sailing through australia's whitsundays

OH MY GOD the Whitsundays have the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. Australia’s Whitsundays are made up of 79 islands, just off the coast of Queensland and in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a world famous honeymoon destination but also perfect for a relaxing friends getaway. This Whitsundays travel guide shares tips on how to explore the islands, Whitehaven beach, and more on any budget!

visit whitehaven beach

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You can stay on Hamilton Island, the most popular place to stay with a luxe resort and crystal clear waters, or explore it by boat. We opted to stay on a catamaran and sail around. I HIGHLY recommend adding this to your Aussie bucket list because it has the most stunning beaches you’ll find — yes, I’ll say it — in the world.

whitsundays boat trip

sailing whitsundays budget

Whatever way you choose to explore it, you really can’t go wrong. There are options for everyone — from budget travelers to luxury hotelers. Since Queensland is north of NSW & closer to the equator, you’ll find a more tropical climate with warmer and more humid weather. The best time to visit is early or late summer (October-November or Feb-March). There are some rare but poisonous jellyfish up in Queensland, so during stinger season (which ranges directly in the best season — October to May) they advise you to wear these dorky stinger suits when swimming, which look ridiculous but are worth the precaution vs. a very painful few days in the hospital at best, I’m sure!

The catamaran we stayed on was called On Ice and was a great mid-range option (pretty cheap, I might add) costing about $500 AUD/person for 3 days & 2 nights. Keep scrolling below to see the best sailboats I’ve selected for all budgets.

whitehaven beach

For our boat, On Ice, all the food was included in the price and it was BYO - all up a GREAT deal. The rooms were pretty bare and small, as you imagine on a boat, but you spend all your days outside anyways so you only are really in there to sleep. The boat only has 10 passengers total, and we got really lucky with an amazing crew. Crispy Dave, our caption, was hilarious and really knowledgeable too. The food was REALLY GOOD which totally overshot our expectations. I’d definitely recommend it as a great way to be outdoors on the water and see all around the Whitsundays as an alternative to otherwise staying on Hamilton Island the entire time!

On Ice leaves from Airlie Beach, so you can check that off the bucket list while you’re at it! It’s a tiny little beachy town full of backpackers & travelers jetting to and from adventures on the islands. To get to Airlie, you can fly into Prosperine airport. You can also fly directly into Hamilton Island if you’re heading there instead, but most of the overnight boats do take off from Airlie Beach.