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Directly north of Whitsunday, and pretty similar in appearance, Hook Island is the second largest in the group. The easiest passage to the island is on a transfer with Voyager from Shute Harbour ($40) to the low-key and fairly basic resort (Tel:07/4946 9380, Web: www.hookislandresort.com ; Price: hostel $45, Price: hotel $101-130) at the island's southeastern end, which has fine views over the channel to Whitsunday, as well as a bar, a small store and a cafeteria serving meals and snacks. There are also several National Parks campsites around the island, the pick of which is at southern Curlew Beach – sheltered, pretty and accessible only with your own vessel or by prior arrangement with a tour operator.
Cruises often pull into southern Nara Inlet for a look at the Aboriginal paintings on the roof of a small cave above a tiny shingle beach. Though not dramatic in scale or design, the art is significant for its net patterns, which are otherwise found only at central highland sites such as Carnarvon Gorge. On the rocks below the cave is more recent graffiti, left by boat crews over the last thirty years.
Snorkelling on the reef directly in front of the resort is a must; snorkelling gear and surf skis are free (with deposit) to guests. The water is cloudy on large tides, but the coral outcrops are all in fairly good condition and there's plenty of life around, from flatworms to morays and parrotfish. Day-cruises run from Airlie to the snorkelling spots and visit the top-rate fringing coral at Manta Ray Bay, Langford Reef and Butterfly Bay, on the northern and northeastern tips of the island – visibility can be poor here, but on a good day these sites offer some of the best diving in the Whitsundays.