Flying Over Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef

Jessica Peterson

Blame it on Instagram, but when I saw a pic of Whitsundays Inlet, I knew I had to see it in person. So, I decided to take my third trip to the land Down Under. I based myself in Sydney because I have simply never heard a bad review of Australia’s most cosmopolitan city. I fell in love with Sydney, but more on that later…

I flew with GSL Aviation who accommodated me with a discount and a pick-up from Hamilton Island. The six-seater plane was safe enough, but hot as blazes. That’s what I get for arriving in February, the hottest month of the year in Tropical North Queensland. There is no air conditioning, just one tiny vent in each window. I got a bit claustrophobic, but being the diehard photographer that I am, I forced out the anxiety and let the pure beauty of the reef keep me sane.

We first flew over Whitsunday Inlet with its vanilla swirls. So, what makes the inlet so swirly? As the tide shifts, the white sand and blue waters of the inlet coalesce. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful islands (I live on one), but the color of this water is unreal. The architecture of the Great Barrier Reef is best seen from above, so I highly recommend you board a seaplane or a helicopter for this view. You can see the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Heart Reef if you have a pilot gracious enough to count it down for you.

I was surprised that even at one in the afternoon, the sun was not too bright. Actually, that was a good time for photography as the glare of afternoon sunlight wasn’t a problem. Bring a telephoto lens and leave the selfie stick at home, as the plane is simply too small.

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Jessica Peterson
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Jessica Peterson

Jessica Peterson is a travel filmmaker, photographer, and journalist. She released her first documentary film about indigenous culture on Guam in 2016, after having lived nearly 7 years on the Pacific island. Jessica is currently on the Great American Roadtrip in her Airstream trailer.
Jessica Peterson
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  • I can’t even believe the Whitsundays exist, they look too beautiful to be true. I’m so jealous, I want to go one day!

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  • Wow! Everything about this is incredible! That water doesn’t even look real. I don’t blame you for making a thirs trip to see this, it’s breathtaking!!

  • Wowwww that water!! Also, I love that you were able to snap a photo of that heart-shaped reef.

  • I have no words except: wow, wow and wow! These vies, all that turquoise blue… It seems to be from a dream. I really want to go there <3

  • Love the blue of the water. Seems like a great trip from the air, or from one of those boats anchored in the inlet. Thank you for sharing.

  • Whoaaa…the view…is unbelievable! The sand, the water everything is so beautiful!

  • Your photos don’t look real! But I know that they are and I am very jealous. What a great adventure! Thanks for sharing!

  • Nicole Anderson

    Well you can certainly see why the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands are a haven for so many tourists that want to experience this paradise in Queensland, Australia. I live in another part of Queensland (the Gold Coast) and we also love the Whitsundays as much as our own beaches. We all just need to be mindful in protecting this beautiful environment so that it is still there for future generations to enjoy.

    • Yes, good point, Nicole. How scary that the GBR is in such a dire state. Let’s hope nature will prevail over all the carelessness of humans.

  • WHAT how is this even real??? I hadn’t heard of this amazing place until last year and now I am obsessed with it!! Your photos are incredibly beautiful. I am pinning this for when I go!

    • I know. That’s how I felt when I saw a pic of Whitsundays on Instagram! I knew I had to see it for myself.

  • WOW! The Whitsundays are incredible from above! The clear blue water and the swirly inlets are just so beautiful – I’d only ever seen them from ground level until now! Just wow!

    • I wanted to walk the beach, but will have to do that next time! Thanks for your comment.

  • oh wow what a view! I have always wanted to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef and will definitely add a helicopter flight on our visit! Those views are just spectacular!

  • Diana – MVMTblog

    6 seater plane?! Hmm sounds like an adventure haha. Your photos from the air are absolutely breathtaking though. I would love to swim and snorkel there!