Queensland's east coast is the stuff of travel folklore, being home to an addictive beach culture and the colossal Great Barrier Reef.

In terms of its pure scenic majesty, the Whitsunday island group provides a natural focal point for visitors. Combining platinum-white sands with baby-blue waters - and on a scale which takes the breath away - the 74 tropical islands are scattered over a wide area of reef in raw, unfettered beauty.

The majority of them are uninhabited, a fact which only adds to the sense of nature writ large, although eight have resort accommodation, popular with divers. The Whitsundays' combination of exquisite scenery, broad horizons and fine sailing waters means boat tours are a near-obligatory visitor activity. These range from budget adventures to luxury cruises, with private charters available too.

Tourists looking for something out of the norm can also take in the island panorama from seaplanes, helicopters or even on a skydive.

Where is it?
Off the east coast of Queensland in Australia.

What is it?
A group of more than 70 tropical islands.

Best time to visit?
Australia's seasons are the reverse of those in the northern hemisphere (the height of summer is December to February while June to August is cooler).

Must see?
Whitehaven Beach, renowned for its enormous stretches of white silica sands, matches its hype.

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Whitsunday Islands, Australia