Killer Morning Bus Run, Airlie Beach, Sailing Whitsunday Islands, Snorkelling Hook Island, Great Food & Aussie Hospitality, Pure Silky White Sands @ Whitehaven Beach, Cold Rock, Night Bus to Agnes Waters
We said goodbye to Cairns, and foolishly walked over 1km in the searing heat to the Greyhound bus stop. The bus was late, and the journey was long. We drove through some areas that had been hit by Cyclone Yasi earlier on in the year, such as Mission Beach, although apart from some trees, most things had been cleared up. We stopped off at a small town for a lunch break, and I walked over the road to the beach, and was considering a paddle (it was very hot) when I saw the sign warning about crocodiles. Its not possible to swim at some beaches because of Crocs- and I had read another tale in the Bill Bryson book about a woman at the beach who was walking next to the water when the waters parted and she was carried off into the waves by a Croc, to the horror of passers-by. She wasn't seen again, so I decided to go back to the bus. We finally arrived at Airlie Beach, the small town where tours to the Whitsundays leave from. After finding our ovrepriced hostel, we made the most of the inclusive internet and booked our future bus journeys along with accomodation. After a quick tea we packed and went to bed to rest up before the start of our first ever Sailing trip.
A bit of a lie in this morning- up at 6am! We walked down to the office and checked in, paid the rest of the balance (we had only put down a deposit) and walked down to the meeting point at the docks. We met the rest of out group, and went down to the boat- apltyl titles Waltzing Matilda. There were 7 of us in total, plus the two crew members Jimmy and Trent. The weather was cloudy and windy- good for sailing, but not ideal for sea sickness. I had prepared by taking some tablets, and sat up on the deck in order to get some fresh air. The sea was rough for the first few hours, but the tablets and sea air seemed to be doing the trick and I felt ok. The Whitsundays are a collection of islands off the coast of Queensland, and the Great Barrier Reef also runs through them. There is good snorkelling, and the biggest island is Whistsunday Island and has reputedly one of the best beaches in the world- the famous Whitsunday Beach. Some of the islands have camping grounds or accomodation, but sailing trips and staying on a boat are popular too.
Our first stop was Hook Island, and we were dropped off to do some snorkelling. We snorkelled up to the island (good coral and Nemo spotting!) and then waded onshore and chilled out on the beach. Trent picked us up in a dinghy and took us back to the boat, and we then had a yummy lunch before setting sail to our anchor point for the night. After a snack and chilling out on the deck to watch the sunset, we had a steak on the BBQ before retiring to our respective cabins.
After a slightly rocky nights sleep we were up early for breakfast before heading out on the boat to Whitsunday Island. Trent (the skipper) had been up since 5am to make sure we were in Whitsunday Bay early, and we were the first on the island. Luckily, the weather had cleared up and it was bright and sunny. We walked up to the viewing point and the sight of the islands beach was breathtaking- it looked like paradise. The soft white sand is considered to be of such high quality that it was used by NASA to make the glass for the Hubble Telescope.
After lots of photos at the viewpoint we walked down to the beach, foound a secluded hideway suggested by Trent and chilled out for the morning. The beach was amzing, and water was cld and crystal clear- it is definetly one of the best beaches I have ever been to, and ranks up there with Thai beaches! The time there passed all too quickly and we had to head back to a beach on the other side of the island to be picked up. We were able to fit in another sneaky snorkel session before snacks and a late lunch. We then sailed back to shore- it was an amzing trip and one of the best excursions Ajay and I had taken on the big trip so far.
Back on land we treated ourselves to some ice cream from Cold Rock- you choose the ice cream and a topping/something to mix it in with litle chocolate. We then did a couple of jobs before having some dinner on the picnic benches by the sea. Afterwards we met up with some of the others from the trip and went for some free beers (a promotion by the bar to get you in- we only had free stuff and didn;t pay for any extra). Soon it was time to get our night bus and luckily the beer helped me get off to sleep. Next stop- Agnes Water and the Town of 1770.
It was time to leave our first base in Australia and start our journey south along the east coast. We were booked on a morning Greyhound bus to Airlie Beach, a small but busy tourist town full of bars, restaurants and hotels and jump-off point for sailing the Whitsunday Islands.
The Whitsunday Islands fall within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area and comprise of 90-plus islands, most of which are uninhabited. Set amongst serene blue waters, the activity of choice here is sailing. This is what we planned to do but first we needed to get to the Cairns bus station.
The walk to the bus station in the morning was a killer. It was only 0800 in the morning but it was already stiflingly hot and humid. We were each carrying a big rucksack, a daysack and a food bag and the walk to the bus station was between 1 and 2 km. We were two unhappy ratty morning bunnies by the time we reached the bus station. To rub it in the Greyhound bus didn't arrive for another 30 minutes as it was delayed. Once we got onto the bus, the journey was long but comfortable and uneventful and we arrived into Airlie Beach late at night. After checking into our hostel we packed for our sailing trip.
The next morning we were up early to check in at our sailing company, Whitsunday Adventures, where we stored our luggage. We had managed to secure a lower standby rate (usually reserved for last minute bookings) when we arranged our sailing trip in Cairns and as there were only seven of us on the boat (plus skipper Trent and deck hand Jimmy), we managed to get a cabin to ourselves! We were sailing on a cruising yacht called Waltzing Matilda.
Once we were greeted by the boat crew and settled into our cabins, we went up on deck to watch as the yacht departed from the harbour. We were going to spend the next 36 hours on the yacht and there was a mild concern that we would experience sea sickness. The first hour and a half was choppy and windy as we sailed through open water (I lost my sunglasses to the sea!) but as we started to pass through the bays it calmed down a lot, the sun came out and we had a splendid time just chilling on deck. No real motion sickness at all. The food throughout the trip was superb and the vibe on board the yacht was relaxed and peaceful - just what we wanted. In the afternoon we headed out to picturesque Hook Island where we snorkelled off the yacht and explored some of the fringing reefs and then spent some time relaxing on the beach. We were greeted with hot drinks, biscuits and cakes as we got back on the yacht - we were being spoilt and we were loving it! We anchored for the night in a calm and quiet bay and dined on a bbq feast cooked up by Jimmy. The night sky was full of stars and beer and conversation consumed the rest of the evening.
The next morning we woke up in Tongue Bay on the Whitsunday Island, the biggest island in this area. Trent, our captain, had woken up at 0530 in the morning and driven the Waltzing Matilda to this spot so we could get to island before the hordes of young backpacker tourists from the 'party' boats came ashore (and ruined the serene ambience of the Whitehaven beach). After a quick breakfast, we ventured ashore with Jimmy our guide and went to a lookout over Whitehaven beach. The view was stunning.
After a few photos we made our way to a secluded beach spot recommended by Trent. We learned that the sand in Whitehaven Beach is of such high quality that Nasa had used it to build the lens for the Hubble telescope. It was ceratinly the finest sand I have ever walked on - white and silky. The water was clear and the blue skies and sunshine completed a paradise scene. It was magical. We spent a good couple of hours sunbathing, swimming and playing catch with a rugby ball at the beach. It was hot but the water was refreshing.
After returning to the boat, Trent took us to another spot near Dumbell Island for some more snorkelling. We had a really good time checking out the coral and we managed to see many different varieties of colourful fish in this area. A hearty lunch ensued and we spent the rest of the journey sunbathing and chilling out on the deck while we sailed back to Airlie beach.
It had been a really enjoyable and relaxing couple of days on a nice boat with friendly fellow passengers and a superb crew. We both had a brilliant time and the experience was right up there with some of the most memorable things we'd done on the trip thus far. In the evening we met up with Jimmy and the other passengers for some drinks before heading to the bus stop to catch our overnight bus to Agnes Waters.