The 74 beautiful Whitsunday Islands lie in the Coral Sea off the north-eastern coast of Queensland. The small town of Airlie Beach, on the mainland, is the nearest access point, and it's easy to reach from Brisbane, 570 miles (920 km) to the south. Here's how to get from Brisbane to the Whitsundays.

By Ferry

Unless you fly to Hamilton Island, the most populated of the Whitsundays, you'll need to take a ferry to the islands because they're not connected to the mainland by bridge. 

Most ferries travel between Airline Beach and Hamilton Island, while a few run from Shute Harbour, about 6 miles (10 km) east of Airlie Beach. The crossing takes about an hour. These are passenger-only ferries, so if you've arrive by car you'll need to leave it at the long-stay parking lot in Airlie Beach. However, many travelers stay in Airlie Beach and visit the Whitsundays on day trips.

By Air

Duration: 2 hours

Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island is the only airport on the Whitsundays themselves. You can fly here directly from Brisbane (as well as Cairns, Sydney, and Melbourne).

Another airport servicing the Whitsundays is Whitsunday Coast Airport at Proserpine, about 15 miles (25 km) inland from Airlie Beach. Daily flights run from Brisbane, and Proserpine is only about a half-hour drive from Airlie Beach.

Given the huge distance between Brisbane and the Whitsundays, many travelers opt to fly.

By Road

By Private Car

Duration: 13 hours+

Travelers with a bit more time or an adventurous spirit may want to drive between Brisbane and Airlie Beach. It's a long way, but the journey is pretty straightforward. It also makes for a great road trip up the coast of Queensland, with many attractive places to stop along the way. 

Head north from Brisbane along the Bruce Highway to Airlie Beach. Driving directly takes about 13 hours. The fastest road follows the coast and passes through the Sunshine Coast, Rockhampton, and Mackay. Longer inland routes are also possible, but these may be less appealing to travelers.

Although the highway is not especially remote by Australian standards, take some emergency supplies like water and snacks, and make sure your car is in good condition for the long drive in potentially hot conditions. 

By Bus

Duration: 19 hours+

The same route can also be traveled by long-distance bus, if you don't want to drive yourself. Direct buses from Brisbane take about 19 hours, but stopping at various places en route is a good idea. Buses are reasonably comfortable, with air conditioning and scheduled toilet and meal breaks. Some have on-board toilets.

By Train

Duration: 15 hours

The Spirit of Queensland train runs between Brisbane and Cairns (and vice versa) several times a week. It's a scenic route rather than a commuter train. The full journey between Brisbane and Cairns takes 25 hours, but to get to the Whitsundays you can get off at Proserpine and get a taxi or bus connection to Airlie Beach. Brisbane to Proserpine takes about 15 hours. Trains are spacious and comfortable, with dining carts and some lie-flat berths for a higher fee.


Map of How to Get from Brisbane to the Whitsundays
Map of How to Get from Brisbane to the Whitsundays