The Whitsundays are one of those destinations that just cannot be missed when backpacking the East Coast of Australia. They are a group of 74 islands off the coast and are home to the famous Whitehaven beach, one of the whitest sandy beaches in the world.
Earlier this year I was working as a travel agent for a backpacker travel agency and had the opportunity to go sailing through the Whitsundays islands on a 2 day/2 night backpacker tour.
If you’re on a budget, then going on a backpacker sailing tip is by far the most affordable way to explore this stunning part of the world. When you join an organised sailing trip you’re guaranteed to meet like-minded people, enjoy a true sailing experience, save on accommodation by sleeping on the boat, and you get to see way more of the Whitsundays than on a day trip.
There are many different boat tours departing from Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach most of which do exactly the same route. However it’s really important to choose the right tour for you, as your Whitsundays experience could be entirely different depending on which boat you choose.
If you’re in Australia to party then a party boat such as the famous Atlantic Clipper or New Horizon would be your most popular pick. But if you’re like me and want a quality sailing experience without the hangover, whilst still being part of a social backpacker environment, then I highly recommend going Wings I or Wings II catamaran.
Note: To get on the most popular boats you do have to book in advance, as you may get stuck with more expensive and less social options if you leave it to last minute!
On Day 1 of your sailing trip with Wings you’ll depart from Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach at around 1pm and get treated with lunch on board whilst sailing to the first snorkeling spot.
Tip: The food on board Wings is AMAZING. Definitely keep that in mind if considering ‘cheaper’ options as the quality of food can really vary a lot from boat to boat.
From what I’ve heard the snorkeling is much better in The Great Barrier Reef closer to Cairns than in the inner reef of the Whitsundays, however if you’re with the right crew they know all the best ‘secret’ snorkelling spots.
After the first snorkel you’ll start sailing to calmer waters to drop anchor for the night. Crack open some drinks, watch the sunset and wait for dinner to be served. The evening is spent socialising with your new friends with an early-ish night to conserve your energy for a big Day 2.
On Day 2 you’ll have an early breakfast and start sailing to the stunning Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island (by far the best part of the trip!)
You’ll have the opportunity to take some stunning photos at The Hill Inlet Lookout before heading down to the beach to see some of the whitest sand you’ll ever see.
Tip: Whitehaven Beach has the purest silica sand in the world which makes it very good for cleaning jewellery – so don’t forget to bring your favourites.
Lunch will be served once back on the boat where you’ll sail to a couple more snorkelling spots on route to the next overnight destination.
You’ll spend the evening on Day 2 socialising again with fellow backpackers over dinner and drinks, and going through all the funny photos the crew took during the tour.
Day 3 begins with an early breakfast again, where there will be one more opportunity for a swim and snorkel before slowly sailing back to mainland.
The tour will officially end back at Abell Point Marina but I recommend staying in Airlie Beach for another night to not miss the Wings After Party at Beaches Bar (and then to Mama Africa’s Night Club if you make it that late!)
I recommend to book Nomads Airlie Beach Hostel through Nomads World.
If you’re planning a trip to the Whitsundays I highly recommend doing an overnight backpacker tour. Although I’m no longer working as a travel agent, if you’d like some help with choosing the right tour for you, feel free to send me a message and I’ll refer you to someone who I know will be able to get you the best deals.
Have you been to the Whitsundays before? Tell us about your experience in a comment below…
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