Winter in the Whitsundays: Races, Festivals & Whales

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Winter in the Whitsundays is a fantastic time of year. The weather is warm, and the Whitsunday region is abuzz with festivals, whales and the Hamilton Island / Airlie Beach race weeks.

 Winter in the Whitsundays is a season that locals look forward to. It’s the dry season, the weather is consistently beautiful, and there’s a buzz around town as visitors make the most of the sunshine while skipping the cold in the south.

On top of the ideal conditions, there are other reasons to enjoy winter in Queensland’s Whitsundays, such as Race Week, whale season and perfect sailing conditions.

Weather Conditions in a Whitsundays Winter

Winter in the Whitsundays is from June to August, with daytime temperatures ranging from 24 – 26 degrees Celsius. There is always plenty of winter sunshine! Rainfall is not an issue.

Water temperatures in winter are around 21°C. Locals will tell you this is too cold to swim, but they are spoiled! Winter is an excellent time of year to get in the water; it’s outside stinger season, and the water is beautiful.

Evenings in winter can be cooler than other times of the year, so we recommend that visitors pack a jumper and a light jacket if they plan to sail.

The sailing conditions are ideal in winter

Whitsundays experience more reliable south-south easterly trade winds in winter, which are great for sailing. The trade winds also make accessing popular anchorages such as Butterfly Bay, Cid Harbour and Nara Inlet reliably possible.

Winter Sunsets in the Whitsundays are the best

While the Whitsundays will always boast picturesque sunsets year round, they are an incredibly gorgeous spectacle during the winter. Dramatic hues of pinks, reds and orange light up the sky as the sun sets behind the island’s silhouettes.

Whitsundays Sunset Winter

Winter is Whale Season in the Whitsundays

Pods of humpback whales arrive in the Whitsundays’ warm waters from June to August. Pregnant mothers come to birth their calves and fatten them up. Fathers or young males frolic, searching for mates and protecting their pods, before returning to cooler waters in the spring.

Whales enjoy the lack of natural predators in the Whitsundays, allowing them to relax and play. This means you are very likely to see them breaching, jumping and slapping the water with their mighty tails as they enjoy their visit.

The best way to experience whales in the Whitsundays is from a tour boat or bareboat.

The boat’s propellers must be turned off if whales are sighted nearby. The whales may approach your boat but do not follow or approach them yourself. See the Queensland Government regulations on whale watching and visit our guide to whale watching post

Winter Whitsundays

Winter in the Whitsundays is Festival time!

Airlie Beach & Hamilton Island Race Weeks

If you charter in August, be prepared to also share the water with many racing enthusiasts who compete in Airlie Beach Race Week and Hamilton Island Race Week.

While it is wise to stay out of their way when competing, spectating these regattas from a safe distance is an unforgettable sight and can be pretty exciting. Brightly coloured spinnakers are hoisted and contrast beautifully against the backdrop of our turquoise water and islands. A camera and a set of binoculars are a must!

The Airlie Beach Race Week takes place in Pioneer Bay and The Whitsunday Passage waters. Race week brings with it loads of buzz and free entertainment. Spectators can check out the Whitsundays Festival of Sailing in town, which is free for all and has some fantastic and very loud music!

Hamilton Island Race Week, also in August, is Australia’s largest offshore sailing regatta. Again, the race week on Hamilton Island is not just about the sailing, with on-water and off-water carnival-style entertainment for all to enjoy.

Please note that during the Hamilton Island Race Week, those sailing the Whitsundays on a bareboat charter are unable to access the Hamilton Island Marina.

Hamilton Island Race Week
Photo Credit Salty Dog Media

The Airlie Beach Festival of Music

The Airlie Beach Festival of Music in 2023 runs from the 12th – 19th November. The festival attracts renowned local and international bands to set the stage on fire and deliver world-class entertainment.

The Great Barrier Reef Festival

The Great Barrier Reef Festival in August is a family favourite. It combines entertainment, carnival rides, markets and food stalls with celebrating the Great Barrier Reef and educating on environmental impacts in the Whitsundays region.

The Reef Festival is about bringing the community together, so there are a lot of family-friendly, free activities to enjoy. From the Friday Night Fireworks and Live Music to the Revvin the Reef Car Show, Family Fun Day, and Comedy Gala, there is something for everyone.

The Don River Dash

You don’t need to be a rev-head to enjoy the spectacle of loud machines and dust at “The Don”. The Don River Dash is awesome to watch! Pull up a spectator spot alongside the track and watch the pumped-up off-road buggies and bikes racing along the riverbed.

The Don runs in early September over two days from the Bowen Showgrounds.

The Whitsundays Art Festival

The Whitsunday Art Festival celebrates local artists in designated venues and along the foreshore in the Fairy Tree Park in late September. There are exhibitions with art prizes, market stalls, workshops, and many performing arts to enjoy. 

The Hamilton Island Endurance Series

The Hamilton Island Endurance Series spans four endurance events in  November. Contestants can choose to do one event or participate in them all. Events include The Hamilton Hilly Half Marathon, Great Whitehaven Beach Run, Hamilton Island Triathlon and Hamilton Island Ocean Swim.

The festival hub and recovery area is at Catseye Beach on Hamilton Island.

For further information on exact event dates in The Whitsundays, check out the Tourism Whitsundays What’s on page.

Book ahead to charter a bareboat in the Whitsundays Winter

Winter is one of our most popular bareboat charter periods, especially over the school holidays. If you’re dreaming of a Whitsunday holiday in winter or want to time your charter with a festival, book ahead (even a year in advance!) to avoid disappointment.

If you plan on timing your charter around catching one of the festivals, be sure to book your Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island accommodation in advance as well.

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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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