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Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays

Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays

The two main tourist attractions when travelling up the East Coast are arguably Fraser Island and the Whitsundays. It was the Whitsundays which brought us to our next stop; Airlie Beach. Our coach arrived around 6 am after a long journey from Agnes Waters. We would be boarding our boat and starting our tour later that day. We went to check our backpacks into the hostel seeing as we had about 6 hours to kill before heading towards paradise. Our boat only allowed us to take a small bag for the 2 nights. We left our main bags in the hostel storage and kept our prepacked rucksacks with us ready to set sail. We found an outdoor bar to sit and watch the Olympics until the time came to start our adventure.

Whitehaven Beach has been voted the best beach in Australia as well as in the World. Therefore, it is definitely a destination for the bucket list. Known for its turquoise water and pristine white sand, Whitehaven Beach truly is paradise. The tour company which would be taking us around the 74 islands was called ‘Sailing Whitsundays‘. Our tour featured a 2-day, 2-night sailing trip where we would be sleeping on board the boat ‘Boomerang’. Despite there being so many tours to chose from we liked the sound of living onboard the boat. It was a proper sailing boat, where the guests could choose to help sail between stops. This also meant that it was a lot faster than some of the other boats and a lot of fun in the windy conditions.

Setting Sail

The weather for our tour wasn’t very good. With strong winds, grey skies and rain. However, due to the nature of the sailing boat, it added an entirely different experience. Instead of a gentle journey into the islands, we almost flew across the water. Hanging on to the railing tightly with our legs over the side of the boat as the other side travelled almost perpendicular to the water. As I looked over my shoulder I could see the ocean below me. Sea water sprayed up from the boat, drenching all of us more than the rain was. We were told by the Captain that it was the fastest he’d ever sailed the Boomerang before.

Our first stop was to a sheltered bay, by this time it was getting late so we stayed on the boat and got to know the other people on board. We had dinner and some goon before going to bed ready for our first full day exploring paradise. Our beds on the boat were very basic, more like a shelf. Every time I went to sit up I would hit my head on the ceiling which was only a few inches from my face when laid down. Also, it rained throughout the night and a small window next to the bed had been left open, covering us in rain and sea spray during the night.

Whitehaven Beach

The following morning we were woken up at 7 am, our breakfast already made and set up for us. After peanut butter and coffee I was ready to set sail and discover our first stop. Our first sail of the day would take us to Whitehaven Beach; the famous postcard-worthy beach of my dreams. As we skimmed across the ocean we saw our first glimpse of blue sky since setting sail from Airlie Beach.

We stopped just off the shore and got a motorboat to the Island. From here we had to go on a short bush walk to reach the popular viewpoint. On a clear day, this is the perfect spot to watch the crystal clear turquoise water constantly move and change shade. Unfortunately, our view wasn’t quite so spectacular, hindered by the layer of grey clouds blocking the sun. After getting our pictures and group shots we carried on down to the beach itself.

The sand is the purest you will ever find in the World. With 99% silicone content it was so soft and white, the only time sand from this beach was allowed to be taken was for the Hubble telescope. We marvelled at the setting, swimming in the sea while looking out for jellyfish, stingrays and lemon sharks. The crew on our boat also told us of the sand’s exfoliating qualities so some of us sat scrubbing ourselves with the sand on the edge of the water.

Whitsundays, Whitehaven Beach

Whitsundays, Whitehaven Beach

Snorkelling in the Whitsundays

After around an hour, we headed back to the boat. From here we moved on to another bay called the ‘fishbowl’. This was a popular spot for snorkelling with shallow healthy reefs boasting lots of colourful fish and coral. The Great Barrier Reef goes as far South as Bundaberg meaning this underwater ecosystem is part of the GBR. We spent about an hour chasing colourful fish, finding Nemo and admiring our first glimpse of one of the World’s natural wonders.

Then we got back on the boat for lunch; we definitely didn’t go hungry the whole time we were on the boat! After eating more than enough food we were given the option to either go in for a second snorkel or sail onto our next stop where we would be sleeping that night. Not wanting to get wet and cold for the second time we all decided to head to the next stop where we could make a dent on our 5 litre bags of goon. It turns out sailing, experiencing paradise and snorkelling is tiring – we were all in bed by 11 pm.

Whitsundays Snorkelling

Turtle Time

Another 7 am wake up and coffee set us up for our final morning in the Whitsundays. Before it was time to head back to the marina we were back in our snorkel masks and stinger suits. The bay we slept in happened to be a popular spot for turtles. So without even having to sail anywhere, we were in the perfect place to swim with these graceful creatures.

After an unsuccessful start, I noticed a green/brown shell in the distance. Breaking away from the rest of the group I slowly followed the turtle. It turns out they are really fast when swimming. Eventually, I caught up and floated just inches away from this wild animal. I quickly beckoned Sam over. Everyone else realised what was going on and the elusive turtle dived deeper than the visibility allowed us to see. A few more turtles were spotted but we never got as close to any of the others.

Leaving the Whitsundays

Early afternoon came and it was time for our final journey on board the Boomerang. On the way back we had one final lucky experience, a close-up humpback whale. As it was whale season we had been keeping an eye on the horizon looking for their telltale splash. It was as if the whale knew we were heading back and spent about 15 minutes following the boat and waving its huge fin at us. We eventually got back to the harbour marking the end of our tour of the Whitsundays. For the following few days, we had time to explore Airlie Beach.

Airlie Beach

The first thing we wanted to do when we got back was get checked into our hostel and have a shower. The boat only had a small shower which required sitting on the toilet and had a time limit of 2 minutes per person, we hadn’t showered since arriving in Airlie Beach. After washing ourselves and all of our clothes it was time to get ready for the Whitsundays after party. That night we were reunited with some of the people from our boat as well as loads of the people from our Fraser Island trip. We got through all the free drink on offer and watched some of the drinking games before walking down the main strip to see what else was happening. We ended up buying a cheap bottle of wine and smuggling it back to our dorm.

The following day we went out for breakfast with our friends before they boarded their boat to the Whitsundays. After saying our goodbyes and arranging to meet up in Magnetic Island we went off to explore some of the shops and things to do around Airlie.

We had decided to try and save money until we got to Magnetic Island, meaning all of the tourist trips were off the cards. This wasn’t much of a problem seeing as most of the water sports had been rescheduled due to the weather. We ended up spending the remainder of the day at a bar watching Usain Bolt do his 100m sprint on a big screen. We spent the evening back at the bar with more of the people from the Whitsundays trips and our Fraser Island trip.

When the Ground Shakes

The following day was uneventful, after lunch, we headed back to our dorm to get changed. While in the room we noticed the windows were rattling and the ground shaking. Everyone outside seemed to freeze where they were and all we could hear was a rumble. About a minute later everything went back to normal. It turns out we had experienced our first ever earthquake, which after a quick google I found out reached a magnitude of 5.8.

Our final night saw us back at the same bar before heading to the bottle-o for another cheap bottle of wine. The next morning it was time to go on up to Townsville and on the ferry to Magnetic Island.

Noosa and the Everglades

Noosa and the Everglades

Our next stop along the East Coast brought us to Noosa. Described to us as a rich person’s Byron Bay we were excited to explore the area. As the Greyhound had picked us up from the zoo it was pretty late by the time we arrived. We were staying in the Nomad’s Hostel for 2 nights, a short walk to the main beach and Hastings Street. Hastings Street runs parallel to the beach and is where you can find boutique shops and restaurants.

On arrival, we checked in and went straight to the onsite bar for a $10 burger and free beer. As Noosa is a popular stop before Fraser Island there were lots of backpackers. We ended up talking to some people in our dorm who had just returned from their Fraser Island tour. That night we went to sleep quite early for our tour of the Everglades te following morning.

The Everglades

For our Everglades tour, we were with a company called Noosa Everglades Discovery. They picked us up from our hostel and took us to Noosa River where our boat was waiting. Shortly after we were on the river and heading to the everglades. Noosa’s Everglades are one of just two in the World, the other being in Florida. This unique area of subtropical wetland is home to over 44% of all Australian bird species. It also has a history of logging, with some signs of it’s past still recognisable. For instance, part of the river becomes very shallow, at some points barely even knee deep. In order to transport the logs down the river, they dredged a boat-sized path which is still used today when accessing the everglades by boat.

As we headed into the everglades we were surrounded by a blanket of lilypads which are in bloom for most of the year. Not far from here was where we reached our first stop. Here we got off the boat and had morning tea in the bush. After filling up on cakes and coffee it was time to split up. Some people remained on the boat while some others were given canoes and told to carry on down the river until the next stop. We were on the boat for this part of the trip, and would later canoe the return journey. This part of the journey was the most picturesque. Here the water becomes almost opaque due to the tea tree content. The colour of the water combined with the lack of wind creates a mirror effect, where the trees perfectly reflect on the water.

Canoeing in the Everglades

The distance between the first stop and our lunch stop was around 3 kilometres. Knowing that we had to canoe on the return journey after eating didn’t feel me with confidence. Eventually, the canoers made it to the lunch stop where we had a BBQ and were shown a building from the logging days. This is also where Sam decided to go for a swim, in the freezing, black water which we were later told was home to Bullsharks. On the return journey, we were each given an oar and told to meet them further down the river. After struggling to figure out how to get the canoe moving in a straight line we were on our way. The everglades are said to be one of the top places to canoe in Australia, and I can see why. Being so low down you can feel the canoe slicing through the water, creating a ripple in the otherwise flat river. I was pleasantly surprised by the ease and peacefulness of the journey and didn’t want to stop when we eventually caught up with the boat.

The boat ride back took around an hour and we were back in Noosa by around 6 pm. That night we went to the hostel bar again for food and drinks. We met a few people who would be on the same Fraser Island tour as us so we spent some time with them.

Noosa Everglades

Exploring Noosa

For our final full day in Noosa, we decided to see the beach and have a look around some of the shops. Although the beach isn’t massive, it is pretty. With white sand, waves perfect for beginner surfers and a national park lining the South end Noosa main beach is perfect for a day of tanning and swimming. You can also hire Stand Up Paddleboards and surf boards here if you fancy something more adventurous.

Noosa Main Beach

After a walk along the beach, we found ourselves along Hastings Street. With surf shops, boutique clothing shops and handcrafted jewellery I was in my element. Sam wasn’t so impressed as I dragged him round every shop. After repeatedly having to remind myself I couldn’t spend all my savings on bikinis and anklets it was time for food. As we had a super early start the next morning for Fraser Island we decided to stay in the dorm. We ended up making friends with some drunk guys who were pre-drinking there.

To find out about my time in Fraser Island, what we did there and my favourite parts have a look at my article. For other articles I have written, check out my portfolio.

Brisbane: Queensland’s Capital City

Brisbane: Queensland’s Capital City

From Surfer’s Paradise, our Greyhound took us an hour North into Brisbane. Despite this city being the capital of Queensland, it has only recently developed into a city.

We had 4 days to explore this city, including one day dedicated to the World famous Australia Zoo. Unfortunately, most of our time in Brisbane was met with rain and cold evenings.

Getting Brizzy With It

We checked into our hostel in the afternoon and headed to the bar next door called the Guilty Rogue for a cheap meal and drink. While sat here we discovered that the whole of Brisbane’s CBD provides free WiFi! We decided to go on an evening walk around the city to see what it was like at night. We ended up strolling around playing Pokemon Go because everywhere seemed dead.

On our first full day, we explored the city. Our hostel was nothing special but did mean we were in a prime location to walk around the city. We looked round some of the shops, saw the City Hall and went through the botanical gardens. If you follow the botanical gardens along the riverfront you’ll eventually get to a bridge which takes you over the Brisbane river to South Bank. Brisbane’s cultural centre is where you can find a man-made beach, art galleries, museums, theatres and restaurants. We went to the Gallery of Modern Art and walked alongside the river, with an impressive view of the cityscape.

Brisbane Botanical Gardens

Brisbane South Bank

Brisbane GOMA

After a few hours of walking, we felt a lot more orientated and headed back to the hostel. Stopping for street food on the way. That evening we had a couple of drinks at the Guilty Rogue where our hostel got us a discount on all food and drinks. There was music bingo going on so we decided to stay and play that for the night.

Mount Coot-Tha

We had heard that Mount Coot-Tha was worth a visit when in Brisbane so the following morning caught a bus straight there. The 20-minute journey from the city centre gave us a chance to see the city from a different angle. The bus takes you straight to the lookout at the top, with incredible views of the city and surrounding areas. Despite it being a cloudy day we could still see fairly far out of Brisbane. There is also a cafe and restaurant up there if you fancy getting a drink or something to eat.

We opted to go on a hike around Mount C00t-Tha, heading first for JC Slaughter Falls. This 500m walk takes you down from the lookout, supposedly to a waterfall. Unfortunately, we discovered that the waterfall had dried up after spending an hour walking up and down the track trying to find it.

We walked another 500m back to the lookout with the intention of getting the bus back to the city. However, I got optimistic and decided it was a good idea to walk to the Mount Coot-Tha botanical gardens at the base. This walk was a bit further than I anticipated and our legs were aching by the time we reached the bottom.

Brisbane Mount Coot-Tha

Mount Coot-Tha Botanical Gardens

Once we had reached the bottom we decided to have a look around the botanical gardens. It was completely free to walk around and featured a variety of different sections. We had a look around the rose garden, took in the smells of the herb garden and walked around the succulents garden. There is also a pond which attracts loads of wildlife and is covered with lily pads and bright flowers. Near the succulents, there is a big tropical dome which is free to go inside and explore the humid, tropical rainforest within. As well as all of this there is also a Japanese garden, sub-tropical rainforests and plenty of wildlife to spot.

Brisbane Tropical Dome

The Australia Zoo

As much as I don’t like the idea of zoos and animals in captivity, I decided that Australia Zoo was a must. With the Greyhound Coach stopping at the zoo and then continuing up to Noosa later that day it was so easy to get to. We left early in the morning and arrived at the zoo for the opening time. Having already got our tickets we walked straight in and had an entire day to explore Steve Irwin’s legacy.

The Zoo was pretty big, meaning the animals had good sized cages. Our first stop was the Otter enclosure. We arrived at the perfect time to watch them get fed. Unlike anything I had ever seen before, these otters had to work for their fish. The zoo keepers had managed to train the otters to stand on their back legs, on a body board in the water and catch their fish! After surfing otters, it was going to take a lot to impress me.

There were all the usual native Australian animals, including Steve Irwin’s speciality… Crocodiles. There definitely wasn’t a shortage of crocodiles in this zoo. The good thing is that most of them had been rescued, either by Steve himself or his team. Not only were these huge creatures on display in the zoo, but they also played a part in the midday show. This takes place in the ‘crocoseum’, an outdoor arena. Here the zoo keepers and animals come together to put on a show every day to hundreds of guests. Sometimes it’s Steve Irwin’s wife or daughter who runs the show!

Brisbane Australia Zoo

 

Brisbane Australia Zoo

Brisbane Australia Zoo

After a full day at the zoo, we were definitely ready to leave, having walked around its entirety at least twice. We got on the Greyhound as the zoo began to close and got comfortable for the short journey to Noosa.

Surfers Paradise: A Cityscape and an Ocean Break

Surfers Paradise: A Cityscape and an Ocean Break

A Whole New State

Our first stop in Queensland took us to Surfers Paradise. This beachside city along the Gold Coast is known for its’ high rise buildings and idyllic beaches. It is often compared to Miami and on arrival, it was clear to see the similarities. A row of high rise buildings lining the beautifully blue ocean and the continual stretch of beach is what makes Surfers Paradise. Now it was time to see if this city lived up to its name.

Surfers Paradise Sign

Exploring Paradise

We quickly checked into our hostel and dumped our bags before exploring the place we would be calling home for the next 2 nights. A short walk from the hostel brought us to the beach. In the late afternoon, we were disappointed to find that most of the beach was in the shade. The sun was setting behind the tall buildings, casting long shadows across the sand.

We headed back towards the streets and along the main strip. The strip felt very commercialised, with a McDoanld’s overlooking the beach and an array of branded clothing shops and chain restaurants. The contrast between our previous stop, Byron Bay, and this one was alarming. It’s not until you travel around Australia that you realise just how vast and varied it is. We had a quick browse through the surf shops and got approached by various tour companies.

By this point, it was the early evening so we headed back to the hostel. Our first night also happened to be a ‘big night out’ in Surfers Paradise. The hostel claimed that over 300 backpackers would be arriving and heading out on a bar crawl. We waited a while, drinking a cheap bottle of wine until it was clear that nobody was going to show up.

Instead of wasting our money we went out to see the night markets along the beach promenade. After browsing through the stalls and walking back along the sand we ended our night with a cheap game of mini golf just a few minutes away from our hostel.

Surfing at Surfers Paradise

The following morning we got up early and went straight to the beach. Having recently finished our 5 days of Surf Camp we were keen to test our skills at Surfers Paradise. We rented a couple of the big foam surfboards and wetsuits for two hours and went straight to the beach. Choosing a section of the water where there were no other surfers to laugh at us, we paddled out.

After an hour of nose dives and spectacular falls, it became clear that we weren’t quite as good as we thought. The waves we had been learning on at Surf Camp were tiny in comparison to the ones further up the coast. By the end of the two hours, we were exhausted, bruised and slightly disheartened. After dragging the boards back up to the rental shop we went back to the beach for a chance to sunbathe and swim in the clear water.

Surfers Paradise Surfboards

A Long Walk

As well as relaxing on the beach, we also decided to walk along it. At first, this was a pleasant way to see the city but the beach never came to an end! We were heading north and ended up walking to Sea World (boo), about 7 km away from Surfers Paradise. This did mean that the beach was almost empty and untouched. This was clearly an expensive area, with huge 5-star hotels and houses. After admiring this part of the Gold Coast we began our long walk back along the beach.

Surfers Paradise Beach

What Else To Do

Our stay in Surfers Paradise was brief and on a budget. Therefore we didn’t do a lot of the big Gold Coast attractions. But if you have more time and money to spend then you should definitely consider going to Movie World, Wet n Wild or some of the other big attractions on offer. There is normally a package you can buy which gives you access to all of the attractions for a set price.

The Verdict

I was underwhelmed by Surfers Paradise. I was hoping for a chilled out surf town with boutique shops and family run restaurants. But was met with big brands, chain-restaurants and pushy tour guides. Maybe if we weren’t on such a budget we would have had more fun exploring the theme parks.

The beach itself was lovely, with clear water, no rubbish and plenty of space but the overall city was not the paradise I was after. If you’re a good surfer and just looking to test yourself then the waves in Surfers are perfect for you, but there are other stops along the Gold Coast which are less touristy and definitely worth looking into.

Surfers Paradise Ocean

Welcome To My Blog

Welcome To My Blog

For my first blog post I thought it would be best to introduce myself and give a quick breakdown of my journey so far and my up and coming plans.
I’m Holly Wigmore – a 21-year-old from Southampton, England currently on a year Working Holiday Visa in Australia. I arrived in Sydney in June 2016 with my boyfriend Sam and 9 months later we’re back in Sydney with new memories and some more knowledge on travelling Australia. In the next couple of months, we have plans to see Melbourne, see more of Sydney and travel home via Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
In the time that we’ve been out here we have been all along the East Coast; traveling from Sydney to Cairns on the Greyhound then flying to Brisbane and hiring a Campervan with my parents, driving back up to Cairns before boarding a return flight to Sydney. Needless to say, we have seen all the best bits along Australia’s East Coast.
I intend to use this blog as a way of reminding myself of our journey so far, telling stories of the places we’ve been lucky enough to see and informing anyone in a similar situation wherever I can.
As well as writing about my time here I have tried (and occasionally succeeded) in capturing the beauty of this vast country. I’m always trying to improve my camera skills and find new places to photograph and will be updating my gallery with new material regularly.
I’ll be aiming to write a new blog post at least once a week but in the meantime please give me any feedback on my website so far.
Thanks for reading if you got this far!