Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, Qld

The Whitsundays are a group of 74 tropical islands. From any vantage point, they look majestic.

My first visit here several years ago, I expected to see Puff The Magic Dragon appear from behind an island, it is surreally beautiful, the kind of place magical beings exist. We stayed at Airlie Beach, at a place called Jubilee Pocket, very close to the Port of Airlie. The caravan park is home to a vast number of wild birds. The Curlew’s were shy, but made a blood curdling sound as they roosted each night, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos were plentiful and entertaining to watch as they played and fought with each other. Rainbow Lorikeets came in the hundreds at feed time each afternoon, Plumed Whistling Ducks did just that, they whistled, and marched in lines down the driveway every day, Kookaburras were a delightful alarm clock every morning, a few ibises hung around as well as doves and magpie larks and few other smaller birds. We were surprised to see the blue tiger butterflies here in numbers, although no where near as many as at Smalley’s Beach. The most beautiful and elusive butterfly in these parts is the Ulysses, the emblem for Queensland Tourism. We saw a couple and tried to get photos of them with their wings open. They are the most vibrant blue with a wing span of over 100mm, but when their wings are closed they are black.

From our caravan park we rode our bikes into town and along the bike path which follows the coast on boardwalks to Cannonvale Beach, about 6km each way.  The ‘Fat Frog Cafe’ at the end of the bike path has a bicycle pump tied to a post which was very handy. Boathaven Beach was lovely for swimming as it has a stinger net. The large man made lagoon in town looks lovely and was very popular especially for kids (no risk of stingers), but has a strong smell of chlorine.

Mt Rooper  is a 5k return walk from the car park. About 2k is steep but the view of the Islands from the top is amazing. Along the way, the grass trees were in flower and the butterflies clustered on the flower spikes which are about 1 metre high. One flower spike had fallen across the path making it easy to watch the feeding frenzy. We also noticed green tree ant nests, clumps of green leaves stuck together, hanging from trees like big balls.

Shute Harbour, check out the vegi garden in the old boat.

The high light of our visit here was a day trip on a large sail Catamaran, a purple one called Camira. It was a fantastic day that included snorkelling, where we saw some beautiful tropical fish and coral (stinger suites supplied); and a visit to Whitehaven Beach for a swim and explore and beach games organised by the crew. The crew were fantastic, very friendly and happy, (the microphone had a stuffed turtle on top); deck games were organised for the long stretch back to port in the afternoon, which had everyone laughing.  “Whitehaven Beach is known for its white sands. The sand consists of 98% pure silica which gives it a bright white color. Local rocks do not contain silica so it has been suggested that the sands were brought to the beach via prevailing sea currents over millions of years.  Unlike regular sand, the sand on Whitehaven Beach does not retain heat making it comfortable to walk barefoot on a hot day. This sand is also very fine, and can damage electronic equipment such as telephones and cameras, although it is good at polishing up jewellery”.

And so we head north once more, this time to Townsville. Until next time. Helen and Tim