A holiday chartering a yacht around the Whitsundays would not be complete without visiting some of the snorkelling spots.
The Whitsunday Islands are part of The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and offer the best fringing reef snorkelling in the world, you would be crazy not to jump under the surface at least once!
We've pulled together a list of our favourite snorkelling sites to add to your itinerary. Take note of the locations which feature underwater artwork as part of the Ngaro Underwater Sculpture Trail, the latest attraction to the Whitsunday Islands.
For those interested in scuba diving be sure to check out our blog on the best dive sites around the islands and let us know if you need a hand arranging scuba gear hire.
To make sure you get the most out of your experience when you charter a yacht with Whitsunday Rent a Yacht, we provide you with snorkelling gear for free.
We recommend everyone takes a snorkel and mask, even if you think you won't want to do it, you never know what amazing experiences you might sail across.
Before you set off, here are a few snorkelling tips and safety guidelines to consider:
Almost every charterer who joins us at Whitsunday Rent A Yacht will ask the question, “Where are the best places to snorkel in the Whitsundays?” Depending on the season, weather conditions, wind direction or tide, our answer to that question might vary, but there are always plenty of snorkelling sites to choose from.
Below we've listed some of our favourite snorkelling spots scattered around the islands. We also recommend you look at our interactive snorkelling map which shows all of the sites around the Whitsunday Islands.
Check-in with your briefer before you set sail for itinerary advice and the best snorkelling locations considering the conditions of your charter.
In our opinion, Langford Island is the best place to snorkel in the Whitsundays. It offers some very pretty, very accessible coral reef, adjacent to the sand spit itself. You can enjoy snorkelling right off the beach, with the best areas to explore sitting in close to the island - the perfect location to snorkel or simply relax on the sand.
Ensure that you have secured your vessel to one of the public mooring buoys; drive your dinghy carefully to the beach and observe the reef protection markers.
Artist Col Henry
Stainless steel , 6.5m x 6m x 2m
Blue Pearl Bay is located on the north-west side of Hayman Island. This area is a long time favourite with scuba diving and snorkelling enthusiasts. Good coral and friendly fish make for a lovely session in the water.
Moorings are at a premium here and we advise not to anchor in this region; you may need to wait for a mooring for a little while and be ready when another vessel vacates a mooring.
Many of our charterers will visit this location to meet celebrity resident, Elvis – a Humphead Maori Wrasse! Make sure the kids have their underwater cameras ready.
Artist Adriaan Vanderlugt
Aluminium, 2.7m x 3.85m x 0.6m
By artist collective Caitlin Reilly, Jessa Lloyd and Kate Ford
Concrete , 3.8m x 3.8m x 5m
Snorkelling at Hook Island is very popular because there are several areas you can go to depending on the wind.
Stonehaven Bay has two snorkelling sites, Cockatoo Point and the Keyhole.
Cockatoo Point is on the northern edge of Stonehaven. If you're lucky you can pick up the only mooring in the area or just anchor outside of the reef markers and take the tender ashore if you're not close enough to swim towards the reef. Snorkelling around Cockatoo Point can be done by simply drifting with the current over the fringing reefs.
The Keyhole is on the southern corner of the Bay of the and has some fantastic colourful coral.
This photography was recently shared by Jacqui Sheils on Facebook, it showcases how vibrant the coral is at Stonehaven.
Another worthwhile snorkelling spot off Hook Island is Luncheon Bay. Snorkelling can be done from the beach which is a mix of sand and coral. You can expect a variety of fish and some coral regeneration after Cyclone Debbie.
Make sure you go looking for the ‘tunnel of love’, a beautiful swim through coral formation, located on the fringing reefs in the bay. Keep an eye out for the wild goats which sometimes frequent the rocks above the bay.
There is also no anchoring at Luncheon Bay due to deeper waters, however there are plenty of moorings.
Mantaray Bay is found on the north side of Hook Island and is one of the most popular snorkelling sites in the Whitsundays. Some local tour guides call this spot "The Aquarium" and bring tour groups here regularly. You will notice that the fish are not scared of humans and have some rather bold behaviour towards them; this is because they are fed by tour operators (please note that fish feeding is not permitted for bareboat charter visitors).
There is great snorkelling all year at Mantaray, but you’ll get an extra special experience if you visit at winter time and see the rays who come once a year. You can see where it gets the name! To protect the reef, you can’t anchor here, but you will be able to find a mooring.
There are two large moorings in Mantaray Bay and each one has a two-hour time limit. Check your copy of 100 Magic miles for up to date moring guidelines.
The beach at Mantaray Bay is mostly coral, so don't go ashore without some shoes! Due to the time limit on the mooring, you may find you just snorkel from your boat.
Migration of the Mantas
Artist Brian Robinson
Concrete and Stainless Steel, Six mantas 2m x 1.8m x 0.3m
Artist Adriaan Vanderlugt
Aluminium, 3.8m x 3.8m x 1.2m
Photo Credit Queensland Tourism and Events
On the south-east side of Hook Island, you will find Mackerel Bay where you can drop anchor in northerly conditions. This location has excellent fringing reefs for snorkelling with diverse and unique fish life such as the Bumphead Parrotfish rarely seen at other sites. Mackerel Bay is a known hotspot for seeing several different species of turtle found in the Whitsundays.
Snorkelling visibility can be affected by the tide in Mackerel Bay. It's best done on neap tides (a tide just after the first or third quarters of the moon when there is the least difference between high and low water).
East Reef on Hook Island should only be visited on a very calm day as it is exposed to winds and can experience strong currents. If you're lucky with the weather, it's worth checking out for some stunning shallow snorkelling over large coral beds.
Snorkel the shallow coral reefs to experience large coral plates and plenty of reef fish.
Border Island is stunning, picturesque and rewarding. Treat yourself to a beautiful location with plenty of coral and bommies to explore.
Snorkelling is can be done in the shallows. You will see a variety of fish, including the friendly Bat fish.
If you want to take a break from the 'underwater' life, get your shoes on and shake off those sea legs by taking a walk up the hiking trail to some fantastic views of the Whitsunday Islands.
Dumbell Island located between Whitsunday Island and Border Island is a great halfway point for those cruising from Whitehaven Beach (Hook Island).
Dumbell is a lesser-known island, so you won't have large crowds. The small beach strip which sits between two larger landmasses is a fantastic spot for kids to snorkel from. You won’t only find picturesque coral in this area but you’ll also find many sea anemones and Nemo’s (clownfish).
Located on the west side of Haselwood Island across from Whitehaven Beach is Chalkie’s Beach.
Chalkies is a local favourite and a great place to dodge the day trip crowds which frequent Whitehaven. Sitting opposite Whitehaven, Chalkies shares the same famous soft white silica sand. We recommend taking the newly installed trail up from the beach for a unique vantage point over the islands.
The best snorkelling at Chalkies is along the fringing coral reef that lies just offshore, particularly on the northern end. Keep an eye out for turtles here too.
There are so many amazing opportunities to experience the underwater world when you go snorkelling in the Whitsundays. We've listed the snorkelling spots we think are the best, but there are more! If you have any questions about planning your bareboating itinerary please get in touch.
Join us in the Whitsundays to experience our world-class snorkelling spots
Contact us on 1800 075 000 or firstname.lastname@example.org