A picture-perfect collection of 74 islands, just off the north-eastern coast of Australia. The islands can be explored by ferry, with hotels available on some of the islands – or, for the more adventurous, a sailing trip!
At Brisbane Airport, we jumped on a flight to Proserpine – just 20 minutes from Airlie Beach, where the boats depart for the Whitsundays. Our hotel for the night before the trip was Club Mantra Croc, on the edge of Airlie Beach. The room was really nicely decorated and whilst some of the communal areas were a little older, the pool was beautiful and lovely and warm!
We were booked on a boat trip to the Whitsundays the following day, so after a quick induction in the centre of Airlie Beach, we managed to grab a table at Fish D’Vine. Sharing a bottle of exceptionally cheap (from memory, about $15 AUD) – but drinkable wine, we started with oysters ‘kilpatrick’ – a slightly strange combination of cooked oysters with bbq sauce and bacon! We then had barramundi with ratatouille and seafood tagliatelle, both of which were great and tasted super fresh. The restaurant itself was quite large and lacking a bit of atmosphere, but we couldn’t fault the food – and if we hadn’t been slightly nervous about our impending boat trip, we would have happily sampled the rum bar!
After a buffet breakfast and a quick swim, we packed our dry bag and headed to Airlie Beach, dropping off our suitcases at the travel office and walking to the boat’s dock, grabbing ourselves some drinks supplies on the way.
A cruise ship had just arrived in the marina, so after a hectic 20 minutes navigating through hoards of people, we eventually found our meeting point and one of the boat’s staff. We were booked on Prima for two nights, with 9 other people, plus one deckhand and skipper. The boat was supposedly recently refurbished, but is a little rough around the edges – and whilst there was lots of space to relax up top, it wasn’t exactly flush with space underneath!
We left the harbour and all chilled in the sun on the top of the boat for an hour or so, all apprehension gone… or so we thought! The cyclone seemed to have been lurking for us out at sea and for the following two hours the boat rocked and rolled, as did our stomachs! Finally arriving in a bay, our queasy stomachs began to settle and we headed out in the tender boat to a tiny beach to watch the beautiful sunset.
Back on the boat, the deckhand served us Thai curry for dinner, as the boat began to roll in the waves again and we clung onto our plates! Reluctant to head downstairs too early, as the waves were less noticeable up top, we stayed up for as long as possible. Eventually succumbing to bed, we climbed into our bunk – only then realising quite how small the bed was with two adults in it! Think closer to a single bed – with a fan that only reached one person. The boat continued to rock and roll all night, so what followed was a clammy night – with very little sleep!
Waking early with renewed confidence that a new day would bring calmer seas, we had a simple breakfast and the boat set off. Within minutes, it was very rocky and rainy, so we all sheltered inside – sharing sea sickness tablets and picking something fixed to stare at to keep our minds focused! Arriving at Whitehaven Beach, things were slightly calmer but the rain persisted. Landing the other side of the island, we popped on our stinger suits for warmth and walked through a rainforest, stopping at a couple of view points en route. The beach looked stunning and we were hoping the rain would break long enough for us to enjoy it! Arriving on the beach, the sand was incredible – made of 98% silica, it’s bright white and super fine – and the water was the bluest of the blue. Alas, it began to rain harder but we all tried to enjoy the beach regardless, paddling in the lagoon and spotting lemon sharks and jellyfish. Three (slightly miserable) hours later we were picked up and headed back to the boat.
After a tasty lunch on the boat of roasted chicken and salad, the sea calmed down and spirits on the boat lifted! We drove through the islands for a couple of hours and arrived at a snorkelling spot, spotting lots of beautiful coral and colourful fish. It definitely made our investment in a Go Pro worth it! A second snorkelling spot was less impressive, but fun nonetheless. Back to the boat, we settled in a bay and had beef ragu pasta. Everyone was much happier and we were even able to have a few glasses of wine without the fear of sea sickness! The sunset was unfortunately ruined by clouds and rain but we were all happy to sit inside the now-calmer boat.
The following morning, the boat headed back to Airlie Beach and the sun typically shone for most of the calm journey! We soaked up a few rays and made the most of the last couple of hours on the boat. Prima’s website states that the waters are mild and calm – and whilst this might have been an exception because of the cyclone, the staff on the boat weren’t surprised by the weather! If you can be flexible with the timing of your trip, try and work around the weather! We couldn’t fault the staff, but we would suggest finding a boat with larger bedrooms for a more comfortable night’s sleep! If the weather had been as we’d expected when we’d booked (30+ degrees) – the heat in the bedrooms would have been absolutely unbearable, as it was bad enough for us!
Back at the marina, we jumped on a bus back into town, avoiding walking the large hill. Airlie doesn’t offer much in the way of things to do – just a few tourist shops and restaurants, so it’s not worth spending much time there, other than waiting for your boat trip! However, with a few hours to kill, we luckily found a lagoon to chill by for a few hours, before going to the airport and flying to Melbourne!