When visiting Gary in Australia for six weeks, we spent the majority of our time in Melbourne, allowing one week for a drive along the Great Ocean Road and one week for a trip to the beach. It was a hard decision between Fraser Island and Airlie Beach/ The Whitsunday Islands but the Islands won in the end! We booked ourselves a cheap and cheerful early morning flight with Tiger Air, which flew us in to the tiny Proserpine airport (the nearest to Airlie Beach). From the airport, it was another 2 hours on a transfer bus before we reached our accommodation. We stayed in Nomads hostel in a six bed dorm room which was only 5 minutes from the beach and even closer to the bars and restaurants.
We ate almost every night at ‘Beaches’ which was super cheap and offered generic drinks deals throughout the week. It’s also a hostel, and they were offering really cheap food and drink to those who were staying with them – so maybe worth checking out if you are trying to save some pennies!
There’s not too much to do at Airlie Beach – it’s mainly used as a hop off point for the Whitsunday boat trips. However, there is a blue lagoon surrounded by grassy areas which is perfect for relaxing by in the day time if you don’t fancy a swim in the sea. There’s also a strip of typical beach-side shops, bars and restaurants to keep you occupied throughout the evenings. We decided to treat ourselves to a slightly more upmarket meal one night and ate at a restaurant called Shipwrecked Seafood which made a nice change from eating at Beaches! The restaurant decor is awesome – it’s all made to look like a shipwreck, with dangling ropes and lantern decorations. It’s also up a couple of floors, and there are no windows (it’s all open), so you get great views over the beach.
BOAT TRIP – THE WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS
We had already booked our boat trip weeks ago back in Melbourne but if you wanted to book something in Airlie Beach, there are multiple travel agents along the strip. The night before our boat trip, we were woken at 4am by five drunk, over-excited and screaming teenage girls who were all covered in jelly (yes, jelly) after taking part in a jelly wrestling competition. Ohhh the joys of hostels! 😛
DAY ONE – The boat trip was AMAZING and I thoroughly recommend you add it to your travel list if you are planning to visit Australia! On the first day, after setting off early afternoon, we drove for three hours until we reached a cove where we stopped for dinner; a feast of fresh hake, potatoes and salad. You could opt to have an evening swim, before many of us passed the evening enjoying beers on the deck and playing drinking games! There were 26 people in total on our boat, which was a good group size as everyone got to know everyone else and there was always someone to chat to.
DAY TWO – After a short nights sleep, we were woken up at 6am to a breakfast of fresh fruit and toast before we set off for Whitehaven beach. This famous beach is known for its crystal clear waters and pristine silica sand (so fine it can polish jewellry) which stretches over 7km along Whitsunday Island, the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays. It’s the most photographed beach in Australia and has been named the South Pacific’s Best Beach in 2015 – it’s like being inside a postcard! We stayed at Whitehaven beach for around three hours, taking photos, relaxing and exploring. We also played a couple of games/ competitions in the group. Turns out I’m pretty good at wheelbarrow races and climbing on top of a tower of people….
We then drove for another two hours before stopping for a swim and a snorkel. We swam with giant sting rays, saw whales and even met Elvis, the resistant humphead wrass, who is about 4ft long! The crew also set up a slide that sloped down the side of the boat and plunged you from a fair height in to the sea. Paddle boards were also available, which was great fun for those who could actually stand up – not me! After a day of swimming, snorkelling and beaching around, we drove to one final destination (another cove) for dinner. The evening antics were a repeat of the night before, with this one culminating in ten of us laying on the deck in the early hours, looking at the incredibly lit-up sky and trying to spot shooting stars! The sky that night was the second best I’ve ever seen (after Peru!) and was filled to the brim with thousands of bright, twinkling stars. Apparently there were at least five shooting stars but I somehow managed to miss all of them… 🙁
DAY THREE – We were up again at 6am to head to the second snorkelling spot where we spent half a day jumping off the boat, swimming and snorkelling like we had the day before. By 1pm, we were dropped back at Airlie Beach, all very much redder than we left!
Most boat trips will hold some kind of free-entry after party at an Airlie Beach bar or club. Coincidentally, a bunch of Gary’s travel friends from farming were also there at the same time as us, so we met up with them before heading to our boat’s after party. The club was a bit crap to be honest, but the drinks were cheap and we got on really well with a couple of the other people on the boat, so we still had a good night!
It’s worth doing a bit of research with the Whitsunday boat tours as there are loads of companies offering everything from budget trips, to luxury experiences and from groups of 10 to groups of 100! You can also haggle with these kinds of trips- travel agents are all in competition and want your custom. If you want to do a Fraser Island trip too, you can often get great deals by combining the two in some kind of package deal.