The island is reachable by boat from the mainland tourist ports of Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. It includes many popular destinations for both day visitors and overnight sailors, including the magnificent pure-white sands of Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, the protected anchorage of Cid Harbour, and the protected waterway of Gulnare Inlet.
The island covers 27,508 ha (275.08 km2) in area and has six campgrounds.
Around the northern bays of the island are seagrass beds which support a diverse range of marine life. Unadorned rock wallabies( Petrogale inornate) inhabit the island.
The seas here are warm, clear, shallow, nutrient-rich, and fast-moving. Large tidal flows make suitable to the growth of fringing coral reefs. Whitehaven being a large Beach on the east coast of the island was rated universally as the top Eco-Friendly Beach in 2010. Whitsunday Island – Wikipedia
The first of the logging camps on the island was set up by Eugene Fitzalan in 1861 to take advantage of the large hoop pine for construction of buildings at the new colonial outpost of Bowen on the mainland. Local Ngaro people laid siege to this camp, preventing work there for two weeks. A Native police detachment was soon afterwards stationed on the island to protect the loggers.
By the mid-1860s leisure trips to Whitsunday Island from the port of Bowen were being organised by colonists.
In 1878, Captain McIvor of the vessel Louisa Maria was Careening (see below)his boat on a beach on the western side of the island with some Ngaro people being employed to clean the hull. After these people had heard that some Aboriginal men at Bowen had been killed, they became agitated. They threw the captain into the sea, pelted him with various objects and then speared him in the face. The Ngaro then killed the only other crew-member on board and set fire to the ship, destroying it. Captain McIvor survived and he and the remaining crew were picked up by a nearby vessel and taken to the mainland.
Sub-Inspector George Nowlan of the Native Police, with his Aboriginal troopers and Captain McIvor, subsequently travelled to Whitsunday Island in order “to punish the blacks.” Nowlan’s party spent a week pursuing the Ngaro across the island, where they “had punishment dealt out to them” and concluded with the expedition “permanently dispersing” the Ngaro. The “policy of dispersal” was related with the “indiscriminate slaughter of unoffending Aborigines.” The Ngaro who survived, fled in canoes to the mainland near Mackay and were further pursued by Inspector Morisset and Sgt Graham and their troopers. A few months later, Captain McIvor was hacked to death by his Chinese cook. Whitsunday Island – Wikipedia
careening (also known as “heaving down”)[ is the practice of using the receding tide to ground a vessel, in order to expose one side of its hull for maintenance and repairs below the waterline while the tide is low. At high tide, the ship is refloated. Careening – Wikipedia