in June and July
The islands lie just off the Queensland coast and offer calm and protected waters and a huge selection of anchorages. You have access to over 90 different islands in the National Park all fringed with coral reef. Whitehaven Beach is regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches and a must see for all travellers in this area and is easily accessed by boat from a protected anchorage a short walk away. Along with the golden sandy beaches that you would expect, the Whitsundays boast unparalleled fringing reefs, making them a delight for snorkelers and diving enthusiasts. Tropical fish and turtles are abundant, and frequent sightings of dolphins and humpback whales are only a few of the marvels you are likely to experience here.
Summers are warm with frequent rain showers and winters are said by many to be the perfect climate – warm by day and cool by night. All the major central islands lie within 2 to 15 nautical miles of the mainland – from 1 to 3 hours sailing from Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island. They are all within sight of each other, separated by distances from about 0.5 to 5 Nautical Miles. The lesser frequented southern islands extend some thirty miles off shore and are up to 15 miles apart. Delightful secluded mainland bays are within 2 hours cruising north of Airlie Beach. Navigating about is therefore extremely easy, usually only by visual means, guided by the supplied charts and reference book – 100 Magic Miles. Rarely is it necessary to plot and steer a compass course. Situated on the same latitude as Tahiti, you can expect sunny tropical weather all year round, with temperatures seldom below 20°C even in the winter months. The South-east trade winds usually blow slightly stronger from March to May at about 20 knots. Lighter E-NE breezes September-December. July is the coolest time, January the warmest. Good anchorages are plentiful and varied. This is a great trip for sailing newcomers and families. You can swim in the Whitsunday waters but jellyfish are an issue and we recommend wearing a full length lycra suit (available locally) during the higher risk period (October – May) which reduces the risk of stings and is great sun protection too.
International access to the Whitsundays is via connecting flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Cairns International airports. Daily domestic flights fly in to Proserpine on the mainland coast if you’re embarking from Airlie Beach and to Hamilton Island if you’re embarking from Hamilton Island. If you decide to embark from Hamilton, it’s best to order provisions in advance as options on the islands are very limited.
DAY 1: Area and boat briefing at Airlie Beach Marina. Lunchtime departure for Nara Inlet (13nm). Explore waterfalls, Aboriginal caves and ancient rock
DAY 2: Sail across the Whitsunday Passage to Cid Harbour (8nm) or Gulnare Inlet (14nm). Quiet and peaceful with wonderful wildlife, bush walks and delicious rock oysters. Cid Harbour is a very large harbour and one of the all-weather anchorages of the Whitsundays.
DAY 3: Set sail for spectacular Whitehaven Beach (10nm) and enjoy miles of soft, white silica sand beaches. Whitehaven is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. If Whitehaven is crowded, anchor at Chalkies which also has a magnificent beach.
DAY 4: Cruise over to Hamilton Island for fresh supplies or to top up water tanks. Experience a change of pace in the busy marina and a choice of restaurants and bars.
DAY 5: Reach up to Cateran Bay on Border Island for great snorkelling. Border Island is one of the outlying Islands and reef protection buoys have been installed to prevent further damage to the island’s excellent fringing reef.
DAY 6: Short sail to Butterfly Bay on Hook Island. Use the dinghy for more snorkelling or onshore visits. The reef and sand beaches here offer excellent exploring. Watch out for Sting rays when you walk on the sand flats (shuffle your feet).
DAY 7: Take a leisurely cruise around the Hayman Island area or southwards across the Whitsunday Passage to South Molle Island or Palm Bay to celebrate the last night of a great cruise!
DAY 8: Return to marina.
Day 1: Hamilton Island
If you have time before you leave, consider heading further inland to a fifty-acre park that offers the quintessential Australian experience. You can get up close and personal with kangaroos, koalas, goannas and plenty of other indigenous wildlife.
Day 2: Nara Inlet, Hook Island
No visit to Nara Inlet should be without a trip through the bush to the Aboriginal cave shelters and magnificent waterfall. In the steep wooded hills surrounding the inlet are the overhanging caves, which show the signs of Aboriginal habituation going back some eight thousand years. Bordered on both sides by piles of shells and decorated with intricate markings and paintings these slices of ancient history are worthy of a stop. Afterwards go to Hook underwater observatory where descend 9 meters below the ocean to view the amazing coral reef and its aquatic inhabitants.
Day 3: Blue Peal Bay, Hayman Island
Blue Pearl Bay has some of the best snorkelling on offer in all the Whitsundays. Big game fishing is also an attractive activity here and if you cast out your line you might just catch a legendary black marlin, sailfish or bluefin tuna. Take a walk through the tropical gardens and see the variety of birds, which inhabit the island, from White cockatoos to painted lorikeets, kookaburras and kingfishers. If you’re lucky you might even just catch sight of the Proserpine rock wallabies.
Day 4: Butterfly Bay, Hook Island
This uninhabited bay is a designated green zone and a World Heritage site. With some hard corals, giant Maori wrasse, schools of parrotfish, rainbows of reef fish and majestic Manta rays to see on your travels you’ll need your underwater camera to remind you of all the colourful marine life you’ve seen. When you surface for air, take to your kayak and head ashore for a leisurely picnic underneath the dappled shade of a mangrove tree.
Day 5: Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island
Explore this exquisite stretch of immaculate tropical sand by private helicopter, seaplane, ferry, yacht or feel the soft, warm sand between your toes as you take a walk along this 7 kilometre highlight. Head for the northern end of the beach where you’ll find Hill Inlet, one of Whitehaven’s best-kept secrets. It’s a stunning bay where when the tide shifts the sands and water, which collide and swirl together creating a beautiful fusion of colours.
Day 6: Palm Bay Long Island
Take advantage of the bay’s exclusive resort, Pepper Palm Bay. Here you can play a game of tennis, treat yourself to an afternoon at the spa, or laze by the pool. Consider dining onshore at the resort’s signature La Riviera restaurant for a delicious meal before heading back on board.
Day 7: Hamilton Island