Thinking about travelling to the Whitsundays in Queensland, Australia? In my opinion, it should be at the top of your list. One of the best ways to see the islands’ magnificent views, while keeping your budget in mind, is to sign up for an overnight sailing trip. Imagine island hopping, snorkeling the reefs, watching amazing sunrises and sunsets, while traveling and sleeping on a sailboat with friends. Here are seven great reasons to set sail on an adventure of a lifetime to see the Whitsunday Islands.

View of Whitsundays by Daisy Alexander, University of Kentucky who studied abroad in Australia

1. Amazing Views of the Night Sky

When you are out in the middle of the ocean you have an awesome opportunity to see the Milky Way across the night sky. I had never seen it like this before. The captain will shut the boat down, therefore, eliminating all light pollution for the perfect view.  Without buildings and trees to stand in the way of your view, it feels as if the universe is at your fingertips, and if you’re lucky you might even see a few shooting stars.  With the help of the captain and some staff, you will be able to spot all kinds of constellations and even learn the history behind them.

2. Go Island hopping

Being on a sailboat gives you the advantage of being mobile and also being able to island hop. You can spend several hours in the water or soak up the sun while taking in the vast landscape. Then, when lunch time hits, you are able to go to another spot on the reef and keep exploring.  Going to so many spots on the Great Barrier Reef allows you to see many different locations with even more species of plants and animals.  It also allows you to put into perspective how massive the reef really is. By the end of this trip, even though you might feel like a mermaid, you must take advantage of the once in a lifetime opportunity to swim in the water and experience island hopping.

Teegan Innis, University of Rhode Island, James Cook University
Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island photo by Teegan Innis, University of Rhode Island who studied abroad in Australia

3. Travel Off the Beaten Path

Most people choose the option to stay in a hostel and take day trips out to the reef, but this can become expensive.  Taking the live aboard sailboat gives you an authentic experience unlike the traditional way that most tourists see the Great Barrier Reef. You are getting an inside view unlike any other. Additionally, you are able to get off the beaten path to see unique locations on the Great Barrier Reef that most people never get to see. So, while living on a sailboat may be off the beaten path, it is the sure way to experience the Whitsunday Islands while getting the benefit of meeting other people and cultures.

4. Storytelling Unplugged

One of my favorite parts about being on the live aboard sailboat is getting to exchange stories with other people. I talked to the captain several times, and got to hear his many stories about his time out on the water; from being rescued in a storm, to how he started his life on the reef.  Talking to the staff and other passengers allows you to take a walk in another person’s shoes and experience their perspective on life. Storytelling and talking with others is a tremendous way to broaden your study-abroad experience. So get out there and mingle.  Also, without modern day electronics, you are able to take the time to really talk to others and exchange stories and life experiences.


5. See New Wildlife

Spending the entire day on the Great Barrier Reef for multiple days allows you to see a vast array of plants and animals. While scuba diving, you can swim along a giant sea turtle and watch all of the fish swim with the current of the ocean. Imagine swimming next to huge fish that are every color of the rainbow!  While snorkeling, you can see a vast array of fish swimming in and out of different coral reefs. It is truly a sight to see these fish pop in and out of the reefs; it is a whole new world underneath the ocean! Again, this is a must-have experience to see so many different types of plants and animals all interacting to survive among the Great Barrier Reef.

6. Make New Friends

One great aspect of choosing a live-aboard sailboat is that you will be sailing and spending time with people from all over the globe. On my trip I met people from France, Germany, China and of course some native Australians. It’s a great opportunity to meet people from vastly different backgrounds, experience other cultures, hear other languages, and create friendships. Since you are living together on the sailboat for a few days, you are able to see how all of the different lifestyles come together to create an unforgettable experience. Immerse yourself into the culture and learn, learn, learn; that is what studying abroad and travelling is for, right?

Some of the wildlife you might see on the reef. Photo by Heather Leyva, Auburn University who studied abroad on an Australia Summer Program.

7. Watch Beautiful Sunsets

While most of us have seen many sunsets in our lifetimes, nothing can compare to seeing the sunset every night while in the middle of the ocean.  As stated earlier, there are no trees or buildings to block the setting and you have the ultimate view the sunset. It is amazing how the sunset can be different and everlasting while on a sailboat. The different colors are a sight to see; from oranges and yellows, to red and pinks, these sunsets offer a multitude of colors to make it an unforgettable one! Every night the travelers on our sailboat would gather at the front of the ship and watch the sky change colors. It was a sunset in which pictures cannot do it justice; you just have to experience it!


Exploring the Whitsunday Islands on a sailboat is an amazing opportunity.  You get to spend the night under the stars, meet new people, and explore a new world underwater while hopping from island to island.  This is one of the best ways to see the Great Barrier Reef because you get to go to so many different locations. Immerse yourself into the life of a sailor to get to see these indescribable reefs and all of the other advantages of taking on the sailboat life.

Jill Transou is a TEAN Alum and Global Ambassador at Clemson University. She studied abroad with TEAN at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, Australia