Our next stopping point was Whitsunday Region where we planned to see go to Reef World for snorkelling and see the Whitsunday Islands.
The Whitsunday Islands are a collection of continental islands of various sizes off the central coast of Queensland, situated between south of Bowen and to the north of Mackay.
Airlie Beach – excellent outpost for reef trips
Airlie Beach is a small and hilly touristic town extremely popular with backpackers. It is one of many departure points for the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands.
For us, Airlie Beach was a good base for our reef and island adventures and Conway National Park trips.
The waters may be inhabited by marine stingers or box jellyfish between November to May. To provide a safe place to swim for visitors, the local council has built a small swimming lagoon on the foreshore, similar to the lagoon found in Cairns.
We stayed at Airlie Beach Discovery Caravan Park. The park is extensive and offers various accommodations, including cabins, villas, powered and unpowered sites. They also have a big swimming pool, and we immediately tested it with Nell.
We also booked our two cruises; one to the Reef World and one to Hamilton Island and Whitsunday Island.
Cedar Creek Falls
The next, we wanted to do some exploration before getting to the reef, so we drove to Cedar Creek Falls. They are located 25 km southwest of Airlie Beach. Coming from Airlie Beach, you have to turn left to Conway Road for a 13 km drive to the falls.
When you search for Cedar Creek Falls, they are located on the west edge of Conway Forest Reserve, so you will not find it on the Conway National Park map.
When we arrived at Cedar Creek Falls, there was no water flowing, but many people swam in the pool underneath.
The falls have a significant 20 meters drop, and when we arrived, some brave teenagers were jumping off the cliff to the bottom pool. It looked scary, and I would not recommend it to anyone.
We relaxed in the water for a while and drove to Conway Beach.
Conway Beach – perfect to unwind
We drove down the road to Conway Beach to see the region from a different side. Conway Beach is a small place with a lovely, wide beach and looked like us there were not many people living or visiting this place.
It is a bit forgotten area, but if you want to stay away from Airlie Beach noise, it is a perfect place to unwind. If you’re going to stay for a few nights, there is a BIG4 Conway Beach Tourist Park in Conway Beach.
Reef World – our first reef snorkelling experience
We were waiting impatiently for the next day and our boat trip to the reef. We again took Fantasea Company as we knew they have a good service. The reef was located at Reef World platform.
We were picked up in the morning and driven to Shute Harbour. The boat was speedy and comfortable. They served cakes and hot drinks while getting to the reef that took approximately one hour and a half.
When we arrived at the Reef World platform, there was already another boat that just came. It happened the reef platform was a busy place.
After we got off from our boat, we lined up in a queue to get Lycra suits for safe swimming (just in case stingers will come). I had one already that I bought on Magnetic Island, but Nell and Marius did not have it.
Snorkelling around the ropes
The major attraction at Reef World was obviously snorkelling. Nell talked about it for a long time, but it did not last long for her. Some water got into her mask, and also she drank some saltwater, and then she had enough.
Kasha went first, and she was enjoying it well. The good thing about this reef platform was the ropes were located in the sea inside the snorkelling enclosure, so we could always hold the line in case of emergency.
For people who were not good swimmers, it was just a matter to hold to the ropes and look down to enjoy the view of corals and fish.
Also, they had a 30 minutes childcare at Reef World, where we left Nell and went snorkelling together. It was enjoyable.
Semi-submersible boat with glass bottom
Finally, we all went for a semi-submersible boat with a bottom glass. The boat was going only for 20 minutes, but it was enough to see the reef.
We saw more corals and fish on the boat than when snorkelling.
Around noon there was a lunch served on the second boat. The meat was barbequed by on the ship Reef World staff, fresh and tasty. They had different salads to choose from. Overall the reef trip was perfect, and we enjoyed it in full.
Storm at Shute Harbour
On the way back from Reef World platform, we were escaping the incoming storm. The wind increased significantly, and we were not sure if we make it before reaching Shute Harbour.
Unlucky, just around the harbour storm hit us, raining heavily. We jumped off the boat to hide quickly inside the building. It was hot, so the rain for only refreshing. Later we found our caravan park flooded, but nothing serious.
Hamilton Island and Whitsunday Island
The next day we again went for a cruise. This time we were going to visit Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands.
We started early at 7.30 am from our caravan park and were driven to Shute Harbour by bus.
It was a similar size boat, and it took 30 minutes to get to Hamilton Island.
Hamilton Island is the largest inhabited island of the Whitsunday Islands., Like most islands in the Whitsunday Islands group, Hamilton Island was formed as sea levels rose to create numerous drowned mountains situated close to the east coast.
Nowadays, Hamilton Island is a popular tourist attraction with many resorts, restaurants, shops and a picturesque marina.
The island was beautiful, and the marina had many boats park in bays. We walked to the other side of the island, where the beach and public swimming pool is located.
We spent two hours swimming and walking around. The island has a lovely tropical atmosphere similar to Port Douglas. It is an isolated place, and most tourists are coming by air as there is an airport on the island.
In total, we spent only three hours on Hamilton Island.
Hamilton Island was great, and we could not wait to see the famous white sand on Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island.
The Whitsunday Island is the largest in the Whitsunday group. The island contains many popular destinations for both day visitors and overnight sailors, including the magnificent pure-white sands of Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, the secure anchorage of Cid Harbour, and the sheltered waterway Gulnare Inlet.
There is no jetty at Whitehaven Beach, so our boat had to be anchored offshore. We were transferred to the beach by a small vessel of 35 people capacity. Again we had lycra suits to swim safely.
The only problem on Whitehaven Beach was march flies again (read about our Magnetic Island adventure). They were coming from everywhere, and I think I killed at least 50.
We spent some significant time on the beach, and after two hours, we went back on the boat and sailed back to Hamilton Island and later to Airlie Beach. These two trips – to the reef and amongst Whitsunday Island – were good value for money.
Who knows, maybe in the future we can live somewhere in Airlie Beach as it is a nice place.
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