The Whitsundays are known for sailing and for one of the most picturesque beaches in the world, Whitehaven Beach.
We wanted to do a 2-night catamaran sailing trip. We read online that you can get the best prices on one of these trips if you show up the day before, go to several of the travel agencies in Airlie Beach, and ask about standby fares, which are last-minute discounted prices that the boats offer to fill up their cabins. We showed up on Monday night, visited 3 agencies and got a discounted private double room aboard the Whitsunday Adventurer, set to leave the next afternoon and return on Thursday. The woman at the travel agency told us to check in first thing in the morning because the weather forecast said there was a potential for high winds.
Windy Weather Woes
The moment we stepped outside on Tuesday, we knew the wind would be problematic. Sure enough, our trip was canceled due to gale force winds. In fact, all the boats were moored until the wind passed. We were pretty bummed, but happy to be on land and not on a sailboat in super windy weather! Since the weather advisory was for Tuesday and Wednesday, we booked a day trip for Thursday. I really wanted to see Whitehaven beach! Sadly, Thursday came around and it was raining and windy, and that trip was canceled as well. The forecast didn't look great for the weekend, so we decided to cut our losses and continue our journey north.
When our first sailing trip was canceled, we tried to get an additional night at the Moorings B&B, but they were fully booked. We ended up finding a room at the nearby Island View B&B which we loved! It's run by a really nice family, has great views and really good wi-fi. We stayed in a bedroom in the main house our first night and then they gave us a 2 bedroom apartment the following night, since their main house was booked. We really enjoyed our stay here.
Airlie beach is a small backpacker town with a main strip full of shops, restaurants, bars, hostels and tons of travel agencies. There is also a little man-made lagoon near the beach where everyone swims because you can't swim off the main beach on account of stingers (jellyfish that could be deadly). You can probably spend a half day enjoying the little town & beach. Nicole & Brad recommended a great restaurant here called Mr. Bones. They had delicious pizzas with fresh ingredients! We also went to one of the indoor/outdoor bars to listen to some live music which was fun.
During the day we visited the following places:
Cape Gloucester Beach
This beach was somewhat shielded from the wind. It was a really pretty beach, located next to an eco resort of the same name. We went around lunchtime and only saw two other people there, one of whom we met. She lived on a sailboat, which was moored in the bay, and told us it would have been 'carnage' if we had gone out on the charter boat this week. While this place was pretty, it was still too windy to enjoy the beach.
We arrived at Conway Beach during low tide. The tide receded really far out making the landscape look otherworldly. It was as if we were walking along the shores of a distant planet and I half expected one of the monkey people from Planet of the Apes to greet us.
The sand on Conway Beach was tightly packed making it perfect for writing and drawing. We each sketched a couple of critters. Chris attempted to draw a koala, however I guessed he was drawing some kind of maniacal tree clown:
Well, it was more like water-less falls:
While we only did about 2 miles of the Great Walk, we got a small glimpse of the Australian rainforest. The best part was seeing this tree:
One particularly rainy day, we stopped at a coffee roaster popular in the area called Whitsunday Gold. We both ordered flat whites and while I really liked the coffee, Chris thought it was a little weak. I wish we could have enjoyed our coffees at this bohemian-country cafe, but unfortunately it was raining and there was no indoor seating so we had to run back to our car. Here are a few pictures from the cafe: