Airborne in Airlie Beach

Facing a long drive to our next stop in Airlie Beach, we left early and breakfasted en route. As we drove away from Rockhampton, we saw fewer cattle but more and more tropical crops. There wasn’t much traffic on the road and we made good time, arriving in Airlie just after lunch at our home for the next four nights, a resort perched on a steep hill overlooking the beach. Again, we had a spacious one-bedroomed apartment, with balcony, spa bath – what is it with Aussies and spa baths? – and a well-equipped kitchen.

We dumped our luggage and headed out for a fishy lunch – what else? Airlie itself isn’t particularly large but it has a lively esplanade with plenty of shops and restaurants and an onshore beach and swimming pool. But we weren’t in Airlie to enjoy its beach, we were here because it’s an ideal jumping off point to experience the Whitsundays, discovered by Captain Cook on Whit Sunday (the seventh Sunday after Easter) in 1770, the 74 Whitsunday Islands lie between the mainland and the Great Barrier Reef and offer a sailing paradise.  Yes, Airlie Beach is also just one of many departure points for the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s highly likely that the town was named after the parish of the same name in Scotland. Throughout our drive from Sydney, there were many Scottish place names showing the influence of Scottish immigrants.

We planned our three full days in Airlie Beach with the assistance of the resort manager and opted for a flight over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef on the Sunday with a day-long boat trip to the Whitsundays, specifically Whitehaven Beach, and snorkeling on the reef, on Tuesday. This left us with Monday to thoroughly explore the area, particularly its lovely boardwalk to Coral Beach. I’m now going to let my photos do the talking!

Sunday’s Flight

Yes, that’s me in the (fashionable) leopard skin trousers near the steps of the plane.
And, we have take-off!

The flight takes just over an hour and everyone spent that time with their noses (and cameras) pressed to the nearest window while our (female) pilot explained what we were viewing.

Some of the islands had only recently re-opened, after being laid waste in a cyclone two years ago. A large number are uninhabited, others have wonderful luxury resorts and holiday homes.

It was a truly magical experience and one I’d happily recommend.

Monday’s Meander along the Boardwalk

Tuesday’s Boat Trip

There are lots of companies with different types of boats which offer this trip. We chose a sturdy boat with facilities manned by locals which left promptly from Coral Beach with the supplies for our lunchtime BBQ, including my veggie burger! We had a short cruise out to Whitsunday island and an easy stroll up to the infamous Hill Inlet lookout to see the signature swirling sandbars of Whitehaven Beach from above (header photo).

Back in the boat it was refreshment time before we then disembarked on Whitehaven Beach using the small inflatable motor boat. This was where I famously had to dip my toes into the water to wade ashore. We had several hours here to explore, soak up the sun or swim before a very generous BBQ lunch which attracted the interest of a few locals, clearly after my veggie burger!

The sand was the softest and whitest I’ve ever walked on. It’s 98 per cent pure silica and has a texture similar to flour. It’s so fine you could polish your jewellery with it  – I didn’t try – and it squeaks as you walk on it.

Finally and reluctantly we climbed back on board for a short trip out to Mantaray Bay to snorkel the clear waters and come face to face with colourful fish. My husband much enjoyed this but, without a wetsuit, you could really only spend 30 minutes in the water. You’ll be unsurprised to learn I remained on board. After we’d met all the local underwater residents, it was time to head back bouyed by further refreshments. We’d enjoyed another fabulous day out.

As the sun set on our short stay in Airlie Beach, we reflected that it had been truly magical.

 

And, they’re off……………………….

Today we’re flying to Dubai en route for Australia, and another big adventure Down Under. On our three previous trips, we’ve not visited Queensland – too hot. But Australia’s wintertime seems to provide ideal temperatures, plus my beloved is attending a dental exhibition in Brisbane. You knew there would be some work involved!

Going via Dubai allows us to take a couple of days’ breather between long-haul flights even though it’ll be roasting there. We’ll be taking refuge in the shade and chillin’ wherever we can, plus my beloved can meet up with his Middle Eastern distributor – more work!

As usual I started planning our itinerary over nine months ago – never knowingly unprepared. Fellow bloggers have provided a veritable font of knowledge in terms of what to see and do, as have friends in Australia. I love, really love planning trips almost as much as I enjoy the trip itself. Luckily my husband adores “just turning up.” It’s not that he’s uninterested, he just knows I’ll do a much better job than he would.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I shouldn’t be too ambitious and plan to do too much, otherwise there’s no scope for any spontaneity. I book all the airport transfers, car hire, flights and hotels and a number of trips, plus a few restaurants. The rest I play by ear but, having done tons of research beforehand, I have plenty of ammunition to ensure we have a wonderful time.

From Dubai we fly to Sydney, rather than Brisbane, because I want to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Blue Mountains, and my beloved needs to meet up with his Australian distributor ahead of the August exhibition in Brisbane. After a few days in Sydney, staying not too far from where our distributor is based, we head off for three days in those mountains.

Careful planning means my beloved will, on average, drive no more than 5 hours per day when we’re on the move. I hate having to pack up on a daily basis, so there’s only a few spots where we’re spending just an overnight. With the exception of Brisbane itself, we’re generally spending 3-4 nights in most places.

After our spell in the Blue Mountains we’re wending our way up the coast to Byron Bay where we’re going to chill for a few days ahead of the drive to Brisbane (and the exhibition), where we’ll spend two weeks. Given that my beloved will be working for part of that time, I wanted to ensure he had plenty of opportunity to see all Brisbane has to offer.

In Brisbane, we’re staying in a hotel in the CBD which is part of same group as the one we’ve stayed at in Adelaide. They have studio apartments with cooking facilities so that we don’t have to eat out all the time.  The hotel also has a pool, a gym and an on-site restaurant. Fortunately, I won’t have to help out at the exhibition which will leave me plenty of time to investigate Brisbane’s culture and its book shops. We won’t be able to watch any cricket at this time of year but we would like to see an Australian Rules Game, a sport which is hugely popular in Oz. I need to understand what all the hype is about.

After Brisbane, we head north once more along the coast to Mooloolaba and Noosa, finally heading to Port Douglas. During this part of the trip we’ll be flying over the Whitsundays and The Great Barrier Reef and also visiting them in a glass-bottomed boat. This is shark territory, so I won’t be dipping so much as a toe in the water. We won’t be ignoring the rain-forest, we’ll also taking trips inland looking for friendly wildlife. Finally, it’ll be back to Sydney and then home once more via Dubai.

During the trip, I’ll only be posting pictures and snippets about our travels, waiting for the most part until I get back (early September) to tell you all about our travels in detail. However, it won’t be a WordPress blackout. I’ll try to keep up with all your posts and I’ve scheduled a few of my own, including a number of award posts, which will pop up while I’m away. I hope everyone has a great summer!