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 alsoarrange charter pick-ups and drop-offs at Hayman Island and Hamilton Island on the mainland (for a fee). This service cannot be booked online, only by ringing +61 7 4948 8250.
6 Bay Terrace
PO Box 357
Open seven days per week, 365 days per year from 8am-5pm.
Whitsundays base facilities include:
Overnight accommodation, showers, toilets, electricity, wireless Internet access, resort style shop, air conditioned reception lounge and a ferry terminal. Additional facilities in Airlie Beach include overnight accommodation, restaurants, bars, a selection of shops, a bank, post office, laundry, marinas and ferry terminals.
Arrival and departure
Save up to 30 percent when you book your airport parking through us. Please call us for more details.
We have preferential rates at many hotels at the UK’s major airports. Please call us for more details.
Australia is +10 hours ahead of the UK.
Gatwick information: 0844 335 1802
Heathrow information: 0870 000 0123
Manchester information: 0871 271 0711
Luton information: 0158 240 5100
Glasgow information: 0870 040 0008
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.
Virgin are also enhancing the advance seating process so after 1st Nov 12, until further notice, clients will not be able to pre-book seats before 24 hours before check-in until its completed.
Proserpine Airport (Whitsunday Coast Airport) is located just six miles out of Proserpine. Proserpine Airport has flight connections daily from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and is a modern and comfortable terminal with a kiosk for food and beverages. The transfer from the airport to Airlie Beach/Shute Harbour takes around 50 minutes by car or bus.
Alternatively, you can fly directly into Hamilton Island. Bright and modern, Hamilton Island Airport has a comfortable departure terminal with plenty of passenger seating. There is an airport bar, cafe and small shop to purchase snacks and magazines. A fee we will applicable to relocate your vessel to Hamilton Island, or you can choose to catch the ferry over to the mainland. Tickets are available at arrivals.
You can take a taxi or a shuttle bus from the airport to our mainland base at Shute Harbour. A private transfer to Shute Harbour can be arranged through us (prices vary) however this service must be booked in advance can only be booked by contacting a reservation consultant on +61 7 4948 8250. There is no additional charge if you wish to start your charter from our Shute Harbour base.
You can start and finish your yacht charter from Hamilton Island (fee applicable), if you are staying there before and afterwards. Your Sunsail skipper will meet you at Hamilton Island Marina, and will be there for you when you return. Pick-up, drop-off and one-way charters are strictly subject to availability at the time of booking, and do incur extra charges. Please check with your reservation consultant, as these cannot be booked online.
You can start and finish your yacht charter from Hayman Island (fee applicable), if you are staying there before and afterwards. Your Sunsail skipper will meet you at Hayman Marina, and will be there for you when you return. You will be met at Hamilton Island Airport marina, after being transferred via a Hayman vessel by Sunsail staff. The trip time between Hayman and Hamilton Islands is about 45 minutes. Pick-up, drop-off and one-way charters are strictly subject to availability, and do incur extra charges. Please check with your reservation consultant as these cannot be booked online.
Please note: All three start base options offer, water, fuel, money exchange, and restaurants. Showers and provisioning are available at Hamilton Island and Shute Harbour but not at Hayman Island.
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.
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 advise clients to check with immigration in any case.
Please note :country entry/exit requirements are subject to change. Please check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for the latest information before you leave.
We are not responsible for any requirement changes.
Customs and 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.
Transfers from Hamilton Island Airport/Marina are free of charge. Our base is five minutes from the airport. Please be sure to include your arrival information on the Student Bio form so that we can pick you up at the proper time.
You will have access to your training vessel from 4pm on Sunday. Your meal that evening is not be provided, however there are plenty of restaurants nearby. Your course will start at 9am Monday morning, and this is when your instructor will join you on the vessel.
Your yacht will be ready at 12pm for boarding. All boats are prepared as per the booking for boarding time. Everyone will receive an individual yacht and chart/area briefing. This will take up to two hours so they need to allow plenty of time.
It is not permitted to leave without adequate briefing. These are carried out individually for each yacht and are mandatory. The chart brief describes the cruising area and any potential hazards. The yacht briefing introduces you to your yacht and its systems and rigging. It is important that all systems and equipment are fully understood.
Security credit card imprint
On arrival at the Whitsunday base, you will be requested to sign a credit card authority form before setting off on charter. This is taken as security in case you to an island and charge expenses to Sunsail or your incur call out fees.
This does not take place of the damage waiver as it covers completely different things.
Out of hours arrival procedure
Please contact our reservations staff in relation to after hours requests on +61 7 4948 8250.
At the end of your charter your yacht will need to be vacated by 10am. Before departing your boat you will be provided with a debrief form for completion.
The debrief form is to let us know if you have encountered any problems with the boat or broken anything during the trip, this enables us to rectify problems for the next charter.
In addition to filling in forms we also require you to bag dirty laundry and leave in the cockpit, empty all cupboards and fridges of food and throw away, return snorkel gear and any lifejackets borrowed from reception and ensure that the boat is handed back to Sunsail in a clean and tidy state. We reserve the right to charge for boats left less than shipshape.
Sailing experience: Level 2-3
Experience levels are based on sailing conditions and the length of passages within your chosen sailing area.
There are no sailing licenses required to sail in Australia. We do however require you to have a minimum amount of experiece. 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, eg 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.
Cruising permits and taxes
There are fees for sailing around the Whitsundays.
Marine park fees: AUD 18 per person per charter (which includes an AUD 6.50 administration fee), payable on check in if this has not already been included in your invoice.
Night time sailing
You are not permitted to sail at night.
Cruising area limits
In the Whitsundays, you can sail as far north as Bowen and as far south as Mackay. The outer limit is five 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.
Moorings, marinas and fees and restaurants
Apart from the marinas at Hamilton and Airlie Beach, you may also moor off many of the 74 islands within the Whitsunday region.
Resorts are situated on the following islands:
Long Island Resort (Happy Bay)
Please note: as of 1 January 2015 the resort is closed for refurbishment.
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.
Tel: 07 4948 8488
VHF Channel 17
Mooring fee is AUD 150 for 24 hours. Most guest activity programs are available and are included in your mooring fee, however there is a chance of a small cost. Free showers are available in the transit lounge.
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
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.
Abel Point Marina
Tel: 07 4946 2400
VHF Channel 9
For current berthing rates, please contact the marina directly. All prices are subject to change.
Charts and pilot book
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 in advance by mail order from the UK chandler Kelvin Hughes by contacting 02380 634911.
Skippered charter information
You can either hire a skipper or a sail guide on our yachts in the Whitsundays. Contact us for further information.
The skipper is responsible for the safety of the yacht at all times. They are not permitted to dive with you, nor leave the vessel overnight. They must conduct a safety brief with you before leaving the dock regardless of the duration of the skippers contract with you.
For check out charters, (anything less than the full duration of the charter) the checkout skipper’s time is booked from 6pm-6pm to allow for a meet and greet in the evening and go over basic systems, then a full day with you the next day.
This skipper is required to give you a thorough briefing on all aspects of the yacht and dinghy in addition to assisting you with planning an itinerary for the trip and advising you how to contact the base, the return to base procedures and the emergency assistance procedures. It is suggested that you attend the scheduled chart brief that will be supplemented by the skipper during his time with you on the yacht. It is also suggested that you make it clear exactly what you want to cover, anchoring, docking, etc.
The skipper will be required to give you as much information as you require concerning the yacht and its systems, sailing skills and navigation in general.
The skipper fee does not include food or beverages for the skipper and are the responsibility of the client. It is suggested that you discuss this on the first day with the skipper and establish whether you will give the skipper cash for meals, whether you have included the skipper in your provisioning or whether you will accommodate the skipper as part of the group for meals ashore.
The skipper must have their own cabin. We prefer not to put the skipper in the bow due to the shared heads and size of the cabin. If you expect him to stay in the bow, please let us know well in advance so that we can choose the appropriate (small) skipper.
For one-day check out skippers, it is the client’s responsibility to get the skipper back to the base. If you prefer not to come back to the base you must pay for his expenses (ferry, taxi, etc.) to get him back to the base.
The average tip for a skipper is 15-20 percent of the skipper’s fee. This is, of course, at the client’s discretion.
Your yacht will be provided with a full tank of fuel at the start of your charter and you will be required to pre-pay for your fuel with your holiday balance. If extra fuel is required you will need to return to Hamilton Island or Shute Harbour on the mainland to refill.
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 you will be charged for replacement. Only one per boat.
Note that all charters on yachts with a Gen-set in the Whitsunday's will now be charged AUD 5 per hour payable at the base on departure. There is currently only one vessel that this applies to (Sunsail 444).
Banks and money exchange
The currency throughout Australia is the Australian dollar (AUD).
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.
All major credit cards are widely accepted and there is currently no purchase tax.
Currency can be exchanged commission free at any high street TUI Retail travel agent on production of your Sunsail invoice. You can pre-order your currency from a TUI travel agent by telephoning them in advance on 0870 9005154 to find your nearest branch.
No service charge applies in Australia. Tipping is not mandatory but a 10 percent tip in restaurants and hotel bars is normal for good service.
The official language in Australia is English.
Cost of living in Australia
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.
Influenced by a multicultural society, dining out in Australia is a culinary delight with the most varied choice of restaurants available in the world. Good food guides can be found in bookshops and newsagents.
There is an extensive choice of restaurants available throughout the sailing area.
Each of the Whitsunday Islands has a distinctive character of its own. Choose from being pampered in five star luxury to a range of moderate accommodation that caters for singles, couples and families alike. Many island resorts provide babysitting and kids' clubs.
Sunsail offer a whole range of shore based excursions which are extra to our normal product and are organised through a third party company. Ask at the base or the UK office for further details.
Electrical, phones and music
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.
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.
All boats are fitted with a radio and CD player. If you wish to listen to your iPod whilst sailing you will need to bring along an I-trip or FM radio transmitter.
We offer a wide range of food and drinks packages to suit your party’s needs.
The major car rental companies including Avis, Hertz, Europocar, Thrifty, and Budget are all available in Airlie Beach on the mainland.
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 holiday essentials.
You can fish in the Whitsundays without a permit, although there are some zones you cannot fish. We go over these in details in your briefing. Fishing equipment is available, however you will need to confirm availability with the base on arrival.
Diving equipment can be hired locally. We do not allow compressors on board any of our vessels.
The snorkelling and diving are fantastic throughout the Islands, with clear blue water, and masses of tropical fish, turtles, manta rays, and so on. Butterfly Bay on the north tip of Hook Island is particularly well known for its abundance of sea life. In addition to all of this, there is an annual migration of humpbacked whales around July to October.
We have a range of snorkelling gear which you may wish to use. We are limited on children’s sizes so if you have your own you may wish to bring them with you.
Kayaks and Standup paddleboards are available for hire on charter and can be pre-booked. They cost between UAD 18-22 per day. Please note this equipment is subject to availability at the time of booking.
Health and 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.
All yachts are equipped with adult life jackets and harnesses. We leave it up to you to decide when personal safety equipment should be worn.
We have a limited supply of children’s life jackets (age 4+ only). If you have your own children’s life jacket we would encourage you to bring it along.
We suggest that children who are not strong swimmers should not be allowed in a dinghy without a life jacket or buoyancy aid and that they should wear a buoyancy aid or harness when 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
Your RYA course books and log book.
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.