The 10 best snorkelling spots in the Whitsundays

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We share our favourite snorkelling spots around the Whitsundays for you to enjoy during your yacht charter.

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.

Snorkelling Spots Whitsundays

Tips for Snorkelling in the Whitsundays

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:

  • Have your complimentary mask and snorkel fitted properly before you set sail
  • Always snorkel with a buddy and communicate to anyone remaining on the deck or on the beach where you intend on snorkelling.
  • Consider a floating device for less confident swimmers and kids. Pool noodles are a cost-effective, simple way to keep you buoyant and relaxed. There are also more advanced floating devices you could bring with you, such as the seal Buddy Snorkel Vest or the Scuba Choice Kids Snorkel Vest.
  • Be aware of your location and come up for air to check you haven’t gone too far out.
  • Don’t touch anything under the water, and don’t stand on coral. If you see a turtle, enjoy observing, but please don’t grab on for a ride (it happens!)
  • Don’t feed the fish
  • Wear sun protection. A long-sleeved rash vest is great for snorkelling in the tropics.
  • Be aware of your swimming ability, and don’t let excitement take over from keeping yourself safe.
  • Relax as much as you can. Snorkelling is a very peaceful experience, and sometimes when you go at a slower pace, the ocean comes to greet you.
  • It’s true that if you spit in your mask, it will stop fogging!

Marine life Whitsundays Ecotourism

10 of the best snorkelling spots in the Whitsundays

Almost every charterer who joins us at Whitsunday Rent A Yacht will ask, “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 luckily there are many different snorkelling options around the Whitsundays.

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 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.

Langford Island

In our opinion, Langford Island is the best place to snorkel in the Whitsundays. It offers some pretty, accessible coral reefs, adjacent to the sand spit. You can enjoy snorkelling right off the beach, with the best areas to explore sitting 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.

Underwater Sculpture
Turtle Dream
Artist Col Henry
Stainless steel
, 6.5m x 6m x 2m


Humphead Maori Wrasse

Blue Pearl Bay – Hayman Island

Blue Pearl Bay is located on the northwest 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.

Underwater sculpture
Maori Wrasse
Artist Adriaan Vanderlugt 

Aluminium, 
2.7m x 3.85m x 0.6m

Anthozoa 
By artist collective Caitlin Reilly, Jessa Lloyd and Kate Ford
Concrete
, 3.8m x 3.8m x 5m

Stonehaven Bay – Hook Island

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.

Jacqui Sheils recently shared this photography on Facebook, it showcases how vibrant the coral is at Stonehaven.

Stonehaven Snorkelling Sites

snorkelling stonehaven

Snorkelling stonehaven

Butterfly Bay – Hook Island

Snorkelling at Hook Island is very popular because there are several areas you can go to depending on the wind.

Butterfly Bay is just one of the snorkelling areas located on the northern part of Hook There is no anchoring in Butterfly Bay however, there are plenty of moorings to pick up.

The best time to visit is in the middle of the day when the light is brightest for viewing a range of beautiful fringing reefs, bommies and marine life.

Luncheon Bay – Hook Island

Another amazing snorkelling spot off Hook Island is Luncheon Bay.

Make sure you look 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, again, there are plenty of moorings.

Manta Ray Bay – Hook Island

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.

Underwater Sculpture
Migration of the Mantas
Artist Brian Robinson
Concrete and Stainless Steel,
 Six mantas 2m x 1.8m x 0.3m

Manta Ray
Artist Adriaan Vanderlugt 

Aluminium,
 3.8m x 3.8m x 1.2m

Snorkelling Whitsudays SculpturePhoto Credit Riptide Creative

Mackerel Bay – Hook Island

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 – Hook Island

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.

Cateran Bay – Border Island

Border Island is stunning, picturesque and rewarding. Treat yourself to a beautiful location with plenty of coral and bommies to explore.

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 recently completed bush trek.  You will witness beautiful, breath-taking views of the Whitsunday Islands.

Dumbell Island

Dumbell Island located between Whitsunday Island and Border Island, is a great halfway point between the popular Whitehaven Beach and Hook Island.

Dumbell is a fantastic spot to take the kids. You won’t only find picturesque coral in this area, but you’ll also find many Nemo’s (clownfish) living in the coral.

Chalkie’s Beach – Haselwood Island

Located on the west side of Haselwood Island across from Whitehaven Beach is Chalkie’s Beach.

Chalkies is a lesser-known stop so you can dodge the day trip crowds that frequent Whitehaven, but you will still get to experience the same amazing soft white silica sand.

The fringing coral reef that lies just offshore, particularly on the northern end, is fantastic, and you can also spot turtles here.

There are so many amazing opportunities to experience the underwater world while 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.

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Whitsunday Rent a Yacht acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and in particular the Traditional Owners of the Whitsunday's Region, the Gia, Juru and Ngaro People; We recognise their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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