Sailing in the Whitsundays
Sailing in the Whitsundays was one thing that I was looking forward to most on our East Coast Australia road trip. I’d done loads of research before our trip and it was marked out as a definite not to be missed. There are lots of different types of sailing trips you can do in the beautiful Whitsunday Islands, but we picked the Whitsundays Prima. This trip was suitable for couples and involved snorkelling and a trip to the famous Whitehaven Beach.
Our boat was setting sail from Airlie Beach and we arrived in the night before in pouring rain and a terrible storm. In fact, the weather was so bad that I was expected our boat trip to be cancelled – surely we couldn’t sail in this?! We had booked into the Airlie Beach Apartments which were really cute little apartments with self-catering facilities and everything you need for a good night’s sleep. When we arrived, there was no one on reception and a number to ring.
When we tried the number, we couldn’t get through on our English phones (we never did figure out what you’re supposed to dial to get through!) but luckily there was a group of Australian lads staying in the apartments too who gave the owner a call. The owner was away for the night but had left the key under the mat(!) outside our apartment. We did meet the owner the next day and he was really nice and helpful telling us where to go for the boat.
Airlie Beach is a typical backpacker town with lots of places to grab brunch and lots of bars. There’s also a man made swimming area with a beach and park.
The booking process
By this point in our trip we had started to realise that everything is difficult in Australia. So, not only had we already booked online, but we had to go to a shop in the town to pick up our tickets before we went to the harbour to get onto the boat, so it was a bit more of a hassle than it could have been.
The sailing trip
Luckily, the weather had cleared up ready for us to get on the boat and it was a really sunny day as we sailed away from the harbour – in fact, we got sunburnt up on the deck! The boat itself was quite small (not one for claustrophobics!) and we had a mad French captain called Terry who delighted in smashing through the waves with the boat leaning from side to side which meant we really had to hang on where we were sitting – but it was all good fun.
We spent our first afternoon snorkelling around the Whitsunday Islands – the coral here is part of the Great Barrier Reef – and we were able to spot lots of marine life including parrot fish, and some people even spotted sea turtles. We also spotted wild dolphins several times during the boat trip which was incredible – I love seeing dolphins swimming in the wild.
The food on the boat was prepared by the first mate of the boat and was absolutely delicious – definitely a highlight! Snacks included nachos and dinners included Thai green curry. You could also bring your own alcohol on board so, as soon as the snorkelling was done for the day, it was time to crack open the wine. At night we watched the sunset from the boat before heading off to our cabin.
On the second day of the boat trip, we headed to the famous Whitehaven Beach, which is the one with white sand that you’ve probably seen on a million Instagram photos. It is definitely just as breathtaking in real life and it’s one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to. There is shallow water surrounding the beach where you can paddle amongst stingrays and baby lemon sharks, who are born in the bay and stay here until they get old enough to go out to sea. The water is completely clear and so you can see right to the bottom, even if you go out a little deeper. There is also a little hike on the island where we spotted some huge lizards.
My 5 top tips for sailing in the Whitsundays
1. A two night sailing trip might be that little bit too long, especially if you end up getting bad weather like we did. Go for a day trip or just one overnight instead.
2. Pick your boat carefully. There are lots of different sailing boats to choose from – some have a party atmosphere and others are more suited to couples. Ensure that the trip you decide on suits the type of traveller you are else you may be disappointed – and you can’t swim back to Airlie Beach!
3. Haggle on price. I researched the trip I wanted on Google, looked at reviews and chatted to other travellers before deciding which ones I wanted. The prices are usually listed on the website, but I found that the tour operators come down in price if you reach out to them by email. This may also help you afford to get a private cabin.
4. On the flip side, you can save money by sleeping in the shared cabin on the boat, so long as you don’t mind sleeping in the same space as other people. If you’re used to shared dorm rooms in hostels anyway, this is a really similar experience.
5. Take some sea sickness tablets with you. I never get travel sickness of any kind, but sleeping on a small, hot boat, made me feel really queasy when I woke up each morning.
We really enjoyed our trip sailing in the Whitsundays – it was one of the highlights of the whole Australia holiday – and I would definitely recommend that you go sailing in the Whitsundays if you get the chance to.