The Whitsundays is an archipelago of 74 islands in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off the coast of Queensland. With countless beaches to explore — including the world-famous Whitehaven Beach — and vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life, the Whitsundays is an aquatic playground for snorkelers, scuba divers and water babies of all kinds.

We’ve put together a guide to some of the risks to be aware of so you can be swim-safe in the Whitsundays.

Is it safe to swim in the Whitsundays?

Swimming in the Whitsundays is generally safe, but there are a few precautions to follow.

Stingers

As a tropical destination, the water temperature in the Whitsundays averages a mild 23°C to 28°C throughout the year. During the warmer months between October and May, higher water temperatures attract large numbers of marine stingers, including Irukandji and box jellyfish. Their stings can be extremely painful and potentially deadly, so wearing a stinger suit (a Lycra suit that covers your body from neck to ankles) when in the water is recommended. The chances of being stung are rare, but it’s important to protect yourself.

If you’re staying in Airlie Beach, it’s a good idea to swim in Airlie Beach Lagoon, a free lifeguard-patrolled swimming pool filled with fresh self-chlorinated water. It’s popular among locals and tourists with barbeques, picnic areas, changing rooms and child-friendly areas.

If you visit the nearby Boathaven Beach or other beaches in the Whitsundays or along the East Coast, always swim in lifeguard-patrolled zones and stinger nets if provided.

Crocodiles

It’s very rare to see a crocodile around the Whitsunday Islands as they prefer murky waters on the mainland, like the Proserpine River inlet south of Airlie Beach. While it’s rare to see a crocodile, you should be croc-wise, observe warning signs and follow local advice on where to swim.

As a general rule of thumb, swim between the flags at patrolled beaches and avoid swimming between dusk and dawn as this is when crocs are most active. If camping or fishing, always dispose of food and fish scraps or take them home, and camp at least 50m from the water’s edge.

Sharks

The Whitsunday waters are home to diverse shark species, many of which are harmless reef sharks. Over the years, there have been several shark attacks around Cid Harbour on the western side of Whitsunday Island, which has deeper waters and larger numbers of fish.

Shark attacks are rare, but it’s important to follow shark safety advice to minimise the potential risks. This includes not swimming between dawn and dusk, avoiding murky water, avoiding entering the water with large schools of fish, and not disposing of food scraps in the water. You should always swim, snorkel, surf or dive in pairs, follow local safety signs and swim between the flags at patrolled beaches.

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