Sheltered by the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays is an archipelago of 74 tropical islands with colourful coral reefs and abundant marine life. As you can imagine, it boasts some of Australia’s most gorgeous sandy beaches and top swimming, snorkelling and diving spots. As soon as you set off on a Whitsundays adventure, the alluring blue waters will be calling your name to jump in for a dip.
If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to swim in the Whitsundays, the short answer is yes. That being said, there are some no swimming zones and you should know what to watch out for, listen to local advice and stay alert at all times – just as you should when swimming anywhere else in Australia or beyond. Some of the top things to be aware of when swimming in the Whitsundays are:
Stinger season is from October to May when higher water temperatures attract large numbers of Box and Irukandji jellyfish. You can see jellyfish in the Whitsundays all year round, but there's a lot more of them around this time. It’s recommended to wear a stinger suit (a lightweight suit made from nylon or spandex) to protect yourself from harmful stings when swimming, snorkelling or doing other water activities. It can also double up as sun protection to block the sun's powerful UV rays. Stinger suits add a layer of protection, but they're not 100% sting proof. Always try to avoid swimming in waters with jellyfish where possible.
Saltwater crocodiles live in the waters surrounding the Whitsundays, mostly near the mainland. It’s rare to see them on the islands, but it's important to stay safe by observing warning signs, being croc aware and following local advice on where to swim.
The Whitsunday waters are home to a diverse range of shark species, many of which are reef sharks and harmless. Over the years there have been several shark attacks around Cid Harbour which has deeper waters and more diverse schools of fish. There are plenty of spots that are safe for swimming, and as long as you follow shark safety tips and know about the no swim zones (your local guides can educate you on this), you can have amazing swimming and underwater adventures in the Whitsundays.
Where can you swim in the Whitsundays?
On a Whitsundays tour you’ll stop in various secluded coves and bays where you can swim and snorkel to see the colourful marine life up close and personal. Popular swimming spots include:
South Molle Island
Cedar Creek Falls
1. Whitehaven Beach
Whitehaven Beach is the place you see on all of the Whitsunday postcards and adverts, not surprising really! It’s a little slice of paradise with bright white silica sand, (mostly) shallow shores and warm waters.
2. Chalkies Bay
Chalkies Bay on Hazelwood Island is a lot less busy than Whitehaven Beach, even though it's only a stone’s throw (or maybe a little more) in the opposite direction. It has the same soft silica sands as Whitehaven Beach and the added bonus of coral reefs close to the shoreline which is fantastic for snorkelling.
3. South Molle Island National Park
South Molle Island has gorgeous rainforests and coastline with rich native wildlife including rainbow lorikeets, currawongs and endangered bush stone curlews. You can also swim in the secluded bays after a hike around the national park.
4. Cedar Creek Falls
Just when you thought the Whitsunday coast was all about tropical beaches, you’ll stumble across this leafy green oasis with natural swimming holes and rushing waterfalls. It’s sandwiched in between Airlie Beach and Prosperine and is the perfect chilling spot.
5. Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach has an artificial beach called Boathaven Beach which has a stinger net to protect you in stinger season. You can also swim in the Airlie Beach Lagoon which has lifeguards. It's a popular spot among locals and tourists with barbeques, picnic areas, changing rooms and a kids’ play area.
Click to return to Whitsundays FAQs
Our Whitsunday tours
Discover K'gari (formerly Fraser Island), the Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef, Mission...
Travelling from Sydney to Cairns, soak up the best of Australia’s east coast beaches,...