Located off the coast of Queensland, the Whitsunday Islands are one of the most beautiful places in the world.
This archipelago of 74 islands lies by the majestic Great Barrier Reef.
It’s often referred to as a sailor paradise. Not only is it beautiful but it’s also the best place in the world to go sailing.
A popular way to explore the Whitsundays is by going on a cruise however if you’d like more privacy and enjoy a truly unique experience, chartering a boat in the Whitsundays is the best way to get your dream holiday.
In this article, we tell you everything you need to know to charter a boat in the Whitsundays.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost for you!
Why should you charter a boat in the Whitsundays?
It’s an experience of a lifetime
The Whitsundays are truly beautiful! They are home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: Whitehaven beach and loads of stunning spots. There is so much to discover in the Whitsundays.
There is also a plethora of things to do including snorkelling, hiking, kayaking and scuba diving.
The Whitsundays are a popular tourist destination. Over a third of international tourists visit the Whitsundays each year and a lot of Australian go there for a resort holiday.
Although booking a group tour is also a great way to explore the islands, you will often be with a lot of people on the boat.
Chartering a boat in the Whitsunday islands will give you the luxury of being on your own, with your family or friends!
You can make your own itinerary
When booking a group tour, you will have to follow the set itinerary. If there is a place that is not included or somewhere you’d like to spend more time, you won’t get that option.
If you choose to charter a boat, you will be able to choose your own itinerary and spend as much time as you want in the locations of your choice! This is the perfect way to create your dream holiday!
Most of the tours always go to the same places (Whitehaven, Hamilton Island…) but there are a lot of hidden gems in the Whitsundays. If you like to discover places off-the-beaten-path, being in control of your itinerary will be a huge advantage for you.
Bareboating is legal in the Whitsundays
The Whitsundays are one of the only places in the world where you can rent a bareboat charter.
What is bareboating? That’s being able to charter a boat without a license!
The boat is fully equipped but doesn’t come with a skipper. You will be skippering it yourself.
You can think of it as a sea version of an RV or caravan.
You don’t need any experience to rent a boat in the Whitsundays. The staff will teach you everything you need to know beforehand and you can then enjoy your trip!
That having been said, although it’s authorised, it doesn’t mean that you should. The Whitsundays are a great place to go sailing, especially if you are beginner, however, it can also be very stressful for some people.
If you have no experience at all and don’t actually want to spend time skippering, bareboating can become more of a nightmare than a dream. If you choose to charter a boat with a crew, you won’t have to worry about anything.
If you want to hire a yacht because you want to be in control and be the skipper, then bareboating will be exactly what you need. If it’s because you want to extensively explore the Whitsundays, relax and not worry about anything, a crewed boat will be better for you.
Best ways to charter a boat in the Whitsundays
There are 2 ways you can hire a boat in the Whitsundays: with a crew or bareboating.
Here is how they both work.
Skippered yacht charter in the Whitsundays
When looking at catamaran or yacht hire in the Whitsundays, opting for a customisable crewed private charter is the hassle-free option.
You will be hiring a private boat and can choose your itinerary with the crew. The crew includes skippers and guides. They will take care of everything.
This includes the operational sides of things. You don’t have to learn how to sail the boat, the skipper will do everything for you!
But that also includes the catering side. Food is included. The crew will prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are also snacks and soft drinks available. If you want alcohol, you will need to bring it yourself though.
You will also find snorkelling and swimming equipment. You need a wet suit to swim in the Whitsundays in all safety. Although the stinger season is “only” from October to May, it’s just better to wear the wet suit all the time. You never know.
If you don’t live on the coast of Australia, you may not have any. By renting a private catamaran, you won’t have to think about that. They are already there.
This famous charter company in the Whitsundays offer packages for 2, 3 or 4 days.
You will be working with the crew beforehand to set up your itinerary. That’s another great thing about getting a skippered yacht charter in the Whitsundays: they know the archipelago better than their own pockets!
They will come up with loads of recommendations to help you choose your Whitsunday itinerary. But of course, if you have any special requests, they will include them as well!
Everything is up to you!
In terms of budget, chartering a boat is obviously more expensive than going on a tour. However, you can take up to 9 people. If you are booking for a big group, it actually works out just as cheap as going on a cruise.
Regardless of the number of people on board, the service is impeccable and it’s always well worth it.
Pros of booking a skippered yacht charter:
- Everything is included. No need to worry about anything.
- No need to waste time trying to understand how to sail the boat or cooking
- The crew know exactly what they are doing. They will save you a lot of time and can advise on where to go.
- The crew can recommend hidden gems and secret spots
- You can create the itinerary of your dream
- It’s perfect to enjoy a relaxing holiday
- It’s safer because you are with a team of professionals
- You won’t get to learn how to sail
- There is a crew onboard which means it’s not 100% private
How to book a private crewed yacht in the Whitsundays
The best way to book is online. You can check the prices here (from Airlie Beach).
Once you booked, the company will get in touch with you to plan your itinerary.
If you wish to charter a boat from Hamilton Island, click here.
Pro tip: If you are visiting during high season, make sure to book in advance to avoid any disappointment.
Bareboat yachts in the Whitsundays
Whether you are looking for a catamaran hire in the Whitsundays or to rent a private yacht, you can choose the option of bareboating.
Bareboating means that you rent your own private boat and will be the one directing it.
In most places in the world, you need a license to do this however, that’s not the case in the Whitsundays.
Anyone can go bareboating there! The rental company will teach you everything you need to know before you leave.
Bareboat charters come with no crew or provisions which means you have to organise everything yourself.
Even if you have no experience, it’s not something that you should worry about too much. You will receive a 3-hour training course from the charter company before you leave. They don’t want you to be left at your own devices, not knowing what to do.
Their staff is very knowledgeable and use to train people all the time.
Also, it’s fairly easy to sail in the Whitsundays (all things considered) as it’s protected by the Great Barrier Reef.
It’s also a unique opportunity to enjoy a very private holiday in the Whitsundays.
Pros of bareboating in the Whitsundays:
- It’s very private. You will be the only one(s) on the boat.
- Freedom: you can go wherever you want, whenever you want.
- If being a skipper has always been one of your dreams, it’s just about to become true!
- You will learn how to sail in one of the prettiest places in Australia.
- If you already know the area well, it’s an amazing thing to do!
- Although you can do it, it’s not particularly recommended if you don’t have any experience. You will spend a lot of time trying to understand how the boat works and you may get a bit lost.
- You will have to do everything including cooking.
- You need to shop beforehand and take your own equipment
- Although the Whitsundays are pretty safe, you need to be extra careful as you will be on your own
FAQs and Tips to charter a boat in the Whitsundays
Here are a few useful tips when chartering a boat in the Whitsundays.
What type of boats can you charter?
You can rent pretty much any sort of boats in the Whitsundays. The most popular ones are private yachts, catamaran and sailing boats.
Do I need to book online?
It’s preferable to do so. Booking online is very easy. It will give more time to the crew to plan your itinerary.
More importantly, that’s the only way to be sure you will be able to go on your trip. During the low season, you may be able to book on-site but if you are going there during the high season, you really should book online.
All of that having been said if you are going during the wet season and outside of school holidays, you may be able to get a good deal by contacting the charter companies directly. It can be worth comparing and shopping around. Once you got a few quotes, call back the ones you like and ask them if they can do better in terms of pricing.
Although they might not review the price, they might throw some extras.
What should I pack to go boating in the Whitsundays?
You will also need some toiletries basics (makeup, toothbrush…).
Finally, make sure you are taking a lot of waterproof sunscreen (eco-friendly preferably)!
If you are opting for bareboating, ask your provider what is included so you can plan accordingly.
How long should I stay in the Whitsundays?
I recommend sailing around the Whitsundays for at least 3 days and 2 nights. There is a lot to do and see and you may feel like you are missing out if you go any shorter.
That having been said, it all depends on your budget. Chartering a yacht is not a cheap activity so you have to do what is best for you. 2 days would be the bare minimum though.
Then, you can always opt to stay in Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island, Daydream Island or Hayman Island for another few days or week. Some of the best resorts in Australia are located in the Whitsundays and it’s well worth checking out.
How do I get to the Whitsundays?
Should I rent my boat from Airlie Beach or Hamilton island?
There are a lot more options from Airlie Beach. Prices are usually lower too.
Finally, there are more flights going to Proserpine airport.
Therefore, as a general thing, I’d say that Airlie Beach is often a better option.
However, if you also want to experience what it’s like to stay in a beautiful resort in the Whitsundays. You can also charter a boat from there.
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