The Whitsunday Islands and their fringing coral reefs form part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area the first ever declared in Queensland. The Great Barrier Reef stretches more than 2000km along the coast and covers more than 35 million hectares.
The reef is home to more than 1500 species of fish, 4000 species of molluscs and 300 species of hard corals. Seagrass beds and mangrove forests also provide important habitat for threatened species such as the Loggerhead Turtle and Dugong as well as contribute to the health of the reef.
The Whitsunday islands are a series of large continental islands, which once formed part of the mainland of Australia. Rising sea waters after the last ice age, some 10000 years ago flooded the valleys and left what were ranges to stand as islands. Typically forested by beach scrub, vine forest, grass lands and outcrops of Hoop Pines, the lush green islands have mostly coral rubble shores.
This makes the white silica sands of Whitehaven Beach on the Eastern side of Whitsunday Island even more remarkable. Fine, soft and more than 98% pure silica, the sands form a 7km long beach which swirls into Hill Inlet in the North.