Our Greyhound Australia Adventure continued…the next stop was Airlie Beach. This is the jumping-off point for overnight boat trips to Australia’s famous Whitsunday Islands. We had been looking into last minute deals and finally decided on a 3 day/2 night sailing trip recommended by a fellow traveler, on the Wings 2 catamaran. Even the last minute price was steep at $405 AUD each!
While in Airlie, we enjoyed a dip in the gorgeous saltwater oceanside public pool since the beautiful Australian waters are often unswimmable due to jellyfish. The jellyfish season was just beginning, so we were sure to be cautious. At trivia night and a barbeque at our hostel, we met a cool British couple, Holly & Chris, who were Greyhounding it South like us.
After packing up all of our stuff and leaving it in storage in our hostel, we took our daypacks with the few items we needed and picked up our bag o’ wine on the way. Believe it or not, we realized we can actually get Australian wine at a lower price in New York than in the country itself! Bizarrre! We’ve heard it’s a tax thing. So, we had to resort to the backpackers’ drink of choice, or lack of choice, really – the “goon” bag. This boxed wine containing a silver bag of budget wine became our standard drink in Oz. Apparently, it got its name because when people were finished drinking the wine, they’d use the empty bag as a pillow, the aboriginal word being “goon.”
After a long, hot walk to the pier, we met with our crew and fellow boat passengers. The boat only holds 24, so we were at near capacity with just one less. The weather seemed pleasant and favorable, but as soon as we boarded and left port, we were told some rare winds were going to change the normal route and we’d have to visit different dive and snorkel sites than planned. Unfortunately, as we learned on our first dive/snorkel, this also wound up meaning that the visibility was terrible.
I managed to see a turtle when jumping in, but the freezing water and horrible visibility had me returning to the boat straightaway.
The food on board was delicious and plentiful, though quarters were tight. We did manage to wind up with a nice bed nook. Sleeping quarters were shared, with about half the group on either side of the cat. Ours was nice and roomy and near the bathroom. However, the first night was swelteringly hot, as the air conditioning failed and we sweated it out through the night. Not exactly as advertised, especially for the steep price!
Our chef and dive/activity captain were both really nice and very accommodating. But, the captain had some kind of issue with the company, and spent most of the trip with a scowl on his face, avoiding everyone on board and nastily bossing around the crew. Not exactly fostering a good energy on board.
One plus of the trip was the spectacularly gorgeous Whitehaven Beach. After a short hike to the famous thin strip of beach, we realized we were the first group there and had the whole beach to ourselves for a good 45 minutes or so.
We strolled along the clear warm waters, wading in the shallows with many stingrays and small reef sharks. It was so neat! Because of the shallow calm waters, there were tons of both!
On the beach, a bunch of people from the boat decided to create a crazy human pyramid. It was hard work as I somehow wound up near the bottom!
We met a really sweet Israeli/French couple Adi and Olivier, and enjoyed chatting with them of our travels over some good card games. They were on an extended honeymoon of 6 months exploring Australia and New Zealand.
The rest of the trip was nice, but the weather really hampered the visibility, so all underwater activities were disappointing. But, the scenery, the food, the company and the live-aboard experience still made for a good trip.