If you are visiting The Whitsundays, you probably already have a few hot spots on your list: Heart Reef, Whitehaven Beach, Hills Inlet, Hamilton Island… just to name a few of Queensland treasures.
While you can explore these areas from below, one of the best ways to view the Great Barrier Reef and take in the wonder of The Whitsundays is from above by small plane.
GSL Aviation is a scenic flight company, situated in both Cairns and The Whitsundays. You can choose between helicopter and small plane flights, as well as combining your options with a reef cruise package to tick off more experiences in one go.
While driving from Cairns to Brisbane, we stopped in Airlie Beach and chose to add a GSL Aviation experience to our road trip itinerary. If you haven’t viewed the Great Barrier Reef from above, I highly recommend it. Until you have seen this amazing life form from the air, it is hard to comprehend it’s sheer size and magnificence.
I had a few Whitsundays bucket list items on my to do list, and as we didn’t have the time on this trip to experience them in great depth, I thought (correctly so!) the best way to experience as much as possible was to view The Whitsundays from above.
We chose the Reef & Island Scenic Flight tour by GSL Aviation. This 60 minute tour took off from Airlie Beach’s Whitsunday Coast Airport (click here for Google Map location) and included viewing Heart Reef, Hills Inlet, Whitehaven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef of The Whitsundays from above.
Leave the rainforest and mountains behind as you take off over Airlie Beach, admiring the many sail boats situated in the harbour and surrounds.
Fly over multiple islands as you begin your flight out across The Whitsundays.
Your GSL Aviation flight will take you across the Great Barrier Reef, where you will first discover just how impressive the reef is from above.
We headed straight out to Heart Reef where the pilot circled the iconic reef twice to ensure that both sides of the plane had time to view and take photos. Photos can be deceptive of Heart Reef, as it is quite a bit smaller than some people expect; however, there is no mistaking it’s beauty and very distinct heart shape.
We then continued our flight across the reef and towards Hills Inlet and Whitehaven Beach
Hills Inlet was breathtaking. However, I believe we saw it as the tide was heading out; meaning that it was taking the darker freshwater out of the inlet and into the ocean. Had the tide been coming in from the ocean, the hill inlet would be considerably more blue and vibrant. I plan on returning and visiting Hills Inlet and Whitehaven Beach by boat and will be sure to catch this area on incoming tide. Nethertheless, as the photo shows, Hills Inlet is absolutely phenomenal.
We then continued back towards Airlie Beach; flying over and being able to view the islands of The Whitsundays from above.
These included Hamilton Island
and an island dedicated purely for golf.
You can learn more about this must do golf course of The Whitsundays here.
This 60 minute flight was a highlight of our entire Cairns to Brisbane road trip and I am very happy that we did it. I had bought this experience for my mum and myself to thank mum for helping me move to Brisbane and she (and myself) were grinning from ear to ear.
Top Tips to Make the Most of your GSL Aviation Whitsundays Experience:
- Don’t worry about what side of the plane you will be. Being so small, the plane will be loaded by weight of each passenger. You will get a good view no matter where the pilot puts you.
- Go to the bathroom before you arrive. While it does depart from the Whitsundays Coast Airport, the airport is very small and not always open (and has the only bathroom).
- Don’t bring a jumper. It gets quite hot in the small plane after an hour in the air, so wear something that will keep you cool.
- If possible try and time your plane ride with incoming tide. While I can guarantee Hills Inlet was still spectacular, I believe the vibrant blue colours are when the tide is coming in bringing the ocean water into the inlet.
- Book ahead. Popular experiences like this one sell out. Avoid disappointment by securing your place as soon as you know you will be visiting the area.
You can book the tour I went on here: GSL Aviation Reef & Island Scenic Flight.