The 10 top anchorages in the Whitsundays


The best anchorages in the Whitsundays feature attractions such as snorkelling, sunsets and great views.

One of the most common questions we get asked is, where are the best anchorages in the Whitsundays?

There are so many unique places to visit in the Whitsunday Islands, and of course, where you go will depend on the weather conditions. However, there are some favourites we often suggest; particularly for first-time charterers who want to experience some Whitsunday highlights and some variety.

The 10 Top anchorages in the Whitsundays

South Mole Island Whitsundays

Bauer Bay – South Molle island

Just outside of our base at Shute Harbour you will find Bauer Bay on South Molle Island. 

It’s a protected anchorage from the South and South-East winds, although this spot can get a bit “rolly” if the breeze tends into a more Easterly aspect.

Walk around the side of the old golf course and then up to Spion Kop Lookout for amazing views.  The vistas down onto Bauer Bay and Unsafe Passage, and across to Daydream Island, then to the South-East across Whitsunday Passage to Hamilton Island will give you ample camera fodder.

Sailor’s secret:
Anchor on the eastern side and take the picturesque walk up to Spion Kop – voted the Top Island Walk of Queensland by National Geographic.

This is the best anchorage to explore the many kilometres of the National Park walking tracks on South Molle Island. You can also anchor on the eastern side of the jetty and access the walking tracks – including those to Spion Kop viewing platform and Mount Jeffreys.

Cid Harbour Whitsundays

Cid Harbour – Whitsunday Island

Cid Harbour’s safest and best-protected anchorage is Sawmill Beach.  It’s almost a perfect anchoring with depths 3 to 5 metres.

From the Southern end of Sawmill Beach, a track winds its way uphill to the top of Whitsunday Peak, where views will gently blow your mind. Allow 3 to 4 hours for the return hike on this one, and remember to take water and a snack to be enjoyed on top of Whitsunday Peak.

From the Northern end of Sawmill Beach, a shorter gentler stroll of 15 to 20 minutes will take you through the forest to a secluded, romantic treasure,  Dugong Beach. This secret sport is certainly not the biggest or most popular beach, but definitely one of the most beautiful. Taking a picnic hamper and a bottle (or 2) of your favourite wines will give you a relaxing romantic escape or quality family time to treasure.

Sailor’s secret:
A brilliant fishing spot with the right ingredients of smooth current and clear waters for good, easy fishing for beginners and experienced alike.

Just two hours’ sailing from Shute Harbour, it’s a popular first-night anchorage. A great all-weather location, it was occasionally used by the navy during World War II. The main anchorage, at Sawmill Beach, is off a shoaling sandy beach edged with the reef. Climb through the rainforest to the top of the 437-metre high Whitsunday Peak. Watch for majestic sea eagles swooping for small fish.

sailing vacation

Nara Inlet – Hook Island

Many people say Nara inlet is the best anchorage in the Whitsundays. Nara Inlet is a deep, fiord-like inlet stretching three kilometres with steep, heavily wooded embankments. It’s very protected and suitable as an overnight anchorage in all weather. At the end of the inlet, you can visit the Ngaro cultural site, a cave with the first Australian’s artwork dating back 9000 years and in the wet season, there are waterfalls to be enjoyed.

Sailor’s secret:
A good night’s sleep is guaranteed at Nara which locals say is the calmest and tranquil anchorage in the Whitsundays. Great for safe harbour during windy weather.

If there have been recent showers, small waterfalls tumble down the rocky faces and there are freshwater pools you can swim in. Keep an eye out for goats on the high rock faces.

Hill Inlet View Whitsundays walking tracks

Tongue Bay – Whitsunday Island

Tongue Bay is a well-protected anchorage giving charterers immediate access to a walking track up to the Hill Inlet lookout. Anchoring at Tongue Bay also gives access across the isthmus to beautiful Betty’s Beach and the Lookout Beach.

Swimming, beachcombing, sun-worshipping, or gently strolling up to the awesome lookouts will enable you to take your own unique photos (the patterns in the sands of Hill Inlet change with every tide), across the Inlet all the way down Whitehaven Beach, which of course is known internationally as one of the great beaches on the planet.

Sailor’s secret:
Walk in famous footsteps. The seaplane chase in the 2008 movie Fool’s Gold – about a couple searching for lost treasure – starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson was filmed here.

Access the walking trail to the viewing platform overlooking amazing Hill Inlet, one of the most spectacular views in the Whitsundays. Experience the picture-perfect turquoise waters and white silica sand that has become the trademark of the Whitsunday Islands. You’re likely to see lagoon rays and green sea turtles bobbing in the clear waters. It’s an incredible sunset location.

whitsunday beach

Langford Island

Langford Island Sandspit is incredibly unique and a great place to head to if you want to enjoy a day of relaxing, sun baking and snorkelling right off a stunning sandy beach. You can pick up a public mooring buoy for the day and then head to Stonehaven Bay where you can safely anchor for the night in a delightful ambience.

Sailor’s secret:
When the sun disappears, you’re guaranteed some stunning tropical sunset images. As it darkens, the lights of Hayman Island provide a twinkling backdrop to the Whitsunday skies.

Langford Island is a delightful day-time stopover with the reef and sand spit emerging at low tide and disappearing at high tide. The long sand spit is a great exploration, picnic and sunbathing spot. Diving is sensational with easy, beach-water entry – perfect for first-time scuba divers.

Best scuba diving is on the north-west end where scattered bommies offer an interesting maze. There are a few shallow walls at the island’s eastern end too. The abundant fish life is mostly small.

Blue Pearl Bay

Blue Pearl Bay – Hayman Island

Blue Pearl Bay is a popular spot with  several smaller beaches and rocky outcrops to explore.

Protected from North East, East and South East winds. Be mindful of where you anchor and look for the reef protection buoys. They don’t call this spot one of the best snorkelling locations in the Whitsundays for nothing!

Sailor’s secret:
Look for the shy and endangered Proserpine rock-wallaby which sometimes hides out in the bushy areas

Blue Pearl Bay offers a superb overnight anchorage and some of the best snorkelling and diving in the Whitsundays. The water is deep, just off the fringing reef, gradually shelving to the shore as it meanders around countless bommies and coral ledges. Snorkelling and diving is best around Dolphin Point. There is a channel which allows dinghy access to the beach – a great spot for beginner snorkellers to enter the water from shore.

Whitsunday Beaches chance bay

Chance Bay – Whitsunday Island

Chance Bay is a fantastic “out of the way” bay which gives you access to Whitehaven Beach via a walking trail. It’s a great place for kids, with shallow protected waters to explore.

Sailor’s secret:
If you’re visiting in the cooler months, watch for the dazzling white pied imperial pigeon which migrates from Papua New Guinea to lay a single egg.

A double bay with two beautiful sand beaches, there’s good snorkelling around the reef and the little islet on the western side. Part of the Ngaro Sea Trail leads from Chance Bay to Whitehaven Beach, passing through some of the Whitsunday’s finest forest and woodland, then joining the Solway Circuit track to Whitehaven.

Hook Island Stonehaven Whitsunday Island

Stonehaven – Hook Island

Stonehaven is an expansive three-kilometre long open bay with a mountain range to the east and the best sunsets in the Whitsundays on the west. It’s also a great anchorage becasue it’s close to many popular sights in the Whitsundays.

Sailor’s secret:
The pick of three anchorages for shelter during strong southerlies is between Ian Point and Anchor Point where there are public moorings.

There are some great snorkelling spots with interesting shallow diving and small marine life including damselfishes, Christmas-tree worms and nudibranches. Watch for dolphins frolicking or nosing around your boat at dusk. Visibility below water is very much controlled by the tides – check your 100 Magic Miles.

Butterfly Bay Whitsundays


Butterfly Bay – Hook Island

There are two reasons that this special spot has been named after a butterfly. First, butterfly’s are seen just in from the beach at certain times of year and secondly, from the air the bay looks like a butterfly wing.

A one-kilometre long, cosy bay which offers protection from south-east trade winds. There are public moorings situated to minimise impact to the reef in this sensitive ecological area. Butterfly Bay is another amazing snorkelling spot. The beach is beautiful to explore too.

Sailor’s secret:
Perfect for spotting the majestic blue Ulysses butterfly with a wingspan of up to nine centimetres. Butterflies can be seen from latitude 20°04’24 S and longitude 148°55’55 E.

Snorkel along the bayside of Alcyonaria Point, named for the abundance of that coral there, or go just off the beach and marvel at the many species of small colourful fish. If you venture ashore and explore the creeks at certain times of the year, the bush is clouded with thousands of blue butterflies.

Border Island

Cateran Bay – border island

Cateran Bay is a lovely hidden spot away from crowds. Border Island and the surrounding marine environment has been heavily protected for a long time meaning this is a great place to be immersed in a pristine tropical environment.

Sailor’s secret:
With its eucalypt forest and lush slopes, this remote and private bay on Border Island is a designated green zone. Put it on your itinerary if you’re looking for a romantic or secluded spot.

Cateran Bay is a great spot for lunch followed by a walk to the top of the grassy island ridge, Mosstrooper Peak and 360-degree views of the area.  On the northern side, the bay is protected from trade winds and offers excellent snorkelling. Public Moorings & Reef protection markers have been installed to prevent damage to the fringing reef.


There are, of course, many other recommended anchorages in the Whitsundays. When you charter a bareboat with us, we will ensure you can pull together a fantastic itinerary covering the best anchorages to match your interests and the wind conditions.

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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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