Boat Types

Home » Get Involved » Boat Buyers Guide » Boat Types
Boat Types


Boating is a hugely popular recreational activity in Australia, with thousands of boats on the water every weekend. Here’s a brief summary on the most common types of boats you’ll find around the country.

For someone new to boating, the many different types of boats on the market (not to mention the number of brands) can be a bit daunting!

Aside from the type of boat, the biggest distinguishing feature of a boat is its construction. The two most common types of construction materials are aluminium and fibreglass.


Pressed aluminium is a common construction method for entry-level trailerboats. Featuring riveted or welded aluminium hulls and sides, and bench or pedestal seating, pressed aluminium boats are generally small and lightweight.

Plate aluminium construction refers to a boat that’s built using an engineered sub-floor frame, heavy-gauge, high-tensile aluminium cut from flat plate and has a welded-in aluminium floor. Aluminium plate used for building recreational boats is 4mm to 5mm thick.

In a nutshell, pressed aluminium (tinnie) construction is great for smaller boats that will be used in calmer waters such as rivers, lakes and estuaries, while plate aluminium construction is ideal for bigger boats (over 5 metres in length) that will be used for bay, coastal and offshore boating.

Many commercial fishing boats and ferries are also of plate aluminium construction.


Fibreglass is the material of choice for most cruisers and yachts, as well as some trailerboats. Fibreglass is placed in moulds to form the hull and the deck, which are then joined together. Depending on the type of boat, some hulls are also foam filled for additional buoyancy and fitted with sound-proofing material to reduce the noise of water slapping against the hull.

There are a few different methods of fibreglass construction – the most common being hand-laid, chopper gun and vacuum infusion – each referring to the way in which the fibreglass is placed in the moulds.

Fibreglass boats are generally heavier than aluminium boats and require a little more care while boating. While aluminium might dent if it hits a rock, fibreglass might chip or crack.

Which construction method best suits you will depend on what sort of boat you’re looking for – and, importantly, what you intend to do with it!


Refer to the boating glossary for explanation of any boating terminology with which you may be unfamiliar.

Boating Glossary


Bass boats have low, sleek profiles and are built for fishing with two or three anglers onboard. They can be constructed from aluminium or fibreglass, with the latter most popular among tournament-style boats. Bass boats can be powered by anything from 50 horsepower to 250 horsepower outboard engines. ‘Livewells’ to keep the catch alive are essential for tournament fishing, as is a bow-mounted electric motor for better manoeuvrability while fishing.


These runabout-style boats have spacious seating in the open bow area. Swim platforms at the stern are handy for swimming and putting on skis or wakeboards. Sterndrive power is the norm, although outboard engines are becoming increasingly popular for powering bowriders.


These boats have all the comforts expected from recreational cruising boats, including a galley, head (toilet) and at least one berth. Available amenities can include heating, air conditioning, water heaters, power generators and shore power systems. Sterndrive boats usually range in size from 7 metres to 10 metres+. Inboard/shaftdrive cruisers tend to start at around 8.5 metres and go upwards from there. The simpler shaftdrive mechanism is often considered easier to maintain in salt water. They are steered with a rudder, rather than by turning a propeller drive mechanism and sometimes require more skill to handle.


Featuring two hulls, rather than the more common single hull, multi-hull powerboats include designs for hardcore fishing, as well as recreational cruising, complete with expected amenities. Power and sailing catamarans are common. (A vessel with three hulls is known as a trimaran).


These open fishing boats are built for rough offshore waters in pursuit of sportfish. A baitwell is usually standard, as are fish lockers in the deck, which should be insulated to keep fish iced. An aluminium, fibreglass or canvas T-top provides shade over the helm area and rod storage in a ‘rocket-launcher’. Gunwale rod holders, outriggers and fishing-related accessories gear are common onboard a centre console boat.


Perfect for family boating, fishing, cruising and watersports, cuddy cabin boats are nimble and manoeuvrable with a closed deck over the bow. The closed deck creates a cavernous storage space or cosy sleeping area, sometimes with limited plumbing for a toilet, sink and sometimes cooking. Constructed from aluminium or fibreglass, cuddy cabin boats start at around 4.75 metres and go up from there. Becoming increasingly popular are low-profile cuddy cabins, which portray a sleek, sportscar look.


Dinghies are small boats, (inflatables, rowboats, sailboats), that can be carried or towed by larger vessels such as houseboats, cruisers or motoryachts. Dinghies are used when the mothership cannot venture into the shallows or in ports where it can be difficult to manoeuvre a larger vessel. They also make good companion boats for camping trips or for fishing smaller waters. Oars and small outboard engines are the main methods of propulsion.


These large boats are purpose-built for pursuing gamefish such as marlin, tuna and other pelagic species. Often equipped with sleeping berths, a galley for cooking and plumbing for convenience, these family-friendly fishing boats have the capacity to stay on the water for days at a time. Gameboats are designed to make finding, hooking and fighting big fish as easy as possible. These boats are usually of fibreglass construction and powered by petrol or diesel engines.


These boats are designed to offer holiday accommodation or for living on the water. Complete with spacious floor plans and modern amenities for entertaining, dining and sleeping, houseboats are made for relaxing cruises, weekend getaways to boating destinations and unlimited family boating fun. Houseboats are best suited to rivers, lakes and coastal waterways.


There are two categories of inflatable boats, roll-up inflatables and rigid inflatable boats (RIBs). Each share key benefits that distinguish them from other types of boats. These boats are suitable for saltwater and freshwater fishing, watersports and more. Depending on the size and type of inflatable, they can be powered by as little as a 2 horsepower outboard, right up to 250 horsepower or more.


Typically 12 metres+ with powerful single or twin diesel engines, motoryachts are ideal for ocean cruising or navigating large river systems. Equipped with sleeping berths, a galley, electrical generator, air conditioning and plumbing, they have the capacity to stay on the water for days or weeks at a time. Motoryachts are ideal for weeks away with the family, adventuring from continent to continent, or entertaining clients. Sedan-style boats feature ample deck space and swim platforms, with a helm in the cabin, while flybridge cruisers offer an elevated driving position and sometimes an additional saloon on the bridge deck.


Personal watercraft (PWCs) are popular among boaters seeking thrills, adventure and fun. PWCs offer state-of-the-art features that allow you to safely and comfortably explore the waterways. Whether you’re riding solo or taking the family on an adventure, PWC owners enjoy a variety of activities, ranging from touring rides to water sports such as tubing, waterskiing and fishing. PWCs are easy to store, maintain and transport.


Runabouts are open boats with forward controls (driven by a steering wheel) situated behind a small windscreen. They generally don’t have cabin space (differing from a cuddy cabin) other than a small area to stow lifejackets and other gear. Constructed from aluminium or fibreglass, runabouts are popular entry-level boats for family boating, fishing and towsports.


Sailboats differ from other types of boats in that they are propelled partly or entirely by wind. They use sails to transform the power of the wind into power that moves the boat through the water. The term sailboat covers a wide variety of sailing craft, each with its own characteristics and styles. In general, sailboats are distinguished by size, hull configuration, keel type, number of sails, use and purpose. They can range from small dinghies to large ocean-going Super-Maxis.


Inboard (and sometimes outboard) propulsion delivers the power to tow skiers and boarders with the speed that makes tricks, jumps and other feats possible. While ski and wakeboard boats look similar, skiers and boarders have opposing goals. Waterskiers want acceleration and as little wake as possible. Underneath the water, the shape of the hull and the configuration and placement of the engine, propeller and drive shaft cause inboard ski boats to throw a slight wake that is easy for a skier to cross. They accelerate rapidly to ‘pop’ skiers from the water and turn crisply. Wakeboarders, on the other hand, want a giant wake to launch from as they cross from left to right behind the boat. Featuring V-drive engines set close to the transom and wide, deep hulls, inboard wakeboard boats carve steep, large wakes from which boarders can get maximum air for their tricks.


Some say trawlers are designed for sailors who don’t want to manage sails and halyards. Their displacement hulls are designed to move efficiently through the water with minimum horsepower and fuel consumption, which makes them ideal for long-range cruising. Facilities for sleeping, cooking and plumbing make them ideal for weekends on the water with family and friends.

Image from Beneteau Swift


Walkarounds, as the name suggests, provide full walkaround access to anywhere on the boat. Popular among anglers, they are equipped with rod holders, livewells and steps to the forward deck to make it easy to follow a big fish around the boat. Walkarounds feature stowaway seating and a central cabin often with plumbing for a toilet and a sink (differing from centre console boats). Constructed from aluminium or fibreglass, they are usually powered by outboard engines.

Register here for more info about recreational boating

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.