While it’s no secret that most people come to the Whitsundays because of their reputation as an island paradise, this region has a great deal of interesting history. Australia as a nation boasts a fascinating story, and in many ways, we’re still a very young country. Yet our history goes back millions of years, to when the earth was moving and shifting—becoming the planet we recognise today. Let’s step back together through the curtain of history, and learn a little bit more about the history of the Whitsundays.
The ending of the last ice age, some 10,000 or so years ago, is believed to have been the final step—following a gradual shifting of tectonic plates and movement of landmasses—that ultimately resulted in the creation of an island chain: what is now the Whitsundays. Geological studies show that the famed, brilliant white sand of the Whitsundays may have originated from elsewhere, drifting on the tides until its final arrival amongst the island chain.
While Europeans arrived in the Whitsundays in the year 1770, the islands had already been populated for thousands of years. Aboriginal tribes including the Biria, Juru, Gia, and most notably, the Ngaro, inhabited the region for likely 8,000 years prior to the European colonisation.
The Ngaro people were a nomadic, seagoing tribe, and archaeological evidence shows they were adept at fishing, making use of the island vegetation, and building broad, seaworthy canoes. In fact, the Ngaro have sometimes been known as “the canoe people.”
Settlement of the Whitsundays
In 1770, Captain James Cook, sailing the British Endeavour on his first Pacific expedition, sighted a chain of islands after rounding Cape Conway. The islands he christened “Whitsunday’s Passage” after the Christian holiday Whit Sunday, on which he had first seen the islands. (Some reports now suggest that Cook in fact sighted the Whitsundays on a Monday!) He also named several spots along the way, including Pentecost Island, and claimed the discovery for England.
European settlement of the Whitsundays did not begin for almost another hundred years, however, with some intense opposition from the indigenous population. Sheep grazing was one of the primary uses of the spacious islands, and by the 1920s, tourism began to grow, as more and more people heard of the gorgeous region. Today, the Whitsundays are a major hub of Australian tourism, yet much of the 74 islands remain unspoilt and as beautiful as in the days of yore.
Spots for History Buffs
Are you a lover of history? You’ll find plenty to delight you during a Whitsunday holiday. Onshore, Airlie Beach and the surrounding towns offers a few sites worth a trip. The Proserpine Historical Museum provides insight into the cattle and sugar industries of the area. To really go back in time, however, don’t miss the Ngaro Cultural Site. The trail heads from Nara Inlet on Hook Island up to some remarkable cave paintings. This is a great spot to visit on a Whitsunday yacht charter, too, as you can moor in the inlet safely and easily, allowing you to head on shore and explore a rich cultural treasure.
A Place That Deserves a Visit
Whether you love history or just want to experience the beauty of the here and now, the Whitsunday Islands are a holiday destination that offer something for everyone. Family trips, romantic getaways, honeymoons, or adventures with mates: no matter your plans, the Whitsunday region is truly a place that deserves a visit. If you’re hoping to see these islands at their best, explore our site to learn more about chartering a bareboat yacht in the Whitsundays. It’s the ultimate holiday you’ll never forget.