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How to visit the Whitsundays: my sailing experience

In October 2017, I finally ticked off one of the top things I wanted to do in Australia: sailing the Whitsundays! It took me a while to decide if I would visit the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns or the Whitsundays. I finally set my mind on sailing the Whitsundays Islands because I thought the experience could be a little bit different and I also really wanted to experience new landscapes I hadn’t seen before.

You can experience the Whitsundays through the air - check my blog post here on my flight experience over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef with Backpacker Deals, through day trips from Airlie Beach or for a few days with a full-on sailing cruise.


Always wondered what it could be like and if this adventure is for you? Discover my sailing experience in the Whitsundays in details. Let’s go, sailor!

Before - book really in advance and ask yourself what kind of sailing experience you’d like

I started to look at what boat to book in early September for the end of October and they were all almost full. So big tip: book as early as possible if you want several days on a sailing boat! This is important because then you’ll be able to choose the boat you prefer and which one is the most suitable for your budget and travel style. I booked through Sailing Whitsundays which was very easy as there were lots of boats on offer on the website and all kind of prices - but lots were booked out already so we had to choose our second best option.


There are many styles of sailing experiences - sailing for just one day, backpacker style sailing (with a lot of loud music and a lot of people on the boat but cheap!), young active/couple sailing cruises with smaller groups, family-friendly sailing with no partying and easy activities, some other sailing boats go around for more than three days and some even go to the reef. So many possibilities!


If you want to see the Whitsundays without rushing and feeling overwhelmed with the crowds, I would suggest booking a boat with 10 to 12 people maximum so it’s intimate but still affordable. I personally wouldn’t go for the big party boats unless you’re really in the party mood and don’t mind sleeping a bit rough (I heard from our boat crew some of the boats have also some bed bugs so careful and read reviews before!).

Although not our first choice, we ended up on a family-friendly boat called Prima which was super relaxing and nice to sail on! We opted for a 2 nights - 2 days and half days package and had some meals included which was really convenient and pretty cost-effective in the end.


During - Sailing the Whitsundays is really relaxing and beautiful in good weather

Overall you can expect the Whitsundays Sailing experience to be quite relaxing and easy - just get comfortable in your cabin, head out and breath in all that pure ocean air.

With the crew on the boat

With the crew on the boat

About our boat - don’t expect 5-star comfort but a lot of fun

Sailing is a different experience though if you’ve never sailed before. You can expect to have minimum personal space - if you stay in a cabin, it’s very tiny but cosy and the bathroom - that you may have to share - is a combined toilet-shower of about a square meter. You can also expect to take very short showers to save the precious water and really you won’t dress up fancy at any time or wear make up for the girls. But it’s part of the charm of sailing, you just relax, let your hair down and don’t give a damn about anything else in the world just for those few days.

Our boat Prima 

Our boat Prima 

Our boat, Prima, was really nice on the outside deck with tons of space and a sitting area to observe the different landscapes and islands. The inside was really cosy and nice as well with 4 private cabins and 4 beds available on the center of the boat (cheaper beds but you would have to sleep in the “living room” of the boat basically.) Our cabin was really good, I didn’t mind it being tiny and we shared our bathroom which meant it was a bit cheaper than private bathrooms. On those boats, you wouldn’t really spend much time inside anyway as there’s so much more outside of course!


The crew was also amazing, super knowledgeable, friendly and always willing to help or accommodate so you’d have the perfect Whitsundays experience. The food they made was also super delicious - which is always a bonus as you can get quite hungry after so much adventuring, snorkelling and sailing!


Snorkelling is quite basic but still beautiful

When sailing the Whitsundays, don’t expect to go snorkelling on the reef as this is a lot further away than the islands itself. There are some spots though where the boat will take you and you can definitely get a lot of snorkelling in. I snorkelled about five times in total which was really nice and it’s always good to swim around but doesn’t expect to see crazy stuff.


I saw some cute fishes but none were super exotic. The coral was also quite basic although I didn’t see any that was dead. There also has been a big storm in March 2017 so the corals may have had some damage too which was maybe why it’s wasn’t as stunning. Finally, we didn’t see any turtles inside the water but we did at sunrise looking from the boat, which was still really nice!


Oh and since the region around the Whitsundays is prone to deadly Jellyfish - see my jellyfish section on my top things to do in Airlie Beach blog post - it was highly recommended to wear a stingers suit to protect ourselves from any passing jellyfish. It wasn’t the season so we weren’t at high risk but nonetheless, it’s better to wear it plus it protects from the sun and makes you float! Not the sexiest wetsuit though! Also, bring your own flippers if you’d like to swim faster and easier.

Whitehaven Beach is very very bright!

Part of our sailing adventure, we got to spend a few hours on Whitehaven beach - said to be one of the most beautiful beaches and with the whitest sand in Australia. It really is a stunning place with incredible sand and colours. I really loved the lookout Hill Inlet over the beach but the crowds were really annoying. There were so many people everywhere, the beach kind of became the victim of its success. Be prepared for a lot of brightness and to be very hot, but it’s worth it. I wish I could have spent an extra hour on the beach and exploring the other side actually as it was really nice.


After - back on land the head full of memories

It’s funny how, when on a boat, time seems to go fast and slow at the same time. You kind of forget about the outside life, and it feels good. I loved sleeping on the lightly rocking boat at night, looking at the stars from my tiny window, taking my breakfast on the deck overlooking the islands, jumping in the water for a snorkel, and walking on Whitehaven beach…

Our boat was quite relaxing and quiet so nothing crazy for my saling experience in the Whitsundays but each sailing experience will be unique so make it your own! If you’re hesitating, don’t worry just go and you’ll have the time of your life I swear!

What would you like to see in the Whitsundays? Let me know!