Whitsundays, Australia

Sailing School

Please Note: For the safety of our crews and guests, all Sail By The Cabin charters have been temporarily suspended through September 2021. If you are a group of two or more, you are still able to learn to sail with us and enjoy the yacht and instructor to yourselves, please inquire with a Vacation Planner to find out more.

Learn to sail on the Great Barrier Reef

The Whitsundays sit inside the Great Barrier Reef, which runs down the northeastern coast of Australia and provides sheltered seas, fantastic sailing conditions and superb beaches.

Rated as one of the world’s most beautiful sailing grounds, the Whitsunday Islands offer a blend of breathtaking natural landscapes, spectacular marine life and an infinite selection of award-winning beaches and picturesque anchorages.

Learn to sail, improve your skills or gain new qualifications in one of the world's most beautiful cruising areas, where humpback whales, playful dolphins and curious sea turtles share the pristine waters.

Prices and availability

BeginnerRYA Competent Crew$1,488
IntermediateRYA Day Skipper$1,488

*Prices above are per person based on two people sharing the cabin. For single occupancy prices and availability please talk to our Vacation Planners.

Practical information

What to bring

  • Your RYA course books and Log book
  • Sunscreen and chap stick.
  • Sailing gloves to protect your hands. Some sailors use sailing gloves (fingerless, Velcro closure, water permeable), some do not. Whatever your preference is fine.
  • Hat or visor: bring both, bring many.
  • Something to help shield your eyes from the sun, or to keep long locks from blocking your view, is a great idea.
  • Sunglasses and retainer: same as above—a spare pair never hurts. The benefits of polarised eyewear cannot be emphasized enough. Nothing protects better against sun-glare on the water, especially when determining below-surface conditions for piloting or anchoring.

RYA Day Skipper practical and RYA Competent Crew

Candidates are encouraged to read the RYA practical and/or theory course books. These can be purchased in advance from a marine store or online. Day Skipper candidates are strongly encouraged to complete the Day Skipper theory course prior to arrival for their practical assessment. Day Skipper theory courses can be taken online. 

Successful completion of this course will provide you with RYA Competent Crew or Day Skipper (non-tidal) qualification. For the Day Skipper course candidates should bring two passport photos for certification paperwork.


The local currency is the Australian Dollar. Money can't be changed at the airport but there is a bank local to the base.


  • Accommodation is onboard the sailing school vessel, allows for 5 students in shared cabins and 1 instructor in a single private berth.
  • Sheets, pillow, blankets and shower towel are all provided.
  • Please note: bring your belongings in a soft holdall, as there is little storage on board the yacht.



  • Showers and toilets
  • Reception and lounge with WiFi
  • Private Dock

In Airlie Beach (10 minutes from base)

  • Laundry
  • Bars and Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Selection of shops
  • Bank
  • Post Office

Course provisioning

  • Breakfast, lunch, Dinner and non-alcoholic beverages are provided during the course. You are welcome to purchase any extra nibbles you may require and bring aboard with you. 
  • We can cater for vegetarian or other dietary needs, however we must know in advance. 
  • Please note that you will be expected to help with the cooking, washing up and general housekeeping of the yacht.

Course books and Logbooks required

Courses books should be purchased prior to your practical course. Prices range between $25.00 - $35.00 AUD

Competent Crew: RYA Competent Crew Skills Book and Yacht Master Scheme Syllabus & Logbook
Day Skipper: RYA Day Skipper Practical Course Notes and Yacht Master Scheme Syllabus & Logbook
Coastal Skipper: Yacht Master Scheme Syllabus & Logbook

You will need RYA log book G15 for your course. If you have not already ordered a log book you can purchase one online.

Recommended reading for RYA courses

RYA practical and/or theory course books. These can be purchased in advance.

Flights and transfers

Flight times: as issued on your tickets.

Sydney to Shute Harbour approximately 2hrs 30

Passports and visas

You must have a valid passport when you travel to Australia. Please ensure that your passport is valid for up to six months beyond your scheduled stay. Nearly all persons need a tourist visa or an electronic travel authority to enter Australia (except for residents of New Zealand), although there is no charge for a stay of three months or less. We do advise clients to check with immigration in any case.

Yacht course start times

Embarkation Sunday

Course start Monday 9am

Course finish Friday 5pm

Disembarkation Saturday

Students must arrive the evening prior to their course, accommodation on board is included.


You will be able to access your yacht on the Sunday evening at 4pm (we will always try to have it available at an earlier time, where possible).The vessel is located at the Sunsail Whitsundays Base at 6 Bay Terrace, Shute Harbour, 45 minutes from the Proserpine airport. Please be sure to include your arrival information. You'll meet with a member of our staff who'll give you a brief introduction to the yacht facilities. The rest of the evening is your own, and we'd like to encourage you to get to know the other members of your team and get some rest before a busy sailing week.

If there’s anything you’d like to know about your boat, the marina or the island itself please ask your Instructor or a member of the Sunsail team. However, a full yacht and safety briefing will be given on Monday morning at the start of your course.

Monday to Friday

You will meet the instructor the next morning at 9am and receive the full yacht briefing (including victualing and more). Each day starts at approx 9am and finishes at approx 6pm. The syllabus for your course can be found on the website, and logbooks for your course can be purchased from the RYA. Your yacht is already provisioned for the five-day course with inclusive breakfast, lunch and dinners. There is free time in the evening when the crew can relax. Your course will finish later on one evening of the five to give you a taste of night sailing. 


The yacht will return on Friday afternoon at around 5pm at Shute Harbour and you are welcome to stay on board until 10am Saturday morning if you wish. Crews usually enjoy drinks and dinner together.

Accommodation can easily be arranged before or after your course if you wish to explore the area on land.

Places to visit and activity options

  • Snorkeling and diving: Great Barrier Reef.
  • Butterfly Bay, Luncheon Bay, Maureens Cove, Border Island and many more.
  • Beaches: Whitehaven Beach, Turtle Bay, Chance Bay and many more.
  • Wildlife reserves.

Snorkeling gear

Snorkeling gear is included. We have a variety of adjustable sizes to choose from.

Sample itinerary

Day 0: Shute Harbour. Meet crew and join yacht at 1600hrs

Day 1: Nara Inlet Via Cid Harbour (distance: 13nm)

Day 2: Butterfly Bay Via Hayman Island (distance: 24nm)

Day 3: Whitehaven Beach via Border Island (distance: 21nm)

Day 4: Lindeman Island (distance: 27nm)

Day 5: Shute Harbour Class ends at 17.00hrs** (distance: 15nm)

Total distance logged approximately 100nm **Class ends Friday at 5pm.  If your flight does not leave until Saturday, you are welcome to spend Friday night on board the yacht at the marina till 10am Saturday.

Children on courses

Sunsail welcomes your older children on any of our courses at any time of year, provided they are accompanied by at least one adult.   However, to participate in courses they must meet the minimum age requirements.

  • Competent Crew Certification Course- Minimum age 12+
  • ICC and Day Skipper Certification Course- Minimum age is 16+


The standard voltage on all yachts is 12 volts (cigarette lighter-type outlet). To keep your electronic devices charged while on board (such as your cell phone, digital camera, etc) an inverter is available on board.

Respecting destinations

Sunsail remains committed to protecting the environment and supporting local cultures in our sailing areas. Over many years our clients have helped us to ensure that our presence does not negatively impact these areas. Please continue to help us leave these areas as good as or better than we found them.

  • Sewerage management. Always use pump out facilities in marinas where available. Otherwise, please avoid discharge in busy anchorages and marinas and prevent contamination to humans and bottom sediments/coral reef inhabitants by pumping out as far as possible offshore.
  • Avoid pumping oily bilge water or other hazardous substances into the sea.
  • Be litter conscious. Never throw rubbish overboard and minimise the use of plastics and non biodegradable products.
  • Observe the laws that govern fish catch sizes, and the touching or handling of marine wildlife.
  • Keep a safe distance when viewing marine life, approach side on and stopping with propellers in neutral.
  • Identify dark water areas as possible important shallow ecosystems.
  • Use mooring buoys where available over coral reefs. If anchoring, drop anchors in sand, away from living reefs.
  • Take care not to crush and break corals and reef dwellings with body parts, fins and equipment when snorkeling or swimming.
  • Avoid purchase of marine ornamental souvenirs and the harvest of endangered fish.


We have photographers on site at our bases throughout the season, and you'll be informed if one is present upon arrival at your base. If you have strong objections to close-up photography of yourself and your party, please indicate your feelings to the photographer at the time. 

Sunsail schools sales office opening hours

The office is open all year, except for Christmas Day and Boxing Day:

Mon-Fri from 8am-5pm

Saturday from 8am-4:30pm

Sunday and Bank Holidays from 8am-4:30pm

Sunsail Whitsundays base opening hours:

The Sunsail base is open from 8am-5pm, seven days a week all year round.

Operations Mobile: +0498 989 698
Sunsail Whitsundays Reservations: + 07 4948 8250

Base address

Sunsail Whitsundays
6 Bay Terrace
Shute Harbour
Queensland 4802

Operations Manager: Paul Sievers
RYA Principal: Wayne Reed