OF ALL the ways to tour the Queensland coast, doing it by boat is hard to beat. Our state's waterways and ocean create a spectacular playground for boaties, and the views to the land and over the water are picture-postcard perfect.
Well-placed, safe marinas are set up in and near major centres for locals and visitors alike.
Here's our pick of the top five mainland marinas:
1 Mackay Marina
THE Mackay Marina has twice won the Marina of the Year title - first in 2006 and again in 2013-14 - as its reputation grows as a preferred entry point for blue-water cruising yachts.
Marina manager Ben Anderson says that as an official Port Of Entry with onsite customs and quarantine, his team now welcomes a regular stream of visitors from around the world.
The precinct comprises a 479-berth marina including six Superyacht berths, and specially designed multihull, commercial fishing and maintenance berths.
The marina caters for vessels up to 50m. It also boasts a user-friendly fuel dock. The site also has a waterfront esplanade of bars, restaurants and shops and is home to the award-winning 4.5-star Clarion Hotel.
2 Keppel Bay Marina, Yeppoon
AT THE gateway to the Keppel group of islands, just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, Keppel Bay Marina has built a reputation as the friendliest marina on the coast.
With the opening of its new northern marina in 2013, it now has over 500 berths for short and long-term rental, catering to vessels up to 35m. All berths have power and water connections; three-phase power is available on request.
Sheltered under the protection of Double Head National Park, Keppel Bay Marina berths have coloured pile caps for easy navigation and berth identification.
Advance bookings are essential. The marina office is open from 7am to 5.30pm every day, on 07 4933 6244, VHF 21.
Keppel Bay Marina is home to the annual Brisbane to Keppel Tropical Yacht Race.
3 Great Sandy Straits Marina
THE Great Sandy Straits Marina is the perfect spot to whale watch and explore the wonders of Fraser Island.
It is in the Urangan Boat Harbour in Hervey Bay. There are 176 berths for vessels from 8m to 30m. Facilities include toilets, showers and a laundry. Berth rate for an average 12m mono hull vessel is $50 a day or $245 a week.
Nearby are restaurants, cafes and souvenir and other shops.
The harbour also contains two first-class resorts - Breakfree Great Sandy Straits and The Mantra Resort - for those who need a little landlubber luxury.
4 Mooloolaba Marina
IF IT'S all about location, Mooloolaba Marina has much to shout about - it's right by the mouth of the Mooloolah River.
The marina is just 100 paces from the expansive white sands of Mooloolaba Beach, and it's also an easy walk to the Esplanade's cafes, shops and restaurants.
There are about 260 berths, with only 80 being owner-occupied and the rest leased. There are 10m to 18m mono and multi-berths available; each has water, power, fire hose reels and security lighting.
Toilets, showers and a laundry are on site, there's 4G access for personal internet, and the Yacht Club Bar and Bistro is right next door.
It's a protected harbour open in all weather and tides, so the only thing to be wary of is missing out during busy times, especially at Christmas and Easter.
Try a local fish shop - very fresh.
5 Gladstone Marina
THIS marina's first-class amenities and location earned Queensland's first gold-star marina award in 2013.
This is the spot to access the southern window of the Great Barrier Reef and the truly beautiful waters at Heron Island, North West Island and Lady Elliott Island.
Check www.gpcl.com.au for the fees.
Always log on with the local VMR when navigating here. The waterways are busy with ships. Familiarise yourself with the shipping calendar and be careful.
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