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Whitsunday Sailing Holiday - How To Enjoy Yours

Fiona Harper - 11th June 2015

The Whitsundays are one of the best places in the country for a sailing holiday. Thanks to a mostly balmy climate, consistent south east trade winds and a gorgeous island archipelago, the Whitsunday Islands are a sailors paradise.

While it helps to have your sea legs, knowing how to sail is not a pre-requisite to hopping on board a charter yacht for your next holiday.

American singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet is well known amongst sailors for his laconic folk songs that conjure up a carefree seafaring life. He famously penned the sailors anthem Margaritaville and once said 'if life gives you limes, make margaritas'. If there's a better place to sip a tangy margarita than from the deck of a yacht, I'm yet to find it.

The good news is that you don't need to own a yacht to enjoy the yachting lifestyle. Nor do you actually need to know how to sail. Admittedly it helps if you know your port from your starboard. In case you don't here's an easy way to remember that port is on the left and starboard is on the right – port is red and there's no port left in the bottle. Get it? No port left.... oh never mind.

If you're not up to grasping navigational concepts like port and starboard you're best to take a skippered charter. If on the other hand you know the difference between a sheet bend and a bed sheet you could hire a bareboat yacht and skipper yourself.

The Whitsundays are one of the best places in the country for bareboating. Thanks to a mostly balmy climate, consistent south east trade winds and a gorgeous island archipelago, the Whitsunday Islands are a sailors paradise. Yacht charter fleets are based at Hamilton Island, Shute Harbour or Airlie Beach with vessels ranging from 10 to 15 metres, either sail or motor boats. The best time of the year is between April and November – making the Whitsundays a perfect winter getaway.

The best places to drop anchor include Whitehaven Beach, Nara Inlet, Blue Pearl Bay, Butterfly Bay, Stonehaven.

Yachts are as subjective as hotels so you'll need to make a few decisions beforehand to prevent any on board mutiny. Charter yachts come either crewed or bareboat. Don't be disheartened by the term bareboat though, which refers to the absence of professional crew rather than a lack of creature comforts. However if you're going to charter a bareboat you'll need to know the difference between the pointy end (that's the bow) and the blunt end (that's the stern) of a yacht. As the designated skipper you'll also be responsible for the crew and yacht's safety. If you can't imagine a sunset without margaritas or the like, and you don't want to stand accused of being the fun police, then a skippered charter is the way to go.

With a skippered charter you'll get to choose your boat and preferred itinerary but that's about the limit of your responsibilities with a professional Skipper onboard, perhaps a Chef too. Between the two of them they'll take care of all the pesky details like navigation and keeping everyone fed and hydrated. Which allows you to concentrate on more important issues. Like which bikini to wear. Or whether to visit an island resort or to have a beach picnic for lunch.

Another option is a fully crewed charter where you'll share the yacht with other guests. Often utilising spacious catamarans for their premium space and comfort, fully crewed charters come with a Skipper and Chef who may also double as your Host (aka drinks waiter). Guests are welcome to participate in sailing the yacht, trimming sails and taking turns at the helm. Or not, it's your holiday and your choice. With someone special by your side and sails billowing gently overhead, it's pretty easy to slip onto island time, G & T in hand, as the sea rushes gently beneath the hull.

For many this is what yacht charter is all really about. The luxury to explore. To dream. To discover. As Mark Twain put it so succinctly: 'throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails.'


Fiona Harper is a travel writer and sailor based in Cairns. Follow her at

The video below is from Whitsunday Yacht Charters and we've popped that in so you can see a bit more of what the Whitsundays sailing experience is all about. Thanks. Anita x.

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