Whitsunday Regional Council was formed in 2008 by the amalgamation of Bowen and Whitsunday Shires. Their areas and populations in 2006 prior to amalgamation were:

(sq km)
Bowen Shire21,17712,377
Whitsunday Shire267916,955

Whitsunday Regional Council was named after the Whitsunday Islands, the hub of the Great Barrier Reef tourist resorts and the driver of the former shire's hospitality and service economy. Before the advent of that economy, Proserpine was both the main town and name of the shire. The population of the new economy's Airlie Beach/Cannonvale overtook Proserpine's in the 1980s.

The coastline of the former Bowen Shire lay north of Whitsunday, and the shire extended south-west to the Bowen coalfields near Glenden. The Collinsville/Scottville coal towns are near the middle of the Whitsunday Regional Council. A railway (1922) connects Collinsville to Bowen, and in 1984 it was extended further south to the Newlands coal mine near Glenden.

Whitsunday Shire was known as Proserpine Shire (1910-89). Positioned between Townsville and Mackay, it was kept apart from those centres by the slowness in connecting it to the North Coast railway, which was achieved in 1923. There was rural Proserpine, concerned with sugar and cattle, and grazing licences and a bit of boat cruising in the Whitsunday Islands. Postwar tourism changed everything, as described in the entries on the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday.

The former Whitsunday Shire had cattle grazing and Proserpine sugar, and the former Bowen Shire had cattle grazing and prolific vegetable and fruit growing.

The Jangga people and the Isaac, Whitsunday and Charters Towers regional councils signed an Indigenous Land Use Agreement for an area covering more than 11,000 sq km around Mount Coolon, west of Mackay in 2010. The Jangga people made an application for native title rights in 1998.

Whitsunday Regional Council's census populations have been:

census datepopulation

Bowen Shire, Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday entries


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