It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the Whitsundays. You can spend months taking in and exploring every detail of the greater Whitsunday region, but the area is equally suited to a quick visit to tick off the highlights. Growing up, I spent many months in the Whitsundays with my family, and over the years I’ve been back countless times to race and most recently to charter a yacht last week.
While there is no end to amazing destinations around the world, one of the Whitsundays’ key drawcards is its accessibility. And that’s certainly not to say that the region doesn’t hold its own in terms of scenery; it’s just that the many great anchorages and the short distances between them make it a perfect boating playground. For those new to boating, it’s a great place to dip your toes in the water, and for the more experienced it’s a lovely cruising ground that reveals its true gems to those who take the time to explore in detail.
While there’s nothing quite like your own boat, I believe chartering is an underrated option for even the most experienced sailors. The convenience of chartering is hard to beat for the time poor. Charter boats are restricted to the main island group, but this won’t be a hindrance for the majority of charters who’ll only have a week or two in the area, and the most popular attractions are all situated within the charter zone.
On arrival to the area, your visit should be planned around the weather forecast. The prevailing winds are southeasterlys and, later in the year, northeasterlys. So when the forecast gives you anything else, particularly light conditions, make a beeline for the eastern side of the islands. Even if you’re lucky enough to have quite some time in the Whitsundays, you’ll want to be ready to take advantage of calm conditions that bring out the best of some of the most scenic yet exposed anchorages and outer reefs.
On the subject of weather, while the winter mouths are the ideal time to visit I don’t find the summer months unpleasant with plenty of breeze on the water to keep you cool. There’s an increased chance of rain over summer, but the upside to this is that the islands’ many creeks and occasional waterfall will run.
Of course, the region was also hit hard by Cyclone Debbie. A significant percentage of trees aren’t their usual vertical selves or have been stripped of leaves, and tragically there are still quite a number of boats sitting high and dry on rocks. Most early reports suggest that the reefs fringing the islands haven’t fared too well, but there are some more positive stories emerging. While the damage to the reef is devastating, the area’s many other merits still warrant it a spot at the top any boatie’s bucket list.
Visiting only a few weeks after the cyclone, I was impressed to find that almost all the facilities that a boatie would usually expect in the area were available. The local community has to be applauded, and I suspect that the Whitsundays will recover swiftly and emerge better than ever.
A highlight of my most recent visit was a lovely night anchored at Whitehaven Beach. For me, it was a reminder of just how lucky boaties are. As the afternoon drew to close, tour companies ferried visitors back to their boats. Slowly the beach and anchorage emptied, leaving just a handful of yachts to enjoy a gorgeous sunset over one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches.
You can read about a few of my Whitsunday highlights in my checklist here. I’d recommend a copy of the Whitsunday ‘bible’ 100 Magic Miles. Of course, you can also read other boaties’ advice on the Whitsundays, and contribute your experience to Deckee’s crowd-sourced location guide here.