Whitsundays and Airlie Beach: in love with the great barrier reef
We arrived from Brisbane at 3pm and checked in our Airbnb. Destroyed after a few
rough days of camping and having little sleep, poor Brucey even got a migraine! We finally did a HUGE laundry and tried to recover a but of decency. Our Airbnb was awesome, with sea view and a lovely balcony to have breakfast outside, and also a shared pool overlooking the sea and a pub just downstairs called the Anchor where we ended up having our first dinner in Airlie beach – decent pub food and a tasty oreo cheesecake to finish! Tomorrow chill/planning day.
In the morning (lateish as we needed a lie in so badly!) I went to do a big shopping at the woolsworth which is just 5 minutes walk (everything is pretty close here, Airlie is small, a great size actually!) and we then had breakfast on the balcony with delicious fresh bread and jam and nutella. After that we went to see a few tour offices to book our activities here, there is so much to do and see! We got a bit stressed, especially Brucey with his fishing since he had million options but all seemed to be not confirmed or booked up! At one point I had to find an email address for him, from a fishing boat called Reel Deal, who was very recommended and I gave him the first I found without checking it was in Airlie beach… So he ended up having a lot of back and forths with the guy, who was actually talking about fishing in Ilfracombe England!! oops! Well a good contact for when we get back I guess ahahah…
We ended up booking the Ocean Rafting northern tour for tomorrow, number 1 on tripadvisor, and then fishing for Brucey the following day, and me time for me, and the last day we are going with Cruise Whitsundays to the outer reef!
After finishing with our chores we had a quick lunch at Whitsundays Sailing Club and we decided to chill at the lagoon, an artificial huge pool with a nice walkaway around it, and the beach just behind it… The reason why people swim in the lagoon and not in the sea are the stingers! One particular species can cause anxiety shortness of breath and even hospital! Scary. As if in Australia there weren’t already enough deadly animals!!!
After a nice afternoon there we went back for a shower, and then out for dinner at Walter’s Place, a nice restaurant at the Port of Airlie (a pretty little port full of posh yacht and nice bright white buildings, where everything looks too nice and clean and shiny). We had the good value tasting menu with 5 courses which was very tasty and interesting. My favourite was the Wagyu beef and the mushroom with lemon and cheese, yummy. Also the dessert called Ferrero Roche which was basically a jar with hazelnuts and chicholare in different forms (icecream, dust, mousse, bar).
Ocean rafting Northern trip
We got picked up at our place (The Whitsunday Terraces) and then got dropped at the marina at 8am. We had to check in and sign our life off, and then got in the RIB (rigid inflatable boat = gommone in italiano!) speedboat. The group was very big, especially after the second pickup in day dream island. The crew, Sam and Ivan were really nice, the boat comfortable and we had good weather and calm waters, very lucky. The driver had a bit of fun with the speed, moving us around James Bond style roaring the two V8 engines!
I didn’t shout too much surprisingly, it felt quite stable despite the tricks.
We went snorkeling in two nice spots, Manta Ray beach and another beach near it. There were a few very small jellyfish and we were scared of the stingers so we ended up wearing wetsuits.
The snorkeling was fantastic, especially there were two huge fishes (Wrasse – about 1 metre long) under the boat that looked awesome! After the last snorkel we left the boat and went on land to theHill Inlet point on Whitsunday island. A short walk in the bushes brings you to a dreamy viewpoint over Whiteheaven beach, literally like being in a dream, it’s so beautiful. All made of Silica sand which is so pure they use it for the best glass and telescopes. There is not much on the planet, and this is the purest, you can also find some in Fraser Island. You are not allowed to take a bottle of sand home here, you can be fined as much as 1000 dollars if you do! The lookouts are amazing, and we took so many photos!!
After that on the way back we checked out the toilets that are famous for being the home of some big spiders… We met two species, a golden orb and a giant huntsman which was hairy and disgusting (but not too dangerous). On the beach we met some huge groups of soldier crabs conquering the streams of water and sand.
We had our packed lunch on the beach, sandwiches with avocado ham salad and cheese. We then had some time enjoying the beach and sunshine… Pure bliss!!
On the way back a few more rollercoasters on the boat before we made it home – and despite those Brucey somehow managed a snooze! Had a nice beer at sunset on our pretty terrace, where sulphur crested Cockatoos came to say hello. (Bruce mentioned that Dave French has also seen a Cockatoo)
In the evening we had a disappointing pizza at Mr Bone’s pizza, which is number 3 on tripadvisor which is a real mistake in my opinion!!
Brucey woke up early to go fishing, he finally had a full day booked in the end with Fishing Whitsundays and I am hoping this will sort out his will for fishing for a while since I am SO Bored of hearing about it!!! I had a nice morning by myself (finally!), sorted out some emails, had breakfast and went for a nice long walk called Bicentennial Walkway, very pretty along the coast to see the different ports. Very hot in the sun but very pretty. On the way back at 12pm I met Brucey for lunch as he had a break in between morning and afternoon fishing, and we had a nice lunch by the marina of fresh seafood – 12 quid for a mixed plate of oysters, prawns, scallops, mussels, squid and octopus – LUSH!.
He already caught a lot of fish, so happy for him and also for myself since he is providing dinner finally like a real man! I spent the afternoon between the lagoon and the pool, finishing my old book and starting a new one!
I almost forgot to rent the underwater camera since tomorrow we are going to the outer reef. I was meant to go before 5pm and I only remember at 4:55! I called the shop and luckily the lady was so kind she waited for me! Brucey got back at 5:30, stinkig of fish guts but with a big smile on his face.
I’ll let him tell you about his day below:
Had a great days fishing with Fishing Whitsundays – captain Dave, Nora the finnish Organiser and Kev who joined in the PM who was the boat mechanic. We caught fish all day – using squid and pilchards – “bottom bashing” as you use weights to drop it on the sea bottom. Usually about 5m deep – species included Coral Trout, Sweetlips, about four types of Cod, Fusiliers, Chinaman, Parrotfish, Rockcod, Perch, Maori Rockcod and others. Most we put back – we kept a few to eat. The coral trout was delicious and apparently very popular/sought after.
I also managed at one point to impale my thumb with the hook- but luckily no major harm done!
This had nothing at all to do with the few cans of lovely beer I brought with me.
Sadly no Giant Trevaillys or Tuna though. Of course there was one big one that got away! (not mine)
There are so many types of fish here – as shown here – I was so happy to finally get a days fishing!
For dinner we had a table booked at 7:30pm at Fish D’vine where they will cook Brucey’s catch! We had the sweet lips for starter, and the coral trout grilled with butter as a main which was super delicious!! We had to order one side each, and in the end we were so stuffed like a Christmas Turkey!
Tomorrow early start to go to the reef!
The wake up at 6am wasn’t too bad since the sun was shining outside the window and the morning colours were beautiful! After another breakfast on the terrace we made our way to the Port of Airlie Marina, where the Cruise Whitsunday starts. This is the only company that goes to the outer reef, which made our shopping for tour slightly easier. There were a lot of add-ons such as the scenic flights and the dive for beginners, but in the end we decided to save money (sort of since the cruise was very expensive in itself even without addons) and to keep
It basic. Getting to the reef takes three hours each way, and you have about 4 hrs on the pontoon to snorkel and have lunch. When we arrived we jumped on the first free semi-submersive glass boat, there was one every half an hour and we got a nice intro to the reef and its creatures.
The boat was really cool, with magnifier glass that made you feel too close to the corals! We then checked out the viewing gallery, a room with glass to see the fishes underneath and then we went snorkelling twice, the first time before lunch we only stayed half an hour since the current was so strong! After lunch we had an hour and a half in the water, the low tide was coming meaning that the reef was coming out of the water and the current was almost gone which made the snorkelling less stressful. The corals and fishes we saw here were unlike anything else, and the long journey here was SO worth it. This reef is the longest in the world, it’s unesco world Heritage and one of the natural wonders of the world. It can even be seen from space. It was so amazing to be able to see it. The boat was very well organised, worth the money, everything works well and you just about have enough time to experience everything. We were actually glad that we didn’t do the flight or other extra activities as it would have taken away from our time snorkelling along the reef.
We got some decent snaps with the rented underwater camera, but we also bought one from the professional photographer on the boat that was scubadiving with a showl of fish around him all the time, probably carried around with food. See below and spot the difference!
The way back in open sea was quite windy and bumpy but not too bad at all, we got treated to a lovely sunset on the way back from Hamilton Island (where other guests stopped). A great end to another fantastic day.
We arrived at the Port of Airlie at 6pm and went home for a shower and a nice aperitivo of (cheap) bubbly crisps and caprese on our terrace to celebrate our last night in wonderful Airlie beach. Then out to have dinner at Fish D’vine again to finish off Brucey’s catch! This time sweet lips as a main, pan fried with salad and sweet potato chips! Delicious. We then went for a cheeky Friday beer (of course Matilda Bay’s Fat Yak – my favourite beer ever) at Magnum’s which is one of the popular backpackers spot. There was nice live music and we met two lads from the North of England (Wigan) that were watching rugby league, who were 21 and made us but especially Brucey feel old! We got home afterwards to plan some more of Colombia! Tomorrow morning we leave at 10 to get to Melbourne, where we are meeting a few of Bruce’s friends from his work and football team (Kevill, Josh and Hayley) that have moved here. Sad to be leaving Airlie, we had an awesome time here – well up there in our list of favourite places so far!!