We arrived at Airlie Beach pretty late at night and the town itself is made of nothing but travel agencies, restaurants and bars, basically just to cater for all the backpackers there to sail the Whitsunday Islands. We had difficulty finding somewhere to park up for the night and so ended up sleeping in a lay-by but atleast we had a good view over the marina! The next day we were on our yacht at 1.30 with 30 other people and were out on the open water and sailed for 4 hours to Whitehaven Beach where we arrived in darkness and anchored for the night. There was a big mix of people on our boat and a whole range of ages but everyone seemed to have one goal - get pissed up! Everyone was drinking goon (cheap australian wine in a box, about 4 quid for 4 litres!) and it was a good laugh and woke up the next morning with quite a headache.
We were taken to the shore at 6 in the morning just as the sun was rising and were dropped at Whitehaven Beach which is rated as one of the best beaches in the world and it certainly is. The sand was such a strange consistency, it was like walking on snow, and Dan and I were the first ones on the sand and so had miles of untouched beach to wander along. Definitely the best beach I've ever been on. We chilled out for a bit and wrote messages in the sand before getting back on board for some breakfast and sailing north along the coast to Hook Island where we jumped in the icy water and snorkelled on the great barrier reef. The snorkelling here was loads better than in Cairns, the coral was amazing with so much colour and variety and we saw tons of fish including a huge 6 foot fish called Elvis who we fed bread! The water was so cold though and we were glad to be out of our sexy stinger suits and back aboard the boat. The next snorkel site around the corner was equally as good and Dan and I spotted turtles and weird eels. We spent the second night on the boat much like the first and laughed at the southern americans who literally seemed as though they had stepped out of the film Forest Gump!
Our last day out at sea was spent with a morning at one final snorkelling site which was great followed by a 4 hour sail back to the coast where everyone was out sunbathing on the deck. Back on dry land, we were glad to be reunited with our Coyote van and to have some more 25cent noodles! We even saw our previous van that broke down on us parked up next to us in the car park! After lounging around doing not a lot, we had a didgereedoo lesson which was awesome! It's a lot harder than it looks, especially the circular breathing, but would love to get one to bring home!
That evening it just so happened that Ishaan from my work was in Airlie Beach as he is travelling up the east coast. So we found him at his hostel and made full use of his shower and kitchen facilities before going to a bar and watching the wimbledon tennis. Was so weird to see him there and was cool to catch up as well as getting lots of advice on the journey south! We parked up in our lay-by again to sleep but got a wake up call at 6am from a ranger telling us that we couldn't camp there and had to move on! He definitely wasn't popular with us but we managed to find a more resedential area to park up in and got a few more hours sleep. Spent the morning just chilling with Ishaan before heading on south towards our next destination of Rainbow Beach.
Whitsunday Islands are a big tourist attraction in Australia, every backpacker seems to have been or is heading that way. But it's like that for a reason because it is great out there, especially Whitehaven beach that was amazing! Glad we got to see a better part of the reef than what we saw in Cairns as well, and was a good laugh spending a few days on a boat.
Will update about Rainbow Beach in the next few days. Gareth.