Growing up in Sydney, I was always aware that Australia’s tropical paradise was a collection of 74 Islands off the Queensland coast collectively known as the Whitsundays. On several islands, luxury resorts fulfil holiday-makers every whim – as hotel rooms overlook impossibly beautiful scenery. This is the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, where whales playfully frolic and Nemo doesn’t really want to be found.
Over my New Year break this year, I decided to venture to the Whitsundays for the first time. As a travel writer, I like to use NYE to inspire my imagination for the coming year. So rather than lazing about on one of the Islands, I signed up for a three day yachting cruise through the Islands. The best time to visit the region is now – winter – the weather is balmy, the skies are spectacularly blue and the water is refreshingly warm.
Here are my top five memories from cruising through the Whitsunday Islands.
Whitehaven Beach Lagoon
Whitehaven Beach itself is deservedly famous – the ultra-white sand is an incredible sight. But for me, I found walking out into the adjacent lagoon a highlight of the trip – because living in the lagoon are Reef Sharks and Stingrays. I loved watching the sharks dart around in the knee deep water only metres from my legs. It was however important that I kicked the sand under my feet because stepping on a Stingray wouldn’t have been fun.
Waking to a New Year
Our captain moored the yacht between Hook Island and the main Whitsunday Island on new year’s eve. The experience of waking to a brand new year, where the first thing I saw was the astonishing beauty of the region ensured that the first day of 2012 was memorable – fuelling my imagination and generating inspiration.
My yacht could only sleep 14 people – and luckily we were all on the cruise for the same reason – to appreciate the region in all its glory. As you can see from the photo, the German girls who were on my boat appreciated my company.
Snorkelling the Reef
This is the Great Barrier Reef – so admiring the marine life is obligatory. I was lucky enough to spot several giant Maori Wrasse and the cute Clown Fish. For the divers, the Captain also dedicated an afternoon to a particularly impressive dive site.
I was lucky to be on a yacht where the Captain believed in offering his travellers a mix of ocean and land-based pursuits. Therefore every day, we also did a land excursion to secluded inlets and pristine beaches – so we could experience the Whitsundays both looking onto the Islands from the yacht and admiring the scenery out over the ocean.