Lying just off the Queensland coast and sheltered by the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays are Australia’s answer to the cruising grounds of the Caribbean, and home to the island continent’s largest fleet of charter yachts. The 74 islands – most of them in pristine national parks – offer a lifetime’s worth of quiet anchorages and empty white-sand beaches fanned by steady breezes virtually every day of the year.
Whether you’re out for a daysail, on a crewed yacht, or bareboating on your own, traveling by boat also opens the way to the great snorkeling and fishing found in these warm tropical waters. Dolphins, manta rays, and sea turtles are common here, and migrating humpback whales visit from July through September. On shore, you can explore nature trails or just settle into a secluded cove for long days of sunbathing and snorkeling
Accommodations found on eight of the islands run the gamut: Hamilton is a resort island with a jet airport, a hotel, shops, and a marina; Hayman is a world-class luxury getaway; and Hook Island has remote cabins for backpackers. And the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef are easy to reach via a short sail or a quick trip by high-speed catamaran.