The best of the Great Barrier Reef...
September 9, 2020
After Townsville, we made a 2-week stop in Airlie Beach, which is the “affordable” way to see the Whitsunday Islands, a group of 74 islands located off the coast of Queensland and known for being very beautiful, their beaches, crystal-clear water, rainforest, and marine life on the GBR!
Our Airbnb there was *incredible*… we have had the most amazing view over the ocean. We definitely have been getting Australia on a budget with no one able to travel… even travel from within the country is severely limited. There is no way we would have been able to do this spot on a budget otherwise! We did have some problems with our host and the internet, but it’s pretty minor. Oh, and we get cute sulfur crested cockatoos on our balcony every day!!
While out hiking near Airlie Beach, we saw a million snakes, goannas, and met a cool guy in town named Dave who took us hiking a couple of times and was super knowledgeable about the local plants. He showed us one that is supposed to be the most painful plant in the world, apparently hurts for DAYS if you touch it! Sounds so Australian, right? hahaha
We also took a speed raft/boat to the Whitsunday Islands, and that was an absolute blast. On that excursion, we were lucky enough to make it to a bay that normally has pretty rough water with a reef that has remained mostly intact after the bleaching events. The coral there was just amazing and had tons of giant clams… but not too many fish, but the neon-colored reef made up for it!
Near the end of that snorkel, I saved Alan from swimming face first into three box jellyfish. I didn’t initially think they were box/irukandji jellies, especially since they’re supposedly very small or large and “rare,” but after looking them up and describing them, I’m convinced that they were “morbakkas”!
After that, we decided to hop out; we were so cold anyway! We didn’t expect the water to be absolutely freezing on the Great Barrier Reef! We also stopped by Whitehaven Beach, which has the tiniest, whitest bits of sand… probably in the world… and it was squeaky when you rubbed it together! Anyways, we had gone there for lunch and also got to go on a hike which was straight through a Blue Tiger butterfly migration area. There were just MILLIONS of them!! It was absolutely magical!
Our next stop was just a few days in Mackay, where we visited Eungella National Park for some early morning platypus spotting (which I won’t write a lot about, I made a video and blog post of it). The following morning we visited Cape Hillsborough National Park for the “legendary” beach kangaroos… which we felt was a bit tourist trappy, but the sunrise and hikes around the park were gorgeous! We found more of those blue butterflies too!
Back in Airlie Beach, we drove around for hikes and visited a gorgeous beach area called Bowen and another called Hydeaway Bay! Both were gorgeous, had crystal clear water, and fun short hikes around.
This next section was a little less interesting without as much stuff packed in… We stayed in Rockhampton, which is a little town in the middle of nowhere. Our motel neighbor was a friendly drunken Aussie who we spent a good chunk of time chatting with, and we visited a cool park in town… really nothing crazy there.
After Rockhampton, we stayed in Hervey Bay, which is another town without much to it. That Airbnb was incredibly clean, which was great for my allergies which have gotten continually worse down the coast. There was a beach that had shells instead of sand and some great boardwalks where we watched dolphins and pelicans stealing from people fishing!
Part 3 up next!