THINGS I WISH I HAD KNOWN BEFORE BOATING THE WHITSUNDAYS
With white sandy beaches, turquoise water and idyllic island setting, it is easy to see why the Whitsundays tops most people’s lists for places to visit in Australia. To fully explore the islands you will need a boat. But with so many options of bareboat charters, tours, or the option of bringing your own boat if you have one, it is hard to know exactly how to go about exploring this magical region.
I took my boat over to the Whitsundays not too long ago. We spent almost two weeks swimming, snorkelling, fishing, and enjoying the striking natural scenery. I loved it but there were still some things I would have done differently. These are the things I wish I had known before heading over to boat the Whitsundays.
WHENEVER YOU GO, IT WILL TAKE LONGER THAN EXPECTED
We took the boat over in winter. The summer weather in the Whitsundays means having to put up with humidity and neither I, nor my wife, enjoy the extreme heat of summer. We left Brisbane and aimed to get to Mackay in 10 days. It took us just over 12 in the end. It is winter; you will hit bad weather at some stage. Give yourself plenty of time so you won’t feel rushed, besides, if you do get a stroke of luck and don’t hit bad weather, you can always stop off and enjoy destinations along the way.
We were also delayed by a day in Keppel Bay. In the winter, the military carries out training exercises around Rockhampton. This means marine traffic can be restricted around Shoalwater Bay and you can expect either a delay while you wait or a day of sailing to detour around the restricted area. I cannot stress enough how much more pleasant the whole trip will be if you are not on a tight schedule and can afford some extra unexpected stop offs where forced.
FIND HIDDEN SPOTS
To avoid the party boats and backpackers, find some hidden snorkelling and fishing locations. Finding these places can be a challenge, anywhere that appears in the guidebooks or online can quickly lose its charm. This is one major advantage of springing for a bareboat charter with a skipper. The experienced skippers will know the Whitsundays inside out and ensure you get the most from your Whitsundays visit.
We have some friends who bareboated the Whitsundays with a skipper a couple of years ago so we more or less followed their itinerary. Although, I am dead certain that we missed some of the Whitsundays secrets from not knowing the area that well.
RENT A STINGER SUIT
If you are going in summer, I was repeatedly told it is best to have a stinger suit on board. Between October and May, there are quite a few jellyfish about. While it isn’t that dangerous, having a stinger suit will mean you don’t have the constant worry of what is around you at all times and will help you relax and enjoy the water.
SWOT UP ON LOCAL REGULATIONS
Even if you are a Queensland local, make yourself aware of the local regulations regarding pollution, licensing and marine park zoning for the Whitsunday Islands.
GET YOURSELF A SOURCE OF SHADE
There was nothing I appreciated more than my bimini which cast a pleasant shadow across the cockpit. I would tell anyone considering a Whitsundays boat trip to make sure they have at least a removable awning to give some respite from the sun.
BRING AN APPROPRIATE ANCHOR
I was warned about this by a friend while I was planning the trip and I am ever so grateful for it. In the Whitsundays, you will likely find yourself anchoring on sand or coral, potentially in fairly deep water. A plough anchor is probably your best bet for the loose surface. I would also recommend an all-chain rode, so the coral doesn’t sever your anchor line. I would also recommend at least 30m of chain. If this is impractical, then use 25m of chain, attached to rope to keep the weight down. If you are doing this, attach a float to the line to keep the rope from dropping among the corals and getting shredded.
For all the challenges, the Whitsundays still offers some of the best boating conditions I have experienced and is without a doubt, a boating highlight of Australia’s east coast. Plan your trip thoroughly and carry out extensive research and you will be prepared for every eventuality and set yourself up for the trip of a lifetime.
Do you have any tips for cruising the Whitsundays? Let us know in the comments section below.