Choosing A Whitsunday Islands Sailing trip

Travelled by Brucini on 15 December 2008 | 2 Comments

Travelled By

Brucini Brucini

Brucini started seriously travelling after attempting to move to Queenstown, New Zealand, in 1996.Inspired by drunkenly meeting a world of travelers on a Kiwi Experience bus, he changed his plans and roamed the world for a year. ...Find out more!

Choosing A Whitsunday Islands Sailing trip
Choosing A Whitsunday Islands Sailing trip

If you are planning on doing a crewed Whitsunday Islands sailing trip from Airlie Beach on the East Coast of Australia for a few days, make sure you give yourself the best chance of having the best experience for your money. Make sure you choose to travel with an accredited sailing operator.

For many, sailing in the Whitsundays is the highlight of their travels in Australia. Most backpackers book on a yacht that will take them on a multi-night cruise around the 84 Islands of the Whitsunday group of Islands. Depending on the sailing option you choose, you will see highlights like Whitehaven Beach, whales (in season), the Great barrier Reef, go diving and swim and sunbathe on multi-million dollar yachts. You don’t need to know how to sail, everything is taken care of for you, although you can get involved in the sailing as much as you want to.

Dophins visiting the back of the boat at night

Dophins visiting the back of the boat at night

Like anywhere, however, there are operators who cut corners and offer inferior services, usually at cheaper prices. For a backpacker on a budget that’s a juicy carrot, but arguably a short-sighted decision. The difference between a good experience and an OK experience could well depend upon the service, safety, environmental awareness, training and quality of yacht you travel with.

Boats without a Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association accreditation (WCBIA) are usually the cheapest and poorest options. To maximise your chance to have the best time choose your boat wisely. Ask about:

  • What is the crew to passenger ratio? How many passengers are on board? Better boats have lower ratio’s and numbers.
  • What food is served and how many meals are there? Good boats include all meals and have enough food for ’seconds’ at every meal time
  • Will you sleep on the Islands (beach) or on the boat or will you sleep on the yacht’s deck rather than in cabins because there aren’t enough beds for all passengers? Having a cabin and sleeping on the boat is best.
  • Are the advertised sailing times actually how long you will be sailing for? For example, some companies advertise a 3 day / 2 night trip but actually leave on Day 1 at 2pm and arrive back on Day 3 at 1pm. This effectively means you paid for a 2 day / 2 night trip and you just got ripped off.
  • If you are booking with a travel agent, ask if they sell non-WCBIA member sailing trips. Agents such as these arguably do not have your best interests or those of the wider industry at heart.
Sunbathing on the foredeck of Wings

Sunbathing on the foredeck of Wings

The most notable example of something going wrong for a non-WCBIA yacht was in April 2008.  During a particularly heavy storm a yacht broke its mooring in the middle of the night as it tried to ride out a storm. Engines failed and the yacht was pushed onto rocks and all the passengers had to evacuated by helicopter in treacherous conditions. No one died, although there were injuries, and arguably it could have happened to anyone, however, the after care from the operator of the yacht left much to be desired. The operator did not look after the passengers ongoing welfare who had lost their personal belongings nor did they appear concerned about the ongoing reputation of the sailing destination.

My advice is be careful and look for Whitsundays Charter Boat Association members.

All images are courtesy of Island Dive in the Whitsundays:


  • Andy Richards says:

    Bruce and Annie, you both give great advice! Thanks a lot. I look forward to putting your advice into action one day... hopefully soon : )

    6 years ago

  • Annie says:

    Bruce this is great advice for travellers. The danger is agents who try and push non-wcbia boats on you without offering the 'good stuff'. Most agents will have the ultra cheap ones available but it's the good ones who can offer the WCBIA boat trips with confidence. really get what you pay for- that is THE golden rule when travelling in Australia. There is a lot out there so dont taint a potentially amazing experience by cost cutting. Geez you only have one life...make the bloody most of it! :) Annie Giaro

    6 years ago

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