When we booked a return trip to Hamilton Island there was one experience we all agreed had to be repeated – a trip to Whitehaven Beach. On our last visit we were lucky enough to fly to Whitehaven in two helicopters (you can read about it here), landing on the beach and enjoying a picnic. It was magical and something we often talk about as an extra special holiday memory.
Although we’d have happily repeated the experience we thought we’d change it up and try something new. We decided to take a cruise to the island which gave us more time to enjoy Whitehaven Beach and provided a more wheelchair friendly option.
We booked on Cruise Whitsundays Whitehaven Beach Half Day tour and boarded the air-conditioned Catamaran for the quick 35 minute trip.
One of the advantages of cruising to Whitehaven Beach was the ability to take the Hamilton Island beach wheelchair with us. We were extremely grateful to find the Beach Sports staff willing to transport the chair to the jetty and the crew at Cruise Whitsundays happy to strap the beach chair on board and transport it for us. We were excited to have the option of exploring the beach with the aid of the beach wheelchair. It opened up the whole experience for us.
The crew of Cruise Whitsundays warmly welcomed us on board and came to chat once we were settled. They offered assistance with anything we needed during the trip and pointed out the accessible bathroom facilities.
Being a tea addict I was happy to find complimentary tea and coffee available on the trip over to Whitehaven and it felt we were there in no time.
The crew organised for us to disembark first and the beach wheelchair was unloaded for us.
As usual, BJ embraced the experience and enjoyed the tender transfer on to the beach.
Whitehaven Beach is the largest of the 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays and the draw card for visitors is the seven kilometres of pristine white silica sand beach.
Seaplanes, commercial vessels and private boats park in the waters off Whitehaven Beach, making it spectacular for people-watching – one of my favourite pastimes. Although I love to sticky beak, we were keen to find our own little piece of Whitehaven Beach away from the busiest area and the beach wheelchair gave us the freedom to do just that.
Each day Cruise Whitsundays set up a couple of tents on the beach with complimentary beach equipment available to borrow and drinks available to purchase. BJ was thrilled to be able to play soccer on the beach after he’d finished swimming.
The water was warm, calm and crystal clear. Fish darted around us and we revelled in the beauty surrounding us.
I left the rest of the family swimming so I could explore the walk and lookout on the island. Due to the inaccessibility of the track, Hubby and I took turns.
View from the lookout
The walk is steep in parts with steps, so even with the beach wheelchair it wasn’t possible to do and neither of the kids were keen to leave the beach anyway.
I had company on the walk in the form of a lace monitor and lots of butterflies darting around. It was actually really peaceful.
Hamilton Island offers a range of wonderful on-island activities but we think a trip to the Whitsundays wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the stunning Whitehaven Beach. Access won’t suit everyone so we’re sharing detailed information below so you can make an informed choice about whether this trip is suitable for you.
The jetty and ramp access on to the catamaran made it easy for BJ.
Once on board there’s only a small lip between the deck and inside.
Access on to Whitehaven Beach has changed since the cyclone earlier this year (Cyclone Debbie hit the area in March 2017). The Cruise Whitsundays Catamaran is unable to put the gangway down on the beach at the moment. This means passengers do need to be able to make their way down 4 steps to transfer to a tender platform.
BJ chose to stand on the tender. The beach wheelchair fitted so potentially someone could sit for the short ride to Whitehaven Beach. However, the beach wheelchair can’t fit down the gangway so passengers do need to be able to use the gangway on to the beach.
On board the Catamaran there’s room to remain in a wheelchair either on the deck or inside but there’s no specific wheelchair seating. The arm rests don’t lift up for an easy transfer but there’s one seat which doesn’t have an arm rest if you prefer to transfer from your wheelchair.
Three of us fitted into the accessible bathroom to get BJ out of his swimmers (minus wheelchair) on the return. It’s fairly spacious but it might be tight transferring from a wheelchair to the toilet.
WHITEHAVEN BEACH ACCESS
An accessible stand-alone unisex bathroom is available on Whitehaven Beach with ramp access.
A very fine bark covers the path to the bathroom. Even with BJ’s regular manual wheelchair wheels we’d be able to access this bathroom.
Although we had plenty of time to swim and explore the beach, we were sorry to pack up and leave. Something tells me we’d never get enough of Whitehaven Beach. This was in fact, the second day running we’d visited (more on the other trip in a future review).
BJ was happy to take another ride on the tender platform and cruising back in the late afternoon light was stunning.
All the swimming and fresh air of the day seemed to increase everyone’s appetites with the complimentary fruit and muffins being gobbled up with gusto.
We had a wonderful trip on Cruise Whitsundays and would like to say a big thanks to the attentive and helpful crew on the day. Thanks also to the Beach Sports crew of Hamilton Island for transporting the beach wheelchair to the jetty.
Use of the beach wheelchair needs to be organised in advance by contacting the Beach Sports team on the island and co-ordinating with Cruise Whitsundays.
Cruise Whitsundays accept the Australian Companion Card.
You can read more about this half-day trip here.
Please note we self-funded our cruise.