Whitsundays essential information

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

Physical Address
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 other locations such as, Hayman Island, Hamilton Island and Day Dream 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 – 4:30pm

Closed Christmas and New Year’s Day

Time zone
Australia is +10 hours ahead of the UK.

The official language in Australia is English.

Cost of living
Prices vary between areas and from restaurant to restaurant, however the following is a guide for reference:

  • A bottle of wine costs about AUD 14 (GBP 6) in a supermarket and from AUD 24 (GBP 10) in a restaurant.
  • A bottle of beer costs about AUD 3.60 (GBP 1.50).
  • A cheap snack can be bought for about AUD 7 (GBP 3). A three-course meal is likely to cost over AUD 48 (GBP20) per head.

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 three months or less. We 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.

We are not responsible 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 licences
There are no sailing licenses required to sail in Australia.  We do however require you to have a minimum amount of experience. The minimum sailing experience required for your safety is two adults on board with previous sailing experience. The skipper needs to have at least five days sailing experience, not power, on a similar size vessel, and needs to have an understanding of anchoring, navigation and tides.

The second adult on board needs at least three days sailing experience and needs to know what to do in case of an emergency, e.g. work the VHF radio, turn the engine on and off and be able to take sails up or down. If you have not already done so then the skipper and first mate will be required to fill in a sailing resume at the base to confirm that you have the necessary skills for sailing in this region.

Luggage + packing list
Luggage allowance is 20kg per person. Only one item of hand luggage per person is allowed and this must not weigh more than 5kg. For storage aboard we recommend travelling light and using folding luggage.

Lost or damaged luggage whilst flying is the responsibility of the airline and is not covered by your travel insurance. Virgin Airways carries no liability for loss or damage to valuable or fragile items packed in hold baggage however caused. You must not include in checked baggage money, jewellery, precious metals, computers, personal electronic devices, negotiable papers, securities or other valuables, business documents, passports and other identification documents or samples.

If you are taking our Virgin Airways flights please note that Premium Economy cabins are being refurbished and the aircrafts are now not confirmed until 24 hours before departure so pre-seating can only be requested 24 hours before departure at check-in online or at the airport. This is from April to October 2012.

Alcohol may be taken on flights but only in checked luggage (well secured from breakages) not as hand luggage due to airport security restrictions.

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

Cool boxes are available at the base on a first come first served basis at no additional charge. Please sign these out and return them clean and undamaged, otherwise there will be a charge for replacement. Only one per boat.

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

Another alternative is to buy a mobile 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 internet 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 licences

Experience level
Sailing experience: Level 1

Experience levels are based on sailing conditions and the length of passages within your chosen sailing area.

Get more information on Whitsunday's 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. Charts and pilot books can be purchased by mail order from the UK chandler Kelvin Hughes by contacting 02380 634911.

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 and Gas), payable on check in, if this has not already been included in your invoice.

Moorings fees + taxes
Hamilton Island Marina, Coral Sea Marina and Day Dream Island will have their own set fees, subject to availability.  Other moorings around the islands are free of charge.

Resorts are situated on the following islands:

Long Island Resort (Happy Bay)
Tel: 07 4946 9400
VHF Channel 16 or 11

Hook Island Observatory
Tel: 07 4946 9380
VHF Channel 16 or 74

Moorings are not surveyed or available to the public currently. You are able to anchor out the front of the resort. Please refer to your charts for more details. The resort and observatory are closed to the public. There is no ice available. Several small bush walks, beaches and snorkelling is available to the public.

South Molle Island (Koala Adventure Island)
Tel: 07 4946 9433
VHF Channel 16 or 74

No public resort facilities are available. You can however access the island's national park bush walks by anchoring in Bauer Bay and accessing the beach with your tender.

Daydream Island
Tel: 07 4948 8488
VHF Channel 17

Mooring fee is $25AUD per hour or $125AUD full day (over 6 hours).  Most guest activity programs are available and are included in your mooring fee, however there is a chance of a small cost. 

Hayman Island
Tel: 07 4940 1822
VHF Channels 6 or 16

Resort guests are permitted only. Overnight berths not available unless accommodating at the resort. It is important to notify Hayman Island in advance if you wish to spend the night at their resort facility. There is an AUD 175 access fee for all berthed vessels for the first night, AUD 150 for all subsequent nights

Lindeman Island
There are a number of mooring bays surrounding the island (away from the old resort) and beaches that are accessible.

However, the old resort is off limits as there are several safety and liability issues with some areas being hazardous. Signs are installed for your safety.

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.

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 get ill and visit the doctor or hospital during your trip contact a member of Sunsail staff as soon as possible on either your lead boat or at our base. If you need to make a claim for curtailment due to illness, ask the base manager for assistance and contact your insurer’s emergency medical service immediately.

Your insurance company will assist with travel arrangements, advice and payment of bills.

Obtain receipts for any medication, treatment or transport you have to pay for and submit with your claim.

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. Snorkel vests, Life Jackets and Diver Down flags are all available on board. 


  • 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. 

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 (AUD).

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.

Traveller’s cheques, especially in foreign currencies, are generally not accepted except by hotels and big stores and tourist shops. These display a 'traveller’s cheques welcome' sign. Cash your cheques 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 mouthwatering pastry products. Other Island resorts cater for visitors shopping needs with outlets providing clothing, footwear, food, souvenirs and other holiday 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 holidays
4 hr
Service commitment
Consumer protection