2022 Ultimate Guide to Bareboating in the Whitsundays | Whitsunday Rent a Yacht

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The Ultimate Guide to Bareboating in the Whitsundays

Bareboating in the Whitsundays gives you the freedom to explore uninhabited islands, stunning beaches and the underwater worlds of the Great Barrier Reef marine park – all at your own pace.

Whitsunday Rent a Yacht is the longest established bareboat charter company in the Whitsundays. We’ve collated years’ worth of experience and local knowledge in one place, creating our Ultimate Guide to Bareboating in the Whitsundays.

This post was created in 2022. All information is up to date.

Bareboating in the Whitsundays is the ultimate holiday

Bareboating is one of those experiences that people have on their bucket lists, and once they’ve done it, they come back again and again.

Bareboating holidays in the Whitsundays can be full of adventure with lots of sailing, hiking and diving. Or bareboating can be a relaxing romantic escape, with time lazing on pristine beaches, curling up with a book and living onboard at a slower pace.

The beauty of bareboating is you can tailor your tropical boating holiday to your interests and your style.

bareboating whitsundays catamaran

The basics of bareboating in the Whitsundays

What does bare-boat mean?

A "bareboat" is anything but bare. The term refers to a fully equipped boat that is available for hire without a crew.

Usually, bareboats are owned privately and rented out by a third party charter company that maintains and books the vessel out to holidaymakers, generating an income for the boat owner.

The boat's owner can access the vessel for private use around the Whitsundays and has the benefits of professional boat mechanics and shipwrights maintaining their vessel for them.

How does bareboating in the Whitsundays work?

The Whitsundays is one of the only sailing destinations in the world which does not require bareboat guests to have sailing qualifications or a boat license.

You and your family become the skipper and the crew of a catamaran, monohull sailing yacht or motor cruiser.

Bareboating means you have the freedom to choose where you go and what you do. You don't have other tour members or a set route to follow.

The operations team at Whitsunday Rent a Yacht assist guests in finding the best locations suited to the weather conditions. Every morning and evening, charterers undergo radio calls to ensure they choose a destination among the islands which suits the conditions.

How are we trained and prepared to take the boat out ourselves?

Before taking a bareboat out, all crew members undergo a comprehensive training session to ensure they know how to operate the boat and how to navigate around the islands. The training usually runs from 3-4 hours but may go for more time for beginners.

Training sessions are tailored to the experience of a crew. Generally, they will cover

  • Navigation and information on the charter limits and where to avoid
  • Boat operation below and above deck
  • Dropping the anchor and picking up a mooring
  • How to put the sails up and get your boat underway
  • Itinerary planning such as any special interests and attractions you want to see, eg. diving, fishing, walking, island resorts
  • How to do radio scheds, which are the calls you will need to do every morning and evening at a set time, so our operations team know you’re safe.

Once the training is complete, you will go for a test sail out into Shute Harbour with your trainer. When they feel you're ready to bareboat on your own, the trainer will head back in a second dinghy, and you can head off to your first overnight anchorage.


Bareboating in the Whitsundays

Is bareboating in the Whitsundays safe?

The Whitsundays Islands are considered one of the safest sailing destinations in the world thanks to several factors:

  • The Great Barrier Reef protects the islands from large ocean swells making the waters relatively calm.
  • Most of the islands hold a national park status, and only a small selection are inhabited.
  • The Whitsunday waters and reefs are clean and pristine.
  • Bareboating and sailing in the Whitsundays are extremely popular, so help is never far away.
  • Cruising time between the islands is approximately 2 hours, which means you will have time to enjoy your destinations during the day without needing to spend too much time on the move.
  • The Whitsundays receive consistent trade winds (east to south-easterly winds), making for great sailing conditions.
  • There are 74 Islands in the Whitsundays with more than 40 safe anchorages to spend the night. You won’t be short of new places to explore and protection from any wind direction.
  • Large safe ports are very close by in case of an emergency or the rare chance of bad weather. The Islands are not far from the mainland, and the hub of Hamilton Island is within cruising grounds for bareboat guests.

Do I have to sail the boat, or can we have the motor on?

All boats in the Whitsunday Rent a Yacht fleet can be operated with the motor on, so you don’t have to put the sails up if you don’t want to.

If you’re keen to try sailing, a bareboat charter is a perfect opportunity! All vessels have easy-to-handle rigging, and during your briefing, you will be trained by a professional who knows how to teach sailing techniques to anyone!

Still unsure about taking a bareboat out on your own?

If you are new to boating and are not feeling confident to take a bareboat out on your own, you can request additional training when making your booking or add a Sail Guide to your charter.

A Sail Guide can stay on board with you for one night or more until you feel comfortable operating the vessel. Some guests even choose to keep a guide for the full duration of their trip. 

When adding an overnight Sail Guide, you will need to provide them with a cabin and cater for their meals.

Whitsunday Rent a Yacht also runs the Whitsunday School of Sailing, an option for anyone who can brush up on their sailing knowledge or learn the basics before a charter.

Further questions are answered in these posts:

Bareboating in the Whitsundays

The Costs of Bareboating in the Whitsundays

How much does a bareboat charter cost?

The cost of hiring a yacht in the Whitsundays varies depending on the vessel and the season.

The lowest rates fall over summer, which is a sub-tropical wet season. The peak season coincides with whale watching season and perfect weather conditions for living on the water.

The mid-seasons are fantastic times to hire a yacht for a great price; they are periods we highly recommend because it's likely you will still have great weather with fewer crowds.

Some of our boats can sleep up to 10 people. If you split the costs between 10 people over seven nights, the price can be as low as $60 per person, per night. 

To gauge an idea of rates and what vessel could work for you, please visit our rates page and use the online booking system to see vessel availability and prices. Of course, we also invite you to get in touch with our team, which will help tailor a sailing holiday to your needs.

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How long should we hire our bareboat for?

The minimum hire of a bareboat is three nights. There is no maximum hire.

We suggest that the optimal time to hire a boat is seven nights. Seven nights will allow plenty of time to go with the flow, giving the option to stay more than one night if you find an anchorage you love and letting you explore several islands.

When planning how long you charter for, consider the first day being taken up by a briefing and the last day you will need to have your boat back to base by 11 am.

When leaving Shute Harbour, it takes less than 2 hours to arrive at a close overnight anchorage, whereas if you go from Airlie Beach, the travel time from the mainland to the island is closer to 4 hours.

What sort of boat should we hire?

The first thing to consider when hiring a bareboat is, do you want to hire a catamaran or a monohull?

Catamarans have more living space and more stability. Monohulls provide a much better sailing performance and are cheaper to hire.

Other factors to consider when hiring a boat is how many berths (beds) and bathrooms you will need and your budget.


What's the best time of year to visit the Whitsundays?

The cost of hiring a boat in the Whitsundays will be impacted by the time of year.

Peak seasons are over school and public holidays as well as Sept - Oct.

Tourism operators consider September and August to be the best times of year to sail the Whitsundays. However, every season around the sub-tropical islands offers something unique.

We will often tell people who can sail outside of school holidays to consider these three underrated times of year to sail the Whitsundays: November, June and December. These shoulder seasons offer great rates, decent weather and fewer crowds.

If you're a keen sailor, the annual Airlie Beach Race Week and Audi Hamilton Island Race Week are held in August.

Additional Costs to Consider:

When considering and planning your budget, note that these things are an additional, optional cost.

  • Fuel, which is charged based on consumption after your trip
  • Resort berth fees are to be paid directly to the resort
  • An extra night sleeping aboard your vessel
  • Booking extra equipment such as fishing or diving gear, a stand-up-paddle board or a SUP
  • Stinger suits, especially in stinger season
  • Private travel Insurance, please chat to staff about insurance when booking (it’s important!)

Bareboating Whitsundays

Bareboating Whitsundays Insurance

Ultimate Guide Bareboating Whitsundays


Booking your bareboat holiday

The process of booking a bareboat charter with Whitsunday Rent a Yacht can be broken up into seven simple steps.

  1. Decide if a bareboat holiday is for you & who you want to go with
  2. Decide when you want to go
  3. Select an available boat and request a quote
  4. Book your boat and pay a deposit to hold the booking
  5. Book any extra equipment you want to add to your booking
  6. Arrange transport, any additional accommodation requirements and extra bookings outside of Whitsunday Rent a Yacht eg. spa treatments, restaurants.
  7. Learn about what you can see and do while exploring the Whitsundays

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Preparing for your bareboat sailing adventure

Once you've arranged your boat and any extras to be included in your booking, you can book additional travel arrangments, arrange what to bring & organise provisions

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What you can do on a bareboat holiday in the Whitsundays

The beauty of bareboating is you can tailor your tropical boating holiday to your interests and your style. Click on the images to learn more about what you can do while sailing the Whtisundays.

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Bareboating Whitsundays

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Whitsundays bareboating snorkelling

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Bareboating Whitsundays reviews

"Thank you Whitsunday Rent A Yacht, Andy, myself and friends had the best time on "Its all about me" You made our holiday so easy and the boat was presented clean and in great working order. It was that good that we have booked again next year. We highly recommend this to anyone that loves the water. Best regards, Andy and Emma Ellis"

Emma Metham, 2021


"Had a great family holiday for a week over Xmas. The yacht was impeccable. The team back at Shute Harbor were so helpful and insightful. From the initial briefing and sailing lesson through to the twice-daily weather and status reports, you knew they were always on hand. They weren't intrusive and were so helpful throughout our stay aboard. This is a great way to see all of what Whitsunday has to offer at your own pace with your own plan.

With very little experience, we had our catamaran under full sail on our first day, flying along the water under the propulsion of the wind. So much fun and so peaceful.

I would definitely recommend Whitsunday Rent A Yacht. We all loved our sailing experience. Amazing!!"

Nick Bailey, 2021


"Fantastic family holiday with a bit of adventure thrown in!

We had a fabulous time cruising the gorgeous Whitsundays and the fabulous, friendly staff all made us feel so comfortable and welcome with the highest standard of knowledge and support. Will definitely be back!"
Sue Kelly, 2021


Bareboating Whitsundays


After reading this guide, we hope you're feeling more confident about booking a bareboat adventure in the Whitsundays.

When you know how many people you want to travel with and when you want to sail, the next stage is to get an official quote. Our website has a simple online booking system that will show you vessel availability and prices, or you can simply get in touch with our team.

book your adventure



Join us to go bareboating in the Whitsundays and enjoy the freedom to explore

  Contact us 1800 075 000 or sales@rentayacht.com.au