We didn’t have great weather for this part of our trip, but we met amazing people on our 2-night Whitsunday sailing trip and it meant we got to do some awesome sailing in big waves.
Back in 2004 I did a 3-night sailing tour and the turquoise waters and white sands of whitehaven beach as well as my first ever snorkeling experience was a highlight of my trip. Fast forward to 2017 and sadly the reef isn’t what it used to be, especially after Cyclone Debbie. However the reef recovers from these natural disasters and you could already see evidence of this. If the primary reason is to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef then maybe there are better places to go and I would recommend heading to the outer reef. But this is a must do trip, Whitehaven beach isn’t the number one beach in Australia year after year for no reason.
When booking a tour we wanted an overnight trip on a small boat with people around our age (not the 18-25 crowd!) and a great crew and food! We struck gold with the catamaran, Whitsunday Blue and Explore Whitsundays which takes in the highlights of this stunning area.
We excitedly boarded at 3pm where we were shown our spacious cabins, which all have ensuite (one is a shared bathroom with the crew). There are so many windows including a port-hole for wildlife spotting in the ocean and a window out to the deck so you can see the stars at night! I loved this as on other boat trips I have been squeezed into a small bunk and have ended up sleeping on the deck as it was too hot and claustrophobic.
After getting settled in and the safety briefing complete we tucked into a beautiful fruit platter and a glass of bubbles as we introduced ourselves to the other guests! We all instantly hit it off and had such a giggle sitting drinking on the deck, while our crew sailed us into Stonehaven Anchorage at Hook Island and prepared dinner. We then watched the sunset and carried on getting to know each other! There were 4 couples onboard, 2 from America one from the UK and us (Pozzies! Previously from the UK and now Australian citizens). We saw squid squirting ink and Gaint Travelly playing around at the back of the boat, which is all lit up blue.
I had such a wonderful sleep onboard and after breakfast we jumped in the ocean for an hours snorkel! The reef was damaged, but there were also areas which were still stunning and you can get so close to it, which is amazing and I loved the soft coral, clams and saw some unusual fish. You are literally floating on top of a magical garden. After warming up and having lunch we arrived at Whitehaven beach! I loved that Rich had the same reaction as I did all those years ago, as when you arrive in an extremely average coral /stoney beach, your like “is this it?”. Then you walk through the bush to the lookout and are blown away by the stunning green, blue and turquoise waters swirling around the white sands! and the reaction is WOW! It’s nothing like you have ever seen!
After a million photos we then headed down into the beach. You get about 2 hours to explore this paradise and although we didn’t get to see the mantra rays or blue crabs and the wind was a bit chilly, it was stunning.
Back on the boat we headed back to Hook Island, this time heading up Nara Inlet. As we headed into calmer water most of us headed onto the nets at the front of the catamaran and watched the sunset. That night beautiful canapés were served and we continued to enjoy our BYO drinks while the crew barbequed us steaks perfectly cooked to everyone request.
The next day the weather turned and nobody fancied jumping in the water to snorkel or use the onboard SUP, so we all decided we would do the short hike to the aboriginal caves at the Ngaro Cultural Site. They have created a really informative walk with an audio panel about the land and traditional owners. If you haven’t seen aboriginal rock art before it’s well worth a look!
The rest of the afternoon was an exhilarating ride back to Airlie beach, our captain Aaron is a talented sailor and carved through the big waves as we headed back to the mainland. He’s a great knowledgeable guy and you feel so safe with him, even in tough conditions! Aaron made the trip interesting, fun and safe, he is an amazing guy to sail with and a very good reason you should book this trip!
Once back on dry land and after we said our goodbyes we had a strole along the board walks and then headed to Hemingway’s at Abel point marina for drinks a nibbles. The marinas in Airlie Beach are lovely and have a very different feel to the centre of town which is geared up to backpackers.
This has been such a memorable trip and we made some great friends too who we have met up with again on this trip.
WHERE TO STAY: While in Airlie beach we camped at Flametree Tourist Village which is stunningly located in the bush! The owners have been here a year and have upgraded the place as well as do a huge clean-up operation after Cyclone Debbie. As none of the campsites are in the centre of town and a bus route runs past them all as well as free parking in the centre. Stay at this site, you will not be disappointed. They also do storage while your on your trip and if the site isn’t busy, allow you to keep your trailer set-up, which we did and was fantastic! One less put up and down to do!
On our final morning we headed to Shute Harbour to see some of the worst damage from the cyclone! Although the town has made an amazing recovery there are pockets of destruction which are sad to see and Shute Harbour is one.
Book a trip to the Whitsunday and aboard Whitsunday Blue or one of Explore Whitsundays other boats and support this beautiful region.