Best Queensland anchorages

Whether you’re looking to plan some anchorages along your cruising route or to find a few hidden gems to explore, Queensland is blessed with an abundance of anchorages.

And with so many to choose from, it was hard to narrow our favourites. 

There are plenty of well-known major ports and marinas where you can top up supplies, get your coffee fix and catch up with other sailors. So The Multihull Group’s Marnie Ebeling compiled this list of anchorages to showcase some of the more ‘off the beaten track’ places of astounding natural beauty where you can really get up close and personal with the local marine life. 

All these anchorages offer protection from wind, waves and weather and they have bottoms with sufficient depth for anchoring.

Tongue Bay

Tongue Bay is a well-protected anchorage that gives you access to beautiful Betty’s Beach and Lookout Beach as well as one of the most spectacular views in the Whitsundays from the Hill Inlet lookout, looking out over Whitehaven Beach.

Tongue Bay is also a photographer’s dream with incredible sunsets.

Location

Tongue Bay is located on the northern side of Whitehaven Beach.

Why we love it

  • Easy walking trail with amazing views
  • Green sea turtles and lagoon rays
  • Kayaking and SUP boarding
  • Swimming and snorkelling
  • White sandy beaches
  • Photography and sunsets

Explore the area

Bushwalk up to Hill Inlet Lookout, which looks south over the spectacular Whitehaven Beach.

Top tips

The beach on Tongue Bay anchorage side is accessible only at high or near high tide with a minimum of 1.2 metres of water needed to cross the reef.

Mooring and winds

  • Provides shelter from southeast to northwest winds
  • Three moorings available but anchoring is easy

Cateran Bay, Border Island

Lying on the north coast of Border Island, the steep, tree-clad slopes surrounding Cateran Bay will make you feel like you’ve landed on a desert Island. This is a great place to drop anchorage if you want to escape the crowds and it’s sometimes possible to even have this entire bay to yourself.

Because it is within a Marine National Park Green Zone, Cateran Bay is totally unspoilt with abundant marine life and birdlife and crystal-clear water.

Cateran Bay, Border Island.
Cateran Bay, Border Island.

Location

Cateran Bay is located on the northern side of Border Island, northeast of Whitsunday Island.

Why we love it

  • Sense of seclusion
  • Incredible views
  • Pristine sandy beach
  • Incredible diversity of fish
  • Snorkelling and swimming
  • Excellent snorkelling and diving along the shoreline

Explore the area

Go ashore to enjoy the stunning beach and Incredible views from the island saddle.

Top tips

  • The secluded sandy beach is best accessed at high or mid-tide
  • No fishing allowed

Mooring and winds

  • Provides shelter from south and south-easterly winds (in the winter season)
  • Public moorings have been installed to prevent damage to the fringing reefs and you can also anchor outside an exclusion zone marked by triangular reef protection buoys.

North West Island

Small but perfectly formed, this lovely long island is the largest coral cay in the Great Barrier Reef and is surrounded by a massive sandy beach and an enormous lagoon.

The total area of North West Island is just over 1km squared and it is the second largest Coral Cay in the area and an important breeding ground for turtles and birds.

North West Island
North West Island.

Location

North West Island is situated approximately half a day’s sail (75 kilometres) from Gladstone and north west of Heron Island within the Capricornia Cays National Park.

Why we love it

  • Bushwalking on the island
  • Incredible chance to get close to nature
  • Humpback whales migrating south in October
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Fishing
  • Rock pools at low tide
  • Rays, turtles, and fish life
  • Nesting and hatching sea turtles
  • Major hatchery for thousands of migrating sea birds such as sooty terns

Explore the area

It takes about two hours to walk around the island. On low tide you can walk out on the reef within the lagoon and explore the rock pools.

Top tips

  • You must limit your fishing and you can only fish in authorised zones

Mooring and winds 

  • Anchorage is excellent against the island’s fringing reef
  • Provides shelter from south easterly winds of up to 30 knots
  • Two public moorings

Lady Musgrave Island

“We visited the reef on our trip from the Gold Coast to the Whitsundays, it is essential you get the tide and the weather conditions right for entry, but it is definitely worth it and was the highlight of the trip,” John Cowpe said.

Sailors love Lady Musgrave Island for its safe anchorage as the island lies within a protected lagoon stretching eight kilometres around the island.

Lady Musgrave is one of the most unspoilt islands on the Great Barrier Reef and is set on 3000 acres of living reef and surrounded by a vast turquoise lagoon. This lagoon is framed by a huge, circular coral wall which protects the inner lagoon, leaving it calm and crystal clear and offering some of the best snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.

Lady Musgrave Island.
Lady Musgrave Island.

Location

North West Island is situated approximately half a day’s sail (75 kilometres) from Gladstone and north west of Heron Island within the Capricornia Cays National Park.

Why we love it

  • Bushwalking on the island
  • Incredible chance to get close to nature
  • Humpback whales migrating south in October
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Fishing
  • Rock pools at low tide
  • Rays, turtles, and fish life
  • Nesting and hatching sea turtles
  • Major hatchery for thousands of migrating sea birds such as sooty terns

Explore the area

It takes about two hours to walk around the island. On low tide you can walk out on the reef within the lagoon and explore the rock pools.

Top tips

  • You must limit your fishing and you can only fish in authorised zones

Mooring and winds

  • Anchorage is excellent against the island’s fringing reef
  • Provides shelter from south easterly winds of up to 30 knots
  • Two public moorings

Vlasoff Cay

WARNING – Although Vlasoff Cay is a tiny sand bar in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it can be very crowded as it has become a ‘bucket-list’ and ‘Insta worthy’ destination.

Day tours by boat operate regularly and heli tours also fly to and land on the white sandy cay.

Vlasoff Cay
Vlasoff Cay.

Location

Vlasoff Reef is an outer reef of the Great Barrier Reef and located just north of Green Island. It is approximately a half day sail (20 nautical miles) out of Cairns.

Why we love it

  • Diving
  • Beautiful fringing reef
  • Snorkelling
  • Fishing

Explore the area

With only a tiny area of unvegetated sand, all of the action here is on or in the water that surrounds the cay.

Top tips

  • Vlasoff Cay and the surrounding Reef are in a Conservation Park Zone which allows you to fish off a boat and even spear fish here within limitations.

Mooring and winds 

  • There are three blue public buoys on the western side of Vlasoff Cay and you can also navigate through the bommies to anchor on the sandy flats on the western side or head out to the eastern side of the cay where day-trip boats often anchor.

Butterfly Bay

Butterfly Bay is a is a one kilometre long, sheltered bay that is a popular anchorage.

Location

Northern side of Hook Island.

Why we love it

  • Offers great protection from south and southeast winds
  • Snorkelling along beach and bay edge
  • Butterflies
  • Birdlife
  • Colourful reef fish
  • Scuba diving
  • Swimming
Butterfly Bay
Butterfly Bay.

Explore the area

At certain times of the year the creeks and the bush are full of thousands of large blue Ulysses butterflies.

Top tips

  • Be wary of tidal currents when moving towards the centre of the bay, away from the edges
  • This is a Marine National Park Green Zone, so no fishing allowed

Mooring and winds 

  • Limited public moorings
  • Protection from south and southeast winds

Heron island

Heron Island is a true coral cay, framed by white sands, crystal clear waters and acres of coral with colourful marine life. It is a nature lover’s paradise, sitting right on the Great Barrier Reef.

Heron island
Heron island.

Location

80 kilometres (50 miles) north-east of Gladstone Park

Why we love it

  • Green and Loggerhead turtles and turtle hatchlings
  • Over 20 dive sites, half of which are only 15 minutes from the beach
  • Shipwreck to explore
  • Swimming
  • Marine life

Explore the area

Scuba divers come to explore the wreck of HMAS Protector.

Top tips

  • Best time to visit Heron Island is after the rainy period, from April to June. Autumn has cooler daytime temperatures and warm and sunny days, ideal for swimming, snorkelling, and fishing. The last of the turtle hatchlings are in May.

Mooring and winds 

  • Good anchorage with two public mooring buoys

Percy Isles

The Percy Isles are famous for their multitude of picturesque anchorages that sit between the four islands (plus one very small island) fringed with palm shaded golden sandy beaches.

Middle Percy still has its original homestead which is occupied by the island’s caretakers. The island has a long tradition of welcoming cruisers who still gather to share sundowners and food at the large A-frame structure on the beach.

Basic facilities include chairs and tables, solar powered lighting, BBQ, fire pit, shower, and toilet, as well as some local produce available to purchase.

The Percy Isles
The Percy Isles.

Location

120 km southeast of Mackay

Why we love it

  • So many anchorages
  • Beautiful beaches and secluded bays
  • Coconut trees
  • Incredible birdlife
  • Kangaroos
  • Sandy beaches
  • Excellent swimming
  • Lots of walking tracks
  • Magnificent views
  • Kayaks, SUPs, and fishing rods
  • Explore the tidal lagoon, on foot, at low tide
  • Snorkel the lagoon and mangroves at high tide

Explore the area

The cruisers A-frame hut is a small double storey hut on Middle Percy Island that is worth visiting. It is filled with memorabilia of cruisers who have passed through the area, with some plaques dating back as far as the 70’s. Expect to see kangaroos and even goats.

Top tips

  • Allow at least a couple of days to stay here and explore this incredible area.

Mooring and winds 

  • Lots of anchorages east, south, north, and west so you can anchor at any time according to wind direction.

By Marnie Ebeling/The Multihull Group

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