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Airlie Beach

The Whitsundays

sunny 32 °C

It was a long drive from Mission Beach to Airlie Beach with a scary few minutes of driving during a very heavy tropical downpour just south of Ingham where visibility was poor and some aquaplaning making steering a straight line difficult. We stopped for a while in Townsville where we drove down to the Strand, parked the car and walked along the beachfront with its swimming lagoon, beach with stinger net deployed and nice grassy areas with plenty of eating establishments along the esplanade.

Airlie Beach is a nice town driven by tourism, with the Whitsundays the main focus. Cyclone Debbie which hit the town earlier in the year did quite a lot of damage here and even more so in nearby Shute Harbour where the devastation is very evident in the large number of houses and harbour buildings fenced off waiting to be repaired. We chose to stay at the Island Gateway Caravan Park which was just out of town. It is a well maintained park with grassy sites, a pool and good amenities. We were visited by friendly ducks and curious white cockatoos who moved through our camp looking for food scraps. The only negative was that we were bitten by midges one evening.

A boat trip out to the Whitsunday Islands is the reason most people come to Airlie Beach and we chose a tour with Ocean Rafting which have very fast craft with inflatable sides that get you out to the islands quickly giving you more time to take in the sights. Our first port of call was Whitehaven Beach which would have to be the most beautiful beach imaginable with its pure white fine silica sand and crystal clear water. A short bush walk up to the lookout at Hill Inlet gave great views down over Whitehaven Beach followed by a swim in the warm clear water. It was then back onto the boat for a short trip over to Champagne Bay where we went ashore for a couple of hours to explore the gorgeous beach and enjoy a buffet lunch. Champagne Bay is so named because when you walk in the water here the sand expels an enormous amount of bubbles which are produced by algae that live in the sand. Our time spent here on this beach away from the crowds at the beach where all the other tours go was a real highlight of our big lap, the beauty was incredible.

On our trip out to the islands we witnessed the result of a phenomenon that only occurs once a year on the night of the full moon in November on the Great Barrier Reef when the coral spawn occurs. All of the corals release their spawn into the ocean on this night where it then floats on the ocean currents and creates new coral where it settles. After our nice lunch we cruised back to Hook Island where we snorkeled at two separate dive sites. The first one was just a brief snorkel where the fish are attracted to the boat with food. Here lives a huge Maori wrasse called Gordon, a very large black trevally who had amazing speed and agility, some batfish and schools of smaller fish. The second site had much clearer water and a fairly large horseshoe shaped reef with coral bommies in the middle. Here we saw a turtle, some coral trout, some colourful clams and numerous other fish. The snorkeling on this trip was nothing compared to the outer barrier reef but was still worthwhile.

We spent one afternoon at the lagoon at Airlie Beach which was very popular with backpackers and a nice way to cool off on a hot day. Listening to some live music at a bar high up on the hill overlooking the harbour followed by dinner at The Rum Bar finished off our three day stay in Airlie Beach. We loved our time here even though it is a very busy place, the highlight being the boat cruise.

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Posted by OzJourney 23:16 Archived in Australia

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