….’the wondrous whitsunday islands’

September 2019

It’s a cold and gloomy January evening in Vancouver, and the only cure I could think of for the winter blues was to finally sit down and pull together some warm memories of our sailing trip last September to the Whitsunday Islands, Queensland, Australia.  Interestingly enough, the naming of the Whitsunday Passage, where the islands are located, is based on Captain Cook’s journal and is somewhat of a misnomer given he believed it was discovered on the Sunday of the feast of Whistun (Pentecost), but as the international date line had not been established at that time, the discovery was actually made on Whit Monday…..Whitmonday Islands, just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?!

The Whitsunday Islands are bordered by the Great Barrier Reef and the waters of the Coral Sea, and between May and September each year they are a popular calving ground for the majestic humpback whales – lucky for us our trip spanned Aug/Sept!

Of the 74 islands and islets in the Whitsundays group, we were fortunate enough to visit some of the most popular, yet not overcrowded, destinations and we did it in style courtesy of our friends Jacqui and Noel on their sailboat MAD (Make a Difference)

Come aboard and enjoy a brief tour of one of the most popular sailing grounds in the world.

We had wondered if we were REALLY going to see whales – but not for long, because within an hour or so of setting sail for the passage from Gloucester anchorage on the mainland, to our first stop at Butterfly Bay inlet on Hook Island, we saw this family passing astern of a boat approaching us, I do hope they were looking behind.

At Nara inlet anchorage, we did not heed the advice of Skipper Jac who’s mantra is “if I can’t see to the bottom, I ain’t going in”….due to a very healthy fear of sharks, I guess we were just so giddy to be on vacation.  This curious cockatoo likely also thought we were out of our minds.

Sunset somewhere in the Whitsundays, so many to choose from

The only dull/rainy morning of our trip was spent hiking up to see the historical caves of the Ngaro Peoples, the traditional owners of this group of islands.  Along the way there were interactive information points arranged and narrated by their descendants, which made for a really interesting cultural experience.

Boat kitty Xena getting some rays….

One of many ‘whale tails’ we spied….usually happened too fast to pull out the camera.

Nightly Yhatzee competition that spanned the entire trip….not sure who ultimately won, but it was fun.

Boat kitty Emma, contemplating some gymnastics to get up top and lay on the Bimini cover…..there she goes!

Deb posing for a helm shot – it doesn’t do justice to how much stress is involved taking the wheel of this baby.

WHAAALE!….where?….over there!….grab the camera – quick!

Heading to Hamilton Island (the largest hub and most swish destination in the islands)….was cause for a freshen up of the bedding….not washed, just aired out and surprisingly it really made a difference.

Oooh….are we really allowed in there?  Well our $180/night is a good as anyone elses!

No cars are permitted on Hamilton Island so it’s either one of the two public buses or golf carts, we opted for the latter just for for fun of it….when it was his turn Pete tried really hard to bank it on 2 wheels around the bends….I preferred Jac at the wheel.

View from the top of the island to the stunning Reef View Resort on Cats Eye beach.

We had to check it out….

..and timed it well to witness love’s young dream.  We did not think the hotel staff were going to be able to build a gazebo out of a few twigs, but they had obviously been to this rodeo before, kudos to them and congrats to the happy couple!

After a couple of days on the island relaxing, hot showering, laundry and re-provisioning we were set to head out again.

…but not before a cocktail with a cockatoo – as you do!

Next stop, Whitehaven Beach, known for its bright white sands comprised mostly of silica which is not derived from local rocks, and it’s been suggested that the sands were brought to the beach by prevailing sea currents millions of years ago.  The beach with its 7km sandy stretch, only reachable by boat, seaplane/helicopter, has crystal clear waters (you can see to the bottom Jac!)  and made for a great stopover to really stretch our legs, swim and set up a beach bar for sundowners.

…it’s quite a workout getting into a dingy from the water

Sunrise at Whitehaven….

….and then set sail for Bait Reef (part of the Great Barrier Reef) to snorkel.  Pete and Xena are on the same nap schedule.

So we accidentally bagged a black tipped shark on the way, was hoping for tuna, and it was quite a task to reel him in on the hand line, so we could unhook and set him free.  That’s the royal “we” of course, because Noel did all the work, after being urgently roused from a deep sleep.

A tricky entrance to the reef, but we were able to pick up a mooring buoy, we had read (and been told) that you had to get out there early to grab one of the few designated spots.  Mission accomplished, and we had a quick jump in the next morning, but there was a cloud of some kind of transparent worm like creatures, millions of them, which didn’t make for relaxing experience, so we were content with watching the big fish swim around MAD.

….followed by sundowners, dinner and of course, more Yahtzee!

Nice sail back to the islands and made our way back (I missed it the first time due to a tummy bug – no really!) to Cid Harbour for an epic hike to the look out point.

We didn’t even think about disobeying Captain’s orders here given there had been 3 x shark attacks during the previous year.

Really sweet hike through the cool forest up to the look out point….

 

Sunset from the beach at Cid Harbour….and our friends in their happy place.

Over to Long Island for a night and a hike over to Sandy Bay.  Just Pete and I this time as Jac and Noel had done it previously.

Prior to 2017 when Hurricane Debbie (not my fault!) ravaged this popular destination, Long Island had been a hotspot for local and international holiday makers alike.  It was sad to see the resort now closed up and slowly decaying.

I think Pete wanted to take the shorter hike to Humpy Point….not sure why?!  But we went for the long haul to Sandy Bay and back.

The nice thing about friends who have already explored the territory, is that they have plenty time to rustle up a cocktail and greet you on the beach when you return for sundowners….perfect timing!

Our final stop before heading back to mainland was South Molle Island and without question a hike with the most stunning vistas at every turn.

We happened upon the “Balancing Rock” and tried for a balancing pose, 10/10 Jac!  Who knew it would be so challenging to stand on one leg for 15 seconds!

Yours truly spotted a snake along side the trail “snake, big fucking snake”….was how I informed my fellow hikers behind me, and after we stopped to marvel at it, I almost stood on his friend who rushed across the path (at speed!) to join him.  Yikes.

…in the comfort and safety of MAD and resting tired feet.

We headed back to our starting point, Airlie Beach Marina, for a last hurrah at before heading home!

This would have been a great shot if Noel, Jacqui and Deb had not been mesmerized by the voodoo hand!

Cheers to many years of good times with good friends!


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