The island is accessible by boat from the mainland tourist ports of Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. It contains many popular destinations for both day visitors and overnight sailors, including the magnificent pure-white sands of Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, the secure anchorage of Cid Harbour, and the sheltered waterway of Gulnare Inlet. The island has six campgrounds.
Named by Captain James Cook in early June 1770, the island covers 27,508 ha (275.08 km2) in area. Around the northern bays of the island are seagrass beds which support a diverse range of marine life. Unadorned rock-wallabies are found on the island.
The seas here are warm, clear, shallow, nutrient rich and fast moving due to large tidal flows making them well-suited to the growth of fringing coral reefs.