Whitsundays, Australia

Sailing school

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£774
IntermediateRYA Day Skipper£774

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

Candidates are encouraged to read the RYA practical and/or theory course books. These can be purchased in advance from our UK Office, at a marine store or online. They are also available at our BVI base. 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 at our Port Solent, UK school or online. 

Successful completion of this course iwill 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 be changed at the airport and there is a bank local to the base.


  • You will be sleeping on board in shared cabins.
  • 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.

Base facilities

  • Showers and toilets
  • Laundry
  • Bars and restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Selection of shops locally
  • Bank locally
  • Post Office

Course provisioning

  • Breakfast, lunch and non-alcoholic beverages are provided on board together with one evening meal. You are welcome to purchase any extra nibbles you may require, but there are a number of restaurants to dine at every night.
  • We do not specifically cater for vegetarian or other dietary needs, and therefore suggest that you bring alternative provisions as required.
  • Evening meals are at your own expense. Your skipper can recommend good restaurants at each overnight stop.
  • Please note that you will be expected to help with the cooking, washing up and general housekeeping of the yacht.

Log book for RYA courses

You will need RYA log book G15 for your course. If you have not already ordered a log book you can purchase one from our office. If you ordered one when you made your booking it will be sent out to you.

Recommended reading for RYA courses

RYA practical and/or theory course books. These can be purchased in advance direct from the aftersales team at the Sunsail Port Solent office, Tortola base or the RYA.

Flights and transfers

Flight times: as issued on your tickets. Flight duration: London Heathrow to Brisbane via Singapore 23hrs.

London Heathrow to Sydney via Singapore 23hrs.

Brisbane to Hamilton Island approximately 1hr 30

Sydney to Hamilton Island approximately 2hrs 30

Transfer: your Sunsail representative will be at Hamilton Island airport or ferry terminal to welcome you and take you to the marina. If you are arranging your own flights/transport please make sure that you have informed the yachting aftersales team on 02392 222 894 to enable the base staff to do so.

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.

Whitsundays Sailing School will not be operating from mid Jan to mid- March due to the wet season.


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 Sunsail 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'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 your 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 skipper 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 Hamilton Island 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

  • Snorkelling 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.

Snorkelling gear

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

Sample itinerary

Day 0: Hamilton Island. Meet crew & join yacht @16.00hrs

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: Hamilton Island. 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.

Marina fees

Mooring/marina fees are not included in the course fees. Any costs incurred for berthing will be spilt between the crew. 

Children on courses

Children aged 13+. Sunsail welcomes your older children on any of our courses at any time of year, provided they are accompanied by at least one adult. Under 16s can qualify as comp crew, over 16s can become Day Skipper qualified. 


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 snorkelling 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:

Mon-Fri from 8am-7pm

Saturday from 9am-7pm

Sunday and Bank Holidays from 10am-5pm

Contact numbers

Reservations     023 9222 2224
Aftersales     023 9222 2894

Sunsail Whitsundays base opening hours:

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

Duty Phone: +61 401 501 921
Principal’s Mobile: + 61 478 702 460
Base Office: + 61 2 8912 7055

School will not be operating from mid Jan to mid- March due to the wet season.

Base address

Sunsail Whitsundays
Hamilton Island Marina
Front Street
Hamilton Island
Whitsundays Queensland Australia

Base Manager: Graham Black

Sailing School Principal: Mark Thompson

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