With a full week in Sydney done we decided to take a few days break and bring Laura up to see one of Karen’s favourite places in all the world – ever since her backpacking trip in 2006. 4 days of chilling and exploring in equal measure up in the Whitsundays! It was an early start that morning as we made our way south to Sydney Airport, lotion and hats packed for a week of sunshine (hopefully). The Whitsundays are in the Great Barrier Reef and the only commercial airport there is the one on Hamilton Island – what an apt name! The Airport was tiny and had no luggage carousel, instead all the bags were driven straight to the front and you had to scramble to find yours. It felt like one of those Airport kits you get from Lego.
We had around 40 minutes wait until the boat would depart for Airlie Beach so we peeled off a few layers and enjoyed the first hint of real sunshine for a while. We had chosen to stay on the mainland due to price and it being easier to book a sailing trip from as that would be our main reason for coming to the Whitsundays – to get in amongst them! After an hour boat ride we had made it to Airlie Beach – a seaside town named after the other ‘Airlie’ in Angus,Scotland and made our way to our apartment. On the drive there we found out that it was within walking distance to the main strip – good 🙂 – but that it was on top of a very steep hill – bad :-(. Fun times ahead. At least it had a pool so we would not have to go far for a dip!
After checking into the holiday apartment we took a walk into town to get some lunch and more importantly, to get that sailing trip locked in. We had been given a recommendation from some of the gang in Sydney on a particular boat and company and we were in luck, a trip would be going to next day. Even better was that the holiday apartment helped us book it so that we were able to keep most of our luggage on dry land for the 2 day trip. Lunch was in a good Italian restaurant and we walked off our decadence by exploring the beach and sailing club. Cruise Day 1 The next morning we had to make our way to the dockyards and find our boat. There would be 12 of us in total and we would be aboard Iceberg. This beauty is a Joe Adams designed – 52ft sports sailing yacht and had done her fair share of Sydney-Hobart races. We met our crew for the trip, an old sea dog skipper called Mark and his deckhand and chef – Steve. After robbing us of our shoes they brought us aboard and we get settled in. Karen and Laura had a private berth whilst John had to sleep in a corridor bed across from the French family. In the weeks leading up to this trip he had re-read Das Boot to acclimatise to these sleeping arrangements!
We began with a leisurely 3 hour cruise out towards Whitsunday Island sitting on deck taking it all in. Half way through this we had lunch. Apart from the rock hard potatoes and the ‘escapology salad’ (it was very windy), It was quite good. In order to combat a bit of sea sickness Laura decided to take the wheel.
After lunch we moored in our first stop that day – Tongue Bay. Whilst getting into the dinghy we were greeted by some Sea Turtles popping up to say hello before we disembarked onshore. We had a 1.5 km hike up to the viewpoint and it was totally worth it at the end.
This is the amazing Whitsunday Island and if you look closely you can just about make out a manta-ray. On the way back to the boat we were treated to a local delicacy of Green Tree Ants. Yes you heard me correctly. We all had to sample Green Tree Ants or we would not be allowed back onto the boat! They tasted like either nothing or bitter/citrus depending on who you spoke to afterwards and there were thousands of them scuttling around their nest in forest by the pathway. When we got back to the shoreline we had a bit of a dilemma. The tide had been really aggressive so we had to walk out quite a distance to the dinghy amongst a lot of coral which was made even harder by Karen losing her flip flops every second step.
A few hours later we reached Karen’s favourite place in the world – Whitehaven Beach and we were in for an added bonus in that the sea was calm enough for us to spend the night there. We spent the afternoon here swimming and taking photos. As it was stinger season we had to wear stinger suits but we still had a laugh. The sand is so fine here that we had to put phones and cameras in plastic bags as it would end up destroying such items.
We got to experience sunset and sunrise in this amazing place and apart from a bit of rocking it was a good night’s sleep. A good outcome considering that we would be all mucking in to get the boat back to Airlie the next day.
Cruise Day 2 The next morning John got up for sunrise as most of the rest of the yacht slept in. We were where we moored the previous night most reassuringly. After breakfast on the run we got the main sails up and dramatically increased speed as we raced for Hook Island and a spot of snorkelling in the Reef.
With that aggressive tide at work – snorkelling was tough going. A combination of fast flowing streams and near zero visibility meant we didn’t have as good a time snorkelling as we did at the Ningaloo Reef – but it was still a great experience nonetheless.
All that was left was some lunch and then the journey home. With a heavy heart we spotted the marina in the distance. Our time had absolutely flown on the water and we shared some good stories and laughs with our fellow passengers. In an exercise of how tiny the world is, one of them was a girl from Cork who was there with her husband from Tyrone. It’s a small world!
We had another full day and a bit in Airlie to get as much sun as possible before returning south. That and some BBQ’s 🙂
That was until we were temporarily moved on by a gang of Cockatoos who came swooping in to take over a la The Jets in West Side Story.
On the Tuesday afternoon we went our separate ways. John to Sydney and back to work. The girls to Melbourne for a few days of sightseeing and maybe shopping. Who are we kidding. Definitely Shopping 🙂