I’ve never been to the Whitsundays before. It’s been on the list but I never quite got round to it, and last week I had my first opportunity.
TigerAir has just introduced direct flights to Airlie Beach from Sydney – so not only are there cheap flights, it only takes two and a half hours to get there.
The town of Airlie Beach itself has undergone a substantial facelift recently, and while I’m pretty sure its popularity on the backpacker route was never in doubt, there are few additions to the town now that may appeal to a wider audience.
Here are a few that will convince the Mr of my house to visit with me sometime:
- Denman Cellars. A range of 1200 craft beers (I know – he went silent when I told him). And a wonderful fusion variation on tapas which included duck pancakes and lightly seared scallops served with black pudding.
- Capers on the Esplanade. More fine food on the beachfront in ridiculously large portions. I particularly recommend the curry.
- Whitsunday Sailing Club. All you can eat buffet while watching the sun set over Airlie Beach AND the chance to win a meat tray.
- Rum Bar/Fish & Chip Café. I didn’t actually sample this place but it sounds like a winning combination.
And then there’s the great outdoors.
Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island has been listed in several Top 10 beaches lists over the years, famous for its incredibly white sand, which is 98 per cent pure silica.
As an added bonus, unlike regular sand, this sand doesn’t retain heat so you can comfortably walk on it even on the hottest of days without burning your feet.
The tidal flow at Hill Inlet on the north end of the beach is particularly spectacular to view from up high, and there are a couple of ways to do this; charter a plane to fly over it, or hike to the lookout at the top of Tongue Point.
I viewed it first from the air on a scenic flight with GSL Aviation.
GSL Aviation fly from Whitsunday Airport in Airlie Beach, several times a day. They have a fleet of fixed high wing aircraft (that means bigger windows) to ensure you get the most from your experience.
The scenic flight gives a birds-eye view of the Islands and Great Barrier Reef beyond, including the famous Heart Shaped Reef.
The colours are spectacular – the variations of blue, dotted with darker blue and green reefs. The flight lasts a good hour – great value.
The next day I headed out for the islands again, this time at high speed in a rigid inflatable with Ocean Rafting tours, about an hour’s journey to our first point of call – a snorkel off the coast of Hook Island.
After a pleasant little swim with the fishies, we head for Tongue Point and a view of Hill Inlet again. The hike to the lookout is not that strenuous (not at all to be honest – even for me) and the view from the top is stunning.
The water is so clear it’s common to see rays swimming in the inlet from up here. We’re not so lucky – but I did spot a rather majestic looking white bellied eagle soaring above us. Just as good.
We’re then ferried across the inlet to the famous white sands for a late lunch. Day well spent.
NB: I visited the Whitsundays as a guest of TigerAir and Tourism Whitsundays.
More information: www.tourismwhitsundays.com.au
TigerAir now fly direct to the Whitsunday Coast from Sydney. More information on the website.