Monday 27 May 2019 / Whitsunday Islands, Queensland, Australia

Cruising the Whitsundays from Airlie Beach

It was my last day in Airlie Beach. If I’m being honest, the weather hadn’t been great. Naive little me was expecting sunshine and hot weather in winter, but Australia was delivering a melancholy combination of showers and clouds. Although it wasn’t cold, it also wasn’t ‘outdoor weather’, so paired with my lack of sleep from the previous evening spent slaving away on my laptop, I wasn’t really in the mood for a trip to the Whitsundays, one of Oz’s most beautiful offshore paradises.

In fact, I was so tempted to cancel my tour with Explore Whitsundays, but I knew that I would be wasting so much unrefundable money, as well as the opportunity to see this aforementioned paradise. White sands, turquoise seas, a lookout point to take your breath away. That was all waiting for me, if I could just pull myself out of bed.

Another reason I didn’t want to leave – my bed. But not just any bed, one in a beautiful guest house in the hills of Airlie, overlooking the beach, forest and, further away, the Whitsundays themselves. It was my last day here. Ahead of me, I had a long day on the water, a 12-hour overnight bus journey and a stay in what I would later find out to be a creepy, dated hostel in an eerily quiet Hervey Bay.

Airlie Guest House, on the other hand, was unbelievably perfect. I had my own room and private bathroom, which may seem standard to hotel-frequenters, but after weeks of dorms and shared facilities, I was aching for my own space. I’m a very social person, but I also like to just chill out by myself in order to recalibrate my mind.

So, back to my lack of motivation. I somehow got up and dressed, and my mood lifted slightly when I saw the sun rising over the bay. It looked like there was actually a possibility of sunshine. I ate breakfast on the deck of the guest house as the local cockatoos romanced each other in the nearby trees, before finally saying goodbye to my little slice of peace, quiet and solitude.

I had to take all my bags with me because, as I mentioned earlier, I was getting a bus to Hervey Bay straight after my tour. I looked on Explore Whitsundays’ website and it stated that I could store my luggage, so I brought my bags down to the marina and was met with some confused looks. Apparently no one knew about this service, but they let me store my luggage for free in their office anyway.


There were probably around 30 to 40 people on the ‘bullet’, a boat which takes you out to The Whitsundays in just over an hour compared to the larger, overnight stay boats which take two hours or more. Note that if you take the bullet, you will get wet, unless you bring a poncho. I didn’t do this, and usually I’m pretty overprepared. So I was sitting there, cold and wet, dreading the rest of the tour and the following bus journey. A great start.

First off, we went to a snorkelling point where most people got off to swim around a bit. I stayed on board; I didn’t plan on snorkelling because I didn’t want to get wet, but after the ride out I may as well have. Apparently the water was pretty warm, but some Kiwis remarked on how salty it was and how cold they felt when they got out. It was a super windy day, and being in a boat with little shelter, we were completely exposed to the elements.

Whitehaven Beach

After snorkelling, we sailed to Whitehaven Beach, the main beach that most of the tours frequent. I was really looking forward to sunbathing, and practically ran over to a spot to lay down my towel and work on my tan. However, the sand on Whitehaven Beach is extremely fine, and because it was so windy, the breeze would pick up the sand and deposit it just about everywhere. I had so much sand in my hair afterwards – and I don’t even know how, because I had it tied up.

So, following a pretty unsuccessful sunbathing session, we had some lunch, and then set off on a walk to the lookout point.

If you thought this post was turning into a miserable diatribe, don’t worry. It gets better. Much better.

Hill Inlet from Tongue Point

Hill Inlet serves up some views that I’ve only ever seen in a brochure. In fact, if you’ve ever perused a brochure for The Whitsundays, this view is probably what you’ve seen. You can see Hill Inlet from Tongue Point on Whitsunday Island, which is around a ten minute walk with quite a bit of stairs. Work your way up to the top and you’ll find several viewing points, which are usually filled with tourists – so you’ll probably only get a couple of minutes to nab your perfect shot before someone else starts tapping their foot with impatience. If you can find a quiet time of day to visit – maybe with your own boat to avoid the tours – then do so. I enjoyed this view even with the crowds, so it would be magical without.

Here, you’ll see waters so crystal clear and blue, flowing amongst white gold sand dunes sweeping through the inlet. Together, they make huge ‘s’ patterns which can only be adequately appreciated from above. The inlet is so large that you have to admire it from several different viewing platforms in order to take in its enormity. All that aquamarine is a sight I’ll never forget.

I think we were given around half an hour to view the inlet, after which we got back onto the boat and headed to the marina.

I left satisfied, purely for that last beautiful view. The rest of the trip, I could’ve actually been happy without, as I was still a little bit damp and covered in sand. If I could give you a piece of advice, it would be to avoid booking a day tour on the same day as your bus journey. Which I didn’t actually do. I had booked the tour for the previous day, but Explore Whitsundays had overbooked and moved me to the next day.

I imagine I would have enjoyed a helicopter tour of The Whisundays instead. But hey, you don’t know these things unless you experience them.

If you want to see more of my travels, follow me on Instagram @jenloumeredith

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