“I’m on a Boat!” (in the Whitsundays)

by Brian Carroll on May 30, 2012

Post image for “I’m on a Boat!” (in the Whitsundays) The east coast of Australia is a well-trodden backpacker path with a couple activities that stand out above the rest, one of which is sailing through the Whitsundays. Now the Whitsundays are made up of a group of 74 idyllic islands, with a segment of land known as Whitehaven Beach being the jewel within the region.  If you happen to be reading this in front of your computer and have one of those standard beach screensavers, there's a fair chance that the photo is of Whitehaven Beach...in fact, I think staring at that screensaver for so long may have subconsciously pushed me into this trip - making the decision to stop viewing it from the seat of my office chair and rather see it in person (thank you Corona beer advertising as well...you are also inspirational). Anyways, the launch point to the Whitsundays Islands is most easily accessible from a small little beach town (you can walk it in 5 mins) known as Airlie Beach.  Another backpacker hub, your activities in the area are pretty limited to: 1)sailing, 2)lounging at the city lagoon (you can't swim in the water here either) and/or 3)getting drinks at any of the bars that cater predominantly to this backpacker crowd. My first day in town, I booked a 3 day/2 night sailing package as that was my main reason for being here.  As I made the reservation, I had really only one concern going in - a weather forecast predicting winds of 38kms+...that could definitely get you seasick, or blown off the boat for that matter!  Thankfully as I've found many times thus far, the weather predictions out here are often not even close, so dealing with such strong winds was never an issue. For the sailing trip, I was one of 23 other travelers (+3 crew) who shared what initially seemed like tight quarters.  I didn't know our exact itinerary, I just knew it would have a combination of the following each day:
  1. scuba dive/snorkel, repeat
  2. hang out on random islands
  3. eat, drink and be merry
All in all, a pretty good itinerary! As with any tour like this, a lot of the fun can depend on the crew and travelers aboard.  Thankfully we had a good crew and while by no means was the cruise an all out party boat (which they have and I may have done in my "younger" days), it was a good mix of people and socializing.  Onward to the highlights!

About to get in the water

1) Snorkeling:  Over our 3 days, we hit up 5 different snorkeling spots.  Generally, the conditions were good (we had one snorkel of limited visibility) and had a chance to see some pretty cool fish along what is still part of the Great Barrier Reef's Outer Reef.  While I had hoped to come across some reef sharks (no luck), I did come across a sea turtle that was surprisingly large and a number of colorful fish, the one I remember best was a parrot fish.

I planned on having my tan match the color of the sand....

2) Whitehaven Beach:  Recognized as one of the top beaches in the world, Whitehaven Beach is known specifically for its white sand that is 98% pure silica...basically its as fine as it gets.  The sand is so fine that is is superb for cleaning jewelery, squeaks when you walk on it and similar to powder snow, you can easily find your feet sinking 6 inches or more into it.  My first thoughts of the beach was that it'd be great for beach volleyball (though hard to jump out of it) and/or a swimsuit shoot (supposedly Sports Illustrated had just recently shot there...an opportunity I am jealous of missing...for the photographic knowledge I could have obtained of course).  We spent a few hours relaxing on the beach but what was almost nicer was hiking up to one of the lookout points and getting a panoramic view of the area which was stunning. 3) Hanging on the Boat:  In all, the 26 of us shared a catamaran that while at first appeared like it'd be cramped quarters, was quite alright in the end (it helped having a single bed).  Each day after snorkeling, our crew would prep dinner and all the passengers would enjoy the sunset and spend the rest of the evening chatting over drinks (many people of which who preferred a cheap boxed wine called "Goon."  Trust me, even for the price, it is not worth it).  Our boat had an array of travelers (US, German, Dutch, Spanish, French, etc...) which made it nice and less "cliquey." After finishing the sailing trip, I decided to spend an extra night in Airlie Beach as an opportunity to figure out getting to my next travel destination, Fraser Island - for what would be another 3 day, 2 night tour.  The only slight issue, the ensuing 12 hour, overnight bus ride between the two locales...ugghhh...This is one of those situations when being tall has its drawbacks. Here's some pics but I'm waiting on some better ones for a friend to send to me.

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