The Wonderful Whitsundays

Trip Start Apr 05, 2011
Trip End Nov 15, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Monday, December 5, 2011

Having hitched up we drank in the glorious view over the Rollingstone foreshore one last time and headed south, bound for Airlie Beach. The ranges around Townsville had us wishing we had more time in the area to explore them… good excuse to come back, we'll add it to the 'do next time’ list! 

We stopped in the delightful town of Bowen for lunch, picnicking on the beautifully developed foreshore.  This was one of the nicest foreshores we have seen for a town of this size, with lush green grass, modern structures, a long wharf and the islands sitting neatly in the background.  It was so relaxing just gazing out over the bay, watching the boats as they swayed in the breeze.  We strolled around the information kiosk reading about Bowen’s part in the production and filming of the epic movie ‘Australia’ which has played a major role in putting Bowen on the tourist route.

Driving into Airlie we were once again taken back by the visual splendor as we rounded the bend above Abel Point and the view opened up across the marina, out over the stunning turquoise ocean to the islands.  It doesn’t matter how many times we encounter this view we always sigh with delight.  Whilst we have been to Airlie a few times, it is a favourite and so we were delighted to be back.  We love the laid back, relaxed vibe of the place, the great walks and awesome views from the hills above the beach, a panorama we could never tire of.

We checked into our park and set up camp.  We were surrounded by Curlews, Whistling Ducks and Cockatoos which created quite a symphony… the harmonious whistling from the … you guessed it, Whistling Ducks, the high pitched shrill of the Curlew and the loud squawks of the cockatoos and Lorikeets… perhaps more the orchestra warming up than a well rehearsed performance!

The following morning we were on a 6.15 bus to Shute Harbour for a transfer to Hamilton Island where we were joining Rod’s sister; Jenelle, her husband Dave and their children Lauren, Tom and Sarah on board their boat for a couple of nights.  It was a glorious day with calm seas and brilliant sunshine, it was so nice in fact it actually had me questioning why we weren’t up at this time every day… now I am getting carried away!

Arriving on Hamilton Island we made our way to a prearranged jetty where David came and collected us in their tender, having stopped at the bakery for fresh coffee, my main concern was making it out to the cruiser without spilling any for it would have been a few days since Jenelle had enjoyed the pleasure of a real coffee. 

In no time we were on board the lovely boat and after the usual greetings we were all struck with verbal diarrhea eager to share news of our respective adventures.  We were excited to be on the boat and felt so privileged that Dave and Jenelle had invited us to share a portion of their holiday with them.

Settled on the fly bridge we started our transit along the Whitsunday Passage and up to the northern end of the Whitsundays.  It was a stunning voyage, the panorama filled with a brilliant blue sky, mountainous islands covered by thick green vegetation, flanked by white sandy beaches on which the turquoise water lapped.  With favourable weather conditions we made good time and were soon watching Jenelle and Tom in the well practiced art of swooping down to catch the mooring at Blue Pearl Bay just off the shores of Hayman Island.

Eager to snorkel we donned our stunning stinger suits, always a good look (especially when you’ve been in a good paddock for 7 months)! Whilst Jenelle, Lauren and I kayaked ashore, Dave, Rod, Sarah and Tommy swam the respectable 60 metres.

Blue Pearl had a gorgeous little beach with soft white sand reaching up to meet the steep wooded range which provided shelter for the bay making it an ideal snorkeling spot.  It wasn’t long before we were all immersed in the tranquility and joy of the underwater world…  Floating along, drifting with the tide, we were continually wooed by the colourful array of fish in all manner of shapes and sizes. 

Wherever we snorkel we always seem to find some fish with spunk and this was no exception with one variety making a point of coming right up to our goggles and staring us in the eye, they were just so inquisitive and ever so cute.

To the side of the bay were a series of rock enclaves where a massive Potato Cod was seeking sanctuary, he blended so well with his surroundings however couldn’t hide from our keen eyes!  The coral too was impressive with diverse shapes and textures punctuated with the most vivid coloured clams.

Whilst we could have stayed all day we had another gem of a spot to visit and so we made our way back on board and headed around to Mantaray Bay.  Unfortunately all the moorings were occupied and so we continued around to the next bay and all boarded the tender for the short trip back.

Once the tender was secured in the bay the brave jumped in to snorkel straight from the tender, whilst I preferred to gently ease myself down the side.  This snorkeling site was a nice contrast from the last, we were in deeper water so the coral was not as visible and as soon as we hit the water we were surrounded by fish.  There were only a few varieties however they were all amazing.

We were constantly flanked by a number of massive Maori Wrasse.  Gentle giants, these are the biggest fish we had ever snorkeled with (we don’t count the sharks at Ningaloo!) and they delighted us no end when they allowed us to run our hands along their large soft bellies. 

It was however an ever present Giant Trevally that blew us away.  This predatory giant was eating prawns from everyones fingers ever so gingerly… so much so that I got to pat it as well, simply amazing and oh what a feeling!

All good things must come to an end and so we clambered back onto the tender… must have been quite a sight as Rod and Dave heaved me up over the edge in my stinger suit!  It was a quick trip back to the cruiser and with bad weather on its way we sought sanctuary overnight in the calm protected waters of Butterfly Bay.  Here we were able to tuck ourselves deep into the bay and out of the elements.  It was a gorgeous location, surrounded by the tall treed ranges of Hook Island, and as day gradually turned to night, the velvet sky became ablaze with sparkling stars and as we sat below them the boat slowly listed from side to side with the gentle swell of the ocean.  It was lovely to spend quality time with the family and we whiled away the evening with card games (I still don’t get it!), more stories and lots of laughter.

We awoke early to a windy day, there had been some showers overnight and a storm was brewing.  Keen to have one last snorkel we headed back around Mantaray Bay.  Once we left the calm secluded waters of Butterfly Bay we hit strong winds and choppy seas with a large swell.  Whilst Rod is used to such conditions, I really didn’t cope well as we pounded along… focus on the horizon, the horizon, the horizon…

Moored at Mantaray Bay we were protected to some extent, however there was still a visible swell which we felt was too big to be able to snorkel in comfort and so to plan B and down to Cid Island for some fishing. 

Securely anchored in a sheltered local, Dave set fishing rods up off the back of the boat.  We didn’t have to wait long for a bite and the rod was given to Rod (apt!), it really was a joint effort though as he did a lap or two of the boat with Tom and Dave by his side moving obstacles and relaying the rod over things determined to keep this fish on the line. 

Rod reeled in a 6kg Golden Trevally, a gorgeous looking specimen it really was a team effort to get him on board.  After a quick photo shoot, he was given a kiss and released, free to continue on his journey, hopefully wiser for the experience.  Delighted with that catch we tried our luck for a while longer however they just weren’t on the bite and so with the rough weather closing in we headed into Hamilton Island for the night.

Berthing at a jetty near the Yacht Club we were glad to be back on dry land.  We all felt so refreshed after taking a warm shower and washing away the salt that covered us all from the sea spray.  Being that it was Saturday, David, Jenelle, Rod and I set ourselves up to watch the horse racing whilst Lauren, Tom and Sarah went exploring

After regrouping for dinner we went Ten Pin Bowling.  We had oodles of fun, however just as I bowled a ripper which we all think would have been a strike, the lights went out and the pins were lifted… in the middle of a game the hour was up and that was it… ripped off!  Thoroughly exhausted and disenchanted we went back on board and settled in for the night.

Our time together was drawing to a close, after breakfast the boat was handed back and we bid farewell as the family headed for the airport.  We had enjoyed our time immensely, not only was it lovely to spend time with the family, it was such an amazing experience to spend time cruising the Whitsunday Islands.

Having said our farewells we took the opportunity whilst on ‘Hammo’ to hire the obligatory buggy and drive around the island getting a feel for all it has to offer and to admire the many designer homes.  The rain hung around all day, though it cleared from time to time giving false hope for then it would bucket down… We still managed to traverse the island… I don’t think there is a public street we didn’t drive along!

We boarded a late afternoon boat and headed back to our little park in Airlie having had a fabulous time yet thoroughly exhausted!

Awoken by the shrill cry of the Curlews, it was another drizzly day.  Despite this we felt in need of a nice long walk and so we walked into town and out past the Abel Point Marina, soaking in the views.  We stopped by our favourite sandwich shop for lunch and slowly made our way back to the park having enjoyed a casual day just wondering around getting our Airlie fix!

Once again it was time to move on.  We packed up, hitched up and bid farewell to our feathered friends, we could still hear the faint chorus of the Whistling Ducks as we pulled out onto the main street and continued our journey south.

Highlights of the Wonderful Whitsundays:

-          Catching up with Jenelle, David, Lauren, Tom and Sarah

-          Cruising the Whitsundays

-          Snorkeling the Whitsundays

o   Patting a Maori Wrasse

o   Patting a Giant Trevally

-          Rod catching at Golden Trevally

-          Strolling Airlie Beach
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Sue Herrald on

Having sailed the Whitsundays - you just brought back the magical memories of them. Although, Rod - I think that fish that you caught is the only one one we caught and threw back - he has not become wiser at all!! Ypu are still living the dream and make wanting to the do the "Rod Brown" a reality as I sit here in the Office!!

Kerry Beard on

What a journey! Definitely trip of a lifetime. It must feel somewhat strange getting so close to home now - mixed feelings I'm sure. What will we do when we don't have your blog to read? Safe travelling!
Cheers Kerry Beard

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