Picture this, you and your favourite people cruising the Whitsunday Islands over a week while living on a private catamaran or sailing yacht. You’ll be exploring pristine coat lines, hiking to stunning views, snorkelling fringing reefs and fishing for dinner off your boat… with fantastic weather to top it all off.
To help you figure out which slice of paradise to explore, we spoke to some of our past charterers, to find out where their favourite spots around the islands are.
We think this list is perfect for those booking a sailing holiday in the Whitsundays or for those visiting the area on a journey up (or down) the coast. Because the best tips come from those who have been before.
Whitsunday Rent a Yacht Cruising Area
Bareboat charter guests in the Whitsundays are asked to sail within a set parameter for safety and enjoyment. The Whitsunday Rent a Yacht cruising area is extensive, showcasing the best sites and attractions in the Whitsunday Islands.
We suggest viewing our interactive anchorages map for an overview of popular overnight stops within our cruising area.
Cruising the Whitsundays: 20 Places Charterers Recommend
The great thing about our charterer recommendations is they are varied. Many popular destinations were mentioned, which is to be expected, but also, many lesser-known “secret” spots made it to our charter’s highlights.
Butterfly Bay is frequently mentioned as one of our charterers’ top places.
Snorkelling and scuba diving are very popular in this area. You can dive right off the beach and travel along the bay’s edge.At certain times of the year, if you’re lucky with your timing, you will see butterflies on the beach.
Butterfly Bay is a great place to spend the night as it is very protected.
A lesser-known anchorage, but one that comes highly recommended, is Burning Point. Located on Shaw Island, this area is one of the most southerly points in the cruising area.
There is great fishing around Shaw Island. In whale season (June – Sept), charters enjoy spotting whales in this area which is always a highlight.
Some lovely trees surround the beach for shade cover and long beach days. Keep an eye out for the small stingrays which frequent the shallows at Betty’s.
To visit Betty’s, you must anchor at Tongue Point and take the walking trail up towards the Hill Inlet Lookout. There is a turnoff for Betty’s on the way.
Blue Pearl Bay
Blue Pearl Bay is located on the northwest side of Hayman Island.
Home to “Elvis”, a famous resident Maori Wrasse, the Blue Pearl has an abundance of coral and fish life, making it a popular site for diving and snorkelling. The best coral is found in the shallow waters on the southern beach.
The marine life at Blue Pearl reflects the diversity within the fringing coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef marine park.
Located on the Border Island, Cateran Bay is a secluded beach surrounded by cliffs.Commercial operators don’t visit this area, making it a great out-of-the-way spot for private charters.
The reef around Border Island is a Green Zone (no fishing). It’s been heavily protected for a long time making snorkelling and diving a great activity from this mooring. There is also a great hike from within Caneran Bay with beautiful views.
Chalkies Beach is a favourite overnight anchorage for charters. It’s on Haselwood Island and sits opposite Whitehaven Beach.
The advantage of visiting Chalkies is you can still experience the famous silica sand found on Whitehaven, but you avoid the day trip crowds. The west-facing aspect makes this anchorage a perfect location for sunsets.
Snorkeling is also decent from the beach and there is a reasonably new hike to a lookout with wonderful views across to Whitehaven Beach.
There are ten moorings to pick up at Chalkies, so plan to get in quickly to avoid missing a spot.
Chance Bay on Whitsunday Island is the perfect anchorage for Northerly winds. The Bay is two smaller beaches (pictured), both ideal locations for kids to wade in safe shallow waters.
You can take a 7.2km round trip walking track to Whitehaven Beach from Chance as a part of the ‘Ngaro Sea Trail’. This walk to Whitehaven can sometimes be easier than anchoring at Whitehaven in unfavourable winds.
Esk Island is a small, secluded island opposite Hill Inlet, and it’s a secret place you’ll get to have to yourselves. Spend hours exploring this untouched tropical island and lazing on the secluded beaches.
There are two moorings if you want to stay the night. Just make sure the conditions are mild.
Lindeman Island Bushwalk
Lindaman Island national park offers 20 km of bushwalking trails connecting views, stunning beaches and a range of landscapes.
Located only 35km southeast of our base at Shute Harbour you can find some great anchorages and fishing spots to suit different wind conditions.
The original resort on Lindeman Island is no longer operational. There has been talk of a new resort being built in the area, but development seems to be delayed. For now, enjoy this stunning secluded tropical Island to yourself.
Manta Ray Bay
Manta Ray Bay on Hook Island is one of Whitsundays’s most popular dive and snorkelling sites. Many different fish species in the Bay are used to visitors and are very curious; some will come right up to your boat!
(We ask that guests avoid feeding the fish(
Don’t miss two underwater sculptures installed here as part of the Ngaro Underwater Marine Sculpture Trail.
In winter, you’ll be able to see the Manta Rays, which make this bay home.
A holiday cruising the Whitsundays would not be complete without stopping at Nara Inlet, one of the best anchorages in the Whistundays.
The deep sides of the inlet offer protection from most winds. In the wet season, you can explore waterfalls and a freshwater pool in the Northern end.
Make sure you take the time to hike the short walk up to see the Ngaro Aboriginal Culture site’s art caves.
“The waterfalls in Nara Inlet were all pouring in on our first night out after some rain, such a great atmosphere”
Shaw Island’s Neck Bay is one of the more secluded areas to be explored because it’s the most southerly part of the Whitsunday cruising area.
There is a high chance you will have one of the bays around Shaw Island all to yourself. Enjoy a beautiful secluded beach, swimming, fishing and hiking on the track, which goes from one side of the island to the other.
Hamilton Island Marina
The marina at Hamilton Island is an ideal stopover, particularly if you are on a lengthy charter.
Bareboaters are welcome to stop for a few hours or to berth for a night or two.
The Hamilton Marina is the only practical provisioning base for people cruising the islands. You will find a general store, chemist, bakery, boutique, laundry, post office, banks, bars, nightclubs, plenty of restaurants, water and fuel services.
You must book a berth with the marina via radio before arriving there. See our resorts page for more information about visiting a resort while exploring the Islands.
Whitehaven Beach’s northern end on Whitsunday Island is the most photographed location in the Whitsunday Islands, Hill Inlet. When you hike to the Hill Inlet lookout, you will see the iconic swirling sands merge with the changing turquoise sea.
Most people moor their boats in Tongue Bay, take a dinghy ashore and make the short uphill walk to the lookout for breath-taking views.
If possible, try to reach the lookout when the tide is low to fully experience the beautiful colours.
Most people visit Tongue Bay to get to the world-famous Hill Inlet lookout. This bay can be busy, with many tours arriving and going throughout the day.
Tongue Bay has its own attraction on offer. Take the dinghy to the point for some fishing or try snorkelling over the far side of the “tongue” to see if you can spot the resident turtles.
While it can be a bit tricky to access due to its exposure to the regular Southeast winds, Saba Bay is a less crowded, interesting place to explore.
Excellent fringing reefs make for great snorkelling and fishing. The east bay has a cave you can take the dinghy into on high tide.
South Molle Island
The Molle Islands are virtually joined so you can walk across to Mid Molle at low tides. South Molle has extensive birdlife, including dozens of colourful lorikeets, currawongs and endangered bush stone curlews.
Stonehaven was frequently mentioned when charters told us their favourite Whitsunday locations.
Found on Hook Island, Stonehaven is a popular place to spend the night due to its proximity to attractions such as Whitehaven Beach and the great snorkelling sites found on Hook.
Perhaps more importantly, this is THE spot to see a Whitsunday sunset when cruising the Whitsundays!
Around from Chalkies Bay on Haslewood Island, Windy Bay is a spot you can have all to yourself. The beach has the same white sand found on Whitehaven.
You can walk over the island’s saddle to White Beach from Windy Bay where it’s a beachcomber heaven. Rumour has it that there is some good fishing in Windy Bay too.
“I love Haslewood Island and the area around Windy Bay (and the eastern side in good conditions). It is pretty much void of other vessels!!”
We can’t make a list of favourite places to visit in the Whitsundays without mentioning Whitehaven Beach. A visit to Whitehaven is like seeing the Mona Lisa; you have to see it so you can say you did!
Whitehaven has a reputation as one of the best beaches in the world for a reason, and no visit to the Whitsundays would not be complete without stepping on its silica sand. However, from the perspective of a charter, there are much more secluded and remote areas you can experience thanks to the freedom your boat offers.
When asked where their favourite places were while cruising the Whitsundays, one charterer simply had this to say “Every single Anchorage was fantastic in its unique way. We loved the whole area equally”.
We couldn’t have summed it up better ourselves!
Planning your cruising holiday in the Whitsundays
Decide how long you want to charter a boat for
To get the most out of a sailing holiday around the Islands, we recommend a minimum of 7-night cruise so that you have enough time to relax while also seeing the sights. Our minimum hire is 3-nights.
Choose your cruising vessel
The three most common boats for bareboat charters are catamarans, monohulls and power boats.
The Whitsunday Rent a Yacht fleet has a range of vessels to suit various budgets. When choosing your boat, consider factors like how many bathrooms you need, sailing performance, space, age, and budget. Read more about choosing which charter boat is right for you.
What activities do you want to do around the islands?
There are many things to see and do around the Islands; your interests will play a big part in deciding where you go. For example, you might want to see the top attractions such as Whitehaven and Hamilton Island or you might want to focus on fishing or finding secluded bays.
We can help you to hire kayak, fishing and dive equipment while making your booking. All boats come with complimentary snorkelling equipment.
Think about where you would like to go in the Whitsundays (but don’t get too attached)
Itinerary planning should remain flexible; ultimately where you go will be determined by the weather and wind conditions.
Your briefer and the support on your daily “radio scheds” will help ensure the locations you plan to visit are safe and comfortable. However, since sailing the Whitsundays is an exceptional experience, you will probably want to ensure you don’t miss out on some of the highlights, so it’s good to research the “best bites” before arriving.
For those keen on studying up before they sail the Whitsundays, we recommend reading the book 100 Magic Miles, known as the Whitsundays Bible. You will find everything you need to know about navigating the Whitsundays.
Resources for planning your visit to the Whitsunday Island National Parks
- Downloadable brochure from Parks and Forests (QLD)
- Get a local weather update from BOM
- Learn about fishing and park zones from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
More Location Research for Cruising the Whitsundays
For more tips on where to go when you explore the Whitsundays, check out these articles.
- The Best Beaches in the Whitsundays
- Discover these hidden Gems when you explore the Whitsundays
- Advice from past bareboaters
- About the 74 Islands in the Whitsundays
A bit of location research and preparation before your trip will be well worth it. Visit our itineraries page for downloadable brochures covering 5, 7 and 10-night charters.
Contact the Whitsunday Rent a Yacht team to book your next cruising holiday or ask any questions.