When I was planning our trip to Australia, everyone kept telling me that we had to go to the Whitsundays; it was painted as a haven away from the crowds of Sydney and the tourist traps of Cairns. You can imagine then that we were disappointed when we arrived in Airlie Beach, a town like any other typical American beach town on spring break, filled with grungy shops selling swimwear, sandals, and “tobacco” products. Backpackers, college students, families, and unwary tourists crowded into the mediocre restaurants, the tiny rocky beach, and the ubiquitous cheap motels and hostels. After a night in a hostel room better served as a prison, we decided to get out of the city.
Sailing is the thing in the Whitsundays; everywhere we looked, we found sailboats dotting the sea. And, that is how we found ourselves here on the Whitsunday Magic.
For three days, Trevor, our ship captain navigated our vessel from Airlie Beach to the stunning white sand Whitehaven Beach, where we felt like we were walking through confectioners sugar into bath water. The next day, he navigated us to Moureen’s Cove and Blue Pearl Cove for snorkeling and scuba diving and we found nature re-creating Finding Nemo as seen in the video below:
When we weren’t enjoying the ocean wonders, we spent our time basking in the sun, reading, lazing about, playing board games, and eating. In a small galley kitchen, the chef prepared delicious meals three times a day with snacks in between. For breakfast, we had muesli or cereal, fresh fruit, and a prepared egg dish. For lunch, the chef arrayed huge platters of salads, and at dinner, he gave us a choice of meat or seafood with a special meal for the only vegetarian on board (that would be me). Our favorite meals were pan-fried barramundi with green salad, and a mélange of sautéed greens, mushrooms, and tomatoes over creamy mashed potatoes, though we also raved over the chocolate cupcakes and panna cotta with raspberry sauce.
It is expensive. Really, really expensive. The cruise was almost $700 per day even at the standby rate (see below) and one day in Hamilton Island cost us $250. Airlie Beach was inexpensive but grungy.
The poor snorkeling. Of the three snorkel/dive sites, two were murky with only a meter or so of visibility (we are now trying to adopt the metric system into our daily conversations, so for you Americans, this would be about a yard). The snorkeling at Blue Pearl Cove, though beautiful, did not have the number of fish and coral we’ve seen in Hawaii or the Caribbean.
Except for Whitehaven Beach, which is the best beach we have ever been to, most of the beaches were rocky or narrow. I think we've been spoiled by Florida beaches.
We are just not cruise people. We don’t like abiding by other people’s schedules and get tired of lazing about and getting pampered. I don’t know if that makes us rebels or just plain stupid.
Whitsunday Central Reservation Center
1 800 677 119
259 Shute Harbor Road, Airlie Beach
Directly behind the bus stop at the edge of the main street besides Hog’s Breath Café.