|Airlie Beach – 8 January to 22 January (14 nights)
The short 79km drive from Bowen to Airlie Beach was uneventful and sugar-caneless most of the way. The first glimpse of the Airlie Beach township itself is, in a word, spectacular. Driving into town from an elevated position one gets a breathtaking view of Shingley Beach, Abel Point Marina, Pioneer Bay, Airley Bay, The Coral Sea and the Whitsunday Islands – with the most turquoise of ocean you’ve ever seen, it really is a sight to behold. I would even go so far as to say it’s probably the most awesome oceanside view we’ve come across so far in our travels.
Airlie Beach itself is a small rapidly expanding tourist town, situated 1121km NW of Brisbane and has a population of about 2,750.The town centre is a myriad of gift shops, fast foods to quality restaurants, pubs and bars, and shops catering for the needs of holidaymakers. All the major supermarkets are represented in the district, so no need to stock up in advance. Located only a few metres from the beach, the shopping centre has a holiday feel and the whole township has a distinctly tropical flavour. Airlie Beach is the entry point to the beautiful Whitsunday group of 74 islands, discovered by Captain James Cook on 4 June 1770. Most of the islands are National Park, with only eight having homes or resorts. The islands are less frequently known as the Cumberland and Northumberland Island group, and are all remains of a range of mountains submerged 6000 or so years ago.
On day 1 we decided to have a drive around the district to get an idea of what it’s all about. We started by driving to Shute Harbour, which is where some of the charter boats to the islands operate from and found the harbour itself pretty ordinary, with only a solitary café. A drive around the elevated residences showed some really magnificent places with great views, but with nothing else of much interest, so we returned to Airlie Beach and drove to Shingley Beach Marina, which is where the other charter boats operate from and apart from some amazing boats, nothing much else to report on. We then drove up a steep (and I really mean steep) hill overlooking Airlie Beach town, which is home to numerous resorts, holiday apartments and amazing private houses and the views from here were spectacular. Saw some great 3 bedroom units for sale and were surprised to find that they were going for $359,000. Maybe sell up and move here – nah – too humid. Only 1 problem and yes it involves the Aussie wildlife again – sandflies. The bloodsucking little shits snuck up on us when we weren’t looking and grazed the hell out of us, without us being aware they were even there. Anyone ever seen one – if yes, please let me know what they look like. For those of you that haven’t been savaged by these monsters, a little tip – avoid the buggers like the plague. Once bitten there’s nothing you can do, but let nature take its course (and go insane with the itchiness). We tried spit, ointment from the chemist, anti-histamine tablets and even wee (no I just made that up) to no avail. The bites actually blister and if you scratch them, turn into sores and can even leave bad scars. Finished the day with a mindless jog around some nearby netball courts – talk about boring.
Next day was my 23,011th day on this planet, which also happens to coincide with my 63rd birthday. And boy was I spoilt with lots of really cool pressies. Lin gave me a new pair of Mizuno running shoes and has booked us into a spa apartment for the night in one of those exclusive apartments on the hill overlooking the Coral Sea. You beauty – a break from our “Little Box on Wheels” albeit temporarily. Jo and Jan have treated us to dinner at a restaurant billed as “The Top Award Winning Restaurant in the Whitsundays”. Jase, Megs and Oscar gave me a great polo shirt and leather wallet – bugger will have to somehow transfer the moths from my existing wallet to the new one!!!! After brekkie we – no I – decided (cos its my birthday) to walk the “Bicentennial Walk” from Cannonvale Beach to Airlie Beach and back – a distance of just over 8km alongside the ocean all the way. Wow, what a scenic walk it was, although a bit “cheesa” (hot) and humid. We then booked into our apartment and true to form – it was fantastic. The complex had 3 of those “spill” swimming pools – you know the one’s where the water spills over the edge and the view from there, Lin tells me, was awesome. I had a looong spa bath, followed by a nana nap (cos its MY birthday), until it was time for dinner. Sporting new shoes, new shirt and using new wallet (with old moths) I really looked the part – tourist through and through. The meal proved to be everything we expected and the Spanish Mackerel I had was some of the best fish I’ve ever had. Lin was equally impressed with her Tassie Salmon and we washed the whole meal down with a bottle of good NZ wine. What a great day and one I’ll remember for at least a week – no – for years to come.
Next day we took advantage of a late checkout at the apartment and I zipped off to the dentist to have a filling replaced, while Lin did a spot of shopping. Only time I’ve ever outspent her - $240 for a bloody temporary filling.
On the TV news that night we watched spellbound at the coverage of the Brisbane Floods. Unbelievable what those poor people had to endure. Boy nature sure is one helluva powerful beast.
We also watched the first 20/20 cricket game, which the Aussies lost on the last ball. Good game with plenty of excitement right to the end.
The next day we went shopping at Woolies and were surprised to find there was almost no fresh fruit, vegies and meat, due to the flooding, as apparently the trucks can’t get through – more like panic buying if you ask me.
Watched the 2nd 20/20 cricket game, which we won. Maybe there is a god after all!!! Had an early night in anticipation of the invasion by the “Murkies” from a distant planet, called Perth.
The next day we drove the 150km to Mackay to fetch Keith and Suzie Murray (alias the Murkies), who have flown over from Perth to be with us for 5 days. They had been missing us (well Lin anyway) so much and couldn’t bear it any longer!!! On arrival back in Airlie Beach we showed them some of the sights and true to form, the girls wanted to check out the shops, whilst Keith and I pretended that this was really “good fun” – not. Back at the caravan park we relaxed with some snacks, washed down with a few snorts to cool down our overheating bodies and even had a good (according to Keith that is) bottle of Spanish red wine, which my dead taste buds responded to favourably – always does when its free!!. Whilst quietly chatting away, Suzie defied all the laws of gravity and from a sitting position leapt a couple of metres into the air and let out an expletive that would make a bouncer blush. A poor unsuspecting monitor lizard had walked passed the van and was stopped dead in his/her tracks by Suzie’s antics. Will probably never be the same again. With the ladies, having been too busy yakking, instead of preparing our evening meal, we decided to cure the hunger pangs by dining out. After little discussion, it was decided that is was off to McDonalds and what an unforgettable experience this proved to be. Mind you – the chips were good.
In the morning, whilst Lin and I hung around like a bad smell, the Murray’s slept and slept and slept and eventually graced us with their presence at about 11:00am. Their excuse was they had flown on the midnight horror and had seats that didn’t adjust backwards and had had little sleep – poor little vegemites. I know Keith needs all the beauty sleep he can get, but not so for Suzie. We had a drive around Shute Harbour and Airlie Beach’s suburbs and then watched the 1st one day cricket match, which we won easily, whilst the girls once again – went shopping, returning a couple of hours later with meager pickings. As Keith and I were busy (watching the cricket) the girls went back into town and returned with fish and chips (God we’ve been eating well) which went down a treat with a few more XXXX Gold’s and a glass or 2 of port – must keep the sugar levels up!!!
It was up early the following morning as we had booked to go on a cruise of the Whitsunday Islands. We were picked up at the van park at 7:40am and taken to Abel Point Marina where we boarded a lovely big catamaran, the “Voyager”. The weather was perfect, so the ocean was really calm, as we cruised, firstly, to Daydream Island, where we picked up some additional passengers, then on towards Hamilton Island. We didn’t actually berth at Hamilton Island, but cruised passed and had a close look at some of the amazing homes (there are approx 5,000 permanent residents on the island) and some of the commercial developments, including an 18 hole golf course and it’s own private airport, which the likes of Qantas and Virgin fly into. I must admit that some of the highrise developments look a little over the top and out of place in this wonderful environment. Next stop was Whitehaven Beach, which is a magnificent stretch of white sand that actually squeaks when you walk on it. We disembarked here and were free to do our own thing, but were compelled to wear these full body rash shirt type things as protection from the stingers. Like leotards, these left nothing to the imagination (wish I’d brought some rugby socks with me). Mind you, glancing at Keith, made me feel more than adequate. Putting them on was something else – well for me anyway. I was battling away trying to put the idiotic thing on, when Lin pointed out that I was trying to get one of my feet into an arm sleeve!!! You’d think they would colour co-ordinate the arms and legs to make it easier – wouldn’t you? No help from either Murray’s who thought it all very amusing. Anyway we all had a lovely, refreshing swim in the crystal clear water. We re-embarked and were served a delicious cold meat and salad lunch, whilst leisurely cruising amongst the islands. Next stop was at Hook Island, where once again we disembarked and went to a beach from where we were able to snorkel. Whilst doing this the staff fed the fish and to be in the water with the fish whilst in a feeding frenzy was mind blowing. They were so close you could touch them. The snorkeling was followed by a short cruise on a glass bottomed boat, which started with a “splash” – literally. Poor young Suzie again. Whilst about to board this boat, she accidentally dropped her sunnies into the sea, resulting in Keith having to wait until our boat had left the harbour before he could jump in to get them, which he eventually managed to achieve, after firstly overcoming his fear of a 2-inch crab that was lurking nearby – big sook. Next time get a pair from “Red Dot” Suzie!!! Back on board “Voyager” we were presented with a fresh fruit platter and cheeseboard, whilst cruising to Long Island to drop off some passengers. Last stop was Daydream Island where we once again got off and walked through manicured gardens to a lagoon bar and pool. We had a swim in the pool and Keith, obviously suffering from the sun, decided to get a round of drinks which comprised a couple of beers and 2 raspberry daiquiri’s for the girls – all for a cool $46…. Needless to say we only had 1 round – I’m not Scottish for nothing. Got back on board and arrived back at Abel Point Marina at 5:15pm. WHAT A FANTASTIC DAY. At $140 a head ($120 for Senior’s) it was well worth every cent.
Next day was Murkei Murray’s birthday – the BIG 54. He decided we should go out for lunch, so we drove to Dingo Bay, which had been recommended to us. We had a look around there and decided to drive further down the coast to Hydeaway Bay and a restaurant called “Monte’s”. The road between Dingo Bay and Hydeaway Bay was unbelievable. Dirt all the way with creeks flowing over the road and some of the worst pot holes you’ve ever seen. On a couple of occasions when we came to creeks, Keith had to get out of the car and try to figure out which way we should attempt to get through and on one of these, as he was walking slowly backwards directing me, he stepped back into a fairly substantial puddle and almost went A over T, just managing to keep his feet, unfortunately. I can just picture him pitching up at a place for lunch covered in filthy red mud – mind you, it would certainly be an improvement. The lunch was amazing, Keith and I having the Seafood Basket to beat all seafood baskets, that was so big that I couldn’t eat all the chips – can you believe that? Obviously slowing down in my old age. When it came time to drive home we navigated successfully 16 “Dips” (more like bloody craters) in the road. Thank goodness a few coldies at lunch had numbed the nerves. Bucketed down all night – hope the road to Mackay isn’t flooded, else Keith and Suzie aren’t going anywhere.
The next day we took Keith and Suzie back to Mackay and on the way came across a vehicle that had been swept off the road overnight, by the floodwater, so that just the tip of the roof was visible. Some parts of the road were partially under water and we weren’t sure if it was rising or falling and wondered if we’d be able to get back home after dropping them off. On arrival at Mackay airport we made sure that they actually got on the plane and were sad to see Suzie go, as we had had a lot of fun. Oh yeah – and Keith too. Needless to say we got back safely as the floodwater had receded slightly.
The air conditioning man came back and fixed the system and guess what – coincidentally, the fridge had given up the ghost, so he fixed that too. Never rains, but it pours – except here that’s happened naturally.
On our last day in Airlie Beach, it rained all day and left us guessing what was in store for us on our ongoing journey South to Melbourne. Stay tuned.
(Airlie Cove Caravan Park) – Excellent caravan park 2 kms out of Airlie Beach township
No golf course, so no change in status.
So the progressive tally is:-
Next stop is Clermont (we hope) – 414kms away.