Tropical Weather and Whitsunday Islands

Trip Start Jan 06, 2009
Trip End Nov 24, 2009

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Thursday, August 27, 2009


After leaving Rockhampton, we continued to pass acres and acres of sugar cane.  It seems like the Sugar cane grows wild in this area.  Our next stop was Mackay, a place I spent about 8 months in when I was 20 years old. It has changed drastically since that time, and grown in leaps and bounds.

We arrived in Airlie Beach – the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands ready for some fun and relaxation. Airlie Beach is very laid back, everyone seems to be on holidays and just hanging out. The central area is one main street and a few offshoots with coffee shops, restaurants, internet cafes, night clubs, boutiques and many accommodation choices. We stayed at an old but clean caravan park on the outskirts of town. Right in the middle of town on the esplanade they have 3 huge filtered lagoons with beaches and lifeguards on duty. The International backpackers seem to flood to this place. One afternoon while we sat at an outdoor bar and had a drink, we tried to guess the Nationality of people as they strolled by us. There were Germans, Brits, Irish, Scottish, Japanese, Austrians, French, Dutch, South American, Canadians and of course plenty of Kiwis and Australians – we lost count. One thing we have noticed in all our travels over the last 8 months, we have only come across 2 or 3 other Americans traveling, not sure why.

We did 3 separate day trip sailings around the Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach. The first one was on a Catamaran called the Camira. It was an early morning start. After motoring the 1st part of the leg for about one hour, the sails went up and the engine off. It was the best experience - with a full wind in her sails cruising through crystal clear waters between islands. The color of the water changed to different shades of blue as we went from sand bottom to reef and rock. Our 1st stop was a fringe reef off Hook Island. After donning mask, snorkel and fins we snorkeled around the reef for about an hour. The varieties and colors of the fish were beautiful to see, however the coral was just OK. Our expectations exceeded the real thing. Back on board Camira, we were served fresh shrimp cocktails and refreshments as we sailed onto spectacular Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. The sand on this beach is 98% silica – it is so white and fine. We played some beach football and frisbee before taking a plunge in the ocean. The water was about 20/68 degrees. After that it was back on Camira for a “stuff yourself stupid” BBQ lunch of fresh reef fish, chicken, steak, sausages and a great selection of salads again with unlimited refreshments. We continued on sailing past Hook, Daydream Island, Esk Island and Hamilton. Hamilton Island is the most well known of the Whitsunday group, with high-rise buildings. It reminded us of a very small Hawaii. Our tour guide told us a lot of celebrities have condo's on Hamilton Island. He pointed out a condo complex that he said Julia Roberts owns a condo in, not sure how much truth there is in it, but it made a good story. We made it back to Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beach as the sun was setting – after a fabulous day sailing the Whitsundays.

Next day we drove to Dingo Beach and Hideaway Bay (about 20 minutes apart). Some locals told us about this area earlier in the week. We were very surprised how few people there were at both these beautiful beaches. The waters were pristine clear, the beaches gorgeous and the palm trees swayed softly in the warm breeze. It was truly like a postcard. We spent the afternoon at Hideaway Bay relaxing on the beach before heading back to Airlie Beach.

On our 2nd day trip cruise we went across to Daydream Island, which is only about 40 minutes from Airlie Beach (the mainland). The resort is very lushly landscaped and has a real tropical feel about it. We did a short rainforest and board walk on the island and visited the man-made living reef lagoon. The lagoon is home to a lot of marine life including sharks, and huge mantarays. After lunch, we ordered a cocktail and beer and hung-out by one of the resort pools before heading back to Airlie Beach.

Our 3rd day trip cruise again started bright early, we were picked up from our caravan park at 7am and by 8am, we were on our way to the outer great barrier reef on a motorized catamaran called the Seaflight. It took us 3 hours or 95 km's later to arrive at Knuckle Reef Pontoon. The Pontoon had everything we needed from our mask and snorkel to a waterlide, glass bottom boat, semi submersiable, underwater observatory, showers, and sundeck. We had about 4 hours on the reef to do everything or nothing and they provided an excellent buffet lunch with fresh jumbo shrimp, oysters, cold meats and salads and deserts. We absolutely loved the snorkeling here, the coral and fish were magnificent. My camera is not waterproof so was not able to take photos of what we saw. We did take a few photos from the glass bottom boat and the submersiable, but it was no comparison to swimming with many beautiful fish like the clown and parrot fish. We even followed a huge Maori Wrasse fish around for about 10 minutes, he seemed very curious about us and was not the least bit afraid of us.

We spent another couple of days around Airlie Beach, going to the market one Saturday, relaxing and reading at the beach and lagoons, and one of our favourite past-times - eating fish and chips on the beach.

OK, we had to finally push ourselves to leave Airlie Beach after spending a fabulous week there day-tripping around the Whitsundays in perfect tropical weather.

We arrived in Bowen and found a place called Horseshoe Bay, that Wayne remembered from being here 20 years ago. The caravan park also called Horseshoe Bay Caravan Park is right on the beach and the bay is just gorgeous. The caravan park is filled with mostly retired couples from the Southern States, who come up here each year for 3 – 4 months to get away from the Winter. A few of the people we have spoken with said they have been coming to this same park for over 20 years and we can see why. It is very clean, the owners, staff and guests are all friendly. It has the small, relaxed, seaside town, feel about it. I think the tropical heat must be getting to us, because again, we don't want to leave this place.

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