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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.

Agnes Waters – A Pretty Little Beach Town

Agnes Waters – A Pretty Little Beach Town

After Fraser Island, we went back to Noosa for one more night. That night we said goodbye to our Fraser Island friends over burritos and tacos. The following morning we were on a Greyhound and preparing for our entire day of travelling. We’d never heard of Agnes Waters we chose to stay there for a couple of nights to break up the almost 24-hour coach journey to Airlie Beach.

Finally, we reached Agnes Waters at around 6 pm. The hostel was huge and our dorm for the next 2 nights was a little log cabin with 3 bunk beds. It turned out that we were staying in the same dorm as one of the guys from Fraser Island. We all decided to walk half an hour into Agnes Waters’ town centre.

A Sleepy Town

This consisted of walking along a poorly lit main road with loads of crickets and toads buzzing the whole time. When we got to the town centre we soon realised it may be a bit difficult to get food. With just one restaurant in the whole area that was fully booked and every shop already closed, we ended up eating in a service station. We got the hostels free bus back and watched some of the Olympics. That night we discovered that Agnes Waters is absolutely freezing at night. With just a thin sheet to cover me and no warm clothes, I spent the whole night shivering myself to sleep.

Our Final Surf

We had heard that Agnes Waters is the last stop up the East Coast where you could surf. So the next morning we got up and headed for the beach. We rented a couple of boards and carried them to the beach. Renting surfboards was so cheap here, around $20 per person for the day! Unfortunately, we didn’t think to check the waves before we got there. After a good half an hour of sitting in the ocean without any waves, we headed back to shore. Our day was spent surfing, sunbathing and walking along the beautiful, quiet beach. We learnt from our mistake from the first day and had a big, late lunch in one of the cafes in the centre. We also went to the shop to buy food to cook later that night.

Surfing Agnes Waters

Agnes Waters Beach

Our last night in this sleepy town was spent at the hostel bar, eating fajitas and drinking beer. The next day we had another long journey to Airlie Beach. This time it was an overnight coach trip, leaving in the late afternoon and arriving early the following morning. On our final day, we stayed in the hostel. With so much land to explore there was plenty to keep us occupied.

If you’re thinking of heading to Agnes Waters on your East Coast trip then consider renting surfboards or taking a surf lesson. With the boards being so cheap to rent it’s a must. Also look into Scooteroo; a motorbike tour which takes you to the town of 1770. This nearby town is definitely worth a visit if you want to see Captain James Cook’s second landing point and first landing in Queensland.

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.

The Blue Mountains: A Blue Haze

The Blue Mountains: A Blue Haze

One of my favourite memories from our first week in Sydney was The Blue Mountains. We only planned this trip the day before and got a last minute booking with a company called Happy Travels who would be picking us up at 7 am the following morning.

That morning also happened to be the day we were checking out of our hostel in favour of an Air BnB in Coogee. So we woke up at half 5 in the morning, repacked our backpacks and checked out of the hostel before the 15-minute walk to our pick-up point. As other tour buses heading to the mountains came and went we started wondering whether we had been forgotten about but just as we went to call the company a tour guide shouted our names and we were on our way.

Featherdale Wildlife Park

To break up the 2-hour drive from Sydney’s CBD to the Blue Mountains we had a 1 hour stop at Featherdale Wildlife Park. This was our first chance to see Australia’s native animals; including Kangaroos, Koalas, Dingoes, Wombats and Cassowaries to name a few. An hour gave us plenty of time to stroke the koalas, hand feed the kangaroos and get some postcards from the gift shop.

Feeding Kangaroos Featherdale Wildlife Park

Kangaroo at Featherdale Wildlife Park

The Blue Mountains

It was another hour coach journey before we reached our first stop in the Blue Mountains. Here we went on a short walk to the famous rock formation – the Three Sisters. The walk took us through a sub-tropical rainforest where we were convinced we would see a snake or spider lurking in the trees. The funnel-web spider is a very venomous species of spider which is regularly found in the Blue Mountains; luckily you won’t bump into one of these killers unless you start poking around in the holes where they sit and wait for prey to show up.

The view of the mountain range is not a disappointment and rightly called the Blue Mountains, unfortunately, the pictures from my iPhone 5 don’t even begin to do it justice (I’m hoping to go back to the Blue Mountains in the next month so I can get some better pictures). The blue haze which gives the mountains their name is caused by the masses of eucalyptus trees which release a chemical that scatters light wavelengths causing the blue-greyish appearance of the distant mountains.

The Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

While looking out over the mountain range and admiring the three sisters (also known as Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo) our tour guide told us an aboriginal-style story about how the rock formation came to be. We were also given aboriginal face paint which was made by mixing the sandstone from the mountains with water.

It was now time for lunch so we were driven to a hostel in a small village within the mountain range. While we ate our lunch from the comfort of an open fire and incredible views of the surrounding area we were asked if we wanted to go on a second bush walk before going back to the CBD. We all agreed to go and after lunch, we were driven to our final stop for the day.

This walk took us through another sub-tropical rainforest and lead us to a waterfall. Standing just a few metres away from the water as it rushed into the pool by our feet was an incredible experience and marked our first time ever seeing a waterfall. The walk now continued uphill until we came out to another viewing platform which provided one last chance to admire the mountains before the 2-hour drive back to the city. After a long day, I fell asleep for almost the whole journey home.

Blue Mountains Waterfall

Waterfall at the Blue Mountains
NB – Don’t wear shorts to the Blue Mountains in the middle of Australian winter!