Interrupted Journey – North Queensland 2022 – Part 1

Part 1 – The Whitsunday Islands

Note: A video link appears at the bottom of this blog post.

Please Note: There is a video of the day in the Whitsunday Islands ay the end of this post.

The Mobile Sheathers are mobile again. We left home on the morning of Wednesday 10th August, for a tour that was planned to absorb the remaining days in August. But unexpected events occurred.

Our view to Port Airlie approaches

We departed in sunshine, came through a cloudy period around Gympie, then fine to our overnight stop at Gladstone. Brilliant sunrise on Thursday morning could only be seen through a window, without getting dressed and going outside, so no sunrise photograph.

A bit of rain south of Sarina and a bit more between Mackay and Proserpine but plenty of sun shining through the clouds as we topped the rise coming in to Airlie. We were able to enjoy that fantastic sunshine on blue water and green mountains view that is the reward for just getting there.

Whitsunday sunset from our balcony

We stayed at Club Wyndham, situated on the hill directly above the Port of Airlie, with little to obscure the view, after a fairly good drive, apart from road works. We estimate that at least 40% of the highway between Gympie and Gladstone has road works speed limits, 80, 60 or even 40 MPH if they get the chance. A bit frustrating but necessary. If you wonder why Australia is short of people to pick fruit, make coffee or all those other vacancies we keep hearing about, it is probably because so many are working building and repairing roads.

We enjoyed good weather at Airlie Beach, noticeably warmer than recent Redcliffe temperatures.  There has been early cloud, burning off to a clear afternoon.

New Shute Harbour Passenger terminal

On Friday morning, our first day at Airlie, we drove out to Shute Harbour to check out the new passenger terminal, built since the last cyclone. We also checked the logistics of the cruise through the Whitsunday Islands that we planned to do for suitability for Ruth, who gave it the thumbs up. We booked for the following day.

A view of Shute Harbour from near the houses on Coral Point, accessed from the road that runs behind and above the Shute Harbour car parking area.

We did a drive around the residential area that overlooks Shute Harbour area, then drove out to Mandalay Point (the range of hills opposite to Airlie Beach) to check on how the rich people live, or at least the houses that they live in. Some are beautiful houses with magnificent views of the bays and headlands around the residential area. A few original fisherman’s shacks remain.

Units on the hill at Airlie Beach.
The beach at Airlie Beach at low tide.

After lunch we did a walk around the Airlie town, including enjoying an ice-cream. Then back to our resort for a rest and dinner. Club Wyndham is built on the steep hill that overlooks the town and port facility. It is very steep but that provides the views. It is a very nice resort. We are staying here through the kindness of our son and daughter-in-law.

Shute Harbour Road in the heart of Airlie tourist strip
Poolside at Airlie, near the main beach
A recently completed mansion overlooks Airlie Beach
Cruise morning sunrise reflected on the clouds

On Saturday morning we drove out to Shute Harbour and boarded the “Nancy Wake”, our tour boat for the day.  From Shute Harbour we cruised past Daydream Island, through the Mole Passage and past the now unused South Mole Island where the once famous resort that was so badly damaged by Cyclone Debbie remains closed and unrepaired.

The charter yacht base at Shute Harbour

Our passage then led inside Cid Island and through the both picturesque and functional deep-water anchorage. The harbour was used for refuge for Naval vessels during WWII.

Daydream Island resort

The cruise continued through Hook Passage, the narrowing body of water between Hook & Whitsunday Islands and the shortest passage from Airlie and Shute Harbour to The Great Barrier Reef. The north-east part of Whitsunday is mountainous with precipitous drops to the sea. But not far along this coast is an inlet and Tongue Point, that provides a sheltered anchorage for vessels visiting Hill Inlet. A twenty-minute climb to the summit reveals sweeping views of Hill Inlet, Whitehaven Beach, Solway Passage and Haslewood Island.

A motor yacht making for Cid Harbour

With all back on board, lunch was served, after which we moved on to anchor off the southern end of Whitehaven Beach, to allow passengers ashore for a guided walk, sunbake or swim. My legs were a bit tired from the climb to Hill Inlet Lookout but I did go ashore for a walk along the beach. We were anchored there for about two and a half hours, with plenty of company from private and other tourist boats and even a small amphibious aircraft.

The southern end of Whitehaven Beach . Swim, sun bake, snorkel, hike. Take your pick.
Our tour boat, “Nancy Wake”.
A breaching Whale off Solway Passage

With all hands back on board, afternoon tea was served. We then set off then to complete our journey. We continued south through Solway Passage where we came upon some Whales playing, so stopped to watch their show. After a pause of 10 minutes or so, the Whales dived and we moved on past Hamilton Island and the neighbouring Dent Island and returned to Shute Harbour.

A Pleasure Boat passing Perseverance Island
The main Hamilton Island resort area
Hamilton Island Yacht Club and harbour entrance
Dent Island. The residence of the original owners is among the trees in the centre foreground.

The cruises past Hamilton Island provided an excellent view of both the tourist facilities and the stunningly located private accommodation on the northern end if the Island. This is a rich persons’ playground. Hamilton island Week was about to commence. Some of the large racing yachts were visible as our cruise boat proceeded past the harbour entrance, before turning for home. The afternoon light on both island and water was pleasing, as the sun moved towards sunset.

Hamilton Island, viewed over the stern of “Nancy Wake” as we headed back to Shute Harbour.

We had enjoyed a very pleasant day, to say the least. Lots of sunshine, seascapes, mountains, resorts plus more food than we could comfortably eat. We will move on tomorrow, very contented with our short stay in this paradise.

Cape York Adventure – Days 1 to 6

We have just about reached the end of day 6 of our trip as I  write this, sitting out beside the van in the Big Crystal Creek Camping Area in the Paluma National Park, about 60 km north of Townsville. We would have peace and tranquility if the people in the van near us were not playing rock music. But it’s not heavy rock.

The original plan was to take four days to Airlie Beach, travelling  via the inland route to Rockhampton and then the Bruce to Proserpine, but having lost the first day with unexpected things needing to be done to the van, we decided to do the Bruce Highway all the way and in three days instead of four.

The most striking feature of the drive was the number of vans coming south. We did a couple of counts. For much of the time we were meeting vans and motor homes at a rate of better than one a minute. It seems that most southerners coming north, travel through inland Queensland before turning towards the coast for the trip home. For this reason there were few vans travelling in our direction on the Bruce Highway.

St Lawrence offers free camping to travelers - a donation is requested

St Lawrence offers free camping to travelers – a donation is requested

We reached Miriam Vale on the first day and St Lawrence the second, arriving at Airlie Beach at the end of the third day. At St Lawrence the council has provided an extensive over night camping area, supported by donations from
users. As well as extensive standing areas

The old St Lawrence Shire Offices

The old St Lawrence Shire Offices

there is a modern amenities block with flush toilets and coin-in-the-slot showers. We drove into town before we left. The Post Office is the only retail business and the street was as quiet as Dodge City at high noon. St Lawrence was one of the first towns settled on the coast of Queensland.

We had come to Airlie Beach to do a cruise to Whitehaven Beach, as we had decided to spend a Red Balloon voucher that the family had given me for my birthday, on the cruise. And Airlie is on the way to Cape York anyway. And who needs an excuse to go there?

Units on the hill at Airlie Beach in the morning sunlight

Units on the hill at Airlie Beach in the morning sunlight

An early start was required. Out of bed at  5.00 am  and at the Cruise Whitsunday terminal at 6.10. Heavy cloud greeted us as day broke, but by the time we boarded the “Orca”, a sea going catamaran, the cloud had burned off to produce a clear sky that smiled on us all day.

Arrival of the ferry at Daydream Island

Arrival of the ferry at Daydream Island

Cruise Whitsunday run the ferry service that connects the island resorts. The tours are run in conjunction with the passenger transfer service. The first call was Daydream Island to exchange passengers and then off for the 45 minute run to Hamilton Island. We stayed on board for both of these ports.

Boats in Hamilton Island harbour

Boats in Hamilton Island harbour

Then we were on our way to the main event. To reach Whitehaven Beach the boat passed to the north of Hamilton Island and then powered across relatively open sea to Solway Passage, the gap between the islands that leads to the Beach. There was reasonable swell

Hamilton Island High Rise from the east

Hamilton Island High Rise from the east

running, so the boat was moving around and spray was billowing from the bow. The kids on board loved it. And so did this big kid. The pure joy of a floor under my feet that moved with the sea.

When we reached our destination the boat nosed

passengers disembarking at Whitehaven Beach

passengers disembarking at Whitehaven Beach

into the beach and we all disembarked via an extending ramp, along with some basic supplies so that we wouldn’t perish during the 2 hours that we were ashore. Our fellow passengers spread out on the huge beach. Some swam, others sun baked and others walked. Kids

Beautiful Hhitehaven Beach is 98.5% silicia

Beautiful Whitehaven Beach is 98.5% silica

built sand castles. One Dad buried his daughter and turned her into a mermaid. We walked and then sat in the shade, fortified by a cold drink and a Mars Bar.

Back on board, the “Orca” headed north to make a complete circuit of Whitsunday Island as we returned to Daydream Island where we changed ferries for our return to Airlie Beach.


The one and only Chevy Corvette

The one and only Chevy Corvette

The Whitsunday Reef Festival was on this weekend so we walked along the main street of Airlie to take a look. Most activity is at night ,which befits a place like Airlie, but there was a brilliant display of restored classic cars, with a couple of vintage models as well. Oh, those Chevy Corvettes. Wow! There was also a very loud rock band. And I mean LOUD.

A bit of grocery shopping and then back to camp. A most enjoyable day!

The tranquil waters of Crystal Creek with smoke from a mountain fire in the background

The tranquil waters of Crystal Creek with smoke from a mountain fire in the background

Today we have travelled from Airlie Beach, a distance of about 360 km. Some  cloud around this morning but a mostly clear afternoon. Very pleasant driving.

This camp site is on Big Crystal Creek which has a large rock pool, currently full of running water. And you have guessed it. The water is crystal clear. It is in great demand for swimming and had a real workout that day, we have been told.