East Coast Trip: Airlie Beach & The Whitsundays

Whitehaven Beacn

Airlie Beach & The Whitsundays

After Magnetic Island we spent a night in Townsville (which isn’t worth a mention) to prepare for the relatively short journey down to Airlie Beach, where we would be catching our Yacht to sail around the Whitsunday Islands.

Airlie Beach reminded me instantly of a European party destination. It feels a resort and has a main strip loaded with bars and clubs that are open everyday of the week till late!

We stayed in Base hostel, which is one of the main hostels in Airlie Beach. The rooms were really nice, spacious with comfortable beds and even some kitchen facilities.

Airlie Beach

Looking forward to sailing…

The main reason we were in Airlie Beach though, despite the party vibe, which we did take advantage of, was to sail around the stunningly beautiful Whitsunday Islands.

There are a million and one different boats to choose from, all of which sail around the Whitsundays and originally we were booked onto the Tongarra, a popular boat with partygoers. Unfortunately OzIntro, whom we booked the trip through, managed to royally cock up and as a result we were ‘upgraded’ onto a Yacht called “The Boomerang.”

The Boomerang was built in Italy to compete in the worlds most recognised races and achieved great success including 1st place in the World Maxi Series Race. It’s now dedicated to taking passengers around the Whitsunday Islands and is marketed at a young crowd between 20-35 years old. All food was provided but you could bring your own snacks if you wanted and alcohol was BYO.

The Boomerang Whitsundays

It’s not all lazing around…

The trip didn’t depart till mid-afternoon and the majority of the first day was spent sailing to our first overnight destination. The cool thing about the Boomerang was that you got to help erect the sails and feel part of the sailing experience.

Lounging around on the deck of a racing yacht with the sun beating down on you whilst you listen to music blaring out from the on-board speakers with a drink in your hand is honestly one of the best ways to spend an afternoon that I’ve ever experienced!

At our first overnight destination, once the boat was anchored, we were allowed to dive off the boat into the water whilst the sun set in the background, before we set down for our first evening meal of Thai Green curry, which was amazing.

The Whitsunday Islands

Catching some rays…

The first night, most of our group stayed up and mingled over drinks but we didn’t go too crazy as we had a really early start in the morning to head over to the breathtaking Whitehaven Beach.

This was probably the only part of the trip that was a bit disappointing. We spent far too long at our first location and were all pretty bored by the time the boat came to pick us up and we also had to ask the captain to take us to the famous lookout over Whitehaven as we weren’t originally planning on going there.

Thank goodness we did though as the view from that lookout was stunning, just look at the below picture!

Whitehaven Beach

Breathtaking view…

After lunch we went to a spot where we could go snorkelling. It was here that I saw possibly the craziest creature to date, a huge puffer fish that was intrigued enough by my underwater camera to pose for the video I was taking.

I’d been snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef off of Cairns but in my opinion the snorkelling on the Whitsundays is far better!

Later that night, after dinner we had a bit of a party on the deck under the stars. The music was loud, drinks were flowing and our deck hand Jack built a drinking contraption out of a snorkel & mask, known fondly as a snorkel bong.

That night turned out to be one of my favourite nights of our East Coast trip…!

The Boomerang Whitsundays

After an evening swim…

In the morning, bleary eyed and a bit worse for wear, we were woken up early to go snorkelling again at another spot where turtles are known to be seen. I wasn’t really feeling it but the lure of seeing a turtle overpowered my need for sleep.

It wasn’t until we were due to return to the boat that I saw it. A majestic turtle rising up from the coral below, before swimming off into the distance, me following closly behind. It was a truly amazing sight!

The Whitsundays have been one of my favourite ever trips to date and it’s easy to see why it’s so high up on the backpackers itinerary for the East Coast of Australia.

SSI Scuba Course <—- Prev Post     Next post —-> Fraser Island

East Coast Trip: Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island Queensland

Just off the Coast of Townsville, Queensland sits Magnetic Island, the first port of call on my East Coast adventure.

The name of the island came about because of the apparent “magnetic” effect it had on the ship’s compass of Captain Cook as he passed the island when sailing up the east coast of Australia in 1770.

The island itself is beautiful and the views from our hostel were incredible both during sunrise and sunset. Talking of the hostel, we stayed at Base, which was located on the East side of the Island, literally right on the beach.

Base Hostel Magnetic Island

View from the hostel!

It’s definitely the livliest place on the island with various nightly activities to keep backpackers entertained. I took part in the interactive pub quiz and bingo whilst I was there. Both I failed to win, but managed a free drink from both competitions, which was a little bonus!

In terms of things to do on Magnetic Island, there isn’t a great deal. I was there specifically for my SSI dive course, which I’ll talk about in my next post, but I’d say you could comfortably see all the sights on Magnetic Island over the course of a couple of days. However it isn’t a bad place to stay if you just fancy relaxing for a while!

Magnetic Island Queensland

Beautiful beaches!

As mentioned, I spent the majority of my time on the Island doing my Scuba course, but here’s a few things worth mentioning if you ever find yourself heading across the waters to Maggie Island.

Barbie Cars – Probably the #1 backpacker thing to do on Magnetic Island. These 4 seater monstrosities are available to rent so you and your mates can cruise around the island at your leisure. I didn’t get the chance to drive one as I was busy but I did manage to jump in one on my way back from a walk to the Forts and to be fair they are pretty fun.

Barbie Car Magnetic Island

This is how we rolled…

Koala Sanctuary – A bit pricey considering you can do the same thing down the coast at Brisbane (probably more worthwhile) but if you so wish you can go and visit some of the islands Koala inhabitants and after paying for a tour, you can pay to get your photo taken with one.

The Forts Magnetic Island

View from the Forts

The Forts – If you’re into war history or just like a bit of a walk, the Forts are worth a visit.  Or if you’re not interested in all that, the views alone from the Forts are worth the walk!

The Forts Magnetic Island

From a time long ago…

As beautiful as it is, Magnetic Island’s main selling point for me was the chance to learn how to Scuba Dive without breaking the bank…

-Craig

Next post —-> SSI Scuba Course Magnetic Island

East Coast Trip: Fraser Island

Fraser Island 4x4

Fraser Island is probably one of the most well known excursions to do when visiting the East Coast of Australia and for good reason.

Fraser Island was by far the best trip I’ve done to date out of all the places I’ve been to and here’s why…!

Fraser Island Tour

Big thumbs up for Fraser Island

The trip kicks off at either Harvey Bay or Rainbow Beach, depending on what tour operator you book with. We booked with Frasers on Rainbow, meaning we departed and returned to Rainbow beach following the tour.

Before you actually get onto Fraser Island there comes the ball ache of the box ticking exercises. By this I mean watching ‘safety’ DVD’s which are so over the top it’s unreal, sorting food/drink and who’s going to be driving out of your group, paying the levy (be aware of this, it’s $85), loading the vehicle and yet another ‘safety’ brief by a local Aboriginal guide.

Great start huh…yeah this part of the tour is pretty annoying, made worse by the nonsense you’re told about the island, including stories of people being arrested for attempted murder for throwing a death adder at a group of people and also groups of women being skinned alive whilst taking selfies at the Champagne pools.

I couldn’t help but think these stories were made up or highly exaggerated to make a point, but to be fair a girl did die a couple of weeks prior to us going there after her vehicle flipped, but again we were told some ridiculous story as to how that happened. All you really need to have prior to setting foot on the island is some degree of common sense and you’ll be fine!

Fraser Island 4x4's

Our sweet rides

Okay the good stuff…To get to Fraser Island from Rainbow Beach, you have to catch a ferry, which takes about 15 minutes to make the short hop across the water. As soon as we were on the island we saw wild dolphins metres from the shore, which was an incredible sight to behold.

After a spot on lunch on the beach whilst we waited for the last vehicle to arrive, we headed to our camp to unload our stuff before heading off to Lake Wabby to spend the afternoon.

Driving a 4×4 on a beach is a pretty unique experience. Couple that with the fact you’ve got a bunch of mates in the back, your favourite tunes belting out and an incredible view stretching across your windscreen and you really do feel like you’re in paradise.

After we spent a few hours at Lake Wabby, messing around in the Lake and getting a free fish pedicure, we headed back to the camp where the chaos of preparing our first evening meal began.

Lake Wabby

Free fish pedicure awaits

The camp doesn’t have the greatest kitchen facilities and there’s only a few gas hobs between the whole tour group but luckily we had self designated chef who kindly did all of our cooking whilst we sat around the campfire and drank goon!

The next day began bright and early and I was fortunate not to be driving first after a fairly heavy night on the goon…We were going to a creek where there is a natural ‘rapids’ that you could float down in rubber rings. The water was freezing and the rapids weren’t really rapid but it was a nice way to forget about the sore head from the night before!

After lunch we drove to the Eastern most tip of the island where we firstly visited the Champagne pools we were told about during the tour briefing. Fortunately nobody was skinned alive, despite ignoring the advice not to take photos on the rocks!

We chilled there for a few hours before heading to Indian Head, a famous Aboriginal site with a dark history. From there you can look out over the ocean and if you’re lucky you can spot Sharks, Turtles and even some big Rays!

Indian Head Fraser Island

View from Indian Head

By now the sun was starting to fade so we headed back to camp, where again the chaos of dinner time unfolded! As it was our last night on camp we decided to party hard and head to the camp nightclub. Those of you that have been there, will know what I’m talking about and if you haven’t been there yet, well I’ll let you discover that little gem for yourself!

Waking up in our 4×4, I knew the night had been a pretty messy one. Everyone felt a bit worse for wear but after breakfast we loaded the vehicles and headed to our last stop on the trip, the stunning Lake McKenzie!

Lake McKenzie is a natural fresh water lake and it’s bloody beautiful. Most people spent the morning playing games in the water or sunbathing on the beach but I opted to just lay motionless in the shallow water, hoping my hangover would dissipate before heading back on the incredibly rough and bumpy track that brought us here.

Lake McKenzie Fraser Island

The end of an epic trip

After our morning trip to Lake McKenzie it was time to head back to Rainbow Beach and finish what was one of the best trips I’ve done and certainly a must do for anyone on the East Coast!

Airlie Beach & Whitsundays <—- Prev Post     Next post —-> Australia Zoo

East Coast Trip: SSI Scuba Course Magnetic Island

SSI Magnetic Island

SSI Scuba Course Magnetic Island

Earlier in my trip I’d taken an introductory Scuba Dive experience whilst out on the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns and bar the horrifying first few seconds, I actually really loved it, which was a good thing as I’d already planned on doing my Open Water Dive Course in Magnetic Island.

The course was a very reasonable $399, split over 4 days at Base Magnetic Island, making it one of the cheapest entry points into the world of Scuba Diving.

Here’s what you get up to over the course of those 4 days;

SSI Magnetic Island

This does not mean “okay”!

Day 1 – Day 1 begins bright and early at 9am. I say bright and early because as a backpacker, you rarely see this time of morning or if you do it’s usually through the veil of goon eyes! After meeting the instructor who would be teaching us how to dive, my dive partner and I (there was only two of us on the course) were made to watch a few ‘educational’ DVD’s explaining the risks and precautions for Scuba Diving. This took a few hours and after we’d watched the DVD’s we had to answer a series of questions before moving onto the next section. This part was pretty tedious, as I find theory in general but it has to be done. In the afternoon we had a swim test that we had to pass in order to progress onto the next stage of the course. The test consisted of 20 unbroken lengths of the hostel pool, followed by 10 minutes of treading water without touching the floor. I must mention that I am in no way shape or form a good swimmer but managed to pass the test pretty comfortably. After this we were free to go and relax for the rest of the afternoon, though we were given some homework to do!

Day 2 – Day 2 starts with yet more DVD’s (the last of them thankfully) followed by reviewing the previous nights homework, which was to read the last sections of the dive manual and answer the questions. It’s pretty basic stuff and not to difficult, which is good because before you can move onto the skills elements of diving you have to pass a 50 question multiple choice test, which we took just before lunch. We both passed (good aren’t we..) and for the rest of the day, we were introduced to our Scuba equipment and spent the afternoon in the pool learning the skills we needed to perform competently both in the pool and in the open water the next day!

SSI Magnetic Island

Some fish are hard to spot!

Day 3 – On day 3, we started off by performing the emergency ascent on a single breath test in the pool, which was pretty scary to be honest. To simulate running out of air, you have to take a big intake of air, then exhaling the whole time, swim the entire length of the pool without taking a breath and I only just made it to the end! Once that was out of the way, we had to then perform all of the skills we were taught the day before on the bottom of the pool, both of us taking turns to follow the instructors prompts. we were both picking it up fairly quickly so the instructor decided that after lunch we’d go out into the ocean and perform all of the skills there on the ocean floor, which we did with no problems. That was day 3 done and with 2 of the 6 mandatory dives completed, it meant day 4 would be spent doing four recreational dives in the ocean.

Day 4 – Day 4 was a chilled day to be fair. We’d met all the requirements of the Open Water Course bar the mandatory number of dives, which meant all we had to do was complete four fun dives in order to be certified. And that’s what we did. We had a different instructor on day 4 who was allowed to lead recreational dives and he took us on the four dives we needed to do. The only other thing we had to do was fill out our dive logs and get a photo taken for our certified diver identification.

SSI Magnetic Island

Others aren’t…

Becoming a certified diver was definitely an amazing experience and one that I’m keen to progress with given the amount of advanced dive courses there are out there! I’m thinking of getting my advanced in Thailand sometime in the future and then to move onto underwater photography, but we shall see!

I highly recommend getting your Open Water if you’re remotely interested in Scuba Diving and would definitely recommend checking out the course on Magnetic Island!

-Craig

Magnetic Island <—- Prev Post Next post —-> Airlie Beach & The Whitsundays