Sunday, September 11th: Airlie Beach, Australia
Our second port, Airlie Beach, is one of the two main jumping off points for the Great Barrier Reef (the other being Port Douglas, which we will visit in a few days), and the primary gateway for the Whitsunday Islands — a chain of 74 islands that are not only beautiful, but combine quiet and remote bush tracks on rugged hillsides with 6 star resort hotels, allowing for anyone and everyone to enjoy a variety of activities from one end of the spectrum to the other…
Our arrival into Airlie Beach was via tender as the waterways closest to the harbor cannot support the needed depth of water for the ship, so the Dawn Princess anchored out to sea, and smaller vessels (local ferries and the lifeboats) shared the duty of getting passengers from the ship to the town.
Upon arrival into Airlie Beach, we were warmly welcomed by the visitors bureau and their team of ambassadors — answering questions, providing local maps, and much more! We were directed to our meeting point for our day’s activity, an independent tour of the Whitsunday Islands with Big Fury, a high speed boat and metup with the team about 20 minutes later.
We boarded our boat (seating for 45, but today we had a passenger load of 28), and made our way out into the water. The high speed vessel provided sun protection and very comfortable reclined seats from which to enjoy the turquoise green water and the occasional wave spray as we zoomed through the water at high speed, making our way on the 45 minute trip through the islands towards the first of today’s two primary destinations.
Our first destination was a snorkel site of coral reefs and tropical fish. Though the tides were churning the water a bit, the sights were quite good and our guide was out in the water with us in a small dingy to ensure that any questions could be answered and to ensure complete comfort and safety throughout the trip. We got to spend about an hour here and took tons of pictures with the new underwater camera, which seemed to do quite well — (you can be the judge of the posted pictures!)
From here, we continued for another 30 minutes in the boat to Whitehaven Island and Whitehaven Beach for lunch and downtime. Whitehaven Beach is considered on the best, if not the best beach and sand in the world, and upon arrival it was clearly evident as to why. The beach is made entirely of pure glass sand. This stuff is so pure and potent in its properties that it was used to polish the lenses on the Hubble Space Telescope. For humans though, it has two slightly more practical purposes — polishing jewelry (just dip it in the water and sand and gently clean) or exfoliating feet (press your feet into small holes in the sand and just wiggle your toes and your ankles around for several minutes). We all made our way onto the beach to enjoy the sun, the sand, and the picture perfect postcard views.
While we were relaxing on the beach, our guide was preparing a wonderful lunch of sandwiches, salads, and fresh fruit, with a tremendous amount of variety and options from which to choose. It was all you can enjoy, until it was gone, and everyone had plenty.
We got to know some of the folks on our tour during lunch and then headed back out to the main beach area to soak up a bit more sun before it was time to depart and head back to the harbor. The trip was took us on a different route where we could see a 6 star resort on the edge of one of the islands with a number of sailboats and jetskiers flying by…
When all was said and done, we covered over 100kms today and though it was a significant distance, we never felt rushed or hurried. As we made our way back, our guide provided chocolate chip and double chocolate cookies to everyone on board and it capped off a wonderful day in the Whitsunday Islands.
We returned to the ship just before sunset and enjoyed watching the setting sun on one side of the ship and the rising moon on the other. It was another great day, and look foward to Port Douglas in a few days.