From Cairns to the Gold Coast

From Cairns to the Gold Coast: Australia’s Favourite Sailing Route

 

Of all the things stitched into our national identity, few evoke a more genuine collective smile than the humble road trip. We’ve perfected the art of taking our time getting from one place to another, to take in all the wonders along the way. And not just on land. Sailing routes have long been our nautical equivalent to road trips, and perhaps no route is more celebrated than the one that carries you from Cairns to the Gold Coast. 

This sailing route is not the kind of trip you conquer in a few days (it does cover almost half the length of Australia). That said, if you have an empty summer extending in front of you, it’s worth your time.

Maybe you’ve already been researching long range power catamarans in your free time. Well, to keep your salty inspiration high, here’s some advice on how to navigate Australia’s favourite sailing route.  In this article, we’ll be talking you through Cairns to the Gold Coast, on dry land, so you know what to expect when you hit the water.

Australia’s Favourite Sailing Route
Australia’s Favourite Sailing Route

Start with a plan

Obvious advice, but critical nonetheless. Though you can make your own lines once you set out from Cairns, it pays to have at least a rough plan drawn. The plan can be as simple and loose or complex and jam-packed as you like, as long as it’s feasible. The ocean doesn’t forgive, so don’t push things by trying to go against the grain. 

A simple plan is to decide the places you want to visit along the way and see whether each has adequate moorings. The great thing is, most places along this route do. Mourilyan Harbour and Hinchinbrook Island in the first part of your trip, Island Head Creek and Great Keppel Island when you’re half-way there, Double Island Point and Noosa Heads in the final phase, the list of wonderful Queensland anchorages goes on.

Which brings us back to feasibility. Ultimately, your vessel — along with your sailing skills — will have the greatest say in how often you need to stop. So make sure you’re well-schooled in its limitations. Remember, it’s not as easy as calling RACQ if you break down in the middle of nowhere, so ensure your long range power catamaran is up to the challenge.

The Whitsundays: Save the best ‘til first 

If we’d started this route at the Gold Coast instead of Cairns, you’d be giddy with anticipation by the time you reached the Whitsundays. Not that it matters. Regardless of how excited you are to visit these islands, your expectations will still be left looking pale when you arrive. This place genuinely is paradise. 

It’s a microcosm of everything you want from a summer holiday, from blinding-white beaches to cocktail bars that own the sunset, to Australia’s largest rainforest, the Daintree.  

The beauty of these islands is, though they epitomise the image of faraway perfection, they’re incredibly close to other vibrant destinations you’ll visit along your route, such as Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach. 

Large Yacht With Sails Down
Large Yacht With Sails Down

Hervey Bay: A whale-watchers paradise

If your journey is fixed to the summer months, this mightn’t apply. If you plan to sail between August and October, get ready. Why? This is when our big and beloved fellow mammal, the humpback whale, makes its yearly migration down to Antarctica for the warmer months to feed. 

And given you’ll be commandeering your own vessel rather than taking a chartered tour, there’s a chance you’ll end up mighty close to these mercurial giants. There’s something strangely inspiring about taking a journey alongside one of nature’s greatest nomadic communities. 

If you really want to connect with this community, though, you have to don the snorkel and hop in. Just make sure you join one of Hervey Bay’s licenced whale-swimming tours. Like any interaction with nature, there’s no room for reckless bravura. 

Catamaran At Hayman Island Whitsundays
Catamaran At Hayman Island Whitsundays

K’gari (formerly Fraser Island): Which side will it be?

Unlike the other islands you’ll pass on this journey, K’gari is big. Big enough that when you reach it, the question you must ask yourself—the question you must answer yourself is: which side do I take? Do you travel along its western side, the Great Sandy Strait, or along its eastern side, with the Coral Sea staring back at you?

It’s a decision made neither lightly nor fearfully. Most likely, the conditions will have the strongest say on which side you choose. Taking the strait is less adventurous than the open ocean. That said, it is a good place to take shelter, should the conditions turn for a few days. And if that happens, you can always take land again at Hervey Bay and rest your sea legs. 

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What sailing has that driving doesn’t is that extra level of freedom. Though there are tried and tested routes along Cairns to the Gold Coast (for a reason), within that canvas lies the chance to paint much broader strokes than you can on the road. You really do go where the wind takes you. 

Which is all the fun, not half. And the best part? Given we’re living on one big island, you can just keep going. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.  We hope our guide on Australia’s favourite sailing route has inspired you to get the wind in your sails.

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