Where to go, what to see, where to anchor overnight
Welcome to the Whitsundays! Click on an anchorage on the map to read more about the amazing places to visit and stop over during your holiday charter. All our vessels are equipped with the ‘Whitsundays’ bible’, 100 Magic Miles, which has more detailed information about these and other wonderful Whitsundays locations.
Sailor's secret: Drop anchor on the eastern side and take the picturesque walk up to Spion Kop – voted the Top Island Walk of Queensland by National Geographic.
Home to the Koala Adventure Island Resort, Bauer Bay is the best anchorage from which to explore the many kilometres of national park walking tracks on South Molle Island.
There are moorings available in the resort marina for a fee, but you can also anchor on the eastern side of the jetty and access the walking tracks - including those to Spion Kop viewing platform and Mount Jeffreys - at no additional cost. If visiting the resort, make radio contact and announce your arrival before going ashore.
Sailor's secret: With its eucalypt forest and lush slopes, this remote and private bay on Border Island is a designated green zone. Put it on your itinerary if you’re looking for a romantic or secluded spot .
Cateran Bay is a great spot for lunch followed by a walk to the top of the grassy island ridge called Mosstrooper Peak. From here you'll enjoy spectacular 360-degree views of the area.
Border Island appears surreal with its low shrubs and grass trees 'standing guard' among the bushy thicket. Exotic bush orchids cling to rocky outcrops. On the northern side, Cateran Bay is protected from the trade winds and offers excellent snorkelling. Reef protection buoys have been installed to prevent further damage to the excellent fringing reef.
Blue Pearl Bay
Sailor's secret: If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of Hayman Island’s shy and endangered Prosperine rock-wallaby which sometimes hides out in the bushy areas of Blue Pearl Bay.
On the north-western side of the famous Hayman Island is lovely Blue Pearl Bay, offering a superb overnight anchorage and and some of the best snorkelling and diving opportunities in the Whitsundays.
The water here is deep, just off the fringing reef, gradually shelving to the shore while it meanders its way around countless bommies and coral ledges. Snorkelling and diving is best around Dolphin Point. There is a channel which allows dinghy access to the beach, making this anchorage a great spot for beginner snorkellers to enter the water from shore.
Hayman Island Resort
Sailor's secret: Be sure to check out Hayman’s unusually shaped swimming pool – the largest in the southern hemisphere, estimated to be the size of seven Olympic pools.
Hayman Island is the home of Australia's most awarded luxury nature resort - the five-star Hayman Island Resort. Hayman's pool, in particular is famous, as are its world-class restaurants.
Prior bookings are essential if you're planning on visiting Hayman Island Resort, whether for an overnight stay or day trip. There is no overnight berthing allowed in the marina - you must stay within the resort. Day visitors are permitted on the island between 10am and 3pm at specified times during the year. Island dress and conduct standards apply.
Sailor's secret: Perfect for spotting the majestic blue Ulysses butterfly with its wingspan of up to nine centimetres. The butterflies can be seen from latitude 20°04'24 S and longitude 148°55'55 E.
Butterfly Bay is a one-kilometre long, cosy bay which offers protection from the south-east trade winds. There are nine public moorings, situated to minimise impact to the reef in this sensitive ecological area.
Snorkel along the bayside of Alcyonaria Point, named for the abundance of that coral there, or go just off the beach and marvel at the many species of small colourful fish. If you venture ashore at Butterfly Bay and explore the creeks at certain times of the year, the bush is clouded with thousands of blue butterflies.
Sailor's secret: Maureen’s Cove has uninterrupted views over a spectacular fringing reef to the Coral Sea. It’s a great spot to watch for white-bellied sea eagles, lace monitors and brush turkeys.
Maureen's Cove is the next bay to the east of Butterfly Bay. As a snorkelling hotspot, reef protection buoys have been installed here, too. A mooring is the best option if you have a choice.
While snorkelling in the turquoise waters, you're likely to see some of the best coral on show in the Whitsundays, including large gorgonian fans near the point. There are two dive sites - one at the back of the bay and one known as Boulders on the eastern edge of the bay, which is also the best spot for snorkelling.
Sailor's secret: Anglers take note! This is a brilliant fishing location with the right ingredients of smooth current and clear waters for good, easy fishing for beginners and the experienced alike.
Just two hours' sailing from Shute Harbour is Cid Harbour, a popular first night anchorage for our charterers. One of the Whitsundays' great all-weather locations, Cid Harbour was occasionally used by the navy as an anchorage during World War II.
The main anchorage, at Sawmill Beach, is off a shoaling sandy beach edged with reef. If you're feeling adventurous, climb through the rainforest over spring-fed streams to the top of the 437-metre high Whitsunday Peak. Make sure you allow yourself plenty of time for this walk before the sun sets and take plenty of water. Watch for majestic sea eagles swooping the waves for small fish.
Sailor's secret: Step ashore and hike through the lush palm forest to Sawmill Beach while pondering the history of this site - a staging area for the allied forces during the Battle of the Coral Sea in World War II.
Dugong Inlet, located on the northern side of Cid Harbour, is well worth a visit. Venture ashore and you'll find a popular camping and picnicking spot, along with goannas, wallabies and lots of birdlife.
Early morning take your dinghy ashore and bushwalk through the lush rainforest, abuzz with bird song. Then be enticed back on board by the aroma of a sizzling barbecue breakfast. Or take a bushwalk to Sawmill Beach, also in Cid Harbour. Then return to Dugong and enjoy lunch at the shady picnic tables.
Sailor's secret: As host to a dazzling display of vessels from around the world, this is just the spot to capture a perfect sailing image as the sun sets over the masts.
For an overnight fee that entitles you to the 'keys to the island', you can berth in Hamilton Island's marina and enjoy all this island of leisure has to offer: fine dining, nightclubbing, boutique shopping, watersports, go-karting and much more!
Hamilton Harbour is marked by port and starboard beacons. The harbour is dredged to 2.4 metres at low tide throughout, deeper in the channel that runs just off the marina to the main jetties at the head of the harbour. Radio ahead to the harbour master to arrange a berth. Call again on arrival and you'll be directed to a mooring. All moorings are located just beside the Hamilton Island Yacht Club.
Sailor's secret: For a true wilderness experience, wait for high tide to take your boat’s dinghy and meander up the mangroves for several kilometres till you reach the foothills of the mountain.
Gulnare Inlet is a giant fiord-like anchorage and being shallow in parts, it's essential to enter on a rising tide. There is room for quite a number of vessels here and being so protected, along with its proximity to Hamilton Island, it's a popular spot.
From the anchorage, take the dinghy and go exploring! It's possible to travel kilometres up the estuary and its offshoot mangrove creeks where you can marvel at the estuarine habitats and mangrove wetlands. Enjoy the view above, too, as pine trees stand tall all the way to the top of the surrounding hills.
Sailor's secret: When the sun disappears, you’re guaranteed some stunning tropical sunset images. As it darkens, the lights of Hayman Island provide a twinkling backdrop to the Whitsunday skies.
Langford Island is a delightful day-time stopover with the reef and sand spit emerging at low tide and disappearing at high tide. It has the feel of both a continental island and a true coral quay. The long sand spit is a great exploration, picnic and sunbathing spot.
The diving is sensational with easy, beach water entry - absolutely perfect for first-time scuba divers. The best diving is found on the north-western end of the beach where scattered bommies offer an interesting maze to explore and there are a few shallow walls at the eastern end of the island too. The abundant fish life is mostly small.
Sailor's secret: Marvel at the magic of Lindeman which was formed about 110 million years ago when a volcanic mountain range was drowned by rising sea levels.
Lindeman Island boasts about 700 hectares of World Heritage national parkland and you can explore some of the more remote parts via more than 20 kilometres of bushwalking tracks.
Take the time to walk to the top of Mount Oldfield, which is 212 metres above sea level, and be rewarded with breathtaking, 360-degree views of Pentecost, Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands. Lindeman Island has seven stunning beaches with Gap Beach a fantastic location for snorkelling and oystering. The jetty is public and may be used for unloading/loading passengers or to tie up the dinghy.
Sailor's secret: Look for schools of sting rays feeding on the grassy seabed at high tide as turtles break for air. If you're here at sunset, wait to see the lights of Lindeman Island appear.
Shaw Island is rugged and spectacular. Cruise to the south-west to anchor off Burning Point, an attractive anchorage located at the southern end of the island.
The nearby beach is a Significant Bird Site - a nesting beach for the threatened beach stone curlew (Esacus neglectus). (Speed limits and visiting restrictions apply from October to March). The Great Barrier Reef, although renowned for its fish and coral, also supports some 215 species of birds including 22 species of seabirds and 32 species of shorebirds.
Sailor's secret: Follow footprints in the sand along the beach and you might spot a koala in a gum tree. Happy Bay is one of the few spots in the Whitsunday islands where you can see koalas in the wild.
Happy Bay, at the northern end of Long Island and home of the Long Island Resort, has historically been a popular first-night anchorage for our charterers, being just a couple of hours' sail from our base at Shute Harbour.
If you want to overnight at Happy Bay, radio ahead your arrival time and book a mooring with the watersports manager at the resort. Long Island itself is all national park dotted with walking tracks suitable for all ages and abilities, offering a chance to spot some wonderful birdlife and other local fauna.
Sailor's secret: A good night’s sleep is guaranteed at Nara which locals say is the most calm and tranquil anchorage in the Whitsundays. Sail in here for safe harbour during windy weather.
Nara Inlet is a deep, fiord-like inlet stretching three kilometres with steep, heavily wooded embankments. It's very protected and suitable as an overnight anchorage in all types of weather.
If there have been recent showers, small waterfalls tumble down the rocky faces to the shore in parts. Take a short bushwalk to the Ngaro Cultural Site, a rock shelter containing Ngaro art motifs and extensive cultural deposits. The Ngaro people are the original inhabitants of the Whitsundays having lived in the area for some 8,000 years.
Sailor's secret: A sister bay to the popular Nara Inlet, Macona actually receives more afternoon sunlight – perfect for prolonging the day. Its unusual sand is also full of trapped air that releases when you stand on it.
Macona Inlet is a sister bay to Nara Inlet and also provides protection in most weather conditions. Like Nara, Macona is a fiord-like recess, surrounded by majestic wooded hills.
There are numerous sandy beaches to explore, including one on the north side that's a perfect spot for sunset drinks and nibbles. In the water, look for multi-coloured fish, turtles and even the odd seahorse. Macona Inlet is abundant with birdlife, best viewed from the many bushwalking tracks accessible from here.
Sailor's secret: The last ferry returns to the mainland at 6pm, setting the scene for a tranquil night in Shute Harbour. For dinner, cast a line for reef fish such as coral trout, red emperor or sweetlip right off your boat.
Shute Harbour, home to Whitsunday Rent A Yacht, is the focal point of communications between the mainland and the Whitsunday Islands. Protected in all weathers, it's the best mainland natural harbour for some kilometres along this stretch of the Queensland coast.
If you book in advance, you can stay aboard your vessel the night before your charter begins. Take in the salty air of Shute Harbour, a bustling marine crossroads ringed by steep inclines carpeted in lush vegetation. There are multiple national parks walks departing various points around Shute Harbour and a couple of jetties to stroll.
Sailor's secret: The pick of three anchorage locations at Stonehaven for shelter during strong southerlies is between Ian Point and Anchor Point where there are two public moorings.
Stonehaven is an expansive three-kilometre long open bay with a mountain range on the eastern side and the best sunsets in the Whitsundays to the western side. Be sure to have your camera at the ready as the sunsets are not to be missed.
There are some great snorkelling locations in the area for interesting shallow diving to see lots of small marine life including damselfishes, Christmas-tree worms and nudibranches. Watch for dolphins frolicking or nosing around your boat as dusk settles. Visibility below water is very much controlled by the tides - check your 100 Magic Miles.
Sailor's secret: Walk in famous footsteps! The seaplane chase in the 2008 movie Fool’s Gold – about a couple searching for lost treasure – starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson was filmed here.
Tongue Bay is access point to the walking trail that leads to the viewing platform looking out to amazing Hill Inlet, one of the most spectacular views around with its pure white pristine beaches.
Experience for yourself the picture-perfect turquoise waters and white silica sand that has become the trademark of the Whitsunday Islands. You're also likely to see lagoon rays and green sea turtles bobbing in the clear waters. If you have the opportunity to catch this amazing vista at sunset, don't miss it! Simply spectacular.
Sailor's secret: Spend a morning exploring the tiny coves and bays at this pretty bay while cicadas and other tropical insects provide the background music. Watch for manta rays skimming the water’s surface.
Turtle Bay, on the craggy shores at the base of Whitsunday Island, is made up of a series of beautiful bays just east of Fitzalan Passage. It's recommended for a lunchtime stopover depending on the season.
There are a couple of pretty beaches to explore in Turtle Bay and some good coral snorkelling over the reef on the eastern side. Expect to see fish of varied sizes feeding in the shelter of the bay. Or, simply recline on your vessel's deck and take in the wonderful views over Whitsunday Island, the largest island in the Whitsunday group.
Sailor's secret: If you’re visiting in the cooler months, keep an eye out for the dazzling white pied imperial pigeon which migrates from Papua New Guinea and lays a single egg.
Chance Bay is a double bay with two beautiful sand beaches. There is good snorkelling around the reef areas and around the little islet on the western side of the bay.
Part of the Ngaro Sea Trail leads from Chance Bay to Whitehaven Beach, passing through some of the Whitsunday's finest forest and woodland, then joining the Solway Circuit (walking track) to Whitehaven. From here let the white silica sand tickle your toes as you enjoy a walk on Australia's most famous beach.
Sailor's secret: Whitehaven is said to contain 800 million cubic metres of 98 per cent white silica sand – among the most pure on earth and perfect for giving jewellery a shine or using as a natural exfoliate.
As soon as you arrive it's quite apparent why Whitehaven Beach is the most photographed beach in Australia and was named 'Travellers' Choice' for beaches in Australia by Trip Advisor in 2013.
At your leisure, stroll the length of Whitehaven's six kilometres of pure white silica sand and experience Australia's most famous beach. Spend the day relaxing, take a picnic, your esky and enjoy a game of beach cricket, or a swim in the turquoise waters. Then return to your vessel for dinner overlooking what is indisputably one of the best beach views in the world.
Sailor's secret: The white powdery sand of Chalkies was the inspiration for the name Chalkie given to a baby male white whale first spotted in the Whitsundays in late 2011.
Known as 'little Whitehaven', Chalkies Beach on Haslewood Island has the same white silica sand as Whitehaven Beach. This brilliant sand is the silicon remains of the volcanic rocks of the island's interior.
The water at Chalkies Beach is usually clear and the fringing coral reef that lies just offshore provides some great snorkelling. Amazing coral and colourful small fish provide great photographic opportunities for anyone with an underwater camera! The beach itself is a beautiful place to spend the day doing whatever you feel like.
Sailor's secret: To fully appreciate Hill Inlet at the end of Whitehaven Beach, view it from Tongue Point on Whitsunday Island when the tide is low and the colours merge to create a stunning kaleidoscope.
Hill Inlet is a large estuary, with mangroves and shifting sands. The walking track accessible from Tongue Bay gives access to some of the beautiful beaches at the entrance to Hill Inlet. Not to be missed!
Hill Inlet is of tremendous significance to the local ecology, being a major source of food for hungry fish. The inlet is also an important resting place for migratory wading birds that come from as far as arctic climes to fossick on these sandy foreshores. The inlet is classified as 'protected' and restrictions on access may be imposed at times for environmental management.
*Anchorage information courtesy of 'Whitsundays' Bible' 100 Magic Miles by David Colfelt
*Selected images courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland
*Sailor's secrets courtesy of Whitsunday Rent A Yacht.