Picture this, you and your people cruising the Whitsunday Islands at your own pace. You have 74 pristine islands to explore, bush walks, swimming, snorkelling and fishing on your activity list... with amazing weather to top it all off.
It's hard to imagine a more perfect holiday. Now you just need to figure out where to go first.
The locations outlined in this post are perfect for those booking a sailing holiday in the Whitsundays or for those visiting the area on a journey up (or down) the coast.
Bareboat charter guests in the Whitsundays are asked to sail within a set parameter for safety and enjoyment reasons. The Whitsunday Rent a Yacht cruising area is extensive, showcasing the best sites and attractions found in the Whitsunday Islands.
We know it can be overwhelming when deciding on your bareboating itinerary. So we asked some of our past charterers where they would recommend someone in the planning stages of their Whitsundays sailing holiday should go.
The great thing about the feedback we received is it's varied. Many of the popular destinations were mentioned, which is to be expected, but interestingly many lesser-known "secret" spots made it to the top of the charter's highlight lists and itineraries.
Hook Island's Butterfly Bay frequently gets a mention 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 edge of the bay.
At certain times of the year, if you’re lucky with your timing you will see butterflies on the beach. This 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 Whitsunday’s cruising area.
There is great fishing and in whale season (June – Sept), charters enjoy spotting whales in this area which is always a highlight.
Betty’s Beach is a hidden gem. You will find the turnoff to Betty's Beach on the trail from Tongue Bay up to the famous Hill Inlet lookout.
Betty's Beach is a protected cove you can enjoy away from the crowds. Keep an eye out for the small stingrays which frequent the shallows and enjoy pulling up in some shade from the trees surrounding the beach.
Blue Pearl Bay is located on the north-west 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 found at Blue Pearl reflects the diversity found 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.
The reef around Border islands is a Green Zone (no fishing) and 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 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.
There are 10 moorings to pick up at Chalkies.
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 trying to anchor 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.
Lindaman Island national park offers 20 km of bushwalking trails connecting views, stunning beaches and a range of landscapes.
Located only 35km south-east 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, and a new island owner is currently planning the build of a luxury resort by 2021.
Manta Ray Bay on Hook Island is one of the most popular dive and snorkelling sites in the Whitsundays.
Enjoy the two of the underwater sculptures installed here as part of the Ngaro Underwater Marnie 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 into Nara Inlet, one of the best anchorages in the Whitsundays.
The deep sides of the inlet offer protection from most winds and there are stunning waterfalls and hikes to be enjoyed at 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 Whitsundays 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.
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 who are 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 will need to book a berth with the marina via radio before you arrive at the marina.
At the northern end of Whitehaven Beach 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 so they can 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 south-east 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 dingy into on high tide.
South Molle Island is located only 8km from our base at Shute Harbour making it a perfect first or last night anchorage when you charter with Whitsunday Rent a Yacht.
The Molle Islands are virtually joined so you can walk across to Mid Molle at low tides. South Molle has extensive birdlife that includes dozens of colourful lorikeets, currawongs and the endangered bush stone curlews.
Stonehaven was frequently mentioned when charters told us their favourite cruising the Whitsundays 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 Whitsundays sunset when cruising the Whitsundays!
Around from Chalkies Beach on Haslewood Island, Windy Bay is a spot you can have all to yourself. The beach has the same white sand found on Whitehaven. There is a walk you can do over the saddle of the island to White Beach from Windy Bay where it’s a beachcombers heaven.
“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.
The truth is, 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!
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.
There are so 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.
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 a pretty special experience, you will probably want to make sure you don't miss out on some of the highlights so it's good to research the "best bites" before you arrive.
For those keen on studying up before they sail the Whitsundays, we recommend reading the book 100 Magic Miles; known as the Whitsundays Bible, this is a guide you will find everything you need to know about the Whitsundays.
* 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.
A bit of location research and preparation before your trip will be well worth it. Visit our itineraries page for downloadable brochures cover 5, 7 and 10-night charters and browse the blog for detailed posts of the top locations.
Join us to cruise the Whitsundays and enjoy the freedom to explore