Whitsundays expedition – 10 days (reg by 4th June)

Ten days expeditionary sea kayaking around the amazing Whitsunday islands.

There will be detail briefing notes to follow to be sent to all participants and a pre-trip meeting. Please note that all campsites and island ferry transfers, accommodation at Airlie Beach have already been booked and paid for.

Event summary
We will either leave on Friday night 13th July or early Saturday morning to drive to Airlie Beach (12.30hr / 1120 km) for Saturday night accommodation (booked already). The following morning (Sunday) we are booked on the Scamper (Island transfer barge) at 7AM to take us to a drop off at Henning Island (arrive about 8.15 AM). We will then paddle to the campground at Whitehaven Beach via Solway Passage for 2 nights (Sunday and Monday nights). From this base camp we will explore Hill Inlet and Haslewood Island.

On the Tuesday we will paddle to Cairns Beach (just on the NW tip of Whitsunday Island) where we will stay for 2 nights (Tuesday and Wednesday). We will explore the old under water observatory and take a walk up to Whitsunday Cairn.

Leaving on the Thursday morning we will paddle on the eastern side of Hook Island to reach Maureen Cove on the northern side of Hook Island for 1 night (Friday night). We will snorkel on the coral (which is excellent at this location) the following day. We will leave and paddle to Curlew Beach Campsite on the South of Hookb Island. Unfortunately Maureen Cove campsite has been all booked out by a group for the past 12 months.

We will then paddle to Joes Beach on the western side of Whitsunday Island. We will need to leave a bit early as the tides are not favourable. We will be stopping hopefully at Langfords Reef for some magnificent snorkelling about half way through the paddle on this day.
At Joes Camp we will spend 3 nights (Saturday to Monday nights) exploring that area of Cid Harbour (excursion destinations could include Sawmill Beach/ Whitsunday Peak and possibly Hamilton Island depending on the weather conditions at the time).

On our last day we will either paddle to Shute Harbour (16Ks) or catch the Scamper transfer back at about 9.30am. Whether we paddle will depend on the weather conditions at the time and the skill of the group (i.e. both groups – see below comment).

All the camp sites are booked and paid for and the camps may change if availability at Maureen’s Cove changes from now to the trip date.
The camp sites are very ordered and all have toilets.

There will be a pre-trip planning meeting well ahead of the trip. This meeting will cover, trip detail/ logistical matters, food and water, how to pack a kayak and general ‘housekeeping’ matters.

Alternate Route: Depending on the wind strength and direction, we may seek relative shelter by paddling on the lee side of the island. This means we may opt to travel to campsites along the opposite side of islands to that planned here.

Depart Brisbane: Sat 4th July
Return Brisbane: Wed 15th July

Days kayaking: 10 days

Grade: 2 (if ungraded or strong grade 1, please contact leader (subject to their decision)).
Environment: Bay and Ocean

This is a higher level trip where grade 2 or experienced ungraded paddlers are invited. If you are interested but unsure of your skills, please email your interest so we can try to develop your skills before then.

Please register your interest soon as campsites need to be booked soon/early (it will be school holidays then).


Part of the Whitsundays Sea Trail.
274-Sea trail.pdf

Camping info: Map of island camping; Guide to island camping

Distances: see float Plan – usually less than ~16km on a paddle day (22km on longest day).

Float Plan

Day Date From To ETD

Km Tides Schedule/ activities
5/7 Henning Island Whitehaven Beach Camp 0915

20.5 L 0709 (.67)
H1304 (2.72)
Dropped (via Scamper) @Henning at 0815. To be at Solway Passage at slack tide (1204 – 1404). ETA Solway 1300. With moderate current till about half way then slight against to Solway. Minimal current at Solway. Camp only 30mins from passing through Solway.
6/7 Whitehaven Beach N/a n/a 0 L 0820 (.67)
H 1401 (2.71)
Leisurely paddle up along Whitehaven Beach to Hill Inlet then explore. Come back via Haslewood Island if time permits then back to camp.
7/7 Whitehaven Beach Camp Cairns Beach Camp 0900
21.5 L0902 (.65)
H 1509 (2.74)
As we are paddling north we will be against the tide after the first hour of paddle but may rest if flow is excessive. We can work the eddies in the bays to minimise resistance. Afternoon walk to Cairns Peak if time permits or the following day
8/7 Cairns Beach Camp N/a n/a 0 L 1008 (.61)
H1627 (2.85)
Paddling to underwater observatory on the southern tip of Hook Island. Walk to Cairns Peak if not done the day before
9/7 Cairns Beach Maureen’s Cove Camp 0800
16 H 0436 (3.07)
L 1113 (.53)
H 1743 (3.06)
Early start to get the last of the ebb tide current to the north then we will have slack tide to pass around the Pinnacles (NE tip of Hook Island)
10/7 Maureen’s Cove Camp Curlew Beach Camp 1200
16.5 H 0551(2.97)
L1215 (.45)
H 1853 (3.31)
To spend max time here (as the snorkelling is excellent) we will leave at noon to get the ebb tide heading to the south to go to Curlew Beach, Macona Inlet, Hook Island. So we will have the current with us.
11/7 Curlew Beach Joes Camp 0800
11.5 H 0702 (2.91)
L 1314 (.37)
H1953 (3.55)
Due access to the camp beach only being available near high tide we will have to leave about 8am. We will be paddling against the tide but the crossing at this location is wide and we should not encounter concentrated tidal flow against us until we approach the Joes Camp. We may vary this trip to arrive at Whitsunday Island further to the north of Joes Camp to explore the other camp sites in this locality.
12/7 Joes Camp N/a n/a 0 H 0802 (2.87)
L 1406 (.32)
Propose to paddle short distance (4Ks) to Sawmill Beach where we will walk up Whitsunday Peak then return back to camp. Alternatively this could be a rest day.
13/7 Joes Camp N/a n/a 0 H 0853 (2.83)
L 14.51 (.31)
This is a rest day or explore Cid Island and Cid Harbour. Alternatively if not climbed the previous day we could walk up Whitsunday Peak
14/7 Joes Camp Shute Harbour 8:00
9:00 or 12:00
0 or 16 L 0350 (.7)
H 0938 (2.78)
L1530 (.32)
Option 1 – Depending on the weather we will either paddle across to Shute Harbour (about 16Ks – 3 to 3.5hrs) leaving at about 0800 and arriving at Shute Harbour before 1200. This will then give us the option of packing up and driving straight to Brisbane or to stay overnight again at Airlie Beach.
Option 2 – If weather conditions not satisfactory we will be picked up by the Scamper at Joes Beach in the morning (about 0800 and taken to Shute Harbour)

Paddle distance calculator is here.

Tide information: See here.

Required Equipment

  • Sea Kayak with deck lines, enclosed cockpit and spray skirt and the usual safety equipment expected on an expedition of 10 days
  • See the full list of potential equipment here.
  • We will discuss this closer to the date

Recommended equipment

  • We will discuss this closer to the trip date. See a potential full list here.
  • A water drop is being arranged, but be prepared to carry up to 12/15 L at a time.

Paddler Requirements: This is clearly a grade 2 trip. However if there are skills that you believe that you need to acquire prior to the trip please contact the organiser (John). In addition if you don’t have all the required camping equipment or lack extended camping skills please mention this as it can easily be resolved. If you are an an experienced grade 1 paddler, please contact the organiser to see if you can be brought up to a grade 2 level beforehand.

Alternate course and take out points:
These will be part of a detailed trip plan to be circulated to all persons who register. Note that the vast majority of the trip is within 2k to 3 K of the shore. There are sections of cliff that we will be paddling alongside, but they are not too extensive and are on the protected side of the Islands. The paorganiser has paddled the Whitsundays on three past occasions and sailed extensively in this area so it is well known.

Identified Hazards

  • drowning
  • dehydration/ hyperthermia
  • equipment failure
  • weather change
  • stingers & bites
  • capsize at sea
  • group spread
  • sea sickness
  • boat traffic
  • land fauna
  • fatigue
  • rough seas
  • marine life
  • medical conditions
  • sunburn
  • paddle related injuries
  • on land camping related injuries
  • Burns from camp stoves
  • Travel

Risk management: See UQ Risk assessment IDs 45934 and 57960

Emergency Rescue Contact: 000 and VMR Whitsundays (VMR 442): Phone: 07 4946 7207, After Hours Emergency: 0410 013 881, VHF channels 16, 67, 81, 82


  • Mobile
  • VHF Radio
  • whistle

Safety equipment:

  • signal mirror
  • flares
  • torch/glow stick
  • spare paddle
  • tow line
  • repair kit
  • first aid kit

Check of other paddlers equipment:

  • suitability of craft
  • bailing device
  • Refer to attached.
  • spray skirt
  • medication
  • Life Jacket (L50)
  • water
  • paddle leash
  • footwear

Meeting Place: Airlie Beach on Saturday 4th July evening
Meet Time: This will be agreed closer to the date but at this stage l plan to leave at about 4.00am on Saturday. It is likely that we will be able to share vehicle driving responsibilities.
Put in point: 7am SHARP at Shute Harbour on the Scamper barge. Note that the Scamper will NOT wait.

Costs: Travel (its 1100km each way). Ferry cost to the islands. Camping. Food. Wear and tear costs. Accommodation at Airlie Beach.

Leader: John Simmons (AC Sea Guide). 2IC: Martin Wynne

Register: John Simmons (AC Sea Guide) here
Register by: 4th June 2015 – Participants must register their interest prior to the event, and provide the organiser with a contact number.