Part 1 – The Whitsunday Islands
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.