This guide aims to give you complete knowledge of everything that Hook Island offers.
Mantaray Bay is perhaps the most popular snorkel site on Hook Island due to the abundance of fish life which is named ‘The Aquarium’ by local tour guides. Here you will find Maori Wrasse (George), Giant Trevally, Batfish and thousands of Yellow-tail Fusiliers.
The fish life here is not exactly diverse, but it is very impressive. The fish here are visited numerous times a day by humans which have made them very comfortable with our presence. So comfortable that it is actually likely that a fish may accidentally head-butt you.
Fish feeding in Mantaray Bay has been approved by Marine Parks although only specified GBRMP fish food can be given and tour boats are only allowed to feed them a designated amount per day. This is to make sure the fish do not become reliant on human interaction.
Mantaray Bay is completely exposed to the North and should be avoided if even a slight northerly breeze is present.
There are two large moorings in Mantaray Bay and each one has a two-hour time limit. 3 small ‘tender’ moorings are suitable for vessels less than 7 meters with a shallow draft. Do not use the tender moorings on a low tide, they are not designed for this and you may damage your boat and the coral reef below.
The coral itself in Mantaray Bay is not the most impressive. It was heavily damaged during Cyclone Debbie and is struggling to make a comeback. Snorkelling in Mantaray Bay is all about the fish.
There is a beach made up of broken coral that kind of hurts your feet and is only accessible at high tide. The beach is small and surrounded by very steep mountains. Due to the two-hour time limit on the moorings here, it is very uncommon to see people on this beach.
Mantaray Bay is a no anchor zone and also a no-fishing, green zone.
This is not a good place to stay overnight due to strong currents and exposure to swell.
Wrasse Bay is the most North-Eastern snorkelling site in The Whitsundays and stretches out to Pinnacle Point. This bay is home to a large variety of fish and coral although the fish can be few and far between.
There are two moorings in Wrasse Bay and both are positioned rather close to the reef which makes for an excellent place to enter the water from your yacht. As with all moorings in The Whitsundays, these have a two-hour time limit.
There is a beach here that is again made of mostly broken coral which is smoother than the beach around the corner in Mantaray Bay due to the increased exposure and wave activity Wrasse Bay gets.
Wrasse Bay should only be visited in completely flat conditions and at the bottom of low tide. Due to the exposed nature of the bay, swell can roll in unexpectedly and tidal currents can be severe.
Wrasse Bay is a no-fishing green zone.
This is not a good place to stay overnight.
Luncheon Bay many years ago was just as popular as Mantaray Bay if not more popular. Many of the larger tour boats would pull in here due to the larger mooring capacity and ability to drop anchor.
The beach in Luncheon Bay is also much kinder on your feet when compared to the last couple of bays, as it’s a mixture of sand and crushed coral. The beach also provides great access into the water with its sandy, shallow descent.
The fish life in Luncheon Bay has unfortunately diminished over the years, mostly due to Cyclone Debbie. There are still plenty of Yellow-tailed Fusiliers and Sgt Majors to be seen, though unfortunately, you may be hard-pressed finding anything else.
If you really explore underwater in Luncheon Bay then you should see some parrotfish and maybe find that elusive Nemo.
There are plenty of moorings here to choose from and provided you are outside of the reef markers, you can also drop an anchor.
Luncheon Bay can be a good place to stay overnight in light South Easterly winds though there are much more protected places very close by.
Maureen’s Cove is a small bay with unfortunately not a lot to talk about. It is a beautiful destination just like most places in The Whitsundays, but unfortunately, there is not much point snorkelling here. The reef and fish life are very hard to find.
The beach here is quite nice and provides a wonderful viewpoint to watch the sun go down over the mountains.
There are two moorings here and you are free to drop an anchor outside of the reef markers.
Maureen’s Cove is a good place to stay overnight in light winds due to having good protection and small tidal currents.
ButterflyBay is technically split into two sections (East and West), though for this, we will refer to both of them simultaneously. This bay is extremely popular with bare boats and therefore it can be quite tricky to get a mooring here.
There is no way to reserve a mooring either, it simply works on a first-in best-dressed basis.
Snorkelling in Butterfly Bay is really not worth your time, to be honest. You will not see much in the way of coral or fish and the water clarity is often very poor due to the lack of tidal flow where the reef is.
There are a couple of beautiful little beaches in Butterfly Bay though you will not be able to see sunset or sunrise. Speaking of sunrise, this is one of the great advantages of sleeping overnight here. The advantage is that the sun will not hit you until two hours after sunrise which allows you to sleep a bit later.
Butterfly Bay is very protected from every direction except the North which makes it a very good anchorage for an overnight stay in all conditions except Northerlies.
Steens Beach has no moorings and is not a place regularly visited by boats, but you can camp here, and it’s absolutely stunning.
Situated on the edge of ‘The Narrows’, extreme caution needs to be taken when snorkelling here due to very strong currents. It is advised to wait for the bottom of low tide when the current is at a stand-still.
Snorkelling here is really good mostly due to the strong currents that feed fresh nutrients to the coral and fish. You will have to explore the area and cover some ground to find the fish, turtles and coral formations which is quite different from Mantaray Bay where everything comes to you.
It is pretty common to see small blacktip reef sharks cruising along the edge of the coral wall but don’t worry, they are not interested in you.
Cockatoo Point as pictured in the right of the above image is on the northern edge of Stonehaven Bay is home to some of the best coral The Whitsundays has to offer at the moment and is a regular stop for our Thundercat day tour for this reason.
There is currently one mooring close enough to give you snorkel access, though anchoring outside the reef markers is perfectly fine here too. The sea state is always very calm here but the wind can be quite strong compared to anywhere else on the day, there is a full explanation of this in the next section.
The best way to snorkel Cockatoo Point is to drift with the current over the edge of the reef and keep a lookout for fish, turtles and coral below.
You could stay here overnight though, be warned, you may have many boats lurking around you asking for your mooring very early in the morning.
This is by far the most popular anchorage at the northern end of Hook Island, but we have no idea why. Our overnight sailing vessel tries to avoid Stonehaven Bay because of the ‘bullets’.
The bullets of Stonehaven bay are accelerated wind gusts that flow over the mountains on Hook Island then rush down the hill and sweep across the bay. These gusts are more often than not twice the actual wind speed.
The wind gusts can make for an uncomfortable night as you swing and jerk around on the mooring line. Anchoring here is always a better option as long as you make sure you have put out significantly more chain than you think you need.
There are two snorkelling sections in Stonehaven Bay with the first Cockatoo Point already being discussed above. The second is what we call ‘The Keyhole’. The Keyhole is in the southernmost corner of the bay and is home to some very impressive coral, a wide array of fish life and turtles. Water clarity here is heavily affected by rainfall, so if it has rained at all in the last week, then forget about snorkelling here.
Avoid Stonehaven Bay in 20 knots of wind from any direction and also avoid it during northerly winds.
In 1964, photos were taken in Stonehaven Bay which circulated globally after what was believed to be some kind of sea monster was visible. The image featured a gigantic tadpole-like creature but nothing has ever been proven and there has not been a sighting again.
Baird Point is just south of Stonehaven Bay and offers a little less protection from the swell but offers more protection from the wind bullets in Stonehaven.
This is not a snorkelling destination as the reef bommies are too deep to see normally.
Baird Point is an excellent place to drop your anchor overnight in light conditions.
There are no moorings here.
Caves Cove used to be one of the most visited snorkelling sites in The Whitsundays because of its abundance of varied fish life, decent coral and excellent wind angle for a return sail to Airlie Beach.
Unfortunately, it seems that most of the fish have moved on but some great coral still resides here. The bay itself is mostly sheltered in a south-easterly breeze from the swell and you will not get wind bullets here like Stonehaven Bay.
There are two public moorings and two private moorings owned by Pro sail. You are welcome to drop anchor just outside of the moorings but it is quite deep and the current can also be strong.
Caves Cove is an excellent vantage point to watch the sunset falling over the mainland coast of Australia. There is also an excellent echo if you yell something towards the island.
Named False Nara because it looks quite similar to the entrance of Nara Inlet, False Nara is an excellent snorkel in Easterly wind conditions. The coral here is simply breathtaking and the water is generally quite clear. Turtles are common and the variety of fish species ranges a fair bit more than most snorkels in The Whitsundays.
There are two moorings available here and dropping an anchor is also possible. You will not experience wind gusts here though be warned, in really light conditions you may find your boat swarming with flying ants that are attracted by your boat lights. Apart from that, in Easterly winds, False Nara is an excellent place to stay overnight and offers a spectacular sunset vantage point.
You will not get these flying ants around the corner in The Whitsundays most popular anchorage, Nara Inlet.
Nara Inlet is the most popular anchorage in The Whitsundays and is normally quite busy. The reason it’s so popular is the almost 360-degree protection from the wind and waves, the muddy sea bed which holds anchors fast, the stunning scenery and the aboriginal cave art.
The mouth of Nara is a relatively tight entrance with a shallow mud bank on the northern side and a reef on the southern rocky side. Progressing into the bay it becomes slightly wider with only the very edges to be wary of. A few hundred meters into the Inlet there is an offshoot stretching north that is capable of comfortably anchoring 2 yachts and no more.
This offshoot should only be attempted by good skippers as it’s a very tight anchorage.
Continuing further up Nara Inlet it begins to close in as you approach the small beach that leads to the aboriginal cave paintings. The Ngaro people called this place home and evidence of their existence remains. National Parks have created an interactive boardwalk that highlights the history of The Whitsundays first inhabitants.
Visit the boardwalk with caution though as leaving your tender on the beach with a falling tide will see you stranded for a long time.
Overnight stays here are about as close as you can get to the feeling of solid ground while on a boat because there is never more than a ripple on the water. Many people have reported having nightmares while sleeping here due to the spiritual atmosphere.
There are no moorings in Nara Inlet to hook on to, but anchoring is fine just about anywhere. Make sure you have your deck hose ready when retrieving your anchor because the thick mud will no doubt get all over you and your boat.
There is no snorkelling worthwhile in Nara Inlet and swimming is also not recommended. During the jellyfish season (summer), box jellyfish make their way up the inlet to hunt the small fish in the shallows.
Tucked just around the southern tip of Nara Inlet is the little known Ravens Cove. This is a deep anchorage with no moorings available.
Stopping at Ravens Cove should be reserved for the glamorous days with light northerly breezes. There is a coral reef wall and turtles are pretty common here, though we recommend visiting False Nara instead.
The next inlet south of Nara Inlet on Hook Island is Macona Inlet, which is one of the best-kept secrets in The Whitsundays. It is very rare to see more than two or three boats anchored in here and for the life of us, we cannot figure out why.
The narrow entrance passes by a spectacular beach before opening up and transforming into a large bay. Anchoring here is easy and a good hold to the seafloor is almost guaranteed. The bay has complete protection from the swell and does not suffer from any wind bullets like nearby Hook Island anchorages.
Swimming and snorkelling here are not recommended because just like Nara Inlet, box jellyfish are common during the warmer months. The mountains however provide breathtaking scenery all day long.
There are no moorings here but there is ample room to anchor.
Hook Passage is a very different place when compared to the rest of the bays and inlets on Hook Island. As it is the passage which more or less divides The Whitsundays in the middle (Between Hook Island and Whitsunday Island), there is a huge amount of water that moves through here.
This makes it great for marine life like dolphins, fish, turtles and of course sharks. In the past, there have been a couple of shark attacks in Hook Passage and that is why we do not recommend swimming or snorkelling here.
As for an overnight anchorage, it’s a pretty decent stop that provides excellent sunset viewing. There is also 5 moorings available and ample room to drop an anchor. If anchoring make sure you have lots and lots of chain out to hold you against the strong currents.
Wind gusts flow down the hills here just like Stonehaven Bay so it’s best to avoid staying here in windy conditions.
Saba Bay should only be visited in northerly wind conditions as it’s exposed to the south-east.
Saba offers good snorkelling with plenty of fish variety and good coral throughout the bay. There are 5 moorings available and plenty of room for anchoring. Stay out when anchoring here though as many people have had their chain wrap around deep bommies.
Overnight stays here will be extremely pleasant in northerly winds and the sunrise to the east will blow you away.
Mackeral is another bay that should only be visited during northerly conditions as it’s exposed to the south-east.
Staying overnight here is not really recommended as the anchorage is deep and will become swelly if the wind picks up or shifts.
Snorkelling in Mackeral Bay is an excellent alternative to Manataray Bay when the wind blows from the north. Fish life here is broadly diverse and the coral is stunning. We get a few fish species here that rarely visit other snorkel sites such as the Bumphead Parrotfish.
These large herbivores can grow to 2 meters in length and generally travel in groups of at least 10.
Other Things On Hook Island
Hook Island Eco Resort
Hook Island Resort used to be in Hook Passage and was famed as an eco-resort that offered environmentally friendly accommodation. Unfortunately, it has been shut down for many years and there are no other hotels or resorts on Hook Island. There was an underwater observatory that was left abandoned for 10 years until it was recently removed.
Hook Island Camping
There are a few camping sites on Hook Island that you can purchase a permit for via the National Parks website. The available sites are;
- Crayfish Beach in Mackeral Bay
- Curlew Beach in Macona Inlet
- Maureen’s Cove
- Steens Beach
For more information on camping and to purchase permits, please visit https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/whitsunday-islands/camping
How To Get To Hook Island
If you are looking to spend some time around the island and even sleep in one of the bays or inlets, then jump on Tongarra for a once in a lifetime experience.
If you are looking for a day trip that visits some of the Hook Island snorkelling destinations you can’t go past our multi-award winning Thundercat Day Tour.
Hook Island Goats
In the early exploration days, goats were put on Hook Island with the intent of supplying food to any unfortunate souls that shipwrecked nearby. These goats are still there and their population is actually regulated by the authorities.
Hook Island is a truly incredible place that normally takes second prize over it’s bigger brother, Whitsunday Island. Though aside from Whitehaven Beach, Hook Island has more to offer than Whitsunday Island.