The Tour Specialists Blog


What is the difference between North and South Whitehaven Beach

Saachi James-Mason on April 8th, 2024

The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s World Heritage Listed treasure and Australia’s aquatic playground, and in the heart of the Whitsunday Islands you will find another iconic treasure, Whitehaven Beach.

A destination that entices visitors to view its unparalleled natural beauty. With a white sandy beach stretching over 7 kilometres along Whitsunday Island, this blog explains the things you need to know about the unique characteristics of North and South Whitehaven Beach, the access points, and the tour options available, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the activities and things to do on Whitehaven Beach.

The Spectacular Landscape of Whitehaven Beach

One of the most remarkable aspects of Whitehaven Beach is its sand, comprised of 98% pure silica. This gives the sand a brilliant, almost luminescent white colour and a fine, soft texture. The silica also means the sand doesn’t retain heat, allowing comfortable barefoot walks even on the sunniest days.

This white sand shifts with the winds and tides daily changing the scenery for the snap happy photographer ensuring no two days views are ever the same.

North Whitehaven Beach & The Iconic Hill Inlet

North Whitehaven Beach is most famous for it's views across the inlet over to the Hill Inlet beach, a stunning natural phenomenon where the incoming and outgoing tides create patterns of swirling white sand and turquoise water intertwined in the island’s inlet. This area's panoramic view is best observed from the Hill Inlet Lookout points on the opposite side of North Whitehaven Beach, a must-see for any visitor to the Whitsundays.

Take Note: Visitors must be aware that Whitehaven Beach is not the location you think is the place to visit to see the swirling sands, you must book a tour that takes you to both Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach on the one day tour or overnight sailing tour to really see both locations.  

The hike to Hill Inlet Lookout is actually from Tounge Bay a short boat ride from Whitehaven Beach. It's a relatively short and enjoyable one, offering breathtaking views once you reach the top. The distance to the lookout is about 700 meters one way, making it a 1.3km round trip. The journey is not just a simple walk; it's a slightly uphill climb through bushland, but it's considered an easy hike that most travellers can comfortably accomplish. The average time to complete this hike is around 40 minutes, depending on your pace and fitness level.

Read our blog: What is the Difference Between Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach?

It's not what you think...

Access To the Hill Inlet Swirling Sands is via Tongue Bay

Visitors typically think they are booking a tour to see the swirling sands as some tour operators brand it as a Whitehaven Beach tour but in fact, Whitehaven Beach is on the opposite side of the Hill Inlet lookout and inaccessible from Whitehaven Beach and in two completely different locations.

Just make sure you read the full itinerary on the Whitehaven Beach tours and the Hill inlet tours before booking to ensure you are going to the destination you desire. 

Tongue Bay is where the tour boats anchor below Hill Inlet in its protected waters whilsts tourists make the climb to the various lookouts with the tour guides. After a short stay and lots of selfies the guests make their way back to the boats and head off to Whitehaven Beach around the corner or off to a snorkelling location somewhere in amongst the 74 Whitsunday Islands. 

Betty's Beach: Just below Hill Inlet Lookout lies the secluded Betty’s Beach, a hidden gem where stingrays are often spotted. This lesser-known cove is accessible by following the coastline to the left from the Hill Inlet trail. It's a peaceful retreat away from the more visited areas and offers a unique perspective of the beach’s natural beauty.

Read this blog: Is Hill Inlet worth visitng? 

Hill Inlet Swirling Sands Tours

South Whitehaven Beach: Serenity and Leisure

In contrast, the southern end of Whitehaven Beach offers a more tranquil less trafficked experience. With expansive stretches of soft sand, it is perfect for relaxation, swimming, and beach fun activities. The 1klm walking trail to the South Whitehaven Beach Lookout provides breathtaking views of the surrounding Whitsunday islands, Whitehaven Beach and Chance Bay.

South Whitehaven Beach Lookout The South Whitehaven Beach Lookout, opened in 2019, is accessible from the southern end of the beach. The 1km walk through Australian bush and local rainforest leads to a lookout that offers breathtaking views of the Whitsundays Islands National Park and the Great Barrier Reef. From here, visitors can see the sparkling waters of Chance Bay on one side and the extensive stretch of Whitehaven Beach on the other.

Access via Chance Bay For a different experience, visitors can access South Whitehaven Beach via Chance Bay. This secluded spot is known for its fringing coral and snorkelling opportunities. There's also a small campsite here, making it a great spot for an intimate and exclusive overnight experience. The Bay can be reached by a roughly 3 km hike from South Whitehaven or by boat at certain tides.

South Whitehaven Beach Tours:

Experiencing Both Ends: Full Day Tours

To fully experience both the northern and southern parts of Whitehaven Beach, a full-day tour is recommended. These tours often include visits to both Hill Inlet and South Whitehaven Beach Lookouts, offering a comprehensive experience of the beach's diverse landscapes.

Tour Options: Half-Day and Full-Day

Half-Day Tours:

  • Half day tours are ideal for those with limited time.
  • Focuses on key areas of Whitehaven Beach for a brief yet memorable visit.
  • Includes activities like swimming and beach exploration.

Full-Day Tours:

  • Full day tours provide an extensive exploration of either North or South Whitehaven Beach.
  • Includes visits to both lookouts, offering different perspectives of the beach's beauty.
  • Often encompasses additional activities such as snorkelling in other parts of the Whitsunday Islands.
  • A fit person could cover the length of Whitehaven Beach to explore the views from Both the northern lookout and the southern lookout.

Activities on Whitehaven Beach

  • Swimming: The clear waters are perfect for swimming and lounging about in the gin clear water.
  • Beach Activities: The wide, open beach is ideal for sunbathing, picnics, beach games and leisurely strolls.
  • Hiking: Several walking trails lead to lookouts offering stunning vistas of the beach and the Coral Sea.
  • In Water Fun: Stand up paddle boards are included on the South Whitehaven Beach Club tour

Accessing Whitehaven Beach

  • By Sea: Regular boat tours depart from nearby Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island. These tours vary from high-speed catamarans to leisurely sailboats, each offering a unique experience of the journey.
  • By Air: For a spectacular aerial view on scenic flights on a helicopter ride and airplane tours are available, some of which offer beach landings for an up-close experience of Whitehaven Beach.

Preserving Whitehaven's Natural Beauty

As part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Whitehaven Beach is a protected area. Visitors are encouraged to respect the environment and follow sustainable practices to help preserve its pristine condition.

Best Time to Visit

Whitehaven Beach can be visited year-round, but the best weather is typically from May to September, when the climate is more temperate, and the water conditions are ideal for swimming and snorkelling. Be aware that this is the peak season time for the Whitsunday Islands so things can get a little busy.

Things to Remember

  • No Facilities: Whitehaven Beach is a natural area with limited facilities, so it’s important to bring essentials like water, food, and sun protection.
  • Public Toilets: There are public toilets at South Whitehaven Beach
  • Preservation Efforts: Visitors are encouraged to follow eco-friendly practices to help maintain the beach's pristine condition.

Environmental Importance

  • As part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Whitehaven Beach holds significant ecological value. The area is protected to preserve its natural state, which is home to a diverse range of marine wildlife and bird species.

Whitehaven Beach, with its distinct northern and southern ends, offers a journey through some of the most stunning natural landscapes in Australia. Whether you're seeking the breathtaking views from Hill Inlet or the peaceful expanses of South Whitehaven, the beach offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to all tastes. Plan your visit with a suitable tour and prepare to be mesmerized by the beauty of Whitehaven Beach.

Learn more about things to do and things to see in Australia with The Tour Specialists

Know before you go...

Saachi James-Mason

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