Sailing K’gari with kids: The ultimate family adventure

Sailing K'gari with Kids: The Ultimate Family Adventure


Great Sandy Straits Marina, Urangan, Hervey Bay, QLD



From $83 a day

I’ve been lucky enough to visit many of Australia’s beautiful islands over the years, but there was one that I’d never stepped foot on, until just recently; K’gari (also known as Fraser Island). The largest sand island in the world, K’gari stretches for over 123 kilometres along the southern coast of Queensland.

We packed our swimwear, our snorkels, and enough supplies for 4 nights on the ocean, and headed out for a bareboating adventure with Sweet Escapes Yacht Charters.

Departing from Great Sandy Straits Marina in Hervey Bay, after a quick and easy briefing from the team at Great Escapes, we headed straight for the west coast of K’gari, an idyllic coastal experience with turquoise waters, stunning shorelines, and daily turtle and dolphin spotting experiences, as well as meeting our very first dingo on the beach.

Each yacht has it’s own tender/dinghy, so we were able to make our way to and from beach with ease.

One of my favourite experiences as a family, bareboating is just like a team sport (only with less sweating and more swimming) where everyone gets involved, and there’s so many magical memories to be made out on the water.

Sailing K'gari

How to get to K’gari

An easy 4.5 hour drive from the Tweed (3.5 hours from Brisbane), we headed to Hervey Bay to start our sailing adventure, departing from the Great Sandy Straits Marina. If you’re flying in, the easiest option would be flying into the Sunshine Coast Airport and making the 2 hour drive to Hervey Bay, otherwise flying into Brisbane will work well too.

There are two options with sailing, you can arrive the day before (around 3pm) and settle into the boat, unpacking your food and belongings, sleep at the marina, and then set sail the next morning. Or you can just arrive early in the morning, spend an hour unpacking, and then set sail not long after. We opted for the latter, because my Dad lives in Hervey Bay and we wanted to spend time with him before sailing out to K’gari.

Getting over to K’gari is just under two hours of sailing, depending on the conditions. Finding K’gari is easy, as the navigation is all set up and you just follow the path set out for you, and eventually you’ll know you’re there, as you see the island in all its beauty in front of you.

Sailing K'gari - our boat

How to sail K’gari

For our experience, we chose to do a bareboat charter. What does that mean? It simply means that you’re hiring a boat or vessel without a skipper on board. It means that you can explore on your own self-drive sailing holiday, with no set itineraries, and you’ll be the entire boat crew for the trip. Anyone can sail to K’gari, you don’t even need a boat licence. True story. I don’t have my boat licence and I spent time sailing.

Having said that, you will do a debrief with the Sweet Escapes Yacht Charter or Fraser Island Boat Charters, and if you have no boating experience that training might take longer. We had sailed before through The Whitsundays and did go through around 6 hours of training and briefing, and Shane also has his boat licence, so our briefing this time was short and sweet and we were on our way.

Depending how many adults you have on the boat, you’ll want to have certain people looking after particular areas of the boat. For us, Shane does all the driving and navigating, and I do all the anchoring. One of the things that I love most about bareboating is that we all chip in and work as a team to make things happen. It’s not very labour intensive, but it does require some attention, especially when you’re pulling up the anchor.

If you don’t have any boating experience, you can also have a skippered charter, where an experienced skipper takes you out on a half day, full day or multi-day experience.

Sailing K'gari with Kids

The best time to visit K’gari

Is there ever a bad time? I’ve been lucky enough to visit the waters around K’gari in both winter, for whale season, and then again in summer, during this bareboating experience.

We visited in March, which is a quieter season, so there were hardly any boats around, the water temperature was stunning, and the conditions were beautiful. We spotted loads of turtles and dolphins, and it was perfect.

If you’re visiting in winter, you’ll be treated to whales swimming around you, and while it might be cooler to swim, you’ll have the joy of experiencing whales (one of the best things to do in this area, and it is just so magical). Whale season is from July through to November.

The best places to anchor around K’gari

The great thing about sailing the west side of K’gari is that it’s quite protected, so you can anchor all along the coast. When we sailed The Whitsundays, some spots we could anchor but for the most part we looked for mooring points and you never know how many will be available. We always anchored in 5m of water, no matter the tide, so there really are no limitations (you just want to keep 100m between you and other boats, but we rarely saw other boats so that wasn’t a worry).

The team at Sweet Escapes will advise some great spots to visit, but as you sail you’ll see turquoise water and just want to stop, and the great thing is, you can. I’ve shared the spots that you definitely don’t want to miss below, especially Wathumba Creek, it’s absolutely stunning.

Wathumba Creek

Wathumba Creek is most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in Australia, it took my breath away. It’s the whitest sand, and the turquoise water, and absolute paradise! We visited twice and spent a good part of a day here. During our visit, it was quite windy out where we anchored the boat (on the shore it was absolutely serene) so you wouldn’t want to anchor here overnight in similar conditions, but visiting for the day was ideal. It’s absolutely magic! It’s probably the most northerly point you’ll visit during your bareboating experience, so plan to reach there during the middle of your stay.

Triangle Cliffs

As you sail along you’ll notice the beautiful areas with cliff fronts, and these are the ideal spots to camp overnight. If you’re sailing in windy weather, these cliffs will protect you from the windy, meaning you’ll have a smooth and sound sleep overnight (the wind goes straight over the boat). Each night, by around 3-4pm, we settled in to these spots, anchoring, visiting the beach and then coming back in for dinner and to settle in for the night.

Arch Cliffs

Much like the Triangle Cliffs, just a little further south down K’gari, the Arch Cliffs are a great spot to settle in for the night, and to even hang out during the day. You’ll see them as you’re sailing, the first large cliffs to spot along the coast, we spent our first night here, and it was an easy sleep with calm conditions.

WHat to pack for your K’gari sailinG adventure

Water. While you can drink the water in the taps on the boat, it is recommended that you bring your own drinking water. You can grab this in bulk from the supermarket before you arrive.

Food. When we sailed around The Whitsundays, we chose supplies from a provisions company, they provided platters and meals and we just had to cook them. This trip we meal planned and also cooked meals ahead so they we just had to re-heat them. There’s a BBQ, oven and cook top, but no microwave. There’s also a fridge and freezer, as well as two more eskys, so plenty of storage. The BBQ is super easy, so meats and salads are ideal, and lots of snacks, as well as grazing platter food to munch on as you chill out.

Fishing Gear. You can bring your own fishing gear, or hire it from Sweet Escapes or Fraser Island Boat Charters. There’s loads of down time on the boat, so throwing at a line is a great way to pass the time. We’re not the best at fishing, but we’ve heard people have had great success in those waters.

Snorkeling Gear. You’ll be able to anchor just 100m from shore, sometimes closer depending on tides, so you can snorkel over to the shore. And also, if like me you drop something into the ocean (a fishing rod for me 🫣) you can jump in with your snorkeling gear and recover it.

Card games. On our sailing experience with Sweet Escapes, they do stock a whole heap of games, and we also bought UNO (our family favourite). I also downloaded some old school movies, because when the sun goes down, there’s not a lot to do – and we don’t drink – so we sat around playing cards and watching movies. The perfect kind of night, really!

General items. Of course you’ll need everything else you’d take on a beach getaway. Pack reef safe sunscreen, swimwear, hat (with a under chin tie so it doesn’t fly off while sailing), a downloaded playlist (to pair with the boat’s speaker system), camera gear, warm clothes for the cooler nights, even in summer, and your own toiletries.

Tips for sailing K’gari

  • Research K’gari, and plan an itinerary before you go. While it’s super easy to just wing it, you can also come up with a broad plan of where you plan to go before you start sailing.
  • Pack enough food for the whole time. With K’gari, there’s no way to stop and replenish your supplies while sailing so make sure you bring everything you need. We made a big batch of bolognese before we left, as well as some curried sausages, and they were handy at the end of the trip when we’d run out of fresh foods. I wish we’d packed more bread, and more BBQ meats, as well as more fruits.
  • invite some friends! We love sailing just as a family, but the boats can cater to groups of up to 12 people, so you could have more people easily and make a real time of it. And the more people there are, the more people you have to help with running the boat, navigating and anchoring. Win!

We sailed as guests of Sweet Escapes Yacht Charters.