Charter your own yacht in the Whitsundays

The Whitsundays archipelago from above.

The Whitsundays archipelago from above.

While away your days exploring Queensland's archipelago of 74 tropical islands.

When winter blankets the country's southern states there are few more compelling escapes than to swap chill winds for trade winds and chart a course for the Whitsundays.

Bareboat charters are the backbone of the experience; even those with minimal sailing experience can, in a few hours, be coached to skipper a vessel and chart a course for adventure through the Queensland's archipelago of 74 tropical islands.

Cumberland Charter Yachts is the leader in the region, with 28 boats for hire including its latest acquisition, Aquila 44, a 13.5-metre motor cruiser with three ensuite cabins and uninterrupted views of paradise from the flybridge (from $1,910 a night).

A dream yachting itinerary might look like this: set the coordinates for the Aboriginal cave paintings at Nara Inlet, frolic with green turtles in Tongue Bay, bushwalk between lookouts at Cid Harbour and hike to Tongue Point on Whitsunday Island for aerial views of some of the world's most dazzling beaches - including the oft-photographed Whitehaven and its sister beach Chalkies. Snorkel at Butterfly Bay and Stonehaven, stargaze on the deck and, at low tide, indulge castaway fantasies on the Langford Island sandspit, which disappears, mirage-like, when the water comes in.

Set aside at least a week for such an itinerary - and aim for August. It's Hamilton Island Race Week, the Coral Sea's showcase event that sets sails between 19-26 August. There'll be no chance of a berth at Hamilton's marina during the regatta, but try for an anchor nearby at Cid Harbour, Beach 25 or Gulnare Inlet and catch the action.

The other giant drawcards in August are humpback whales - it's calving season in the Whitsundays and the passage transforms into a cetacean crèche. "They've literally had to stop race week before because of whales calving," says Cumberland's Sharon McNally. "It's a massive nursery."

With luck and your own yacht, you can literally see eye to eye with the big mammals.


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