1048×699 hero image. Sailing in the Whitsundays

How to have the perfect Whitsundays sailing holiday

The 74 islands of the Whitsundays are best experienced by sea, and what better way to see this unique part of the world than on a sailing holiday?

Recharge away from the crowds, explore your own deserted islands, and cruise off into the horizon on your perfect sailing holiday in the Whitsundays.

Choose your sailing style

If this is your first time sailing, choosing a boat may have you a little at sea. Whether you opt for a catamaran, motorised boat, or sailing yachts, the most important thing to consider is your preferred sailing style.

Are you looking for a guided experience on a public tour boat, or would you prefer an intimate cruise where you can decide where and when to drop anchor? No matter your taste or budget, there’s a sailing style to suit every type of holiday, and every holiday maker.


Bareboating offers the ultimate escape – the chance to skipper your own yacht, and the Whitsundays are one of the few destinations in the world where you can try your hand at it. And because no license is required, even sailing beginners can get in on the action.

Bareboating is a popular choice for families, offering flexibility, your own space and amenities, and plenty of uninterrupted time to connect. If you’re a family considering bareboating the Whitsundays for the first time, this guide will show you how it’s done.

Local operators such as Cumberland Yacht Charters, Charter Yachts Australia, Queensland Yacht Charters, Sunsail and Whitsunday Escape offer a comprehensive half-day briefing as part of the charter and will have you sailing the islands in no time at all.


The easiest way to explore the waters of the Whitsundays is on a tour. Offering everything from budget backpacker party boats to family-friendly getaways, public tours are a great excuse to make some new friends, and are often a cheaper option.

Ready to take the plunge? Here’s a guide to choosing the best boat for your sailing style.


If you’re not quite ready for the adventure of steering your own boat, hire a skipper and let them take you on a private sailing adventure around the Whitsundays islands and beaches. A skipper can show you the basics of sailing, and even let you try your hand manning the boat.

Many boats are available for hire with staff, so you are free to lay back and soak up the sunshine as you cruise to Whitehaven Beach or snorkel at the Pinnacles (just off Hook Island).

When to sail

With temperate weather all year round, any time is a good time to escape to the Whitsundays, but the prime sailing season runs from May through to November.

However, a winter sail comes with its own unique appeal –  you might spot a whale on its annual migration.

Where to go

With 74 islands, colourful coral reefs and miles of white-sand beaches at your doorstep, your next slice of paradise is a short cruise away.

Whitehaven Beach

You’re sure to find a satisfactory spot to throw down a towel on Whitehaven — it’s been named Australia’s best beach, after all. The sand is said to be some of the purest in the world, made up of 98% white silica.

The best way to explore this breathtaking strip of sand is from Hill Inlet. Moor your boat at Tongue Point, take a short walk to the lookout for some out-of-this world views.

Chalkies Beach

Make like a local and escape to your own little stretch of paradise. Chalkies Beach is a well loved local secret, complete with the same iconic silica white sand as Whitehaven, but with a fraction of the crowds. The beautiful coral reef off shore only adds to Chalkie’s appeal.

Black Island or Bali Hai

A tiny island paradise, the shallow waters and surrounding reef of Black Island, or Bali Hai as its known locally, make for great snorkelling. Rarely disturbed by larger boats, this is the perfect spot for a truly secluded island experience. Meet a green sea turtle in the protected waters, then watch the sun set from the beach.

Love to snorkel? Check out our top five Whitsundays snorkel spots.

Nara Inlet

Nara Inlet is regarded as one of the Whitsundays’ calmest bays.

Located on the South East end of Hook Island, this sheltered area is the perfect base to go ashore and complete the short Ngaro Cultural Site bush walk. The short 340 metre return hike will take you up the hill to a rock shelter that is home to art and cultural deposits of the Ngaro people, the original inhabitants of the Whitsundays, dating back 8,000 years.

The Inlet is also home to a freshwater rock pool and waterfall that runs during the rainy season.

Butterfly Bay

A popular mooring for bareboat vessels, Butterfly Bay is a secluded and peaceful spot on Hook Island, ideal for snorkelling.

Plan your trip at the right time of year and this secret anchorage on the northern side of Hook Island is home to a kaleidoscope of blue Ulysses butterflies.

Things to know

  • Shoes are optional. Many sail boats require patrons to go barefoot, but you may want to bring a pair of boat shoes or flip flops for disembarking.
  • Many sail boats are like floating hotels, with fully functional bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchens, but be sure to check what’s included on board before you set sail – you may have to bring your own toiletries and kitchen items.
  • Always pack sunscreen, hats and sunglasses.

Boating is one of many ways to explore the beautiful Whitsundays, but the fun doesn’t stop there. See the islands from a whole new angel with this guide to exploring the Whitsundays by air, sea and kayak.