Deep Blue South

Sailing in the Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Sep 19, 2001
Outside Magazine

Divers may extol the Whitsundays as an ideal base for scuba trips to the Great Barrier Reef, but in their deep-sea tunnel vision, they're ignoring some of the finest sailing on the planet. Reliable winds and hundreds of protected bays among this tight jumble of 74 mostly uninhabited islands make it a perfect place to ride the waves.

Sixty-six of the archipelago's islands have been designated national parkland, replete with faw sandstone bluffs and lush pine, acadia, and eucalyptus forest. The other islands host developed resorts, lending a dash of gentility to this bushland environment just of the edge of Queenstown. The Hayman Island Resort spa is worth a stop. For an elegant dinner, dock at the Hamilton Island Resort, where the Outrigger Room serves excellent seafood. For a more casual meal, toss back some fish and chips at Harpoon Harry's, overlooking the marina in town.
Another scenic destination is Whitsunday's southern chain, including Pentecost, Saw, and Thomas Islands, where you can grill coral trout or bluefin tuna on the back of your boat in perfect seclusion.

Australian spring (our fall) brings fine tropical weather, with generally steady, moderate breezes and warm water for windsurfing and snorkeling. On land, you can lounge on the coral-lined white-sand beaches that surround Daydream, South Molle, and Hook Islands. From your beach towel you may spot wallabies, goats, goannas, and other Australian fauna separated from the mainland when the Ice Age carved these "drowned-mountain" islands. Underwater, the array is equally dramatic, whith anemones, barramundi, octopi, white sharks, manta rays, and turtles frequently passing before your mask.

You can easily arrange day trips from the Hamilton docks or hire a seaplane to deliver you from the back of your sailboat. Most Australian charter companies provide twice-daily radio checks, which include weather updates and reassurance for the less-experienced sailor.

Australian Bareboat Charters ( and Sail Whitsunday Yacht Charters (011.61.7..4946.7070) can arrange excursions. A 40-foot bareboat yacht runs $244-$462 per night (five-night minimum); add $99 per night for a skipper. for more information on yacht charters, check

Filed To: Australia

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Got Wanderlust?

Escape your daily grind with Outside’s best getaways.

Thank you!