The Ultimate Itinerary for Bareboating in the Whitsundays

Bareboating around the Whitsundays really opened up our eyes to just how many different beaches, snorkelling spots, hidden bays and fishing spots the Whitsundays is home to. Despite every single bareboat charter being booked out, you can go for hours without seeing another boat, have beaches all to yourself, and find hidden spots all over the islands that you feel like you may have been the first to discover.

Creating our itinerary for our week with Whitsunday Rent A Yacht took a little more thought and planning than we had anticipated. Depending on where you want to go and the weather during your charter, you are somewhat dictated by the winds and making sure you are in safe places. We arrived at our bareboat charter with a list of places that we wanted to visit and then changed the order around regularly, to make sure we were working with the wind and the weather.

We still managed to get to all the main places that we wanted to visit, and in fact nearly all of the places we wanted to visit, so it all worked out in the end. We’ve put together a list of all our favourite places from our time sailing around the Whitsundays.

If you haven’t checked it out already make sure you start with our post about planning your bareboat charter in the Whitsundays:

How To Charter A Yacht In The Whitsundays

hill inlet

The Whitsundays is made up of 74 islands, just off the coast of Airlie Beach. The main ones that you are likely to visit during your bareboating adventure is Whitsunday Island, Hook Island, Hayman Island and possibly resort islands like Hamilton Island and Daydream Island.

Every bay and beach you visit around the islands are a little bit different and unique from one another, so definitely don’t stay in the first pretty place you find.

After you pick up your boat with Whitsunday Rent A Yacht, one of the most popular places to head on your first night is Cid Harbour. It is only an hour away from Shute Harbour and is a great calm bay no matter what kind of weather you might be facing. It sits between Whitsunday Island and Cid Island, and is kind of right in the middle of the Whitsundays.

whitehaven beach

Whitsunday Island

Whitsunday Island is the biggest and best island in the Whitsundays. Well, in our opinion anyway. And that is because it’s home to the beautiful and famous Whitehaven Beach that stretches all the way along the eastern side of the island. For more than 7 kilometres to be exact. It regularly wins the title of the most beautiful beach in Australia.

Whitehaven Beach is also home to the incredible brilliant white silica sand. Some of the purest sand in the world, it is made up of 98% silica which means it never gets hot under your feet and it is always that bright bright white colour. There are heaps of different places to explore along Whitehaven Beach during your bareboat charter.

The Best Whitehaven Beach Tour with Cruise Whitsundays

hill inlet

Our favourite place on Whitehaven Beach is the incredible Hill Inlet. It’s at the northern end of the beach and after a short walk to the lookout point you are greeted with some of the most iconic views of the Whitsundays that will absolutely take your breath away. The sand and water swirls around the inlet in a mixture of blues and whites, with different views all through the day depending on the tides.

Hill Inlet is also surrounded by Betty’s Beach, another favourite, that is also made up of silica sand. It has some of the best water to just relax in, with shallow pools changing depth throughout the day and ocean water that is absolutely crystal clear. Every time you visit Hill Inlet you can have a completely different experience, with the water levels offering new views and perspectives on every visit.

Depending on the weather you are able to anchor right in front of Betty’s Beach during the day and head into the shore from there, but if you want to stay around Hill Inlet overnight head to Tongue Bay. There are plenty of moorings and space for everyone to be spread out in the bay. Just make sure to know the tides during your visit, it can be difficult to get to the shore in your dingy if you leave it until the tide is too low.

whitehaven beach

The southern end of Whitehaven Beach is the most popular area for people wanting to spend time at the beach as well as where a lot of the day tours come in to spend the day. There is plenty of space to spread out and find your own little piece of beach, and there’s also a small anchorage for day use only right in front of the beach.

Just across from the main beach area of Whitehaven Beach is Chalkie’s Beach which is technically on Haslewood Island. It’s definitely a favourite place to stay for people who want to spend lots of time at Whitehaven Beach, with some great snorkelling spots and white silica sand covering the beach. It’s just a short dingy ride over to Whitehaven and the water conditions are just so beautiful here as well.

Well, there’s a reason this is the best beach in Australia, right?!

Unfortunately we definitely didn’t get as much time at Whitehaven Beach as we would have liked. Due to the weather we could only visit on the last day of our tour, and then only for a few hours because we had to start making our way back to a closer anchorage for the night as our trip ended the next morning. Next time we come on a bareboat I think we are definitely going to dedicate quite a few days to just Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet. Definitely my favourite place in all of Queensland.

hook island

Hook Island

The waterway between Whitsunday Island and Hook Island is called Hook Passage and it can get pretty hectic at times.

Hook Island is the second largest island in this main area of the Whitsundays, and can be found in-between Whitsunday Island and Hayman Island. It has so many different nooks and crannies around the island, with deep inlets, small bays and tiny hidden beaches to explore.

On the western side of Hook Island there are two really great places to spend the night. Macona Inlet and Nara Inlet are both very well protected from wind and big waves, making it a calm place to stay for overnight. They both provide some beautiful sunset and sunrise photo opportunities, with the bright turquoise water surrounded by the hills of Hook Island. There is also great phone reception in both inlets if you need it.

One of the nights we stayed at Macona Inlet we actually had dolphins jumping out of the water and dancing around our boat as the sun set. It was so beautiful.

whitsundays rent a yacht

We also spent a night at Stonehaven Anchorage which was kind of on the north-western side of Hook Island. It was well protected from the south-easterly winds we were struggling with, so it was a great overnight spot.

In between Hook and Hayman Island is the very tiny One Foot Island, which is a great stop for an afternoon. There is a small piece of land, with a long sandbar extending for quite a while, which is surrounded by some great reef. There are quite a few moorings to stop for a bit, as well as some great snorkelling spots.

We didn’t get to much of the northern or eastern side of Hook Island during our charter because of the winds. But consult with your 100 Magic Miles bible on your charter to check out some of the places in this area. Some of the highlights include Butterfly Bay, Mackerel Bay and Saba Bay, which all include great snorkelling spots.


Hayman Island

Getting from Hook Island up to Hayman Island can be a little bit tricky, so definitely make sure you do a bit of research and find out what is coming up before you go. There is lots of shallow areas and reef that extend off the islands up here, with some of the channels you can pass through being quite tight. Keep an eye on the beacons in the water to make sure you’re on the right path.

Hayman Island is obviously best known for it’s beautiful exclusive resort, Intercontinental Hayman Island. But it is also home to another great spot that’s easily accessible on your bareboat, Blue Pearl Bay. On the western side of Hayman Island, Blue Pearl Bay has a nice little beach, a few hikes you can get to, as well as being a great snorkelling spot. There is lots of reef right off the shore and we spotted quite a few turtles splashing around near the surface of the water.

If you’re visiting Blue Pearl Bay, make sure you use the moorings in the bay and don’t try to anchor. There is lots of reef here and if you anchor in the wrong spot it could do really significant damage to the reef and the marine ecosystem here.

Also, before you leave make sure you take a look underneath your boat. We were only here for a few hours and some HUGE strange looking fish had gathered underneath the boat.

shaw island

Shaw Island

When we found out that there was an island called Shaw Island in the Whitsundays, we just had to visit. How exciting to share a name with such a beautiful piece of Australia. Shaw Island probably won’t be on many Whitsunday itineraries, it’s a little bit further away and takes a bit of time to get to, but we were determined to fit it in.

Some of the best spots on Shaw Island are Neck Bay and Shaw Island West, which are both good spots for sunsets, beach exploring, paddle boarding and fishing. Thom caught a few little fish right off the boat at Shaw Island West, but none that were big enough to cook unfortunately! The beaches were also practically deserted while we were there, so we were able to get some great photos.

hamilton island marina

Island Resorts

There are 4 islands around the Whitsundays that are considered resort islands. They include Hamilton, Hayman, Daydream and Long Island. You are able to visit all of the resort islands on your visit if you would like, however each island and marina have their own rules and fees to take into consideration.

Hamilton Island is the largest and most popular of the resort islands, and probably that one that most people visit if they want to check out any of the resort islands. They have an IGA near the marina, where you can restock on food and drinks if you need to, and they are also able to help you refuel your boat if you need to.

If you want to stay at any of the resort islands it’s a good idea to let Whitsunday Rent A Yacht know and they can help you book a spot at the marina and also let you know anything you need to about staying on the islands. You will need to arrive at a booked in time so that they can help you arrive and park in the marina, since there is so much traffic going in and out here.


Here’s a super quick overview of some of the resort island rules to give you an idea of what you might want to do:

  • Hamilton Island is the easiest of the islands to visit, allowing charters options for day visits, overnight visits and to sleep on your boat overnight.
  • Daydream Island allows day and overnight visits, however you cannot sleep on your boat and will have to book a room at the resort to stay overnight.
  • Hayman Island is not open for day visitors, so if you want to visit the resort here you will need to book a room at the resort as well as a berth in the marina for your boat.
  • Palm Bay Resort on Long Island is happy to have day and overnight visitors, but you will need to call ahead to make sure moorings are available. Mooring fees don’t include resort access, unless you’re booking to stay overnight.

Check out this page from Whitsunday Rent A Yacht for information on all the different islands, the rules of each of the resorts, fees involved with visiting

whitsundays bareboat

We had such an amazing time cruising around the Whitsundays on our very own bareboat charter. It seems surreal that this kind of experience is possible, but once you’ve been out on the water for just a short time you will feel like a natural and settle straight into it.

Definitely check out the Whitsunday Rent A Yacht website to see all the different charter options, to find out the rates for when you’re planning to visit and for the answers to any and all bareboating questions that you could possibly have.

The Best Whitehaven Beach Tour with Cruise Whitsundays

Our bareboat charter was in collaboration with Whitsunday Rent A Yacht. In exchange for our blog and social media coverage we received a discount on our rate. All opinions are, as always, our own. 

Explore more of our adventures around Queensland 

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bareboating in the whitsundays

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Emma is a travel writer, photographer and blogger, chasing the sun around Australia. Travelling in her recently renovated vintage Viscount caravan, along with her husband Thom and daughter Macey, she's sharing the very best experiences from around her beloved sunburnt country.

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