What does a $20,000 fine, Johnny Depp and Cyclone Debbie have in common?
Well, this post.
I am not going to lie, after staying in Townsville for the night I was still unsure where I was going to travel to. I had two friends leave me for Magnetic Island (they are in a relationship so I did not want to third wheel) and one friend heading on a flight to Sydney at noon. We had a beer as he (almost) considered scrapping the flight altogether and joining me on my travels up -or down- the east coast.
I decided that a coach up to Cairns would be too long, 5 hours and 40 minutes, considering I have been already. What I was considering was Port Douglas even further north as I have two friends in a hostel there and then making my way south, with a connecting bus at Cairns. I decided against this and against visiting Magnetic Island (a popular island that can be seen from the beach in Townsville) and made the decision to head down to Airlie Beach a couple hours south. This is not a decision I regret and you will soon see why.
But before, a quick rundown of my journey.
The location in which I did 88 days farmwork was roughly an hour into this journey south, so you could probably place it roughly on this route map. I know I know, I went an hour north only to do that same journey back the following day. But I was with friends saying my goodbyes.
This three and a half hour journey would get you through a decent chunk of the U.K from Newcastle.
After a smooth journey down, I made it to Airlie Beach.
Airlie Beach is a small town resort that reminds me of the resorts seen in Europe. Well, more so than the places I have visited so far but I am I am only getting started. The busy strip of cafes, bars, and restaurants and the live music oozing out onto the street. It was a very warm welcome after five months farming.
But this wasn’t the beach I came here for. As beautiful as it is, Airlie Beach is popular for being the gateway to The Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef.
Psst…I have added a link at the bottom of this post to their tourism website for anyone wanting a browse!
I booked this boat trip last minute. Heck, I have booked everything last minute. The Whitsundays are roughly an hour out to sea on a fast boat, and I went with a company called Ocean Rafting. I went on one of their boats called Thunderstruck and for any rock fans out there, they played some cracking music. I will add a link to their website too as it was a fantastic company to book with, boasting truly amazing TripAdvisor reviews.
The start of the sail was great fun, we raced with their sister boat towards the islands that make up The Whitsundays.
A couple of quick facts:
Number of islands: 74
It is located between the north east coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, meaning it is possible to swim in coral reefs on the shores of these islands.
Whale season is between June to September, and they can be frequently seen during their annual migration north over the winter months.
…and despite not being on a whale watching tour, the team were great and kept a look out.
And we saw some for ourselves in the distance!
The trip itself was of course beautiful. There is in fact a resort on one of the islands and an airport, bringing it to life. Sail boats were happy to return a wave too, making this a very pleasant trip.
Our first stop, swimming in the coral reef for a total of one hour. We saw fish, we saw impressive coral, we saw a turtle!
(The three underwater images were taken by the staff on GoPro’s, I bought and downloaded them from their site after the visit.)
Our next stop was a few minutes sail to Whitehaven Beach. I don’t really need to add much of an intro here.
This beach is unique. It is 98% silica which gives it this white colour. This also means that no matter now hot the day gets, it won’t burn your feet. The sand can be used to exfoliate, brush your teeth and polish real silver and gold jewelry. Seriously.
Think again about taking some home for a souvenir though. Patrols monitor the beaches and if caught can lead to an on the spot $20,000 fine! It is much better to take photos and add it to a blog post.
After eating we went back out for a little more exploration. Helicopters were frequently taking off and landing and one group had the right idea by bringing a drone. I did notice signing in on an iPad in the morning that I had to notify them if I had one.
Sadly, many trees have been damaged by Cyclone Debbie last year resulting in a row of uprooted trees as far as the eye can see. A pretty fascinating sight however and it added to the landscape in a weird way. Maybe I am biased as I have always been fascinated by natural disasters and extreme weather.
One more stop, a bush walk at Hill Inlet Lookout at the northern end of the beach. This was again a few minutes sail and a fairly long but great walk up the sand that was hardly touched by people. In fact crabs seem to leave the biggest marks in the sand, you can certainly tell this is a fairly isolated beach.
Another quick fact, this beach is widely regarded the best in Australia and regularly rated 5th best in the world with 3.5 million visitors annually. After the 15 minute walk through the rising footpath, it can be seen why.
The sand to the right of my sunburnt, northern-English face is in fact where Jonny Depp stood in a scene from one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Bonus points if you know which one.
As all trips come to end, we headed back to the mainland. We spotted another whale in the distance, truly topping off what was a great trip.
FYI, I was on the Southern Lights trip, consisting of one snorkel session and two beach trips. Another package can be bought, the Northern Exposure that provides two snorkel sessions and one beach walk. Both get amazing reviews and I would highly recommend. The Northern Exposure was fully booked, but as I have snorkeled before I was more than happy with two beach stops.
Check out Tourism Whitsundays website here.
Check out Ocean Rafting’s website to book and find out more here.
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Thank you for reading, and enjoy your day!