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Whitsunday Islands, AUS Planning Tips and Fast Facts

Discover Down Under – Dive the World’s Largest Coral Reef

Our Expert Opinion

Australia is vast with a multitude of destinations. The Whitsunday Islands located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef are the most popular with protected sailing, aquamarine waters teeming with fish, and postcard beaches. An extraordinary sailing area.

What is Destination Known For?

Great Barrier Reef, aboriginal heritage, rich marine life, world-class reef diving, sophisticated cities, sparkling clean harbors, lively people, vineyards, remote wilderness, pristine beaches, kangaroos and koala bears.

Location and Size

With a size of 2,967,909 sq.miles (7,686,850 sq.kms.), Australia is only slightly smaller in size than the USA. Its coastline of 16,007 miles (25,760 kms.) is bound by the Indian Ocean on the West and the Pacific Ocean on the East. Situated in the southern hemisphere, Australia is about 4,852 miles (7,809 kms.) from India.

History

The Aboriginals, whose culture at 40,000 years old is the oldest living in the world, were the earliest inhabitants of Australia. However, their population underwent a sharp decline due to oppression, fighting, and disease during the time of the English colonization. But the English weren't the first Europeans who discovered Australia. In 1606, Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon mapped the region and called it 'New Holland', but no attempts at settlement were made.

The English arrived in Australia in 1786, claimed it for their country, and established a settlement at New South Wales – which served as a penal colony until 1868. Apart from the 160,000 odd convicts, British marines too began settling in this southerly land. A gold rush brought more settlers, and by 1890, the six provinces of Australia had been carved out, with a government of their own while continuing to be a British territory. The Commonwealth of Australia became a dominion of the British Empire in 1901.

During the late 1900s. The country has since made huge developments in its infrastructure. Relaxed immigration laws, abolition of the country's 'whites only' policy, and promising prospects encouraged people from all over to move into Australia, enhancing its growth.

In 1986, the Australia Act came into being, making Australian law fully independent of the British legal system. The natural wealth of this mammoth island has also turned it into a major tourism hub.

Getting There

Though Australia is quite distant from most parts of the world, it is still well-connected, with direct flights from various locations in Africa, Europe, America and Asia.

Best Time to Go

Australia being a huge country, has a climate that varies from place to place. It is also a very happening location, which means that there is always something to be enjoyed in Australia, regardless of the time of the year. The Whitsunday Islands are considered a year-round destination; however, October to May is considered the “stinger season” where the waters can be plentiful with jellyfish, and protective gear while swimming and diving is advised. May to September is the ideal time to visit the Kimberley region.

Local Customs to Observe

The Aussies greet with handshakes and smiles, while addressing an individual by his or her first name. Communications generally carry a touch of humor while business meetings are expected to be direct.

Helpful Fast Facts

Currency: Australian Dollar.

Time Zone: UTC+05:00, UTC+06:30, UTC+07:00, UTC+08:00, UTC+08:45, UTC+09:30, UTC+10:00, UTC+10:30, UTC+11:30.

Local language: The national language of Australia is English. A number of natives also speak indigenous languages.

Population: 24,229,163 as of April 7, 2016.

Airport: Australia has a number of airports throughout the country, the most important ones being The Kingsford Smith Airport, Sydney(SYD) and The Tullamarine Airport, Melbourne(MEL).

Entry Requirements: All nationals, except New Zealand citizens require a valid passport and pre-arrival visa to enter Australia. New Zealand citizens traveling to Australia, and possessing a valid passport, are issued visa upon arrival.

Departure Tax: AU$55.

Legal Drinking Age: 18 years.

Smoking Regulations: Smoking is prohibited in enclosed public places (hospitality

workplaces excluded), indoor restaurants, bars and clubs. A 4-meter smoke-free zone is maintained around building entrances.

Staying in touch: Australia has all the amenities of a developed nation, which include communications. Superior land-line and mobile services cover the entire country, with international roaming plans allowing cheaper calls from cellphones.

Medical Information: Australia provides world-class services in health care. Numerous state-owned and private hospitals across the country, with superior infrastructure, highly skilled doctors and efficient staff, are well-equipped to handle all medical cases, including emergencies. The Sydney Adventist Hospital, The Royal Melbourne Hospital and The Royal Adelaide Hospital are among the country's premier medical facilities.

Public Holidays: Certain holidays in Australia are exclusive to certain states. The National holidays are: January 1 & 2 - New Year Day; January 26 – Australia Day; Good Friday; Easter Saturday (TAS & WA excluded); Easter Monday; April 25 – ANZAC Day; June 12 – Queen's Birthday (WA & QLD excluded); December 25 – Christmas Day; December 26 – Boxing Day.

Tourist Office: Australia's official tourism website is http://www.australia.com/en-in. The portal provides vast information on Australia's natural attractions, tourist places and outdoor activities.

Shopping Information: Shopping can be a delightful experience in Australia, with a number of well-stocked markets, selling everything you can think of. Chapel Street at Melbourne, Pitt Street Mall in Sydney, Queen Street Mall in Brisbane, King Street in Perth and the Rundle Mall in Adelaide are Australia's top attractions for shopping.

World-class duty-free shopping facilities exist at all international airports in Australia. Limits apply on purchase of certain products, like tobacco and alcoholic beverages - elaborate information on which is provided at the outlets. Commercial goods are not eligible for duty-free concessions. Personal items, excluding a few like fur and perfume concentrates, may be brought into the country without being taxed.

Top Ten "Must Do's"

  • Catch some rays on Whitehaven Beach with its pure white silica sand
  • Make a spa date at the five-star resort on Hayman Island
  • Sample (or catch) a local delicacy such as oysters, barramundi, and even delicate pearl meat
  • Cruise to Talbot Bay in the Kimberleys and marvel at the “Horries” – the horizontal falls
  • Discover authentic aboriginal rock art of the Ngaro
  • Scuba the Great Barrier Reef
  • Snorkel in Mantaray Bay
  • Hike Whitsunday Peak for panoramic overviews
  • Enjoy a beach barbecue on a sandbar at low tide
  • Belly up to a beach bar at Dingo Beach

Major Local and Regional Events

  • Australia Day (January 26) – celebrated with picnics, parades and gatherings; this day commemorates the arrival of the first British fleet in Australia in 1788
  • Anzac Day (April 25) – observed by all Australians in remembrance of all those who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations
  • NAIDOC week (Beginning 1st Sunday of July) – a national observance, celebrating the history and cultural heritage of the Aborigines and the Torres Strait Islanders
  • National Multicultural Festival, Canberra – a three day festival, held in February every year, to celebrate the cultural diversity of the region
  • Audi Hamilton Island Race Week (August)

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