An Introduction to Cruising the Whitsundays of Australia

Located just off the coast of tropical Queensland and protected by the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands provide a chartering hot spot with diverse attractions.  With 74 islands to choose from, there’s plenty of bays and beaches to explore while chartering your own boat with GlobeSailor.

Airlie Beach

When picking out a charter boat for cruising the Whitsundays, your base will be in Airlie Beach, a small backpacking-and-beach-partying town.  The Abel Point Marina is well protected and conveniently located for provisioning, and if you’ve got time before or after your charter, stick around and book an adventure on the water out to the Great Barrier Reef, on land to the Whitsundays Crocodile Safari, or in the air with a scenic flight.

Get the Guide

The ultimate cruising guide for the Whitsunday area is “100 Magic Miles”, a guide which includes the islands between Mackay and Bowen, plus the nearby reef area.  This guide should be included on your charter boat, as well as a map of the moorings available.

Plan Your Charter

The predominate winds in the Whitsundays are from the east or southeast. Avoid bays without good protection unless you have low winds and swells. Even bays with good protection might have a swell that hooks around the shore and wind that bullets between the hillsides, making the area uncomfortable.

Tie On A Line

The islands of the Whitsundays are a part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and are therefore under special management and protection. Over 100 moorings are available to protect the coral in the bays. We only dropped the hook in bays with large sandy areas; the rest of the time we tied on to a mooring ball for our visit.

Hamilton Island

Owned by the Oates family of sailing legend, Hamilton Island is the base for all things luxury in the Whitsundays.  With a luxury marina and five star dining, Hamilton Island makes a great overnight stop to explore the small island.  If you want to get around quickly with the family, rent a golf cart for the day to pack it all in easily.  A highlight for our visit was hiking to the top of One Tree Hill Cafe for a stellar view of sunset.

Whitehaven Beach

The most popular stop for charter boats and day trips is Whitehaven Beach. With seven kilometers of white sand beach, a serpentine of sand bars, and hiking trails to scenic views, it’s easy to spend days (or a week!) there. Our days were spent with beach and water activities along the tourists visiting via ferry or seaplane. At night, when it was just the yachties and campers left, Whitehaven became a peaceful venue for sundowners and star gazing. Luckily, we had some beautiful calm days that made Whitehaven even more enjoyable.

Meet the Friendly Locals

In Stonehaven Bay, most boats become acquainted with a friendly local who loves a good back scrubbing – Terry the Turtle! Other stops have notable resident wildlife like black trevally or manta rays who will hang out by your boat. There are plenty of spots in the Whitsundays that are worth a trip under the surface, so be prepared to dive or snorkel to get up close and personal with your neighbors.

Disconnect and Find Your Quiet Place

With the exception of Hamilton Island or the other resorts, you won’t have cell phone service. There are no businesses on land, just the other yachties, maybe some campers, and you. Enjoy your quiet time and the island wonders of the Whitsundays.

About the author: Written by Amy Alton, who’s spent the past 4 years sailing around the world with her husband aboard her catamaran, Starry Horizons. Amy & David share their adventure at Out Chasing Stars

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