The second of the three main East Coast experiences (alongside Fraser Island and the Great Barrier Reef) is the Whitsunday Islands. Named by, you guessed it, good old Captain Cook, these islands are practically paradise. Sailing the Whitsundays was definitely on my bucket list.
Whitehaven Beach is one of the world’s top ten beaches and Hill Inlet dazzles with its swirling white sands and blue sea. You’ve probably all seen the pictures, but somethings have to be experienced in person to truly be appreciated.
After a lot of research, we decided to just do a day trip out to the islands instead of a two day/two night trip. The difference in price was the main reason; $200 each as opposed to $600 each. There wasn’t anything that we would be missing out on in terms of sights by just going for a day.
The day trip we chose was with Lady Enid Sailing; an adult only luxury trip aboard a boat from the 1960’s. The boat only takes a maximum of 24 passengers, but we were incredibly lucky to have only 12 passengers including ourselves. It made for a more personal experience especially as I was chosen almost immediately to help set up sail. If that’s even the right term.
The wind was still quite strong which made for excellent sailing conditions but meant the seas were very rough. About half an hour in, I honestly thought I was going to throw up everywhere. There was no escaping the constant rocking motion. Somehow it passed and I started to feel normal again. Apparently, the day before was even worse. Everyone onboard was ill including one passenger who just kept throwing up with no control.
We stopped after two and a half hours to snorkel around a reef just off one of the islands. As we’ve since learnt, the snorkelling is never that impressive here. Due to rough seas and recent rainfall, the visibility underwater was less than a few metres. The coral here too isn’t of the colourful variety you’d imagine at the Great Barrier Reef.
It didn’t start too well with everyone really struggling to get down into the dinghy. Emma’s turn and a huge wave pulls the dinghy away from the boat. The only problem is that her feet are in the dinghy and her hands are attached to the boat’s ladder. For a good few seconds she was horizontal. I couldn’t stop laughing then and I’ve got tears in my eyes as I type this now.
From what I could see, there were quite a few fish but not as many as I thought. I started to panic a little after coming face to face with a jellyfish. From November to May, stingers fill the tropical waters and some are capable of killing a man within minutes. Beaches are lined with vinegar and tips on how to look after a victim start with ‘Give CPR.’
I’ve watched my GoPro footage back and all you can hear is me mumbling JELLYYYFISH through my snorkel.
After that, we set off for another hour and a half journey to the jewel of the Whitsundays; Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet. We docked in Tongue Bay where, before Cyclone Debbie last year, you would be guaranteed to spot turtles. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any and had to endure another dinghy ride to shore.
A brief walk uphill and there we were overlooking the swirling white sands that are so Insta-famous you’d swear you’ve been there before. The moving clouds kept blocking the sun and it was only when the sun was beating down that the view really dazzled. The azure waters down below were so clear we were spotting stingrays all over.
We didn’t spend long at the lookout so next thing we knew we were walking straight on to Whitehaven Beach (or so we thought). The sand here is some of the purest on earth. NASA once purchased the sand to polish their telescopes. Rubbing the sand in your hands providing exfoliation that some women (and men) could only dream of.
I questioned above whether we were actually on Whitehaven Beach proper. I don’t want to put a downer on things but I started to get confused when all the information signs had the beach’s name scratched out. On one sign the beach’s name ended with a T…
The proper Whitehaven Beach is directly opposite Hill Inlet; on the other side of the inlet to us. The official sign said Whitehaven (Betty’s) Beach. Now I’d still say that I’ve been on Whitehaven Beach but I’d have loved to been taken to the official beach but apparently all of the tours stop at Tongue Bay.
I thought it was a little strange that no-ones thought of this before but I guess it’s still the same white sand and blue seas. We still spent a good hour or so relaxing on the beach. We spotted little lemon sharks in the shallows!
Back on board, we were treated to a lovely cold buffet lunch before we set off on the four hour sail home. There was little to do other than eat, chat and drink champagne which was served to us just as the sun began to set. Perfection.
Overall, it was a brilliant day and I can see why the Whitsunday Islands are so popular. Sailing the Whitsundays was perfect and felt like the only way it should be done. There are big powerboats that go across to the islands and some sailboats that use their engines. With Lady Enid, the boat journey becomes part of the experience in itself.
Have you been to the Whitsunday Islands? What did you think? If you have any questions at all, let me know!