International holiday thrills with the convenience of an Australian escape, The Whitsundays is your ticket to paradise.
You don’t have to be a location scout to see exactly why this year’s favourite romcom, Ticket to Paradise, zooms in on The Whitsundays. Much of the movie was filmed on location here, with island resorts and hidden coves playing host to Hollywood royalty (aka Julia Roberts and George Clooney).
Forget screensaver scenery. This is big-screen scenery. And dazzling in every frame — a tall order when you’re sharing airtime with George and Julia!
But honestly, nothing beats visiting these fabled turquoise waters and sugar-sand beaches in real life. Nestled in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, The Whitsundays has long put out a siren call to couples dreaming of adventure, relaxation, or both. With a heritage-listed marine park on your doorstep and a dash of A-lister sparkle, what’s not to love?
Located a smidge over 1000 kilometres north of Brisbane, The Whitsundays region is easily accessible by air, road or rail. Fly direct to the Whitsunday Coast Airport in Proserpine then head on to Airlie Beach, gateway to the islands and the region’s buzzing waterfront hub. Or fly into the Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island to begin your holiday.
Direct flight time is around 1.5 hours from Brisbane, 2.5 hours from Sydney and just under 3 hours from Melbourne. Alternatively, you can road-trip it from Brisbane (around 12 hours) or watch the countryside glide by on an overnight train journey aboard the Spirit of Queensland (around 15 hours).
Where to stay in The Whitsundays
You may have heard it before, but you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodation in The Whitsundays. From the brand new beachfront pool pavilions at InterContinental Hayman Island to nautical-themed boat bungalows at Freedom Shores, this is a destination to tempt every traveller with plenty of mainland and on-island options.
Looking for an eco-escape? See Elysian Retreat on Long Island for a dose of barefoot luxury at the region’s first 100% solar-powered resort. Long Island is also home to the villas and private cove of Palm Bay Resort (another location to pop up in Ticket to Paradise, reimagined as a Balinese village).
Or enjoy the castaway charm of Camp Island where you can hire the entire island for up to eight guests. Want to stay close to the Airlie Beach action? Soak up the ocean views from your balcony hammock at Coral Sea Resort or step out into your plunge pool at Mirage Whitsundays. We could go on …
For a special dinner
The Whitsundays is home to a feast of delicious dining options, from relaxed seafood eateries right through to intimate beachfront restaurants. Don’t miss Airlie Beach’s newest star, The Belvedere at Toscana, where strong Italian and French influences shine through in a menu designed to be shared. A trifecta of superb food, service, and sea views.
5 romantic things to do on the reef
- Channel Julia & George at qualia
When scouting for a resort to star in Ticket to Paradise, the movie’s location manager couldn’t go past the elegant surrounds of qualia. Private pools, Coral Sea views, and ultra-luxe accoutrements make this Hamilton Island so iconic. Julia and George look right at home.
- Share a Champagne picnic on Whitehaven Beach
Hands down, a helicopter is the swankiest way to arrive on the sugar-white sands of Whitehaven Beach. Add a glass of bubbles, gourmet picnic and a swim in the fabled aquamarine waters and you have the makings of a perfect day (or proposal).
- Stay overnight in an underwater hotel
Chasing a unique overnighter? The experience at Reefworld — a permanently moored pontoon at Hardy Reef, 39 nautical miles from Airlie Beach — tops our list. Snorkelling, sundowners, and sea views are all part of the experience before retiring to your private undersea abode. Fall asleep to an ocean lullaby, wake to a sea turtle drifting past your window.
- Set sail
Look to luxury sailing aboard Lady Enid, an elegant 74-foot restored racing yacht that offers adults-only adventures to Whitehaven Beach and Langford Island as well as sunset sailing and private charters. If you really want to chart your own course, consider hiring a yacht or catamaran. These bareboat (no crew, you play captain!) journeys don’t require a sailing licence but a safety briefing is included before you sail into the sunset. Snorkel and swim off the boat, explore secluded bays, and drop anchor for a meal or massage at one of the islands. Magic.
- Enjoy a scenic flight over Heart Reef
Many a proposal has happened high above the mesmerising seascape of The Whitsundays on a scenic flight. With a guaranteed window seat, you’ll be in a prime position to count all 74 Whitsunday islands as you skim the vanilla and turquoise swirls and wait for the beloved heart-shaped coral ‘bommie’ to come into view.
We dare you not to get swept away by the sheer beauty and romance of this region. Little wonder it’s a favourite for “will you?” and “we do.” Along with cinematic scenery and incredible venues, the wedding community is one of the region’s biggest assets. So, whether you’re planning an elopement or a gala event, a beachfront ceremony or a rustic soirée in the countryside beyond Airlie Beach, The Whitsundays will deliver.
And don’t be surprised if you want to stay on for a heavenly honeymoon of reef adventures, room service, and plenty of tropical R&R. It’s just that kind of place.
Find out more at thewhitsundays.com.au. Their local knowledge is second to none.