NOW: THE WHITSUNDAYS
Our memories of Airlie Beach were back packers, all day breakfast and t-shirt shops. They’re all still there but Airlie has grown up – up the hill and all across the available land! Cyclone Debbie had wreaked havoc six months prior to our visit so some businesses and buildings were still being repaired but generally it was all action in this popular resort town. A volcano was erupting in Bali and it seemed everyone who was going to Bali went to Airlie instead! The lorikeets were happy to be fed by all the extra visitors as well, coming in for their food at the same time every afternoon.
We arrived in Airlie Beach on a Friday so we had a Friday night date sailing on Providence with champagne and nibbles as the sun set across the bay.
A couple of days later it was the calm ocean waters that had our attention as we were whisked out to the famous Whitehaven Beach in the Thunder Cat. From the lookout we could see what is said to be the world’s whitest sand swirling in the creek creating ever changing patterns as it moved with the tide.
After a float in the ocean at Whitehaven we were shuttled back to our boat in the dingy tender as the tide had gone out leaving a rocky shoreline. A fast trip to a bay of coral cays had us snorkelling around some of the most colourful coral we’d seen on this visit to the Great Barrier Reef. The coral in theses protected bays had been sheltered from cyclone Debbie unlike some of the island resorts which lay abandoned.
At Mantaray Bay the Fusilier Fish bounced off our goggles as we snorkelled amongst them and the Giant Wrasse came up from the depths for a feed – of fish pellets not people! We’d had a great day out.
South of Airlie we visited Cape Hillsborough National Park where the kangaroos go down onto the beach at sunrise and sunset while the hills of rainforest fall into the ocean creating rocky crags in the sea. The international tourists seemed to know all about Cape Hillsborough – apparently it’s on the Qantas ad!
Continuing south Mackay spread out along the coast and around the swampland. We chose to stay at Blacks Beach 10kms north of the city with a sea breeze to keep us cooler and shade from some large old paperbarks.
Mackay is all about sugar and the council has built a mini sugar refinery and distillery at The Sugar Shed at Sarina. The lime infused sauce and liqueur caught our attention. All we needed were the prawns for the sauce and ice for the liqueur.
The hills rise up quickly to Finch Hatton from the cane fields on the valley floor. Platypus swim in Broken River at Eungella and we even spotted them during the day. The hills are so steep that the early timber getters slid the timber down the slopes to the bullock drays down in the valley rather than attempt to haul the drays up the hills.
NEXT: THE CAPRICORN COAST
See you on the Emu Track
Cheryl and David