THE LUSH HILLS BECKON with rainforest adventures, and hotel infinity pools and breezy massage cabanas overlook the Coral Sea.
And under the surface, the Great Barrier Reef is exposed in all its technicolour glory, stretching through the sunlit waters for as far as the eye can see.
The Whitsundays are a superb cruising ground for visiting yachts, and with recent regulation changes opening up the region for superyachts and three large yacht marinas in the region, there’s never been a better time to plan a visit.
Around 650 kilometres to the south of Cairns lie the spectacular Whitsundays archipelago, which is all that remains of an ancient mountain range flooded by ocean as the last ice age receded.
The yachting experience here is exquisite, each blissful day of diving and swimming ending with a glass of French bubbles on the swim platform, feet dangling in the warm tropical water as the sun sets over the Whitsunday Passage and the magnificent Australian coast.
The Whitsunday Islands are located midway along the Queensland coastline, sheltered by the Great Barrier Reef and surrounded by the calm waters of the Coral Sea. Over recent decades this stunning cruising ground has attracted hundreds of superyachts, with recent regulations opening up 21 anchorages for visiting yachts up to 70 metres in length.
Of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays only eight are inhabited, the most famous being Hamilton Island, which has its own marina for yachts up to 60 metres, as well as an airport with flights from all major Australian cities. The luxury resorts in the Whitsundays mean that there’s plenty of restaurants, cocktail bars and day spas to enjoy in between the extraordinary natural cruising you’ll discover as you float between sugar-white beaches, mountainous islands and dazzling coral reefs.
Major Whitsundays attractions include the pristine silicone sands of Whitehaven Beach – regularly voted the world’s most beautiful; the sublime spa resort of qualia on Hamilton Island’s northern peninsula, as well as the island’s iconic Yacht Club. Every August, Hamilton Island Race Week is the place to be for sailing enthusiasts. On the mainland, the lively, fun-loving town of Airlie Beach is the perfect launching point for Whitsundays adventures and has two marinas for superyachts: Port of Airlie and the award-winning Coral Sea Marina, which accommodates yachts up to 90 metres.
The planet’s largest living structure and visible from outer space, the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Stretching over 2,000 kilometres in length, the reef protects the Whitsunday Coast and islands from ocean swells, providing the region with some of the safest, most protected cruising grounds in the world.
Of course, the best way to experience the Great Barrier Reef in all its glory is under the water.
Don the snorkel or dive gear to explore the colourful wonderland beneath the surface, from huge coral bommies to delicate spans of plate coral and the skeletal staghorn structures. This coral is home to a dizzying array of life, from the small – clams and starfish, urchins, clownfish and sea cucumbers –right up to the large, as sea turtles and manta rays, dolphins, reef sharks and whales float slowly through the endless blue.
The diversity of the reef is nothing short of staggering, and there’s never enough time in the day to complete all the dives you want to do. For deeper reef diving adventures, you can organise a seaplane to land at your anchorage for a trip to the outer barrier reef. Flying over and landing at Hardy Reef, where a ‘river’ channel of deepest blue winds between the shades of turquoise and browns of the shallow corals, is a spectacular experience and highly recommended.