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The Whitsundays: Sailing In A Blue Paradise

Does the thought of sailing around Australia's Great Barrier Reef sound tempting? A maze of 74 islands and islets offering innumerable anchorages looking out over exceptional beaches await you, and all sat atop a unique giant aquarium. Let's head for the Whitsundays…


When you think about Australia, there are immediately certain images that come to mind: kangaroos; the arid outback; Sydney Opera House and… The Great Barrier Reef. This area is considered to be one of the seven wonders of the natural world. It stretches for over 2600km off the coast of Queensland and is made up of over 2900 reefs and 900 islands… The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living biogenic structure in the world and is even visible from space. For the record, the first European to set foot in the reef was Captain James Cook… when his boat was grounded on the reef!   

The Whitsundays are situated around the middle of the Queensland coast; about 900km north of Brisbane and right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. The archipelago is one of the favored destinations for Australians, who come to enjoy the incredible flora and fauna that the 74 islands have to offer. Only 17 of the islands are inhabited. Most of them are part of the Whitsunday Islands National Park, which means that access, anchoring, fishing and diving are strictly controlled.   

The "heart" of the Whitsundays is Hamilton Island, which is known around the world for its sailing week where the great and the good of the yachting world come to race, and where you can also watch migrating whales with their young… 

If you catch the right time-although you can sail in the Whitsundays all year round- the whales come to give birth in these particularly rich and fish-filled waters. Between June and October it's possible to sail amid the whales and their young, but you can also swim with turtles, watch the dolphins cavorting around your bows, admire the sea eagles, or just marvel at the incredible colors of the reefs and the fish that live there. Snorkeling is in fact one of the things that you have to do when in the Whitsundays, and at each new anchorage you'll want to do just one thing: dive in, get snorkeling, and discover a real-life aquarium. The fishing is also good, and given the amount of fish in the water, you're guaranteed a meal each time. You just need to be aware of any protected zones in the National Park, and make sure you set off with the right bait…   

The area covered by the Whitsundays is vast enough for you to sail for 10 to 15 days. However, if you're from Europe, Asia or North America, make sure you take time to see all of the other wonders that Australia has to offer its visitors. The island continent needs time if it is to be discovered and appreciated properly.  


You have 74 islands to choose from, all usually one to two hours sailing from the next one: this is your playground where you can have a cruising vacation that you will never forget. We asked Christophe Vanek, manager of the Dream Yacht Charter base in the Whitsundays for a few tips to help make the most of this destination. 

The ideal time for sailing in the Whitsundays is from July through October, in the southern winter. The weather is sunny and dry, and the south east wind, blowing at around 15-20 knots allows you to really make the most of the boat that you have chartered. The snorkeling is exceptional all over the northern Whitsundays (Hayman Island, Hook Island and Border Island). You must not miss Whitehaven beach (on Whitsunday Island), with its incredibly fine white sand, before discovering the much wilder islands to the south of Hamilton.  

Here's Christophe's proposition for a 15 day itinerary. Of course you must take into account the local weather conditions…

Day 1

Airlie Beach / Cid Harbour

Day 2

Cid Harbour / Neck Bay

Day 3

Neck Bay / Thomas Island

Day 4

Thomas Island / Palm Bay

Day 5

Palm Bay / Whitehaven Beach

Day 6

Whitehaven Beach / Hamilton Island

Day 7

Hamilton Island / Cateran Bay

Day 8

Cateran Bay / Macona Inlet

Day 9

Macona Inlet / Stonehaven

Day 10

Stonehaven via Langford / Blue Pearl Bay

Day 11

Blue Pearl Bay / Butterfly Bay

Day 12

Butterfly Bay / Nara Inlet

Day 13

Nara Inlet / Happy Bay

Day 14

Happy Bay / Mays Bay

Day 15

Mays Bay / Airlie Beach


- FORMALITIES: With the exception of Australians and New Zealanders all travelers must have a visa to enter Australia as well as a current passport. Visas are free and allow for a 3 month stay. You must request it at least 2 weeks before your departure. 

- GETTING THERE: There are two airports close to the Whitsundays. The first is on Hamilton Island (Great barrier Reef Airport (HTI) and Prosperine Airport (PPP)). They are both very accessible thanks to internal flights from most of the major Australian cities.   

- HEALTH: There are no obligatory vaccinations, and the health service is very good. Watch out for jellyfish which can be dangerous from late November through April. To avoid any problems you will need to swim in a wetsuit… 

- WEATHER: The southern winter is the ideal time for sailing in the Whitsundays. From June until October is the best time to go. The south east winds at around 15-20 knots are already well set, and facilitate sailing. It's also the time of the year when the whales are around. January to April is the monsoon season. However, you can sail all year round in the Whitsundays, and in fact the charter bases are open all year. 

- SAILING CONDITIONS: Charts, buoyage and weather forecasting are all spot on. It is forbidden to sail at night with a charter boat, or to sail to the Great Barrier Reef without an authorized skipper. If you would like to discover this wonder of the world, talk to your charter company.  

- CURRENCY: Australian dollar. Credit cards are accepted everywhere. 

- CHARTER COMPANIES IN SITU Dream yacht Charter - Sunsail - Cumberland Charter Yachts - Charter Yachts Australia - Whitsunday Luxury Catamarans - Whitsunday Rent Yacht - Whitsunday Catamarans - Whitsunday Escape -

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