If you are wondering how to explore the Whitsunday islands, a sailing trip is probably the best idea! We spent 48h sailing the Whitsundays from Airlee beach. It took us to Whitehaven beach and Betty’s beach, Hill Inlet, and other cool snorkeling spots.
How to get to the Whitsundays
The archipelago of Whitsundays is in tropical north Queensland, the beautiful region where rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef on the east coast of Australia. It is made up of 74 islands (most of them uninhabited) surrounded by a colorful coral reef.
Only four of them offer accommodations. One of them is Hamilton Island, known for its luxury hotels and infrastructure. It is also the only island in the Whitsundays to have an airport.
The other airport is the Proserpine Airport, about 4h far from Sydney and Melbourne and 1.5h from Brisbane. It probably has more flight connections and better offers.
From Proserpine you can reach the picturesque little town of Airlie Beach (pronounced air-lee) in about half an hour by bus. At the airport, you can easily find shuttle services but it is best to book your ticket online.
Sailing trip to the Whitsundays from Airlee Beach
Airlie Beach is the starting point of many different boat trips to the Whitsundays islands and Whitehaven Beach, the most spectacular and popular beach of the Whitsundays.
There are many tourism agencies in town that offer deals but it is strongly recommended to book your sailing trip to the Whitsundays in advance in order to be sure to be able to take the trip.
Which boat for a sailing trip to the Whitsundays islands?
You will be able to book different boat to the Whitsundays islands. From private chartered boat that allow you to be very intimate and decide on the itinerary to big party boats going to the Whitsundays islands. Those party boats can host about 30 people (crowd is then mostly teenagers) but I would suggest you to go on a more intimate boat with 10 people maximum.
How long should I plan to explore the Whitsundays?
With faster boats you will be able to reach Whitehaven on a 1-day trip from Airlie beach. To fully enjoy the sailing adventure in the Whitsundays, I would recommend to choose a boat going for a few days and nights. The archipelago has stunning nature and sleeping under the stars on your sailing boat is a once in a lifetime adventure. Beside this, there are plenty of activities like snorkeling, stand-up paddling, etc to do while exploring the Whitsundays archipelago.
Can I go on a boat trip to the Whitsundays if I am sea sick?
There are not big waves, sailing on Whitsundays is pretty calm and smooth.
2 days itinerary sailing trip on the Whitsundays
Day 1 – Whitsunday passage, the Mole group of islands and sunset on Hook island
On the first day, we sailed across the Whitsunday Passage, pass the Mole group of islands, before arriving at Hook island in the evening where we stopped to enjoy a stunning sunset and to prepare for the night. Evenings on a boat are magically silent. The only noise you will hear is the sound of the many tropical birds living on the islands all around. After an amazing dinner on the sea, we just relaxed watching the thousands stars above us.
The next day, we woke up at sunrise to enjoy another spectacular show of colors reflected on the sea and we finally headed to Whitehaven Beach.
Day 2 – Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet
The incredible panorama of this beach will leave you speechless!
Whitehaven is a wilderness and wide beach made of pure silica sand (coming from eroding quartz) which makes the landscape extremely bright and the color of the water from crystal to many shades of blues.
The void of rocks and shell contributes to make the scenario even more unique. It is literally a huge field of whitest quartz powder. Thanks to its composition, the sand is soft to walk on and it stays cool even on the hottest days. Protect your camera and smartphones as the fine sand is very easy to sneak in.
As it is part of Great Barrier Reef National Marine Authority, it is absolutely not allowed to bring home the sand as souvenir and you can only reach the beach with an authorized tour.
In the water, you can easily spot stingrays and non-aggressive baby sharks (the shallow and calm waters are in fact used as nursery). From October till May be careful of the Box jellyfish (they can be deadly). Because it is very shallow, it is not particular suitable for swimming. There is a little hidden beach though, at the very end of the left side: Betty’s Beach. Betty’s beach is a less known part of Whitehaven where you can easily swim.
Anecdote : You can see Whitehaven beach in one of the scenes of the last “Pirate of the Caribbean” movie.
On the Hill Inlet Lookout, you can admire the spectacular 7km shallow inlet. The view is breathtaking. You can see the beautiful spiral layers creating by the fusion of the blue of the water and the dazzling white sand. The lookout can get quite crowed, so it is better to go early to avoid the other tourists.
Leaving behind Whitehaven paradise is not easy, but back on board to continue our Catamaran trip through the Whitesundays islands!
Other less known highlights of our 3 days sailing the Whitsundays
It is hard to beat the beauty of Whitehaven, but we had another couple of highlights during this 48h boat trip to the Whitsunday islands :
- Mantaray Bay, that was perfect for snorkelling to see colorful tropical fish and meet “George”, the massive and very friendly Maori Wrasse who likes to calmly swim among visitors
- Black Island Reef, another snorkeling where if you are lucky enough you can spot turtles and dolphin
- Hook Island where we could do paddling in the bluest water and a beautiful landscape You can get quite close to the shore and observe from close the island’s vegetation and see stingrays!
This was our itinerary of our sailing trip to the Whitsundays. I recommend you fully to also live this once in a lifetime experience!