Sailing the Whitsundays

The whole reason for us returning to Queensland after only visiting last year was to join my sister and her husband on their yacht in the Whitsundays. They are returning from an epic adventure sailing from Fremantle to South-East Asia and returning to the the east coast of Australia over five years and this was our chance to experience the life style before the yacht was sold.

We joined them in Airlie Beach and immediately had a wonderful sail across to Cid Harbour. This turned out to be the best sail of our whole trip as the wind direction and strength forced us to motor or motor sail the rest of the time. We watched the sun drop into the ocean and then woke to a beautiful still day. Unfortunately it was too still as we laboured up Whitsunday Peak wishing for a breeze to cool us. It was worth the effort as it gave a magnificent view in both directions.

We had a rough motor to Hamilton Island to collect our daughter and her husband after they had flown up from Hobart, stripping off layers as they headed north. We then headed back to anchor in Nara Inlet, a popular, narrow sheltered inlet. The dinghy delivered us to shore to see the cave art painted by the first inhabitants and learn about it from the well put together display. We also saw the results of Cyclone Debbie, seeing a second boat pushed up on  the rocks.

It was a short trip around the corner the next day to try snorkelling off Langford Island. We were also treated to the power of the recent cyclone here too as much of the hard coral was broken and scattered about. However it did mean that each remaining patch of live coral was host to a great accumulation of fish. We also learned about spring and neap tides. We were here on a spring tide with the greatest height difference and creating murky water which we got for the rest of the trip. We saw a number of large commercial vessels including one with a slide for the entertainment of guests – we made do with simpler pleasures. The night was spent at Stonehaven.

We motored down the outside of the islands the next day to Whitehaven Beach where a seaplane took off right behind our yacht. We joined the daytrippers and yachties on the beach where the highlight was the tame goannas. Four of us stretched our legs on the walk across the headland.

One of the trees blown off the dunes managed to get tied around our anchor chain and had to be sawn off the next morning before we could leave. We motored up to the other end of the white sand beach and joined another group of people all having fun on the beach. We walked up the ridge on Tongue Point to see the reason for going to Whitehaven Beach – the view over the sweeping curve of Hill Inlet with the contrast of aquamarine water and white sand. We popped around the corner to anchor in Tongue Bay where we were thrilled to see dugongs.

We snokelled some more with better coral but still murky water. We returned to Cid Harbour to let Jessica and Nick climb Whitsunday Peak (which they did much more quickly than us) while Ray and I strolled around to Dugong Bay and back in the same time. They paddled around the harbour and then we settled back to enjoy the light show as the sun set.

After we dropped Jessica and Nick at Hamilton Island we enjoyed the comforts of a marina before heading back to Airlie Beach and the end of our sail after a wonderful time. It was back to our trusty camper and heading inland of Mackay to Mt Britten. This is the site of a short lived gold rush – only 10 years – and not much left to show but a wonderful location to camp.

Lake Elphinstoke was the next nearby destination. It is a very popular spot with lots of caravans setting up for an extended stay on the natural lake. There was lots of bird life to keep us entertained but I can see the advantage of having a canoe.

We headed south down the inland road seeing very little traffic. Lunch was shared at Marlborough with the local rainbow lorikeets who arrived at our table after their previous targets had left. We drove out to Byfield State Forest, north of Yeppoon, but on arrival Ray realised the camper did not look right. Looking underneath we discovered the weld joining the drawbar to the chassis had broken and knew that joining up to RACV Total Care had been a great idea. We had the camper trucked to Rockhampton where were put up for three nights while the damage was assessed. It was then decided the camper would be trucked home and we would have to head home a little earlier than we had planned. Four uneventful days later we were home and sure that staying in motels and cabins was not our favoured way to travel. The unexpected highlight of the trip home was finding the Sandstone Cave walk in Pilliga Nature reserve where the powers of wind and water were once again on display though this time over millenia.

For another viewpoint of our trip and to see some of the underwater action head to Jessica’s blog.





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