Australia, Blog

Windswept Whitsundays

One of the amazing things about travelling by boat is that we can go pretty much anywhere that has coastline. So using this means of transport to travel to remote, hard to get to and rarely visited destinations makes sense. When socialising with other cruisers, conversation often drifts to amazing experiences shared in far flung, remote places. Less often are the more accessible destinations reminisced about. There can be a tendency to down-play some of the busy, tourist destinations as being spoilt, over-crowded and not worth it. There is a hint that it is less cool to follow the beaten track. What’s often forgotten is that there is usually very good reason for that track being so well beaten, sometimes the destination remains un-tarnished despite its ease of access and volume of visitors. Here on the east coast of Australia there is a very well beaten track and at its end lie the Whitsunday islands.

We had been told that the Whitsundays were so packed with charter boats that we would struggle to find space in the more popular anchorages. Perhaps we were early in the season but we had no problem. Although we were rarely the only boat in the bay, it was never crowded and with so many free public moorings available our anchor had a rest for a change.

Another possible reason for the lack of company could have been the weather. Constant 20 to 30 knot winds with frequent rain squalls meant that our initial sight of the Whitsundays differed somewhat from the travel brochures. Our foul weather gear, life-jackets, and even storm jib all saw more outings in the Whitsundays than on our last ocean crossing! We would have liked to wait for better weather to experience the islands, however time was marching on and there were no weather improvements in sight for over a week. With 3 reefs in the main and wearing our foul weather gear we exited Mackay Marina bound for the southern Whitsundays.

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The southern Whitsundays are beautiful, relatively isolated islands. Once upon a time not so very long ago these islands bristled with resorts where Australians would spend their holidays and honeymoons. Now however those same resorts lie deserted, often with just a single caretaker in residence. The resorts became victims of a combination of cyclones and cheap flights to Bali where wages are much lower; meaning the accommodation can be much cheaper. We were amazed to look at the derelict, abandoned resorts which to us seem to be in idyllic locations. Although certainly idyllic on land, the anchorages in the southern islands were lumpy, gusty and rolly. A good nights sleep was hard to come by. Did we mention those constant 20 to 30 knots winds?

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Sailing up from the remote southern Whitsundays we approached the main Whitsunday group. We breezed past Hamilton island and its expensive marina, keeping well clear of the end of its runway as a passenger jet blasted overhead. Perhaps this is the start of the busy bit we thought. As it was still blowing up to 30 knots we headed for CID harbour, one of the most sheltered locations in a southeasterly wind. This is apparently where all the charter boats go and yes there they were. But only 4 of them. CID harbour was in the news a lot recently as there was a spate of 4 serious shark attacks there, in fact there were signs all around the beach warning us not to swim. The next bay along is a recommended swimming spot though, no signs there so no-worries mate.

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We then bounced our way around the more sheltered of the Whitsunday anchorages, enjoying sailing in the sheltered waters and snorkelling off of Hook island before the weather finally started to improve. Tentatively we ventured out of the shelter and around to the less protected side of the group…

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Whitehaven beach is THE place to see in The Whitsundays. Helicopters, speed boats, charter yachts and sea planes all disgorge their payloads of camera toting tourists. There is even a one way system on the walk to the top of the hill to take a selfie with the beach in the background. We fitted in well for a change as we are usually toting at least one camera each when we are ashore these days, just usually set to video rather than photo. Where we differed was our choice of craft for accessing the beach. The creek running through the sand is too shallow for Florence so we had a lovely gentle sail around in The Machine. The beach is so huge that even with all the day-trippers we were able to find a large section all to ourselves, away from the rushing trip boats.

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The calm weather was an ideal opportunity to visit some of the outer Great Barrier Reef and see how it compared to Lady Musgrave island (our first taste of the reef). In fact the weather was so calm that we had to motor all the way out to Bait reef where we were able to pick up yet another free public mooring.

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Diving into the crystal clear water, we were able to swim straight from Florence to the famous stepping stones. We found huge shoals of fish and one particularly brave giant trevally that took a liking to Amy. Although the fish life here was amazing, sadly the coral of the reef itself is in a poor state ; a lot of it has been reduced to rubble by a number of cyclones. Despite the majority of the reef lacking life, there were large patches where we could visibly see signs of the coral starting to regrow. It was with prune-like fingers we finally pulled ourselves from the water. The wind had picked up whilst we were in the water and un-protected reef anchorage did not hold a lot of appeal in 20 knots of wind. That combined with the forecast for the next few days of very little wind once more, just when we needed it to sail 140 miles north, had us making the decision make use of the wind north there and then. As ever our schedule is governed by the weather.

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It was a pleasure to discover that the track to the Whitsundays is well beaten for good reason and there is plenty of space for the crowds to disperse. This is a track well worth following, even for the cool, remote destination seeking sailors. We take with us fond memories. This is one place where it is worth following the crowd.

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8 thoughts on “Windswept Whitsundays”

  1. Amy and Matt, beautiful photos of the Whitsunday Islands! Congratulations on such good photos and the pics of the sea whipped up at 30 knots! Lovely following you! Elizabeth, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you enjoyed your time in the Whitsundays. They are a special cruising ground and definitively not to be missed. So sad to hear, though, that the coral has taken a hiding. I was also sad to hear that the Queensland Government has given the final approval to Adani and their mega coal mine. Sometimes i think our beautiful planet would be better off without us 😔. N‘joy the rest of your cruise up the coral coast. Fond regards from Switzerland 🇨🇭

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Since I started following you incredible journey I am adicted to your chanel , I am a 70 years old retired by force form Puerto Rico tha in my younger age used to be part of the crew of a friend sail boat in the 30th feet and it was super. I cant be one of your patrons because my social security check barely cover my expenses. Thank you for the hours of yoy you bothe given me , by the way captain you are the luckiest man on the sea having such a lovely partner and co captain at your side. God bless you and keep you saved always.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your fantastic videos.
    We are based in Adelaide SA and have a Peter Cole Bounty 35.
    You guys are a great encouragement.
    Mike and Judi Williams

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Matt and Amy.. so enjoying your posts and videos. I’ve been following you since you sailed down the coast of Portugal all those years ago. What a fabulous adventure you’re having and it’s great to be seeing the world through your eyes.
    We’re sailing down that same coast this summer.. I don’t suppose we will follow in your footsteps but who knows where the wind will blow us.
    Katie on Tiger Lily from Chichester harbour.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. As always your post has put a huge smile on our faces. You really should consider writing a book about your travels (compared to Shrimpy 🙂 )
    We always love reading your stories and yes the Whitsundays are an amazing place to sail through, we’re glad you enjoyed it too.
    Always looking out for your next adventure.
    Alan and Ingrid

    Liked by 1 person

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