Made up of 74 tropical islands fringed by glittering turquoise waters, the Whitsundays offer endless possibilities for adventure and relaxation. From unwinding on sun-kissed beaches to discovering the rich underwater life, we pick five of the best things to do on a yacht charter to the island-chain.
Mostly uninhabited, the idyllic islands all boast dazzling white sand beaches and luscious vegetation, creating wondrous backdrops for secluded moorings.
Indeed, the best way to explore the island-chain is by luxury yacht and here we round up five reasons why the Whitsunday Islands are a ‘must-see’ destination when cruising in Australia.
1. AUDI HAMILTON ISLAND RACE WEEK
he Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is one of the world’s most famous yachting events. Taking place every August, the festivities bring stpectators and yachts from across the globe to the Whitsundays for an exciting line up of racing and on-shore activities.
First conceived in 1983, the event is now Australia’s premier regatta for offshore yachts and sees more than 200 boats light up the waters of Hamilton Island each year.
Racing includes a Grand Prix class, an IRC passage class for modern, fast-cruising yachts, and performance racing and sports boat classes. Plus, there is the ever-popular Prix d’Elegance competition and on-shore action, ranging from food markets, wine tasting and cocktail parties to beach yoga and golf.
At the hub of the event is Hamilton Island Marina, instantly recognisable thanks to its unique silhouette. Here, superyachts of up to 55 metres in length can berth to take in the spectacle as well as make the most of the world-class facilities on offer.
Visitors can walk along the shoreline beside the mesmerising swirls of turquoise water
2. WHITEHAVEN BEACH
Located at the heart of the Great Barrier Reef on Whitsunday Island, Whitehaven Beach regularly ranks number one in polls of the planet’s best beaches and, after visiting the eco-friendly destination, it will be clear to see why.
Protected by the Whitsundays National Park, the seven-kilometre stretch of dazzling white sand is near luminescence in colour thanks to its 98-percent make up of silica.
Boasting a fine, powder-like consistency, the sand doesn’t retain heat, meaning that even in the hottest part of the day, visitors can walk along the shoreline beside the mesmerising swirls of turquoise water.
At the northern end of the beach, Hill Inlet looks out over an inland river system, which flows across broad white sands and to distant peaks on the horizon and, for another stunning vista, yacht-goers should anchor off the beach at night to see the sun setting over the island’s tree-covered mountains.
3. THE VIEW FROM ABOVE
Experience the sheer scale of the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef with a helicopter or seaplane flight. Indeed, the Coral Sea is as spectacular from above as it is under the water.
Flying over the coral reef formations, passengers will take in sights such as the famous Heart Reef, Whitehaven Beach, and the melting port of greens and blues that form the waters.
A number of seaplane and helicopter tours are available, but luxury yacht goers can opt to charter a superyacht with its own helipad such as the 50m/164ft motor yacht ‘True North’ or the 35m/114ft motor yacht ‘Emerald Lady’.
Adrenaline seekers may even prefer to take advantage of the skydiving opportunities in Airlie Beach and jump from an incredible altitude of 14,000ft directly over the clear waters and sparkling white sands of the region.
Turtle Point Golf Course is perhaps one of the planet’s most scenic course
4. WORLD-CLASS GOLF SITES
Whatever your handicap, there’s a golf course for you at the Whitsundays, and yacht-goers can step ashore and tee off at an island or mainland golf course, while enjoying picturesque views of the region.
The 18-hole, par 71 Hamilton Island Golf Course is said to be among the most challenging in the world. Designed by five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson, the course is strung along the spectacular ridges and steep valleys of Dent Island.
A championship, 18-hole golf course, Turtle Point Golf Course is perhaps one of the planet’s most scenic course and underwent a nine-month renovation in 2016. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the course runs it way through lush rainforest and bushland, and is bordered by the Coral Sea.
Other courses include the Arch McArthur Golf Club, nestled in the valleys of South Molle Island, and Proserpine Golf Club, located among the sugar cane fields of far North Queensland and a 20-minute drive from Airlie Beach.
5. THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
Top of the list of things to do in the Whitsundays is to explore the wonderful Great Barrier Reef and, luckily, beautiful and healthy fringing reefs of the world heritage site are in easy reach of the 74 islands, creating multiple diving and snorkelling opportunities.
Among the best sites is the Hangover, a fascinating wall dive situated just off Airlie Beach frequented by barramundi and giant trevally. For the most pristine coral, check out Caves and Canyons on Hook Reef or explore the mesmerizing coral pinnacles and undersea caves of the renowned Bait Reef.
Manta rays and reef sharks are regularly spotted in the spectacular Pinnacles dive site near Hook Island, swimming among the vast array of coral formations, while divers can go down to a depth of 25 metres at Manta Ray Bay to explore submerged caves and valleys.
Meanwhile, beginners and snorkelers can join the abundant marine life such as turtles and wobbegongs in Gary’s Lagoon on Bait Reef.