Have you ever hired your own sailing boat for a few days? The sensation is awesome. It’s pure freedom, pure nature, and pure beauty. However, finding the necessary information – and an affordable vessel – isn’t always easy. I’ve been through that phase of planning a few sailing holidays in Australia and decided to share my findings and experience in this guide to bareboat charter in Australia. If you have tips of your own, please share them in the comments at the end!

Sailing Australia Sydney Harbour
Sailing Sydney Harbour

1. Level of experience needed for hiring a bareboat charter in Australia

Although no license is required for sailing in Australia, it is obviously recommended to know a bit what you’re doing when you plan sailing holidays with a bareboat charter.

There are many yacht clubs on the east coast where you can learn more about sailing. I used to join races on Sundays as a crew member to get acquainted with the sailing language and reflexes. Along with some reading, it’s an excellent start to understand how things work. Then, go on a small adventure hiring a tiny boat on a lake or a river for a few hours: the basic principles are the same than for a big one on the open sea.

Most bareboat chartered companies will ask for proofs of experience (we had to list our two skippers’ experiences for hiring the boat in the Whitsundays), others will just say that it is recommended (our experience for hiring a catamaran near Fraser Island). It depends on the agency you rent from and on the difficulties in the area.

No one in your group has sailing experience?
You may charter a boat with a skipper included if you have the budget. Otherwise, your best option could be to join a tour. Viator* has a selection of sailing tours along the Australian coast, click here to see it.

2. The best sailing holidays in Australia where you can go with a bareboat charter

“Best” is always biased. But these are the destinations that came back over and over again when I was looking for great places for sailing holidays in Australia:

1. The Whitsundays

Sailing the Whitsundays is very popular and has earned a spot on many Australia Bucket Lists.

Whitsundays Islands - sailing charter boat
Dream On – Our charter boat to sail the Whitsunday Islands

2. The Great Sandy Strait (Hervey Bay / Fraser Island)

It’s a great opportunity to explore the less-visited side of Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island.

fraser island sailing

3. Sydney Harbour

Sailing near the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge with the CBD in the background is not how I imagine my sailing holidays. I prefer more natural areas. But quite quickly, we could reach less busy parts of the harbour as we left the city behind.

Sailing Australia Sydney Harbour
Sailing with Sydney CBD in the background

4. Moreton Bay (Stradbroke Island / Moreton Island)

Moreton Bay is our playground near Brisbane. Not far from the city, the bay gives access to a few stunning islands and great scuba diving spots. It’s a beautiful spot for sailing, that we find quite easy to navigate.

Sailing Moreton Bay Brisbane Boat Charter
Sailing Moreton Bay with Brisbane City in the background

5. Tasmania

For the Hobart region (toward the D’Entrecasteaux Channel): February/March is the best season as the weather is unpredictable during summer.

For the other regions, I only found skippered charter boats or tours – which considerably increase the budget.

Other options for bareboat charters in Australia: Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River, Melbourne (Port Phillip Bay), the Gold Coast’s Broadwater, Lake Macquarie, Lady Musgrave.

Keep in mind that with a bareboat charter in Australia, you are restricted to smooth waters, and you cannot go offshore. You will need to choose a destination close to the mainland.

6. Gippsland Lakes

Although sailing Gippsland Lakes is not the most amazing adventures for landscapes, it’s an easy one. First, it’s easy to organise: you can go there for the weekend (it’s four hours away from Melbourne) and there are supermarkets and pubs easy to access by boat if you haven’t had time to plan your trip. But it’s also protected and there aren’t many dangers to worry about. We even hired a bareboat that didn’t have a GPS for navigation.

3. How to find a bareboat charter in Australia

Google Search is always a good start. If you are looking to sail a popular destination like the Whitsundays or Sydney Harbour, you will get relevant results straight away with the keywords “bareboat + destination”.

The ones we have used: Charter Yachts Australia in Airlie Beach, Fraser Escapes in Hervey Bay and Moreton Bay Holidays Afloat from Brisbane.

Fraser Escapes also has a boat available to sail all the way to Lady Musgrave from Hervey Bay. We haven’t done that expedition (yet!).

For Townsville / Magnetic Island, we found out the only local company that was offering charter services closed.

I was lucky to know people who owned a sailing boat when I was in Sydney, so I didn’t hire one down there. You can visit Sailcorp website for more information about the bareboat charters options they offer from Lavender Bay.

AnyBoat is in contact with many boat owners who rent their vessels. You can send an inquiry to boats@anyboat.com.au for more information. I have not used their service yet, but their team has always been helpful by email.

In Gippsland Lakes, we hired a boat from Riviera Nautic in Metung.

4. Budget to hire a boat for your sailing holidays in Australia

fraser island sailing

Renting your own boat is not cheap, but it’s not an untouchable dream. It mostly depends on the size of the vessel and its age. Some ships are very luxurious and expensive, but some others won’t cost more than a room with ocean views in a resort. I made some comparisons in my articles about sailing the Whitsundays and sailing Fraser Island.

When you look at prices, don’t forget you will have to add the petrol on top of that, it’s often not included.

But if you have to hire the skipper with the boat, that’s another adventure (that I can’t afford to try!).

Did you organise sailing holidays in Australia? Share your experience in the comments below!

Responsible travel tip: Keep in mind that whatever you use on the boat may end up in the water. Limit your rubbish and choose products (soap, sunscreen…) that won’t negatively impact the environment.

Where can you sail a bareboat charter in Australia?

This list is non-exhaustive. It just includes the destinations I have identified during my research. If you’re aware of another destination where you can sail a bareboat charter in Australia, please let me know. I would love to add it to that list – and even test it myself!

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