively hub of accommodation and nightlife, and the epicentre of Whitsunday tours.