Cruise to Whitsunday Islands

Drone shot of catmaran anchored up in shallow reef

Whitsunday Cruises: Your guide to cruising the iconic Queensland islands

  • Drone shot of clean white sand with turquoise water
  • Kids building sand castles with their Mum
  • Drone shot of two kids standing on rocks overlooking the ocean

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Frequently asked questions

As soon as you catch a glimpse of the Whitsunday Islands, you’ll see what the main attractions are. Island hop between its crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, vibrant coral reefs and untouched bushland. The islands sit on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, which is famous for its snorkelling and diving. You can snorkel straight off the beach at many islands or from a boat further out to sea. Whitehaven Beach is one of the most popular cruise destinations. This stunning beach is on Whitsunday Island, the largest in the group, and has the purest white sand in the world.

The sun is almost always shining in the Whitsundays, so you can cruise here year-round. To avoid the wetter months, cruise between June and September. Days will still be warm, with plenty of sunshine and clear seas. The summer months, from around December to March, are also popular and you’re guaranteed hot days with some tropical storms. Be aware that summer is also stinger season in the Whitsundays, so you’ll need to wear a stinger suit when swimming or snorkelling to protect you from jellyfish.

The Whitsundays is the perfect family playground. Many of the day trips to the islands or Great Barrier Reef are tailored towards families and kids, with large stable boats, water toys and snorkelling locations for beginners. If you’re chartering a yacht, many will be suitable for families with larger cabins, space for the family to relax and plenty of safety gear.

This will depend on the type of cruise you book. On day trips, lunch and snacks are generally included. On overnight charters with crew, most will include meals prepared for you and there may even be fresh seafood BBQs with the day’s catch. If you are bareboat chartering a boat (which means it comes with no crew) you will need to arrange your own food and provisions.

Some of the most luxurious yachts in the world sail around the Whitsundays and are available to charter. These boats are like a floating five-star hotel with spacious ensuite cabins, sun decks with day beds, water toys like jet skis, and an attentive crew on hand to cater for your every need.

Cruises range from day trips to week-long adventures. Day trips regularly depart from Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island, taking you to Whitehaven Beach, the Great Barrier Reef or smaller islands. On longer cruises, you will either sleep in cabins on the boat or sail between islands that have resorts or campgrounds.

Absolutely! The Whitsundays sit on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, a spectacular living ecosystem that’s home to more than 600 types of hard and soft coral, 1,500 species of fish, six types of sea turtles, and a host of other marine life like dugongs, dolphins, whales, manta rays and sharks. You can expect to go snorkelling every day, either jumping straight off your boat or stopping at one of the islands. The scuba diving is also excellent, with most sites in relatively shallow water and offering near perfect visibility. Reefworld is a large pontoon above Hardy Bay and many day trips will take you there for the best snorkelling and diving.

They like to keep things pretty casual in the Whitsundays, so your swimsuit, boardies and light clothing will be all you’ll need. Make sure to bring a hat and sunscreen, and some sturdy shoes if you plan to explore the islands.

Most of the boats sailing around the Whitsundays are small, often with less than 10 passengers on board, so entertainment will be more relaxed. Enjoy stargazing on deck or possibly some live music from the crew.

Most Whitsunday cruises depart from Airlie Beach, which is on the mainland and easy to reach by air, road or rail. You can fly into Whitsunday Coast Airport at Proserpine, which is just 25 minutes from Airlie Beach. There is also an airport on Hamilton Island, where a number of Whitsunday cruises depart from.

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