If you have your own boat or want to hire/charter one I would highly recommend purchasing ‘100 Magic Miles’ from the newsagency. I think this is a fantastic book. The detail is amazingly accurate and you can plan a good safe time out on the water. It even goes to the extent of showing each bay and what wind direction and speed it is safe to anchor in for the night and, as boaties, we all know safe anchoring is paramount. There is a regular weather forecast on channel 16.
If you have internet, I get my forecast from www.whitsunday.net.au. Go to 'weather' at the top and then 'coastal' on the right-hand side, and at the bottom of that page will be a three-day forecast for Bowen to St Lawrence (that's us) that I find really accurate. This forecast is updated early morning (at around 4.30am) and each afternoon at about 3 05pm.
The tidal movements are important in the Whitsundays as they make a big difference to the size of the waves and chop, particularly in the Whitsunday Passage. The tide runs out to the north and back in from the north. This means that if there is a south-easterly blowing, which is our prevailing breeze and the tide is going out, the tide will help reduce the chop.
However as soon as it turns, the chop will rise. Additionally, there can be quite a variance in the size of the tide (local tide information can be found in either of the two local newspapers - the 'Whitsunday Times' or the 'Whitsunday Coast Guardian', or online at
http://www.bom.gov.au/oceanography/tides/MAPS/qld.shtml. During small or neap tides, the passage is usually pleasant to cross at up to 15 to 20 knots. However, in times of larger tides and wind against tide, it can be very unpleasant. Plan your trips on the water around the tides.
Also don't forget the 'rule of the 12s’. One twelfth of the tidal movement (e.g. not much) occurs in the hour before and the hour after the change of the tide. Two twelfths occur two hours before and two hours after. The most tidal movement, being half of the total, occurs in the middle two hours and this is the time to be mindful, particularly at times of large tides with the wind against the tide. The boating options are too numerous to go through in detail, and the commercial ones are probably best accessed through the local helpful travel agents. Some that you may not come across though, are:
Wednesday night twilight sailing - don't stress; you generally don't need your own yacht - just go to either the Whitsunday Sailing Club or Abell Point Club and ask if there are any places going for crew. A six-pack of beer and your chances are pretty good. Depending on the time of the year, the race starts from 4pm onward so probably ask after 2pm. It is a great social atmosphere and the race is in Pioneer Bay with great views of both the sunset and back over the town of Airlie Beach. I can't stress enough how great and friendly the sailors are - you must give this a go. There are several famous yachts in the Whitsundays - Hamilton Island race week in August sees many more added, including Wild Oats (eight times winner of the Sydney to Hobart, owned by the Oatley family who own Hamilton Island), and several America's Cup boats, such as Hammer of Queensland.
Be a little adventurous, (depending on the weather), and hire yourself a tinny and explore the Whitsundays yourself. These can be hired from Abell Point Marina, Dingo Beach and Hamilton Island. You can fish, snorkel or just go to a secluded beach and have it all to yourself for the day.
If hiring a tinny is at one end of the scale, at the other end we have the Cruise Whitsundays Reef Sleep. To be honest, I haven't experienced this, however, have spent many nights out at the reef on my own boat and it is an amazing experience. To see the sun go down over the ocean horizon then come up again over an ocean horizon is beautiful. A limited number of guests can stay each night at the reef on the Cruise Whitsundays pontoon. If you can do it, I would recommend it - I'm sure you won't regret it! Cruise Whitsundays runs a professional organisation and I'm sure the reef sleep would be no exception.