Travel Rankings & Advice


Sailing Photo info
yarra64 /Flickr
  • Type: Recreation, Sightseeing, Sports
  • Time to Spend: Half Day to Full Day
Overall Rating: 4.0 (4.2)
Value: 3.0 (3.0)
Facilities: 4.0 (4.0)
Atmosphere: 5.0 (5.0)
About these ratings

Picture it: As the wind-powered craft clips along the Coral Sea, a tropical breeze teases your hair while the ocean spits sea spray on your arms. You drop anchor within swimming distance of an uninhabited island or cay and spend an afternoon exploring. Whether you're on a multi-day cruise or a quick jaunt off the mainland, sailing along the Great Barrier Reef is a must-do.

If you're looking to sail north of Cairns, you'll enjoy the best cruising weather between June and December. For optimal conditions year-round, head farther south to the waters surrounding the Whitsunday Islands. A bevy of operators offer trips on tall ships, maxi yachts and catamarans to destinations all around the region. Ocean Spirit offers daily cruises to Michaelmas Cay (about 27 miles northeast of Cairns) that include free use of snorkeling equipment, a guided nature tour and a buffet (with additional morning and afternoon snacks) for $182 AUD (about $172 USD) per adult and $132 AUD per child (about $124 USD) — if you book online. Bliss, a 60-foot luxury yacht, can take up to eight passengers around the Whitsundays (including Whitehaven Beach) for a trip that lasts anywhere from three days to a week. However, prices aren't cheap: A private charter on the Bliss with a captain, chef and use of sports equipment costs $3,675 AUD to $4,095 AUD (about $3,643 USD to $3,859 USD) a day during the region's high season (July to January). But the boat delivers on comfort. Bliss boasts three suites and all the modern amenities needed for a luxury cruise, like air conditioning, satellite TV and gourmet meals.

If you'd rather be at the helm of your own vessel, you'll find several bareboat operators around the region (no crew, no supplies — just you and the boat). Charter Yachts Australia offers charter packages from Airlie Beach (about 387 miles southeast of Cairns), with your choice of yachts, catamarans and power catamarans. Yachts chartered between January and March start at $440 AUD (about $415 USD) per night, while premium catamarans can cost up to $1,750 AUD (about $1,650 USD) per night during peak season. If you don't consider yourself much of a skipper, brush up on the basics with classes at Sunsail Sailing Schools before taking to the high seas.

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