Our next stage of adventure was Hamilton Island. We had to get there first and unfortunately my role as tour guide took a militant turn. After discovering the ferry across to Hamilton Island from Airlie was limited to specific times I organised the day with military precision. I was desperate to get up to the Finch Hatton Gorge to check out some waterfalls, luckily it didn’t take us too far out of the way on our drive to Airlie Beach. It did mean I led us into the bush at a marching pace. After a slightly manic walk to get to our waterfall we had arrived at a much deep pool surrounded by tall rock faces and a beautiful cascade of water.
Sam and I were determined to swim but it quickly transpired that the water was unbelievably cold. We managed a short stint of paddling and the quickest swim ever before jumping out, distinctly bluer in my case. We then watched some other Brits brave the plunge but they too bailed for the much more pleasurable sunbathing spots on the rocks.
We had a more leisurely stroll back to the car and enjoyed some bush turkey spotting and listening to the incessant chattering of the kookaburras. One of the joys of getting to the gorge was the prospect of a pie for lunch. We had read in our trusty guidebook that the ‘Pinnacle Pies’ were legendary however the look of the pub, which really was in the middle of nowhere, would suggest the fare to be questionable. However, as I keep finding in Oz, the pies were incredible! Despite the ageing look of the pub and the slightly intimidating locals (enjoying several shots before hopping back on their quad bike) the grub was top notch. Scorching beef pies full to bursting were devoured in the car and even the pie cynic among us (me) was exceptionally happy.
We made it to the Port of Airlie on time and managed to unload our excessive amount of luggage plus our rather ambitious amount of alcohol*. After a quick journey out to the whitsunday islands we approached our little slice of paradise. Coming into the marina the scenery was outstanding and everyone was feeling more relaxed. That was until a beer burst in Dads suitcase and there was emergency sink washing to be done. Then as were made our way down to the marina to explore and plan our activities for our stay it looked as if we were going to be unable to go anywhere near the Whitsundays. After exhausting all of the options with one of the travel agents in a desperate bid to book a trip to whitsunday island and some snorkelling me and Mum were not in a good place, I was going to cry if I couldn’t snorkel and Mum wanted some of that Whitsunday sand between our toes. The mood was turbulent as we sat down to dinner and poor Russell was trying to hold it together. Luckily our final attempt to get on a boat tour paid off. It was only a half day but at least we were getting over to Whitsunday and even fitting in a snorkel. Thank goodness! Food was consumed and feeling much more positive we enjoyed a few drinks in our beautiful cabins and introduced Mum and Dad to ‘Heads Up’ (if you haven’t played you are seriously missing out).
Our first full day on the island and the sun seemed to be shining just for us. Unfortunately our wake up call was not particularly soothing and relaxing as the cockatoos screeched the morning in, not quite the same as an english dawn chorus (one of the many things I have found I missed about Blighty). We headed to the beach early for a kayak session and some snorkelling. Dad tested the limits of where it was safe to kayak any had a lifeguard on his tail, not that he noticed, paddling in a world of his own. As the tide retreated you could walk out for ages and it turns out this is perfect time to spot creatures. I spent about half an hour following various fish, sharks and some amazing rays before rushing to shore to get the rest of our motley crew out. I may have blabbed a bit too loudly about my wonderful walk with the sea life and suddenly the whole of the beach was in the water looking for my rays. After a quick turn around we headed to the marina for our afternoon boat ride. Fitted up with our flippers and snorkels our first port of call was Whitehaven beach. Beautiful white sand stretching out before us and the water was so beautifully blue. Our second stop was Chalky’s beach for a spot of snorkelling. Me and Sam hastened into the water leaving the olds with our skipper since neither have had good experiences with snorkelling equipment (I’m pretty sure their reluctance was due to an unfortunate attempt on a previous holiday to Florida and nearly drowning). The section of reef was a little different to what you usually get on the Great Barrier Reef as it was just off the beach however there were plenty of fish and beautiful coloured coral. Both me and Sam were spellbound and when coming up for little break were surprised to see Russell and Michelle had been talked into joining us by the young skipper, although without masks and flippers. The experience was enjoyed by all and i really didn’t want to leave the surreal beauty and the tranquility of being underwater. Unfortunately we were being ushered back into the boat and heading back to shore in no time at all. Our Whitsunday exploring was topped off with the most amazing meal at the Thai Restaurant back on Hamilton Island. Safe to say a spectacular day.
Another day in paradise however the weather, for the first time since the Brits arrived, turned on us. Although the rain stayed away it was a decidedly cooler and crazy windy. After a little breakfast it was decided (mainly by Sam and Dad) that we should hire a golf buggy for the day. Due to the islands size compared to the amount of people the only transport for people is golf carts which, I’m sure, Russell had been itching to try out since we stepped off the ferry. Our morning was spent whiling away the hours exploring and inevitably letting Sam have a go. Although definitely against the rules Sam whisked us around most admirably. I should mention that I also had a go although it was fleeting, my terror of driving remains and I am still an incompetent 21 year old without a drivers licence. Our afternoon we split up; Sam chilled in the room, Dad braved some sun by the pool and Me and Mum took advantage of the spa. After our nice chilled day we made our way to the pub for a bite to eat, a few beers and a fascinating time watching the rich folks make their way onto the mainland to get absurdly drunk.
The following day we had to depart and very sad to leave our little island. Coffee was had and we waited with heavy hearts for our ferry.
*We had been warned by our Air BnB hosts that everything on the island was expensive, especially alcohol so if we wanted to enjoy a few drinks in our apartment then it would be best to bring them from the mainland. Which we did in abundance, wine and beer by the bucket load.