Sailing the Whitsundays
Alison and I were adventurous and signed up for a 2 day / 2 night live aboard to the Whitsunday Islands where we sailed to visit different beaches, snorkeled, and slept on the boat overnight. Since the islands are a few hours from Airlie Beach, it seemed the best way to experience the Great Barrier Reef rather than zooming back and forth the same day.
We went with iSail Whitsundays' Blizzard ship which was recommended through a friend as they specialize in small groups and is for an older set vs. the backpacking group and I was overall super happy with the choice. There were 7 of us onboard: our skipper Dave, co-skipper/chef Conor, 20-something backpacker Katerina, German couple Tim and Julia, and of course Julison.
We thankfully had our own private room which was pretty tight but we both live life at 5 feet so it wasn't too much of a problem.
The water was pretty choppy when we left on Tuesday afternoon for Hook Passage but I thought it was super fun and reminded me of my sailing team days!
Alison felt otherwise...
We woke up fairly early and headed over to Tongue Bay where we went on a little bushwalk to the Whitsundays' most famous and iconic beach, Whitehaven. The view walking onto the beach was spectacular with seemingly never ending powder white sand. Fun fact: NASA was so amazed at the sand here that they studied it and discovered it's made of quartz silica and so pristine that they melted some and created a telescope from it.
There were a few other tour groups arriving on the beach so we first visited a secret inlet beach Conor told us about if you go left and through the bush a little. It was incredible but the waters were pretty choppy so we headed back to the main beach area and spent some time swimming.
Afterwards, we headed to the lookout points for the token Whitehaven tourist shots. Due to Cyclone Debbie, the shape has changed but still just as impressive.
We moored at Stonehaven Bay the next afternoon and snorkeled, watched the sunset, and best of all, woke up to Gangster, the sea turtle, who swam around our boat waiting for us to come swim with him. Incredibly excited, I jumped in with my goggles sans wetsuit and swam with him for awhile.
We then headed over to another section of Stonehaven Bay to snorkel more of the Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately, most of the coral has died off so it's not very vibrant but we did see some cool colorful fish and a clam that was probably the length of my arm which was pretty impressive.
From there, we did a little rock climbing on land and were able to see tons of sting rays, a hammerhead shark, more sea turtles, and a super colorful parrot fish before we headed back to shore at Airlie Beach.
Overall, a great tour that I'd highly recommend. Even if the reef isn't as scenic as it must have once been, the beaches and swimming with Gangster made it all worth it.