Australia might be a huge continent. But most of the inhabited areas are located around the coastline, being that the central part is the famous desert – a phenomenal place to go on 4×4 treks, not that great for settling down. And as most Australians live near the sea, there are a great many boats operating the area, and with it the rapid growth of boat charters, marine servicemen, cruise agents, and those who decided to embrace the freedom of open waters by living in a liveaboard. Therefore, several places have distinguished themselves as boating capitals.
The Whitsunday Islands
The Whitsundays, located offshore Queensland, are Australia’s crown jewel. Not only are they home to some of the world’s finest white sand beaches and fancy island resorts, they are also the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living coral in the world, and a massive tourist destination, a mecca for divers if you will. With the amount of traffic that it gets, and the necessity to keep the area tidy and picture-perfect (it is one of the most photographed areas in Australia, apart from the Sydney Opera House, and Ayers Rock). The area is well charted out, and sea traffic regulations are maximally enforced, meaning that it is very, very easy to have a great time on a boat in the Whitsundays. Richer tourists will stay at Hayman or Hamilton Island, but most people agree that the best way to enjoy the islands is by chartering a liveaboard boat, spending a day or two making beach stops, and then continuing on to the Great Barrier Reef as far as your time and budget will allow.
Australia has an abundance of gorgeous sandy beaches, and the Whitsundays get a fair amount of competition coming from Fraser Island. Some smooth sailing down the Great Sandy Strait will get you to the world’s largest island, housing an entire ecosystem. A visit to Fraser Island would be nothing without surfing around the sandy dunes in a 4×4. The next part of your landlubbing stay could be a trek through the dense, yet navigable rainforest, before returning to your boat and cruising around the island, making the most of its pleasant surrounding waters.
Though Australia’s east coast gets more attention from tourists, the really adventurous folk can find a lot more excitement to the west. Western Australia isn’t graced with the gentle waters as the opposite coast, but wilderness has always been its forte. Kimberley Coast, on the northwest, probably hosts the best known sailing in this part of the world. Approaching it by boat is also the only way to reach some of its more secluded areas, of which there are many, each as divine as it is intact. The main reason it takes some sense of adventure to enjoy a boat ride along Kimberley is because the area is known to host some of Australia’s most notorious predators – watch out for those crocodiles!
The biggest harbor on the continent is an interesting place to spend some time if you are outgoing, in need of an urban environment, or just, you know, in Australia! The liveliness of this metropolis expands into the horizon – on one side the sails of the Opera House sweep across the skyline, and on the other side, many white sails float where the sea and the sky meet. Sailors, tourists, yacht-owners… there is something for anybody in the largest Australian city, whether it be a walk along Darling Harbor, or a beer in The Fortune of War, Australia’s oldest pub. Either way, this is a place where merry meet, and boaters plan out their next route, freshly inspired from hearing their neighbor’s impressions of beaches around Australia.
If Sydney Harbor should prove too loud or too busy for you, or if you’d simply like a change of scenery for a while, sail away north for a while, until you reach Lake Macquarie – Australia’s best kept secret. This is a more homely, down to earth, vintage approach to boating. Here is where you’ll truly understand the bond between Aussies and their water-vessels. A larger and less busy body of water than Sydney Harbor, Lake Macquarie keeps an air of family, community and unity. If at any time you decide to go exploring the nearby grounds, you will find an assortment of caves, tame beaches, and excellent trails leading up the Watagan Mountains.