The East Coast: Part Three
We are now onto the third installment of my East Coast of Australia road trip, the Whitsunday Islands.
We have gone from Cape Tribulation all the way down to Mission beach, hopped on a boat to Magnetic Island, and now we are down to one of the highlights of the coast, the Whitsunday Islands.
The Whitsunday Islands consist of 74 islands on the north east coast of Queensland, in the very heart of the famous Great Barrier Reef.
How to get there?
So if you are following my road trip guide so far you will drive from Townsville down to Airlie beach. The drive is a nice 3 hour and 15 minute drive.
Airlie beach is basically your gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, everyone wanting to explore will begin from here. Now there is a few places to stay whilst you’re in Airlie, hostels and a lot of hostels you can camp in.
As we were living in our car we opted to camp in one of the hostels, we chose Xbase. Camping is a lot cheaper than staying in the hostel and you can still use all the facilities, swimming pool, wifi, kitchen, showers.
Whilst you’re in Airlie there’s a few trips you’ll want to make either before, or after you do the Whitsunday Islands.
Take a drive to Dingo Beach and cook up a bbq on a sunny day. Around a 45 minute drive, this place is well worth a visit, even the drive itself is beautiful.
The second must see mini road trip is to Cedar Creek Falls. Cedar Creek Falls is a 30 minute drive from Airlie and a beautiful mini road trip. Pack a picnic, your swimmers and a few beers and you’re in for a great day.
This waterfall and pool is seriously refreshing, especially on a spectacular summers day. Take a dip in the water or climb to the top (which is actually pretty easy, as I am not much of a climber and even I did it) and see the view.
The best way to see the Whitsunday Islands without a doubt is by sailing boat. There is a handful of tours that are a reasonable price you can book on to.
We chose the Spank Me tour. Built in 1989 it is a 82ft maxi sailing boat which won the Sydney to Hobart race, giving it’s name as one of the fastest sailing boats of it’s time.
This is a 2 day 2 night tour which includes all meals, lots of snorkelling and lots of real life sailing. We booked through Book Me for basically all our trips and found it a hell of a lot cheaper than on the original website. In the end we got it for $289, with the original price at $474. A pretty good deal!
On day one of the trip you meet around 1:00pm at the Airlie marina. You get yourself situated on the boat, run through the safety and away you go.
It hosts 26 passengers as well as crew and captain.
We set sail on a beautifully sunny day, the wind was blowing, everyone was enjoying themselves, it’s just a really cool vibe.
The sail into the Whitsundays takes some time, so you are sailing for most of the day, but you get to join in and help on the grinder and the sails. By the late afternoon you pull into a cove and
jump squeeze into your snorkelling suit. In Australia they call these stinger suits, as they are there to protect you from the stingray!
The water is very fresh and as soon as you jump in and pop your head under water you see lots of sea life! Although not as clear as I was expecting, the area you stop on the first day is still lovely. A lot of areas of the Great Barrier Reef are dead or dying, it kind of hit us. It is true, this beautiful world wonder is not going to be around forever. I therefore felt like It made appreciate it all the more.
By the end of day one we were all sea sleepy. You know that feeling from being full of sea air, in the sun all day, after swimming around like a happy child. So after some well needed food and a few beers (yes you can bring alcohol on board) everyone pretty much collapsed.
THIS is the day. The day that will hold in your memory as the best day of your trip. This is the day you are up at 5AM, yes I said it, 5AM. To race all the other boats in the area, and be the first to step foot on Whitehaven beach.
Whitehaven beach is a 7km stretch of beach only accesible by boat, seaplane or helicopter. It is an award winning beach, the biggest and most popular in the Whitsunday Islands. It is without a doubt one of my favourite beaches ever.
It’s sand is pure white silica, literally the sofest and purest sand I have ever experienced.
We managed to arrive there first. It was amazing. First we walked up to the legendary Hill Inlet, where the most famous shots of Whitehaven beach have been taken. Here you can see the shifting in the tide and the sand, and the beauty that surrounds you on all sides.
The views are phenomenal, I was in awe. You know when you see photographs online and it looks incredible and you think ‘that can’t really be it?’ Well this was the opposite of that. My experience and view of Whitehaven beach was better than any photo I had seen.
After getting to grips with being in such a beautiful place we wandered down to the beach itself. Being the first people to set foot on that sand on that day was a momentous feeling, we were all so giddy and excited. The feeling was indescribable.
I have never felt sand like this in my life, I’ve never seen sand that white either. You can’t stop running your fingers through it, feeling it, touching it, it truly is magical.
There is also lots of wildife and beach creatures hanging around. We kept seeing these cool little brightly coloured crabs popping in and out of the sand. Our friends also spotted some sharks in the bay.
You spend a good 3 hours wandering around Whitehaven beach and Hill Inlet. The time flew by, frolicking in the sand and the ocean, marvelling at the beach itself. It really was a day I will never forget.
By the time you hop back on the boat everyone was so hyped up and it was only just hitting 11AM.
After all that excitement you head to your next snorkelling spot. On your second day you do two lots of snorkelling. The first in a small place and the second in the main area to see sealife. I was lucky enough to spot a huge turtle. But the main attraction is George, the gigantic humphead wrasse fish.
He is a local legend and comes to see all the tourists willing to snorkel. Throw some bread and fish of all shapes and colours will surround you. Snorkel quietly near the plant life and you might see a real life Nemo.
I wish I owned an underwater camera as this really was an incredible experience.
After an early start and a day filled with snorkelling you are more than ready to dock up, eat and sink a few beers whilst the sun sets.
The next morning after a heavy sleep we woke up and began the sail back to shore. It is a fair way but an enjoyable journey. We even got to experience some choppy waters, where everyone got soaked and we got to see the boat in action!
That concludes the 2 day 2 nights sailing around the Whitsunday Islands. I stepped back onto shore elated and content.
I hope this has inspired you to see the beautiful Whitsunday Islands.
My main message is go and see it whilst you can. The Great Barrier Reef won’t be there forever. It isn’t indestructable and I saw the damage that has already been done. I don’t want to put a downer on this part of the road trip but it was my real life experience.
Out of everything this was a real highlight of my East Coast road trip. A place I won’t forget. Sights I can still remember vividly and I hope you will too one day.⛵
‘Til next time roadtrippers.🌏✌