The Whitsundays are a group of islands located on the coast of Queensland. Sailing The Whitsundays is one of the best travel experiences I’ve had to date and a definite highlight of Australia.
If you have stumbled across this guide, you are more than likely contemplating a trip to the famous Whitsundays. If that is the case – if you’re even considering visiting these islands… DO IT! Seriously. You will not regret it, that I say with confidence.
I have so much to tell you about this adventure, and so much to show you. The below guide covers what to expect from your itinerary and packing essentials. This should be plenty of information to get you started! Let’s dive right in.
Choosing Your Whitsundays Tour
Like any great adventure, you need to start by deciding on your mode of transport. If you really want to get to know The Whitsundays, you’ll want to do so by boat. And for this, you’ll need to decide on a sailing tour company.
There are many different companies to choose from so I strongly advise that you do your research. I naively booked my Whitsundays tour with Mike when we first arrived in Melbourne. Which was only around 6 weeks prior to actually embarking on the tour. Do not do this. We later discovered that everyone else on our trip had booked months in advance. So we were extremely lucky to have snagged a couple of spots. For this kind of trip, you really want to avoid disappointment and plan ahead.
I must warn you that sailing The Whitsundays does not come cheap. But the prices aren’t totally preposterous. If you’re exploring the whole East Coast of Australia, as I did, you’ll most likely have mapped out a few key activities you want to do that cost a little more. This is one of them, so set some budget aside. As I said, Mike and I didn’t plan ahead, and it seemed a little on the pricey side when I first heard the figure. Lesson learned.
The trip we booked onto was
only 2 nights/3 days in total, but it’s important to remember that you wake up when the sun rises so the days are long. You are sleeping on a boat, after all!
Who You’ll Be Travelling With
A lot of Whitsundays trips targeting 20-year-olds+ are marketed as party packages. Not exactly my vibe. I left that version of myself behind in Zante a fair few years ago and though the memories are fond… I have no desire to relive them. Especially if I’m forking out for an exceptional experience halfway across the world. What about you?
The party packages actually fall into the same price range as the tour we opted for. With
the added bonus of foam party’s, crude drinking games, and a little more nudity than you bargained for. That being said, there are plenty of other options out there.
Mike and I booked onto the ‘Powerplay‘ excursion. A decision we do not regret. Powerplay is marketed as a couples and single-girls-only boat (sorry gents). I suppose they think this means slightly calmer clientele, as opposed to the group on the ‘Spank Me’ boat. (I’m serious, this boat exists. Please let me know if you tried it).
If you don’t want to sail The Whitsundays, there are alternatives out there. Especially if you’re not too worried about the budget. Thinking of staying on one of the islands? The most direct mode of transport would be to charter a helicopter or seaplane. And if you are budget conscious? You can always opt for a day trip.
Details on the Powerplay Catamaran
As mentioned above, we opted for the Powerplay sailing tour – a tour that included many benefits. Contrary to the party boat, we had an onboard jacuzzi, 2 trampoline nets to laze about on, and an exceptional crew. The crew even prepare all your meals for you as part of the package deal. I know, I know, it just keeps on getting better!
Other features of the catamaran include:
- Private cabins: There aren’t many of these so be sure to snap yours up. Otherwise, you’ll end up sleeping on the top deck with your fellow sailors.
- A shower: 30-second showers are permitted per person, per day. Mainly to rinse off excess saltwater.
- Snorkelling gear: No need to worry about bringing your own.
- Scuba diving gear: There is an added fee for scuba diving, but it’s always nice to have options!
- Paddle Boards: For obvious fun related reasons
- Underwater blue lights: At night you can see the amazing creatures that come out to play. Apparently, some people partake in night time snorkelling sessions, but I can’t see myself signing up for that one anytime soon…
Our Catamaran tour consisted of 18 guests and 3 crew members. As previously mentioned, the guests aboard the Powerplay are usually couples/calm individuals. For our trip at least, this wasn’t the case. The couple part I mean. We were actually the only couple on board, so don’t worry about third-wheeling! We had quite a diverse bunch. There were a few siblings, a few solo female travellers, a group of friends, and a family (no young children though).
As for the crew, we had our skipper, one regular crew member and one trainee crew member. The entire crew were incredibly fun and friendly. They were professional and informative, teaching us about the islands, the wildlife and the history of the area. They were also just amazingly kind, cooking and cleaning for us the whole time we were on board.
For the most part, the crew brought the whole group together. I’m not usually one for organised fun, but their ice breakers and general laugh-a-minute attitudes made for a great few days. Which is hugely important when you’re all living in such close proximity.
What to Expect From Your Sailing Trip
Sailing around The Whitsundays islands is many things, but it isn’t suited to those looking for culture or back-to-back action. All tours depart from Airlie Beach marina and thrust you into the thick of the islands within just a few hours.
The sole purpose of these tours is to make the most of the surrounding natural beauty, with zero time restraints aside from daylight hours. That being said, watching the sunset on a boat in the middle of the ocean is an incomparable experience. Who wouldn’t want uninterrupted, 360-degree views as far as the eye can see?
Days consist of snorkelling, paddle boarding, scuba diving and exploring Whitehaven Beach. Other than that? You’re pretty much left to hop on and off the Catamaran as you please. Get out there and explore the open ocean. In the glorious Australian sunshine, of course. Just be careful during stinger season!
Despite the fact that I’m not typically an early riser, breakfasts on board were my favourite part of each day. Why? If you’re one of the first to rise, you can enjoy fresh fruits and other delights on deck in complete, utter, perfect silence. The only sounds are those of the water gently lapping the edge of the boat. It’s difficult to accurately describe but the pristine natural beauty, the warm (but not yet hot) sensation of the sun on your skin and the prospect of another perfect day ahead really make for a magical moment. A memory you will no doubt treasure forever.
What to Pack
- Swimwear: Lots of swimwear. You basically don’t need any clothes except for PJ’s.
- Towels and toiletries: For obvious reasons.
- Seasickness medication: Many people commit to a 3-day boat tour… without realising they suffer from seasickness. The numbers are quite surprising! If you’re unsure, make sure to pack some just in case.
- Ziplock bags / Sandwich bags: Whatever you call them, bring them. Your electronics will thank you later. The tiny grains of sand at Whitehaven beach have many benefits but they also cling to everything. Make sure to keep your cameras and phones in these ziplock bags whenever you aren’t using them.
- Alcohol: Only if you want it. You not allowed to bring any glass onto most of the catamaran tours. Prepare in advance and siphon your nice vino into a plastic bottle. You can buy alcohol down by the marina where you board, but I’m talking beers and boxed wine only.
- S U N C R E A M
I hope that this article has inspired you to book your own Whitsundays sailing adventure! If you still have questions, you can read my personal journal post HERE. Alternatively, please feel free to share your queries in the comments section below.
Read More About Australia:
- The best places to visit in Australia: East Coast
- The absolute best things to do in Melbourne
- What to see and do in Wollongong, Australia
- What to see and do in Mallacoota, Croajingolong National Park
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