As far as holiday-destinations go, the Whitsunday Islands are as clichéd as tropical paradises can be. With water temperatures a welcoming 25°C year-round, this spectacular group of 74 islands (66 of which are uninhabited) off Queensland’s central coast boasts mild winter days that average a balmy 24°C and long summer days reaching a tolerable 30°C.
Countless stunning beaches and secluded bays await those exploring the relatively calm and easy-to-navigate waters by boat. And while island-hopping cruises through crystal-clear water under clear blue skies are what most visitors come for, the Whitsundays also cater for travellers chasing an action-packed adventure.
For those who find sipping cocktails on white beaches drenched in sunshine a little tame, there’s skydiving or Tiger Moth aerobatic adventures out of Shute Harbour, extreme PWC tours, exhilarating Ocean Rafting vessel rides, crocodile safaris, and even fishing charters chasing marlin and other pelagic fish – not to mention the Great Barrier Reef that’s just a short cruise away, with its own itinerary of experiences just waiting to be enjoyed.
Guests enjoying one of Queensland Yacht Charters’ Whitsundays sailing holidays, on the other hand, simply hop aboard a chartered sailing catamaran that’s fully equipped with galley equipment, linen and towels, and navigation gear. All that’s left to do upon their arrival is stock the boat with provisions and drinks and sail away into the sunset.
From there, it’s just a matter of laying back and soaking up the serenity!
Queensland Yacht Charters (QYC) is conveniently based at Abell Point Marina, Airlie Beach … the ‘gateway’ to the Whitsundays. Before casting off, guests are briefed by QYC’s experienced team on everything they need to know about their catamaran, including navigation, mooring and anchoring procedures, safety gear, and practical boat handling. A boat licence isn’t required for a yacht charter in the Whitsundays, but a little sailing experience can be helpful … failing that, the QYC team can offer a brief training session.
A member of global charter company Dream Yacht Charter, QYC has provided countless boating enthusiasts with unforgettable holidays aboard their bareboat yacht charters since 1980. And while a bareboat charter means you board the boat without a crew, QYC is happy to arrange for guided charters and offers the services of an accomplished sailing crew and even cooks at an additional fee.
CRUISE AT YOUR LEISURE
While the itinerary is, of course, up to guests, we thought a little inspiration of how five nights in the beautiful Whitsundays could be spent wouldn’t go astray.
Sailing (or motoring) out of Airlie Beach, Nara Inlet on Hook Island is a short, 13nm cruise away. It’s a very sheltered anchorage in a deep, fjord-like inlet surrounded by lush green slopes and offering refuge even in windy weather. A short walk to a magnificent waterfall takes visitors past Aboriginal cave shelters with ancient cave paintings. Other possible activities include fishing and diving, or maybe just unwinding at the end of your first day. Then, as you settle in for a night at anchor with a meal sizzling as you pour a cold beverage, gaze up at the bright canopy of stars and pinch yourself …
Then it’s just a short island hop over to Hayman Island, the most northerly island in the group, with a scenic cruise along Hook Island’s stunning coast and past several reefs that are well worth a stop to go snorkeling or diving.
Hayman is privately owned, but open to the public, and is famous for its luxury resort first built by Reg Ansett in the 1950s and recently reopened after extensive redevelopment. On the north-western side of the island, Blue Pearl Bay offers some of the best snorkeling and diving sites in the Whitsundays, with beautiful coral gardens teeming with fish. Find a place to anchor and go for a stroll through the island’s magnificent tropical bushland and gardens, or book in at one of the resort’s luxurious restaurants for dinner before heading back aboard for sundowners to plan the next day’s adventure.
One could also continue southwards to Whitsunday Island and sail along its eastern coast to spend a castaway day at Whitehaven Beach. Voted Best Beach in the South Pacific (and ranked ninth on the world beaches list) by travel site TripAdvisor’s 2015 Travellers’ Choice Awards, dazzling Whitehaven Beach boasts 7km of pristine, white silica sand and warm turquoise water. Head to the northern end of the beach where you’ll find Hill Inlet, a stunning bay where the tides shift the white sand to form beautiful changing patterns. It’s best viewed from the outlook that’s just a short walk through the bushland.
Or if you’d rather not venture that far, Daydream Island, in the Molle Group of islands, is one of the closest destinations to the mainland and, while home to an island resort and spa, the southern end of the island is open to day visitors, too. There’s a man-made lagoon and live reef where visitors can wade amongst sea creatures and experience the wonders of the ocean up close, a litany of beach activities and, of course, all the amenities the resort and spa have to offer.
The most developed island of the group, Hamilton Island, is well worth a visit. With a large and well-serviced marina, it’s worth spending a night or two here and experiencing the many restaurants and bars at the various resorts on the island. There are also a few walking trails and Catseye Beach is a great place to stake a claim to a deck chair and just watch the world drift by.
Wherever the wind takes those lucky enough to find themselves in the Whitsundays, they’re sure to have an unforgettable holiday aboard a Queensland Yacht Charters bareboat catamaran.
To find out more about Queensland Yacht Charters, go to: yachtcharters.com.au.