Sailing in the Whitsundays

Your Guide to a Whitsundays Family Sailing Adventure

Just like the Whitsunday Islands, every family is different. While some little ones are looking for cool sands to bury their buckets and spades in, other older ones love the thrill of discovering something new, snorkelling and exploring their way around our country’s unique wonders. With plenty on offer for every little traveller, a Whitsundays family sailing adventure might be just the getaway you’re looking for – a safe, unique, one-of-a-kind experience to reminisce for decades to come.

Forge lifelong memories together in a bareboat charter, be your own skipper, and cruise from one pristine pitstop to the next. A vessel much simpler and safer than it sounds, bareboat charters offer the freedom and flexibility a Whitsundays family sailing trip needs.

You can hire bareboat charters in the Whitsundays from a number of outlets. All you need is your holiday gear, a minimal amount of boating experience, and a touch of adventurous spirit. Task your little ones to be your crew for the trip and teach them lifelong skills like navigation all while they find small joys in turning the ship’s wheel and using the marine radio. As long as the whole family is old enough or able to swim, this Whitsundays family sailing trip is a perfect match for every water-loving holiday maker.

Prepare your trip before you set off

Abell Point Marina Airlie Beach
Steer your holiday whichever direction you please and start your Whitsundays family sailing voyage at Airlie Beach. There’s plenty of ways to arrive into town, whether you fly into the Whitsunday Coast Airport or the famous Hamilton Island, or cruise in via a family road trip up the Coral Coast. Regardless of your mode of entry, spend at least a day soaking in all Airlie has to offer and prepare yourself to set sail. During your short stay on the mainland, there’s plenty of eateries the whole family is bound to enjoy, and your pick of Airlie’s best places to get a good night’s sleep.

With so many hidden and uninhabited lands across the Whitsunday Islands, it’s no surprise that shops and convenience stores are few and far between on your journey. To be sure you’re fully equipped for the trip, spend some time stocking up on food and supplies to take with you. Make sure you include something to collect your scraps and rubbish on board – with so much wildlife beneath your boat, it’s important to leave the waters as pristine as you found them.

Most charters are complete with maps, linen, kitchen utensils, a TV and snorkelling equipment. We’d recommend you hire stinger suits for the whole group, particularly from October to May. You can pick these up from Coral Sea Marina before you go. And if a few days of food supplies for you and your little ones is enough to throw in the towel before you’ve even begun, let Whitsundays Provisioning prepare for you, and you’ll arrive at your vessel stocked and ready to go.

Kick of your shoes and set your watches to island time, your Whitsundays family sailing holiday is now only a hop, skipper and a sleep away.

Set sail to Langford Island

Perhaps the most alluring part of a bareboat getaway is the freedom to choose your own course and sail at your own pace. Of course, being in the middle of the pristine Whitsunday waters offers plenty of advantages for grown-ups and little ones alike, from panoramic views to exploring coral. Be as busy or as relaxed as you like, with no shortage of destinations the islands are yours to uncover.

Set your compass north and set sail to approach Langford Island, the first stop for an unforgettable Whitsundays family sailing holiday and a popular destination among sailors and divers to anchor. Once you’re on land, don’t be surprised if you have the stretch of beach to yourselves. Suit up for a day of exploring, and watch other local charters come and go.

Small, but mighty, this little gem has a long sand pit at low tide, a perfect sun-drenched secret to explore, swim and snorkel around. The best little snorkelling spots are right off the beach, so kids don’t have to venture far into open waters to enjoy exploring the abundant marine life. The warm waters in the north islands make for fun fish-spotting. Tell your family to be on the hunt of green turtles, known to be spotted just offshore.

Hooked on island life

Family bareboating the Whitsundays

Photo by @_markfitz

After allowing ample time to splash about on Langford, drop your pin on Nara Inlet, at the southern end of Hook Island for your first overnight stay on the seas. Whatever the weather might bring, Nara Inlet is the perfect place to anchor overnight, a calm and warm shelter for the family to rest.

Perfect for sailors of all ages, the Whitsundays provides ample protected bays and inlets for a good night’s sleep. At the furthest end of the inlet is a cave where you’ll uncover Ngaro Aboriginal Cultural Site, a beautiful and historic spot to explore where ancestors have occupied and hunted for over 8000 years. Spend the next morning searching for ancient rock art and artefacts, all before a quick journey to holiday maker’s hotspot, Hamilton Island.

Anchor at family-favourite, Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island | Where to travel with a baby

Photo by @theblondnomads

Whatever the weather, Hamilton Island is an ideal stopover for a day or two with the family. Leave your sea legs on the bareboat and lap up a couple of days at one of Queensland’s most coveted getaways.  The marina has 301 berths and berthing for up to 60-metre superyachts, right next the Hamilton Island Yacht Club. They’ve made berthing at Hamilton Island a breeze with courtesy vessels on hand to guide you to your berth. Bookings are essential if you intend on berthing here, so be sure to call ahead.

Make the most of all Hamilton has on offer. There are plenty of dining options like dinner at Coca Chu, sunset drinks at One Tree Hill, or hire a golf buggy for you and the family and scoot around the island in Hamilton-style – a novel treat for every age group.

Koala Hamilton Island | 5-day family holiday sailing the Whitsundays
Marina guests have access to hot showers, coin-operated washing machines, dryers and all resort facilities including restaurants, swimming pools and the beach, making it the ideal mid-way stopover for your Whitsundays family sailing journey. You can get enjoy a barista-made coffee at Marina Café, take the kids to fish and chips by the marina, or even squeeze in a quick cuddle with a koala at the island’s wildlife park.

Best of all, enjoy the opportunity to meet other families doing as you are, and swap stories and tips with one another while you enjoy a night in the calm, protected waters of the marina.

The Whitsundays Island allure

Hamilton Island | holiday with kids

While the cherry atop your Whitsundays trip might be sailing your way to Whitehaven Beach, not every charter will be able to venture there. The call of its cool, outstretched talcum sands is often overshadowed by the rough seas on the journey. While we would only recommend seasoned sailors attempt the swell, there are countless Whitsunday Island beaches and bays within easy access that will leave you and the family anything but disappointed.

Hit the seas in the early morning and head for the Cid Harbour side of Whitehaven Beach, where you’ll lower your dinghy and head ashore to two walking trails. For those who are both fit, able, and looking for a challenge, head to Whitsunday Peak for expansive views from the top of the Whitsundays. For a more leisurely family adventure, try the trail from Sawmill to Dugong Beach, winding your way beneath towering hoop pines and shady rainforest.

Settle in for the evening aboard and bask in the clarity of the night sky at sea. The perfect opportunity to spot some astrology, play connect the dots as you make well known shapes in the constellations and get to know the southern skies. Nights sailing the Whitsundays are not unlike camping, so be sure to pack board games, card games, and plenty of trivia to enjoy all together while the wi-fi is at bay.

The final leg to Long Island

Wake to an early morning coffee on the charter deck, the last kick-start to your Whitsundays family sailing adventure as you head to your final leg on Long Island. There’s plenty to see on the last mapped route, from green turtles and dolphins, to whales when the season is right.

Visit a little secluded paradise just around the corner from Palm Bay, where the waters are calm and sheltered for your family to enjoy in peace. Swim together, take the stand-up paddleboards on the water, and snorkel until the kids are worn out and ready to rest their final evening under the start Whitsunday skies.

As the sun sets on your final journey, encourage the kids to stir the cool dark waters with their hands. Notice flashes of bioluminescent plankton beneath the surface and leave feeling more connected with nature than you arrived.


From Long Island it’s only a short sail back to Coral Bay Marina. A sailing trip is best enjoyed with a little land living afterwards, so enjoy some time at Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island to finish off your family sailing journey.

Of course, there’s almost never enough time to soak in all there is to do in the Whitsunday islands. But no matter your flavour for fun or idea of a getaway, there’s plenty to enjoy on a Whitsunday family sailing trip. If your pack is adventurous, then sail, snorkel, hike and explore your way through the magnificent wonders. Or, give in to the serenity of Mother Nature and glide through five days of spectacular views, food, fish spotting and family.

Bring your loved ones and hire your bareboat, the Whitsundays will take care of the rest.