Whitsunday Yacht Hire – A Guide for First-Time Visitors

If you’ve always wanted to rent a yacht in the Whitsundays but are not true where to start, welcome! Whitsunday yacht hire can be confusing, so if you want to know how it works, this post is for you. We asked our friends Emily and Shane who are experienced sailors and Queensland locals to share their tips.

We’ll go through the ins and outs of hiring a yacht in the Whitsundays, and what to consider when making a booking, including how to get the best rate. Also included are some of the best things to explore when you get there.

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The Whitsunday Islands are one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations. It’s a sailing mecca up there with the Greek Islands and the Bahamas. The protected calm waters, trade winds, numerous secluded island coves, and pristine beauty make the Whitsundays an ideal place for the novice or expert sailors wishing to explore the islands.

Located halfway down the coast of Queensland, you will find the Whitsunday Islands, a tropical paradise that’s almost too good to be true.

Most of the 74 islands are national parks with a few hosting exclusive, eco or family-focused resorts. Turquoise waters, palm trees, and coral reefs with warm temperatures year-round make the Whitsundays an ideal location to relax, indulge or dive into nature-based activities.

Why you should charter a yacht in the Whitsundays

The best way to see the Whitsunday Islands is from a private charter yacht which you skipper yourself. Referred to as a bareboat charter, when you sail the Whitsundays on a yacht or catamaran, you’re able to explore the islands at your own pace.

Whitsundays Cat
You could be here!

You can find a slice of paradise for yourself

Some Islands and beaches in the Whitsundays are popular destinations for tour operators who bring day-trippers from Airlie Beach to snorkel or see the famous Whitehaven Beach.

When you’re cruising on your vessel, you can choose to stay away from tourist hot spots, discovering equally amazing slices of paradise without crowds. Or, you can beat the hot spot rush hours, by having exclusive early morning or evening access from your boat.

Your holiday can be full of action or all about relaxation

A sailing holiday can be action-packed full of fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking or it can be a relaxing holiday from your private floating hotel.

The Whitsundays are a safe sailing ground

The Whitsunday islands are set in the Coral Sea, protected by the Great Barrier Reef. The Reef acts as a barricade to large ocean swells, meaning the water around the islands is calm and protected.

Check out our guide for exploring the Great Barrier Reef

What is a bareboat yacht charter and how does it work?

A bareboat charter is a term that refers to a hired boat that comes fully equipped without a professional crew. It can be likened to hiring a motor home for a road trip. So let’s answer a bunch of the most frequently asked questions about bareboat chartering.

bareboat self sailing
If he can do it so can you!

Do I need a boat license for a Whitsunday yacht hire?

Chartering a yacht in the Whitsundays is easy. The Whitsundays is one of the few sailing grounds in the world which does not require bareboat charterers to have a boating license.

Do you need to be experienced to charter a yacht?

It helps to have someone on your crew who has some boating knowledge; however, it isn’t essential. All charter companies in the Whitsundays will give guests a 3-4 hour briefing, with instructions on how to operate the vessel, how to navigate, and the Whitsundays cruising area.

For those who would like more support on the water, it’s possible to add a sail guide to your charter for a night or the duration of your trip. Sail guides are a great way to give everyone confidence and to ensure you get the most out of your boating journey. 

How do you choose between a motor cruiser, catamaran or sailing yacht?

All vessels can be operated with just the motor on, meaning you don’t need to know how to put the sails up. The type of boat you choose will depend on how many people you charter with, your budget, and your interests.

Catamarans are the most popular vessel to hire because they offer the most living space. Yachts can be an excellent choice for couples or sailing enthusiasts.

What is provided and what do you need to bring?

The boat comes with a fully equipped kitchen, BBQ, linen, towels, water, sailing, and safety equipment. You need to bring personal items as well as arrange your food and drink.

When is the best time of year to sail the Whitsundays?

The Whitsundays enjoy a sub-tropical Queensland climate with a yearly average temperature of 23 degrees. It’s possible to sail the Whitsundays at any time of year; however, there are some seasonal aspects to consider.

  • Wet season: The wet season runs over the hottest part of summer, from January to March. It can be humid, so if it does rain, the raindrops are delightfully warm. While showers can be frequent, they rarely last all day. Waterfalls, rainbows and a calm ocean are advantages to chartering a yacht in the wet season.
  • Dry season: The dry season runs over winter, with the driest months being August to October. It can be cooler, but generally, the weather conditions are consistently sunny and perfect. Advantages to chartering a yacht in the dry season include sunshine, lighter trade winds and an opportunity to catch race week and whale season.
  • Stinger season: Stinger season in the Whitsundays runs from late October to May. If you charter a yacht at this time and you want to swim or snorkel, you should wear a stinger suit.
  • Whales season: Whale watching season in the Whitsundays runs from June until September. Humpbacks come from Antarctica to breed and give birth in the protected, tropical waters surrounding the island.
Boom at sunset
The calm waters of the Whitsundays are a great place to take your first sailing holiday

So exactly when is the best time to charter a yacht in the Whitsundays?

September is considered the ideal month to charter a yacht. Everything aligns in September thanks to the consistently sunny weather, low humidity, light trade winds, and perfect conditions for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.

How to get a good deal on a Whitsundays yacht hire?

If you’re budget-conscious, there are a few ways to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal on a yacht charter.

  • School and public holidays are always the highest rates. Book outside of these busy periods to keep your costs down.
  • The summer and wet season is the cheapest time to charter a yacht. There may be rain, but it won’t spoil your trip, and you’ll get to experience the lush rainforests, waterfalls and beaches without crowds.
  • The more nights you book on a charter, the cheaper the nightly rate
  • Consider chartering as a group to share the costs. Not only is chartering with another family or a group of friends loads of fun, but it can also mean that per head you’re each getting an absolute bargain alongside a fantastic adventure.
  • Yachts are generally cheaper to hire than catamarans and some have just as many beds as cats.
  • Chat with your bareboat operator to see if they can add extras to your booking such as throwing in a sleep aboard.

Read our Queensland Travel Guide for more advice about exploring the Sunshine State

The major attractions in the Whitsunday Islands

Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island is Australia’s most popular resort island – with something for couples looking to indulge and dine or families looking to entertain the kids.

Bareboat charterers can book a berth at the marina for a few hours or nights, giving them access to the resort’s pools, shops, bars, and restaurants as well as handy facilities such as a water re-fill, laundry, and rubbish drop-offs.

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Australia, if not the world, attracting thousands of visitors each year. The beach stretches for seven uninterrupted kilometres with crystal clear water and pure white sand that’s said to be 98% silica (quartz). 

Take the short hike from Whitehaven up to the Hill Inlet lookout. Here you will see one of the most breathtaking views in the Whitsunday – swirling sands with a turquoise ocean over a changing tide.

Whitsundays Blog Hill Inlet 1
Hill Inlet Lookout

Snorkelling and diving

The Whitsundays lie within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and they boast some of the best fringing reef diving and snorkeling in Australia. A new underwater sculpture trail has been installed around some island bays, meaning you can see huge art installations interacting with the changing marine environment. 

There are several snorkeling sites around the Whitsundays, with Hook Island offering the most variety.  


If you have a fishing enthusiast in your crew, they won’t be disappointed. Fishing in the Whitsundays is zoned, but there are areas you can visit on a charter that allows for reef, rock, and trolling fishing.

Trolling lures is a great way to fish in the Whitsundays as you move between anchorages, catching yourself dinner. Fish caught trolling include Queenfish, Golden Trevally, Mackerel, and various Tuna varieties.


Several of the islands are national parks, and they have a fantastic infrastructure for hiking. It’s worth taking your dinghy ashore to explore the islands on foot. You’ll experience a variety of rainforests, and countless amazing views, and find signage and information pointing out the history of the area.

Butterfly Bay Hook Island
Butterfly Bay on Hook Island

One of the most famous walking trails in the Whitsundays is the Ngaro Sea Trail. A picturesque walk through grasslands, open forests, and rainforest across Whitsunday, South Molle, and Hook Island.

The Ngaro Cultural site

Many people are amazed to learn that it’s possible to view ancient cave paintings in the Whitsundays. Hook Island is home to the Ngaro art cave, a site showcasing midden paintings dating back over 9000 years.

Access to the cultural site is from Narra Inlet. Take the short trail found from the inlet beach up to the viewing platform which has interpretive audio displays.

Have we convinced you yet?

A private yacht is the best way to immerse yourself in the world-class, natural beauty of the Whitsundays. There is so much to see and do around the Islands, with countless unique places to anchor; after your first charter, you will be coming back to see more.

Emilys family for bio

About the Authors: Emily & Shane Korosec
We’re a family of four who frequently travels Australia in a caravan and love sailing the Whitsundays when we can. The one thing we love more than exploring Oz is encouraging our friends to get out and experience the incredible backyard we call home. Find out more at Websites From a Van.

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8 thoughts on “Whitsunday Yacht Hire – A Guide for First Time Visitors”

  1. This has been on my bucket list for years! Sadly, I don’t think I will ever get the opportunity to go, but never say never!

  2. Oh my that looks wonderful and something Im sure a lot would love to do. It certainly is a beautiful place up north.

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