Whitsundays essential information

Sailing in Australia

Back to Whitsundays

Find everything you need to prepare for a charter in Whitsundays. From important base information to required documents for international travel, you can use this information as your guide before and during your charter. Don't forget to pack a copy to take with you.


Before you go


Sunsail Whitsundays
6 Bay Terrace
Shute Harbour
Queensland 4802

Please note that this base is operated by one of our Franchise partners.

Our Whitsundays base is located in Shute Harbour, the largest natural harbour on the Eastern seaboard of Australia. Situated about five miles from the township of Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. Brisbane is about 680 miles to the south, while Cairns is about 375 miles to the north. Sydney is less than two and a half hours away by plane.

We can also arrange charter pick-ups and drop-offs at Hamilton Island (for a fee). This service cannot be booked online, please phone the Whitsundays office to organise +617 4948 8250

Mailing address
Sunsail Whitsundays
PO Box 357
Airlie Beach
Queensland 4802

Base hours

Monday – Friday: 8:00am – 5:00pm

Saturday – Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

Closed Christmas and New Year’s Day

Time zone
Australia is UTC+10 hours

The official language in Australia is English.

What to bring

Passport 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 3 months or less. We do advise clients to check with immigration in any case.

Please note country entry/exit requirements are subject to change. Please check for the latest information before you leave. Sunsail is not accountable for any requirement changes.

Customs + immigration
Before leaving the airport, you will have to clear Immigration and Customs.

A landing card will be given to you on the plane, along with a Customs declaration form. Airlines will assume no liability for perishable articles, e.g. food, which may also be confiscated by Customs.

Departure tax out of Australia is AUD$30 plus AUD$3.20 Noise Tax per person, payable at the airport.

Sailing licenses
Although no sailing licenses are required for cruising in Australia we strongly advise that you take any sailing certification on vacation with you. This may be useful should you be contacted by Customs or Port Police. If you have not already done so then the Skipper and 1st Mate will be required to fill in a Sailing Resume to confirm that you have the necessary skills for sailing in this region.

Luggage + packing list
We would highly recommend packing prescription medicine and essential clothing (swimsuit, t-shirt and shorts) in your hand luggage as occasionally luggage may arrive at the base after you do!

Please pack using soft-sided bags, as these are easier to store on your yacht.

What's on board


Cell phones
You can use a cell telephone from your home country if you have international roaming options.

Another alternative is to buy a cell phone with a prepaid SIM card.

Music + iPods
Most boats are fitted with a radio, CD Player, USB or AUX input.  Please phone the base on +617 4948 8250 to check your vessel’s capabilities. 

The use of flying drones may be restricted in some areas. For current drone regulations in this destination, please visit

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 onboard.

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About the marina

Marina facilities

Sunsail Whitsundays private Jetty is located in Shute Harbour.  The facilities which surround are: Showers, toilets, wireless interest access, resort style shop, air-conditioned and reception lounge.  Additional facilities in Airlie Beach include overnight accommodation, restaurants, bars, a selection of shops, a bank, post office, laundry, marinas and ferry terminals.

Sailing licenses

Experience level
Sailing experience: Level 1

Experience levels are based on sailing conditions and the length of passages within your chosen sailing area. Follow the link for more information on the sailing conditions.

Sailing grounds

Sailing area restrictions
In the Whitsundays, clients can sail as far north as the northernmost tip of Hayman Island and the Southern tip of Shaw Island. The outer limit is 5 nautical miles from the most eastern of the Islands (25 miles from the mainland). Due to Government regulations, it is not possible for charter vessels to sail to the Outer Great Barrier Reef. However, there are lots of alternative methods of getting there.

Night sailing
You are not permitted to sail at night.

Charts + pilot books
All the charts and pilot books you will need for the sailing area are on board the yacht.

Cruising permits + taxes

There are Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority fees for sailing around the Whitsundays.  Marine Park Fees - AU$34.00 per person per charter (which includes an administration fee), payable on check in, if this has not already been included in your invoice.

Moorings fees + taxes

Hamilton Island Marina, Coral Sea Marina and (Airlie Beach) and Palm Bay Resort (Long Island) will have their own set fees, subject to availability.  Other moorings around the islands are free of charge.

Hayman Island

Resort guests are permitted only. Overnight berths not available unless accommodating at the resort.

Coral Sea Marina & Resort
Tel: 07 4946 2400
VHF Channel 9

For current berthing rates, please contact the marina directly. All prices are subject to change.

Hamilton Island Marina
Tel: 07 4946 8353
VHF Channel 68
Overnight berthing fees: Catamaran =$210AUD, Monohull = $160AUD
Palm Bay Resort, Long Island
Tel: 1300 655 126
Swing moorings are available outside the resort
Resort access is only available to those aged over 16 years. (no children under 16)
To book, please contact the resort directly.

Hire a sail guide or host
You can add either a sail guide or host by contacting the base once you have booked your charter. A cabin must be provided for them individually, please consider this when selecting your yacht.

Health + safety

Illness or injury 
If you are taken ill and visit the doctor or hospital during your trip contact a member of Sunsail staff as soon as possible.

Swim Safe 

Swimming is often a fun and important part of a vacation. However local rules, flag systems, currents and where swimming may be permitted, can be different and vary from country to country. 


  • Talk to children about water safety at the start of a vacation, making them aware of the potential dangers.
  • Accidents can happen at any time on vacation, but often they happen on the first and last day, so keep watch and do not get distracted when your children are playing by, or in the water.
  • Children in or near water should always be supervised by an adult and never left unattended. 
  • Get in the water with them, it is easier to keep an eye on them as well as good fun. Floatation devices are highly recommended for children but are not a substitute for supervision.

Be aware of your surroundings

  • Check warning flags and signage on the beach and only swim where it is permitted. 
  • Beware of dangerous currents, these can be very powerful. Not all beaches have lifeguards and/or warning flags.
  • Beware of underwater hazards, such as reefs, rocks, sudden changes in depth and marine life.
  • Never swim where a sign says not to e.g. in zoned areas for jet boats or jet skis.
  • Never swim at night or after drinking alcohol.

Look out for others

  • Never swim alone, ‘buddy up’ with others in your party and use the snorkel vests provided.
  • Know how and where to get help. If you see someone in difficulty; raise the alarm, preferably the emergency services. Ensure you know the correct number for the country you are in.

Do not overestimate your ability

  • Consider swimming lessons before you go if you think it would be useful to learn proper swimming technique.
  • Even if you regularly swim in a pool, remember that open water swimming can be very different.


All yachts are equipped with adult life jackets, harnesses, snorkel vests & diver down flags. You can see all this equipment demonstrated in our online safety briefing, and we strongly recommend that you make use this equipment during your vacation. This safety equipment will be displayed in the saloon of your boat on boarding - If you have any questions feel free to ask our base staff during your briefing. 

We have a very limited supply of children's life jackets on base so highly recommend that if you are travelling with children, you bring their own. This ensures that children have correctly fitting jackets that are comfortable for them.  

Children should not be allowed in the dinghy without a life jacket or buoyancy aid and should wear a buoyancy aid or harness whilst on deck. 

Children under the age of 16 should not operate an outboard engine and should be supervised at all times when in the dinghy. 

Don't forget to bring
• Sunscreen and Chap Stick.
• Sailing gloves to protect your hands. Some sailors use sailing gloves (fingerless, Velcro closure, somewhat 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 just 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 polarized eyewear cannot be emphasized enough - nothing protects better against sun-glare on the water, especially when determining below surface conditions for piloting or anchoring.

What not to bring
Hard lined luggage: aside from a sturdy travel case for your camera or electronics, we highly recommend duffel bags or soft-shelled, collapsible luggage. Your yacht is equipped with numerous well thought out storage areas, yet the chances that your hard-sided suitcase dimensions will fit in the lockers and cabinets aboard are slim.

Tanning oil is fine for the beach, but very dangerous aboard. It’s easily left on handholds and steps and is almost a guarantee to slipping or losing one’s footing underway and at anchor.

High heels and work boots: we recommend non-marking boat shoes or sneakers with good slip-resistant treads. You will find that comfortable, breathable, deck-friendly boat shoes or sandals are the most comfortable for your feet.

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Around the base


If you intend on having a mini holiday on land before or after your sailing holiday, Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour and Hamilton Island can accommodate you.  Choose from being pampered in five star luxury to a range of moderate accommodation that caters for singles, couples and families.   You can also find accommodation on Day Dream Island and Hayman Island.  Talk to our reservations specialists for more information.


The currency throughout Australia is the Australian dollar (AUS$).

Credit card information
All major credit cards are widely accepted and there is currently no purchase tax.

There is a bank and post office located at Hamilton Island Marina or in Airlie Beach on the mainland.

Traveler’s checks, especially in foreign currencies, are generally NOT accepted except by hotels and big stores and tourist shops. These display a 'traveler’s checks welcome' sign. Cash your checks at a bank or Bureau de Change to ensure you have enough spending money. The same holds true for foreign currency, which is not generally accepted by Australian businesses and shops.

Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach have good shopping precincts catering for all tastes and supplying all manner of merchandise. Hamilton Islands’ bakery is just one of the islands famous eateries, producing mouth-watering pastry products. Other Island resorts cater for visitors shopping needs with outlets providing clothing, footwear, food, souvenirs and other vacation essentials.

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For more information on what's included on your yacht, please view the full list here.


Choose Sunsail

Stunning sailing destinations 
Flotilla routes
Types of yachts
44 yrs
Creating vacations
4 hr
Service commitment