Sailing the Whitsunday lslands
Located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef on Australia’s east coast, the Whitsunday Islands are made of 74 island wonders, characterized by dense rainforest, hiking trails and white sand beaches.
Without a doubt, it is one of those must-see places in Australia!
Whitehaven Beach is what you see on all the magazines and postcards of the Whitsundays.
It’s a long, pure-white beach. Most people who travel up this region go on a sailing trip through the Whitsunday Islands. This is also doable in one day!
What makes the Whitsunday Islands so special?
The highlight of the 72 islands is Whitehaven Beach. Voted as one of the best beaches in the world by Tripadvisor, Whitehaven stretches for a spectacular seven kilometres and the sand is almost 100% silica, which gives it such a vivid white colour. And that’s not just some sort of marketing message. It is true, the sand looks and feels like flour!
About Cruise Whitsundays and the Camira
Cruise Whitesundays is an award winning travel tourism company spezialised in day cruises & transfers to the Great Barrier Reef, Whitehaven Beach and the Whitsunday Islands. It’s also the largest operator in this region.
Why did I pick the Camira Sailing Trip?
People who follow my blog know that I generally don’t like organized tours. However, if you wanna see the famous Whitehaven Beach, you can’t do it indepedently. There is no ferry or road going there.
A sailing trip is one of the most varied and exciting ways to explore the Whitesundays! It combines sailing, snorkelling, relaxing at the beach, BBQ and drinks.
After all it didn’t feel like an organized tour. You get all the freedom you want, the crew is very relaxed and fun and nothing feels forced.
By the way, the Camira is the only sailing tour that is able to visit Whitehaven Beach during a day trip.
About the Camira
The Camira is one of the world’s fastest commercial sailing catamarans, capable of sailing at speeds up to 30 knots! A beautiful sleek and powerful catamaran. It was definitely bigger than I imagined it.
You’ll have spacious deck areas, including a trampoline area where you can relax and an indoor space in case you feel cold or want to get some shade for a while.
The Day – What to Expect
This is a full day sailing trip!
You’ll have to check in at the Port of Airlie terminal half an hour before departure. The Camira will leave at 8 am, after crew introductions, safety talks – and after everyone is on board.
Who is everyone? We were a crowd of about 40ish people. To my relief, not a group of young backpackers. It was a balanced mix of solo travelers, friends, couples and a family with kids. Basically, all ages.
And we all had one thing in common: No shoes! Yup, there is a no shoe policy on board of the Camira.
As soon as the Camira left the marina, setting the sails became top priority for the crew. It’s fun just to jst sit back and to see how the crew use a combination of manual technique and powerful mechanical winches to pull up the mammoth sails.
The catamaran sailed through the islands for more than one hour, passing Daydream Island and finally passing through the Hook Passage where we stopped for snorkelling.
Small boats brought us closer to the shore. Before we were left into the water, there was a safety introduction about how to snokel.
Everyone who wanted to snorkel could join, everyone else stayed on board. Snorkeling gear and lightweight wet suits available free of charge.
Normally that is the part where you can witness the stunning underwater world of the reef with its corals, fishes and turtles. Unfortunately 8 weeks before my trip, cyclone Debbie destroyed great parts of the reef. Not only the reef, the whole area including houses and trees got severly damaged.
The crew mentally prepared us that we wouldn’t see much underwater, but yet I wanted to give it a try and jumped into the sea. The water was murky – I didn’t see any turtles or fish. Pretty sad, but what to do.
Following the in-water experience, we again set sail and headed south to make our way to Whitehaven Beach. Once there, the crew transfered us in small groups to the beach.
Even though there were a couple of other tour boats, the beach did not feel crowded at all. Well, it’s a stretch of 7 km in total, so there is plenty of space for everyone.
We almost had 2 hours at the beach, where we could do whatever we like. That was more time than I hoped for.
You could either enjoy the soft and cool silica sands as you walk along the stretches of uninterrupted beach or enjoy the scenery. As much as I tried to sit down and soak in the scenery, my feet were itchy to walk around and take some photos.
It was like someone had coloured the water with food dye, but apparently it’s so blue because of the silica in the sand. The water reflects light differently to regular sand and makes this magical, aqua blue colour. It’s amazing!
In case you aren’t 100% convinced from any photos you’ve seen of Whitehaven Beach, I can say it is really completely gorgeous and deserves the listing as one of the Top 10 Best Beaches in the World.
By the way, my photos have no filter.
Once we were back on board, the BBQ was ready.
The lunch buffet consisted of different kind of salads (something for every taste), bread rolls, meat (chicken, pork and beef) and fish. Everything was delicicious. Apparently the caterer is one of the best restaurants in Airlie Beach, “Fish D’vine & the Rum Bar”.
After lunch, the Camira sailed back through the islands. The afternoon literally sailed by. Relaxing with some wine, wind in the face, surrounded by the bluest of all waters. In between there was a pre-dinner snack served: cheese, crackers and muffins. What’s better than this?
We passed by Hamilton Island and eventually were back at Airlie Beach by around 5:45 pm.
Some TipsThe Whitsunday Islands are beautiful, but I had the misfortune of visiting the islands during the winter season (June). Even though it was sunny for most of the day, it got really cold on the Camira. Since it’s moving very fast, the wind was very cold. Next time, I would pick a warmer season of the year. Book your trip at the last minute (1-3 days prior).
Ok, there is a chance that there won’t be any space left, but it is important that you have an idea about the weather for the next coming days (no matter at what season of the year). Rain or strong winds can really screw up your experience. Take lots of layers with you. Be prepared for cold, windy weather and hot temperatures alike. Towels, swimming suit and a sun hat are the most important things. Ideally a sun hat that does not fly away – after all it’s a sailing tour! Think strong winds. There is a dedicated space on board where you can store your bags and other personal belongings. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! This is Australia and we all know that the sun is particualy strong in this part of the world. The wind while sailing can trick you. Just because it’s not that hot, doesn’t mean the sun is less strong. If you have one, take your GoPro. Not only for your underwater shots, but also for photographing Whitehaven Beach. The sand at the beach is so fine that it can do damage to your camera and lens. So a GoPro covered in the waterproof case is the best option. Water, coffee, tea, soft drinks and beer & wine (from 11am) are included. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Happens quite quickly under the sun.
The crew of the Camira was just awesome! They were extremely helpful, approachable and always trying to entertain the guests and engage in conversations. But if you are not into this you don’t have to – it didn’t feel forced. You could really see that they were a team that has been working together for a while and each of them really enjoyed their job to the fullest.