Safety in the Water
Deadly marine stingers may frequent the shorelines of the Whitsundays from October through April. The best place to swim is in the beachfront Airlie Beach lagoon.
The rivers in these parts are home to dangerous saltwater crocodiles (which mostly live in fresh water, contrary to their name), so don't swim in streams, rivers, and water holes.
Choosing a Whitsunday Base
The advantages of staying on the mainland are cheaper accommodations, a choice of restaurants, and the freedom to visit a different island each day. The mainland has jet-skiing, kayaking, parasailing, catamaran rental, and windsurfing.
The main advantage of staying on an island is that swimming, snorkeling, bushwalking, and a huge range of watersports, many of them free, are right outside your door. The deadly stingers that can infest Airlie's shores do not make it to the islands, so swimming in the islands is safe year-round. You won't be isolated if you stay on an island, because most Great Barrier Reef cruise boats, sail-and-snorkel yacht excursions, Whitehaven Beach cruises, dive boats, fishing tour vessels, and so on stop at the island resorts every day or on a frequent basis. Be warned, however, that once you're "captive" on an island, you may be slugged with high food and drink prices. Bear in mind, too, that although most island resorts offer nonmotorized watersports, such as windsurfing and catamaran sailing, free of charge, you will pay for activities that use fuel, such as parasailing, water-skiing, and dinghy rental.
In some places in the Whitsundays, extreme low tides may reveal rocky mud flats below the sand line. Watersports can be limited then because of the low water level.