It’s now been almost an entire year since we were told to quarantine in our homes and limit our social contacts. But with a third COVID-19 vaccine approved and eligibility requirements expanding every month, it feels like the day we can safely board a plane and go somewhere else (please, anywhere else) is on the horizon. We — like you — have a pretty extensive list built up when it comes to which destinations are calling to us, but the question that’s really nagging at us isn’t where should we go but where should we go first.
To help us figure that out, we reached out to a pro — someone who spends every day in beautiful locales and has found a way to make a sweet vacation her actual job — Below Deck Sailing Yacht’s Alli Dore. The Bravo star was more than happy to help fill us in on which destination she believes should be first on any island lover’s travel wishlist.
In addition to joining the cast as the third stewardess in the newest season of Below Deck Sailing Yacht, Dore is a certified divemaster, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she picked a place that is surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and coral reefs, Australia’s Whitsunday Islands.
“I chose this location because it is truly paradise,” Dore said. “The Whitsunday Islands are one of those once in a lifetime places to explore… You have all the gems Australia has to offer, from crystal waters to white sand beaches with a background of rainforest sounds, it’s really something special.”
Check out Alli Dore’s guide to the Whitsunday Islands below, and be sure to catch her on Below Deck Sailing Yacht when it airs on Mondays at 9 pm ET/PT on Bravo.
What is one thing everyone visiting the Whitsunday Islands must experience?
The Whitsundays needs to be experienced the only way it should be… by setting sail! There are so many stunning islands to explore, indigenous caves and landmarks — please ensure they are appropriate to visit before venturing, as some are very sacred and absolutely frowned upon to be exploring — and the most picturesque anchorages you’ve ever seen.
Of course, being a divemaster I insist when traveling please do not limit your adventures to land, you absolutely must explore the underwater world. Beautiful warm temperatures, tropical species such as turtles, Moray eels, groupers, Angelfish, Reef sharks and Manta rays, beautiful corals, and visibility of more than 25 meters.
…and one more thing!
If you plan to see any of the Whitsundays by air you must check out Heart Reef. Heart Reef is a composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart. It cannot be dived or snorkeled, due to its protected area, but from an aerial perspective, it is one of those unforgettable moments.
What is the best breakfast spot in the Whitsunday Islands?
Buffet Breakfast at Pacific Restaurant
At the private island resort Intercontinental Hayman Island, the buffet breakfast at Pacific Restaurant is absolutely to die for. There are two types of people in this world, normal people and breakfast people. I am such a breakfast buff, so weaving around the gourmet selection of beautiful tropical fruits, cute little puddings and mueslis, countless bread and pastries and a spoiled for choice hot food spread is the perfect way to start your day!
Superior to the beautiful food is the incredible view. The Pacific Restaurant is ocean facing and the wall-less design makes it feel like an alfresco dining experience. It honestly is like you are looking at a postcard!
Where is the best hiking spot in the Whitsunday Islands?
For hiking, Hamilton Island has a gorgeous hike called Passage Peak which is the highest point on the island. It gives you 360-degree views of surrounding islands and Catseye Bay. This hike doesn’t take longer than a couple of hours and is suitable for hikers from moderate to more fit levels.
Where is the best beach in the Whitsunday Islands?
Consistently reviewed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world — the magical and pristine Whitehaven Beach. The color of the clear turquoise and bright blue water contrast against the whitest, finest sand you can imagine. It really is jaw-dropping.
What is the best bar or club someone visiting the Whitsunday Islands must go to? (after we’re Covid vaccinated, of course)
If partying is your thing then Airlie Beach is where you can bar hop, but please expect boozy backpacker vibes. Airlie Beach is on the mainland and definitely the spot for 20 and 30-somethings to let their hair down.
Personally, I skip Airlie for this reason — but hey, live it up!
Where is the best late-night dinner spot in the Whitsunday Islands?
Being a vegan on holiday it can often be such a struggle to find really well done, healthy, clean plant-based options. I enjoy Bam Bam restaurant which is located by the infinity pool at Hayman Island Intercontinental resort. A delicious Asian fusion menu paired with the alfresco dining in the soft pool lighting and views of surrounding islands, beaches and rainforest really gives you that yummy, tropical vacay vibe. My favorite dish is the chili caramel eggplant.
What is your favorite thing to do in the Whitsunday Islands?
Lay-out on the adults-only Coconut Beach
My favorite island is Hayman Island, aka the Honeymoon island. Lush rainforest and total luxury at the private island resort of the Intercontinental. This is the perfect romantic escape. The day spa is really earthy and moody, my favorite amenity being the sauna/steam/cold plunge which is candlelit and ambient. Enjoy daily activities such as scuba diving, paddleboarding, kayaking, jet skiing, hiking, yoga, and daily sunset cruises, or just lounge by the multiple pools with fresh coconut and soak up the sun.
My personal favorite chill spot is the adults-only Coconut Beach because…no tan lines!
What is your most impactful memory from visiting the Whitsunday Islands?
I’m going to be completely cliché here and go to my yachting roots, the morning sunrise and sunset cruising on a yacht are my fondest memories.
These are the moments I truly stop and take in the beauty of this earth. It gives me a real sense of love and purpose on this planet. Protecting our oceans, marine life and the environment and all its living beings are causes that are incredibly important to me. I feel really empowered when I am reminded of what I do this for and hopefully, when we take people to these beautiful places it can inspire them also.