Ultimate Guide to Sailing Holidays in the Whitsundays

admin on March 14th, 2024

Sailing Whitsundays - An Overview

The Allure of Sailing in the Whitsundays

Let’s jump in and explore the reasons why the Whitsundays is recognised as Australia’s number one destination for sailing holidays. The first thing that is very obvious to all, is the stunning natural beauty of the 74 islands and the waters and beaches that surround them, the multitude of diverse marine environments, the world-class attractions like Whitehaven Beach, Heart Reef, Chalkies Beach, Bali Hai, Nara Inlet, Butterfly Bay, and of course the marine animals that call the Great Barrier Reef home. Secondly the Whitsundays is a safe destination with many lagoons and inlets where visitors can moor their yachts to hide from any inclement weather or just jump off the yacht to explore the local islands, mountains, and beaches.

How to Choose the Best Whitsunday Sailing Holiday

When booking your sailing holiday, you firstly need to understand the different types of sailing holidays available in the Whitsundays, from one day sailing tours to overnight and multi-night liveaboard adventures and private charter yachts. You need to decide if you wish to join an 18 – 35’s party boat, an adult only sailing boat or book your very own private charter sailing boat with a skipper and crew to look after your every need. Do you wish to have all the toys on the yacht or are you wanting to just focus on snorkelling and scuba diving and maybe some island exploration? How many other people do you wish to spend your time with on a yacht? Look at the number of cabins or bunks and decide from there if you wish for a party or a quiet relaxing holiday with just your family or friends. You need to also think about your personal skill level with all these in-water activities that are on offer with each yacht.

Barrier Reef Australia Blog

Before you decide to book that sailing holiday in the Whitsundays you may wish to learn a little more about the destination. If you follow this link to the Barrier Reef Australia Blog you can read all the tips and hints on the places to see, how long it takes to get there, things to do, things to see along with many more activities once you have completed your yachting holiday. This blog is updated regularly with all the latest information to keep our visitors informed and inspired.  

One-Day Sailing Tours

Experiencing the Whitsundays in a Day

One day sailing tours depart from both Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach taking visitors to see iconic locations such as Hill Inlet, Whitehaven Beach, Langford Island, Chalkies Beach, and other locations for a bit of snorkelling and scuba diving. These one-day sailing tours offer a fun packed itinerary that allows you to experience the main highlights of the Whitsundays in just one day and be back in Airlie Beach or on Hamilton Island before sunset.

Here are a few of the one day sailing options from:-

Airlie Beach

Hamilton Island

  • Explore – Whitehaven Beach – Snorkelling Tour

When is the Best Time to Go Sailing in the Whitsundays?

When is the best time to go and book a holiday to go sailing in the Whitsundays is a question you may ask but the answer always depends on a number of factors such as when you can come to the Whitsundays, the availability of space on a yacht and the current weather conditions. You could also wish to time your sailing holiday to coincide with the migrations of marine life such as the humpback whales during the months of May to September, during turtle nesting season from November to March, around the coral spawning season in November and December, yachting races and other seasonal attractions and events that are happening in the Whitsunday Islands. The Whitsundays are open all year round for sailing holidays and there is always enough pleasant wind to keep those spinnakers flying.

Overnight Liveaboard Whitsundays Sailing Adventures

The Magic of Overnight Sailing in the Whitsundays

Introducing the unique experience of overnight sailing in the Whitsundays, sleeping under the stars, or under the water and being rocked to sleep, exploring the islands at a leisurely pace and waking up to breathtaking sunrises on the water.

For anyone visiting the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsundays for the first time our team cannot recommend highly enough that you book an overnight or multi-night liveaboard sailing holiday. The reason being as on a day tour you only get a glimpse of a small section of the Whitsundays, and you are normally surrounded by other visitors and all the business that goes with it. On a sailing holiday you are sailing to multiple locations where you will not see another boat and have beaches and reefs all to yourselves to explore.  

About Overnight Sailing

Sleeping on the reef is a dream of many and here in the Whitsundays its an achievable reality for all types of visitors to Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. The yachts will sail to the last destination of the day mid-afternoon and find a safe place for guests to play in the waters and anchor for a calm evening’s sleep tucked in behind a reef, inside an island bay or sheltered on the northern side of an island.

If anchoring near an island you can jump off the yacht and explore a headland to sit and watch as the sun sets over the 74 islands of the Whitsundays and then make your way back to the yacht for a nice dinner and convivial chatter with your fellow sailors. Once the dinner is out of the way guests are normally topside and watch as the marine life are attracted to the yachts underwaters lights and splash about with their nightly business.

Some boats have party nights whilst others such as adults only yachts may play some board games, or just lay up on deck stargazing and look for comets as they flash by.  Boats in the Whitsundays do not travel at night due to safety reasons. 

View all 24 liveaboard and overnight Whitsundays sailing holiday options that depart from Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach here.

Preparing for Your Whitsundays Sailing Adventure

When packing for a Whitsundays sailing holiday keep in mind that your luggage will be limited due to lack of storage space on the yachts. If you are travelling with a large hard suitcase, you can book it into one of the many storage places in Airlie Beach and just take a soft sided bag onto the sailboat for your holiday with a minimum number of items you will need for a beach holiday where most of your time will be spent in your swimmers and sarongs.

Make sure you pack personal medications and advise the crew if you have prescription medicines that need to be refrigerated or if you have an illness, they need to be aware of.

Pack some beach shoes for island exploration, reef safe sunscreen, snacks if you have a particular craving for certain foods and maybe even a musical instrument if you feel like entertaining other guests.

Sole Charter Whitsundays Sailing Holidays

The Ultimate Private Charter Yacht Experience

Have you thought about getting a group of friends together to explore the exclusivity and flexibility of sole charter sailing holidays, where you can tailor your itinerary to your desires, from secluded coves to vibrant reefs and island exploration? If not, you should as there are a number of private charter yachts that range in price, amenities, size and departure points that are sure to fit in with you and your group or families Whitsundays sailing holiday plans.  Explore our extensive range of fully crewed, Whitsundays sailing and charter yachts:

From Airlie Beach

From Hamilton Island

Sunset Cruises in the Whitsundays on a Yacht

Booking a spot on a sunset cruise can either signal the end of a magnificent day on the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays or it can be just the beginning of an evening done the right way. Spend 1.5 – 2 hours cruising around off Hamilton Island or Airlie Beach and watch as the skyline changings its hues of colours before you and dazzles across the shimmering water. Most sunset cruises offer guests a complimentary drink on arrival and the option to purchase more as the boat sails along in the breeze. Snacks and hors d’ oeuvres are also served to satisfy pre-dinner hunger pains. A bit of music always adds to the good vibes to get the party started or some yachts just prefer to just let the wind create the ambience.  Here are a few sunset cruising sailing options:-

From Airlie Beach

From Hamilton Island

  • Explore – 1.5 hours Sunset cruise

Choosing Your Whitsundays Sailing Vessel

When booking your sailing holiday, you need to firstly make a list of your goals on the things you want to see, places you want to go, the number of nights you wish to book and the number of other guests you wish to spend your time with on the yacht.

Some of the Whitsundays sail boats specialise in Adults Only, Scuba Diving or just Snorkelling or a combination of both. And you can also book a Private Charter Yacht, so you do not have to share anything with anyone else at all and have a full crew look after your every need and want whilst sailing in the Whitsundays.

Cabin configurations are a big deciding factor as are the amenities such as air-conditioning and the in-water toys. The sailing locations are also a factor to consider.

You also need to look at the time of year as prices may change during special events and public holidays. And you should also book as far in advance as possible also to ensure you can book the right sailboat to suit the goals you initially set for your yachting holiday.  

Sail boats for overnight liveaboards mostly depart from Airlie Beach with only one yacht departing from Hamilton Island.

Tips for a Personalised Adventure

When booking your sailing holiday firstly consult with the highly experienced team at Barrier Reef Australia as they have been advising guests on the right options for holidays on the Great Barrier Reef for over 20 years and as they are locals, they are aware of all the latest details and opportunities at hand. As mentioned above set out your personal goals for your yachting holiday first and then ask them to point you in the direction of those yachts that can fulfill your holiday dreams.

If you are planning on going to Cairns take a look at these sailing liveaboard options. 

And if it is a luxury yacht charter you may prefer see YOTSPACE.

Essential Information for Sailors

Things to Know Before You Go

Make sure you pack lightly so that there is enough storage space in your cabin for your personal items. Ensure you pack items to protect you from the elements and if carrying items like sunscreen and such ensure it is ocean friendly and does not damage or pollute our oceans. Please try to not carry any solid glass items like perfume bottles etc as they can be a dangerous hazard on a yacht. You are not permitted to carry anything that may also be inflammable and that may mean personal hygiene items that can be replaced by roll on containers.

If you are a smoker you may have to ask the captains permission on where and when you may be able to smoke and under no circumstance are you to be able to vape without the captain’s approval. This is for the safety of all passengers and crew on the yacht.

There are to be no items tossed overboard into the ocean at any time and this includes food waste.

Sailing Etiquette and Best Practices

When on a yacht in the Whitsundays there are rules and regulations set in place to keep both humans and the environment safe, and on a yacht the captain is always the master of the ship and is to be obeyed if they are giving orders based on emergency and safety procedures.

You must always consider other guests and in return they will give you the same consideration. Social distancing may apply at times and guests are not to enter other guests’ cabins unless they are booked in that same cabin.

Again, the captain is the master of the vessel, and their orders are to be followed at all times.

There is to be no standing on fragile corals, no breaking off pieces of coral, no chasing of marine life and no touching of marine life. 

You can be charged a considerable fine if caught damaging the Great Barrier Reef or pursuing the marine life.

Set Sail for a Whitsundays Adventure

Now you have a bit more of an insight into sailing holidays in the Whitsundays are you ready to book?

We have a catalogue of all the fully crewed shared charter yachts, sole charter yachts, adults only yacht holidays and party boat holidays.

View all the Whitsundays sailing holidays right here and if you have any further questions, you can reach out to our team at any time and ask questions.

Read more about other Great Barrier Reef tours.  And all the iconic places you simply must visit.



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