Navigating the Whitsundays | Whitsunday Rent a Yacht

Check availability and get a price

You are here

Navigating the Whitsundays: Tips & Spots to look out for

Navigation in the Whitsundays is relatively simple. In this post, we'll outline the basics of navigating, the navigation tools which come with a bareboat and spots to watch out for as you cruise the Whitsundays.

Navigating the Whitsundays can be done as "line of sight". Line of sight navigation is when you can see where your destination is, which is considered the easiest form of navigation.

When you charter a yacht with Whitsunday Rent a Yacht, it helps if someone onboard understands the basics of boat navigation, but it's not essentail.  If your crew lacks navigation skills, nominate a Navigator who can take on the role and even prepare before your charter.


Basic yacht navigation



What navigation skills are required in the Whitsundays?

The Whitsundays is one of the safest sailing grounds in the world. Bareboat visitors are not required to have a boat licence or any sailing qualifications when chartering this protected part of the Queensland coast. You don't need any sophisticated skills to navigate a rented yacht.

Only basic coastal navigation skills are required in the Whitsundays. As we said earlier, navigation in the Whitsundays is line of sight. It's also worth noting that the travel distance between anchorages is under two hours, so your time spent navigating each day will be minimal.

Basic yacht navigation training

All bareboat guests are given a training session before they set sail.

The briefer ensures that the crew are well acquainted with the navigation equipment onboard your vessel.

Navigation training includes:

  • How to read a compass
  • Measuring distances on a chart
  • Accurately determine the time it will take to sail from one location to another.

For people who have a basic understanding of navigation, the briefing session will be more than enough to bring you up to speed.

If you would like additional navigation training or don't have any experience, we invite you to book additional training time.

Sail Guides are also an option for inexperienced crews; however, we currently have Covid restrictions to consider. Sail Guides are able to show a novice crew how to run a boat; they can join for the first day, a night or even the whole trip as long as they have their own cabin

Whitsunday Rent a Yacht helps run the Whitsunday School of Sailing. The Ryal Yachting Association accredited course is very appropriate for people wanting to learn basic navigation skills.

The navigation equipment that comes on a bareboat

Provided for use during your charter is a laminated marine chart of the Whitsundays and a copy of 100 Magic Miles - the unofficial "Whitsundays' bible".

For those keen to study the area before a sailing holiday, you can order a copy of 100 Magic Miles by David Colfelt when you make your booking.

You will also find your boat is equipped with a GPS chart plotter, the marine equivalent of your car's Sat Nav, the only difference being you will not have a voice advising you to turn left in 300 meters.

The chart plotter will accurately show your vessel's position every second of every day. It will also show your vessel's course and your speed in knots. This instrument is a comforting back up to the navigation you will do with your chart and your 100 Magic Miles.

Radio Scheduled Calls

Bareboat visitors will have a radio call with the operation team each morning. In this call, you will need to say where you are heading so we can keep track of your movements and ensure your safety.

The radio calls are an excellent opportunity to get navigation tips and run discuss any concerns you may have past a professional local.

Navigating Whitsundays

Tips for navigating on your bareboat charter in the Whitsundays

Your briefer will thoroughly explain all the information you need to safely and confidently navigate the islands and choose safe, comfortable overnight anchorages.

You may like to consider these tips:

  • Prior to your charter, research the places you would like to go. Check out this interactive map with some of our recommended anchorages.
  • You will find that you can navigate the islands through a line of sight by lining up headlands, islands and prominent features.
  • You can usually see the next island you want to head to, making the Whitsundays very simple to navigate.
  • As a rough guide for how long your course will take, divide the total distance by 5kts (nautical miles per hour). When estimating how long it will take you to arrive at your next destination, allow for tides, winds and waves, as this might increase the trip's time by up to 30% or more. Remember to consider time for picking up your mooring or anchoring.
  • You need to be at your night's anchorage by 4 pm to radio our base and confirm you are safe.
  • Make sure you never anchor on coral or near coral where your chain could damage it.
  • By commencing your charter at Shute Harbour, you will have a shorter crossing to the Islands. There are several nearby overnight anchorages, which is ideal for those who are new to bareboating and don't want to head out too far from the mainland for their first night.

Navigating Whitsundays

Spots to watch out for when navigating the Whitsundays

We keep saying that sailing and navigating in the Whitsundays is easy, and it is. However, there are a few areas to pay special attention to when you're chartering the Whitsunday.

Below we list the main areas to watch out for, with page numbers from 100 Magic Miles by David Colfelt.

Unsafe Passage (page 169):

The area surrounding Hayman Island – Langford Reef & Bali Hai (Black Island) is known as "Unsafe Passage"

The very name is enough to make an experienced sailor tremble - but don't let it put you off!

Unsafe Passage is very scenic, convenient, and perfectly safe, provided you stick to the middle of the Passage and monitor the "lead lights" on the Northern end of Daydream Island as you navigate through. You will always have at least 6 metres under your keel, even at low tide.

North-West Hook Island, Langford Island, Black Island and Hayman Island (page 177):

Hook Island is the prime snorkelling territory in the Whitsundays, and for that reason, most charterers will try to spend some time here.

There is a lot of beautiful coral in the coves around Hook Island. Boating visitors are urged to navigate carefully, ensuring that the reefs remain protected from wayward boats, anchors or chains.

There is plenty of room and open areas around Hook Island. Always know where your boat is in relation to the surrounding reefs and coral bed areas, and keep an eye out for the reef protection buoys.

Public moorings have been made available for those staying overnight in this area.

French Shoal (page 200-202):

Situated approximately 1 mile east of and running parallel to Whitehaven Beach, French Shoal is not visible from deck level on your boat. Watch out!

The below aerial photo gives an accurate perspective of French Shoal. To avoid running aground here, follow the dotted route lines that will guide you to the west of Lagoon Rock as you navigate North or South in this area.

We've created a more comprehensive guide for those keen on navigating to Whitehaven Beach.

What more can I do to prepare for my bareboat charter?

You may mind these articles helpful when in the planning stages of your yacht charter with us.

Navigation Whitsundays Rent a Yacht

The Whitsunday Rent-a-Yacht team is here to help, to make you feel safe and comfortable while enjoying a fantastic experience in the Whitsundays. Please let us know if you have any concerns or would like to learn and prepare before your charter so we can point you in the right direction.

We hope you enjoy the buzz and freedom of navigating the Whitsundays.



Join us in the Whitsundays and enjoy the freedom to explore

  Contact us 1800 075 000 or

GPS chart plotter aboard a Whitsundays sailing vessel

All WRAY charter vessels carry the latest in navigational equipment to help your plot your course around the Whitsundays.