Just like diving the Great Barrier Reef, sailing the Whitsundays had been a bucket list item for years. So when we finally made it to Australia, there was no question about it, we would explore the fabled Whitsunday Islands…
About the Whitsunday Islands
The Whitsundays are a cluster of no less than 74 islands, most of them are uninhabited. These pristine islands are covered in tropical rainforest and fringed by gorgeous white sand beaches.
Below the surface you’ll find coral, colorful fish and turtles. Sounds like paradise? Yes, it pretty much is!
To protect the islands and preserve their beauty, a National Park was established in 1944. You can read more about the park and it’s conservation on this website.
The waters around the Whitsunday Islands are inhabited by many underwater creatures. For example, if you are visiting between June and October, you may see migrating humpback whales! And between November and February you might see a turtle nesting on the beach…
Bottom line: the Whitsunday Islands are a treasure and must be treated as such. If you are visiting the Islands, please don’t leave any trash. Don’t take anything from the Islands either. Don’t step on the coral. Keep this place as beautiful as it is now…
Sailing the Whitsunday Islands: our day program
We got to spend an amazing day aboard the Camira catamaran, owned and operated by Cruise Whitsundays. Our day started at 7.30am and we were back in the Port of Airlie around 5.30pm.
This is the approximate day schedule, keep in mind the Camira is a sailing boat and times are dependent on the weather:
- 7.30: check-in at terminal building in Airlie Port
- 7.45: boarding
- 8.00: departure
- 8.00-10.30: sailing to Whitsunday Island
- 10.30-11.15: Hill Inlet Lookout
- 11.15-12.45: Whitehaven Beach
- 12.45-13.45: lunch
- 14.00-15.00: snorkeling
- 15.00-17.30: sailing to Airlie Beach
Sailing the Whitsunday Islands: what to bring
The Camira is a big boat and there is enough storage space for your belongings. That being said, you don’t really need that much. I brought:
- Hat ⇒ preferably one that has a strap or sits snugly on your head. It’s windy on the water!
- Sunglasses ⇒ the sun is bright on the sparkling water so make sure to bring a good pair of polarized sunglasses.
- Sunscreen ⇒ though this is also provided on board it’s always good to bring your own.
- Bottle of water ⇒ you can refill this during the entire day.
- Hoodie ⇒ I easily get cold and when it’s cloudy or a windy day, it can get cold on the boat.
- Camera ⇒ you’ll want to take plenty of snaps of this pretty place!
- Towel ⇒ keep an eye on this item as it easily gets blown off the boat.
- Optional: a book ⇒ I didn’t bring one, nor did I feel the need to. I spent the entire day gazing over the water and admiring the views.
Sailing the Whitsunday Islands: aboard the Camira
About the Camira
The purple Camira is one of the world’s fastest commercial sailing catamarans, not surprising since she was previously used as a racing boat!
The Camira is 26 meters long and offers plenty of seating space, both inside as well as outside. My favorite spot was at the front of the boat, on the bow net.
The Camira can reach speeds up to 30 knots (55 kilometers per hour) but rest assured, that’s not the speed you’ll be sailing at during your day in the Whitsundays;-).
There are two toilets on board and storage room for bags. Inside you can find shade, but the views outside are unbeatable…
Food and drinks
The food aboard the Camira was topnotch. When we boarded the vessel coffee, tea and biscuits were available. After an hour of sailing fresh fruits and cakes were served, the perfect mid-morning snacks!
When we got back from our Whitsunday Island exploration, we were pretty hungry and very happy to discover an extensive BBQ lunch had been prepared during our time on the beach!
During the entire day complimentary soft drinks, fresh water, tea and coffee are available. Beer and wine is also included, but don’t drink before snorkeling!
After the snorkeling trip, a snack buffet was served so we didn’t need to go hungry at any point of the day!
About the Camira crew
Every member of the crew was friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Throughout the day several briefings were given (boat safety, snorkeling instruction, preparation for Whitsunday Island, etc).
All briefings were clear and delivered from a spot where everybody could see and hear the crew member giving the instruction.
There is quite a lot of work to do on board for the crew, but they always made themselves available to answer any questions.
Sailing the Whitsunday Islands: Hill Inlet Lookout
One of the highlights of the day was the Hill Inlet Lookout. A short walk (1.3 kilometer return) leads through the forest to the viewpoint where you will see that famous and fabled view over Whitsunday Island…
The view from the Hill Inlet Lookout is truly one of the most beautiful things I have seen in my life and that says a lot!
Sailing the Whitsunday Islands: Whitehaven Beach
From the Hill Inlet Lookout we made our way down to Whitehaven Beach. This 7 kilometers long beach on the largest island of the Whitsunday group (Whitsunday Island) is famous for its pure white sand.
The sand on Whitehaven Beach is among the whitest anywhere on earth and is composed of 98% silica. Besides being very pretty, an added benefit of this type of sand is that it doesn’t retain heat, so your feet won’t get scorched! Not even on an inevitably hot day on this blissful island…
Fun ‘fact’: some say the pure sand of Whitehaven Beach was used to make glass for the lens of the Hubble Telescope, but nobody knows if this is true…
We spent an hour and a half on this amazing beach, but I wouldn’t have minded to stay longer.
Sailing the Whitsunday Islands: snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef
The water around the Whitsunday Islands is clear, warm and relatively shallow, perfect for many types of coral to grow. So off course snorkeling was included in the program as well!
As divers, we are a bit spoiled and it was not the best coral I’ve seen. Unfortunately several patches of coral were bleached or dead. Nevertheless, exploring the underwater world is always fun and we did see a couple of colorful parrotfish.
Sailing the Whitsunday Islands: a day to remember
Altogether we had an amazing day sailing around the Whitsunday Islands! I was reminded once again how much I love being on the water and what a beautiful world we live in…
For more information about this trip, check the Cruise Whitsundays website. Also check out my other Australia posts:
- Australia travel budget
- Cairns to Melbourne road trip itinerary
- Diving at the Great Barrier Reef
- Riding the Cairns Skyrail cableway
Disclosure: I was hosted by Cruise Whitsundays. Nevertheless, all pictures and opinions are my own.