Sail the Caribbean Like a Pirate...Without Leaving the Whitsundays. We Tell No Tales.

2 May, 2017

When Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales – opens on May 25 this year, eagle eyed movie-goers might just recognise some of Queensland's most iconic backdrops masquerading as that other chain of islands in the West Indies. The fifth instalment of the swashbuckling franchise was filmed entirely in the Sunshine state and it is not the Caribbean that adds Hollywood sailing chutzpah to the plot, it's the Whitsundays. Aye, we tell no tales.  

If the notion of getting “shipwrecked” on Whitehaven Beach's pure white silica sand, (like the damsel in the upcoming Pirates movie, see:, appeals to your inner sailor, then baton down the hatches on one of these six classic boat adventures and set sail for an evening, a day or an overnight journey on Australia's greatest swashbuckling waterway, The Whitsundays.

Solway Lass.

There's Hollywood magic and then there's the Solway Lass. This 1902-built classic Tall Ship is a spectacle of romance on the high seas especially when its ten sails, a voluminous 5500 feet of cloth, fan the horizon.

The vessel's history is as dramatic as the boat; the Brits seized it as a prize of war in 1914 before the Nazis snaffled it back in WW2, after which a mine severely dented its graceful Dutch-built lines. Fortunately, the charming old girl was patched up to become the leading Tall Ship for Australia's First Fleet re-enactment in 1988.

Today, a three-day three-night cruise on the Solway Lass to Whitehaven Beach and other icons, complete with a pirate appropriate rope swing, starts from $589 per person in a four- or six-bunk cabin.

Ise Pearl

Who needs Hector Barbossa's Black Pearl when the Whitsundays has its own 60-foot fully-restored Japanese pearl lugger, itself the star of the small screen and featured in the television series, "Tales of the South Seas” and “Flipper”. 

Meticulously restored by Captain Warren “Sparrow” Burton, a fully qualified traditional wooden boat builder, a sailing trip on the 1956 lugger is pitched at the premium end of the Whitsundays spectrum with just eight guests allowed on its two-night three-day trips through the uninhabited Whitsunday Islands.

Prices start from $600 per person and include sailing, snorkelling and fishing as well as jumping off the mast straight into the sea.

The Derwent Hunter  

Built in 1946 by Walter Wilson, a master shipwright, who, at 80 years old, poured a lifetime of knowledge and craftsmanship into the 22m timber vessel, the Derwent Hunter is the last Australian vessel built to work by sail. Its lines are so charming, that this boat, too, has won over the producer's eye and clocked up 39 episodes in the 1960s Australian TV hit, “The Rovers”. 

Today, this graceful Tall Ship plies the Northern Bays of the Whitsundays, reliving the romance and adventure of bygone times and stopping at Bali Hai and Langford Island on half and full-day tours.

Prices start from $195 per adult for a day trip, or $525 for a family of two adults and three children. Junior pirates can also take home an Eco Pirate certification if they help the captain drive the boat, hoist the sails and keep watch.

Pirates with access to a bigger booty can charter the Derwent Hunter for private sails for $3500 per day for up to 40 mariners.

Providence V 

She might be known for day trips out to Betty's Beach and Hill Inlet, but what sets Providence V apart from the other classic sail boats are the nightly sunset sails from Abel Point Marina.

For two hours, time-strapped seafarers can sail around the Whitsunday Passage and perhaps not think about what happened on “Survive the Savage Sea”, the 1992 Hollywood movie about a family cast adrift for 38 days after a pod of whales rams their tall ship. Aye, aye Captain; the boat in that film also happens to be Providence V, a classic 62-foot gaff-rigged schooner built in North Queensland in 1992 from the last of the Tully rainforest.

Day sails start from $169/person and sunset sails from $65/person.


A charming timber ketch handcrafted in 1945, Summertime claims to have enough kayaks on board to defy any mutiny and allow all 16 passengers to tackle a blue-water safari that ventures from one cove to the next. There's also a fresh water heated jacuzzi on board to melt the aches and pains from any scurvy dog action. The beautifully restored ketch adds old time charm and appeals to younger adventurers.

Prices for a three day / 2-night adventure start from $630 twin share.

Lady Enid

First launched in 1961, the Lady Enid has withstood the test of time and elegance, despite racking up five Sydney to Hobart and 15 Brisbane to Gladstone races. The 74-foot timber boat (named after the beautiful wife of the original builder) sealed her place in sailing history when she crossed first in the Sydney to Brisbane yacht race in 1964.

Lady Enid hosts 24 guests for barefoot luxury and gourmet sailing trips including to one of the world's most photographed beaches, Whitehaven Beach. Day trips cost $225 per adult.

Landlubbers Ahoy: Airlie Beach Rum Bar

No need to look to the high seas to get three sheets to the wind when Queensland produces some of the world's best grog – Bundaberg Rum – which also happens to be just one of the 450 different kinds of rum served up at Airlie Beach's pirate haven, The Rum Bar. Don't' forget to order one of the mojitos at this popular seafaring pub, claimed to be the world's best.

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For more information, please see:

To spot the Whitsundays and the Gold Coast in the upcoming movie, see the 36 second mark of this trailer: 

Word Count: 956
Author: Shelley Winkel

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