When Captain James Cook discovered the continent that is now Australia in 1770, the area he first arrived at was a cluster of islands on Australia’s northeast coast. Being that it was the Easter holiday of White Sunday in England, he named the islands the Whitsunday Islands (a quite non-original, yet at least a non-egotistical name).
The Whitsunday Islands are a collection of 74 islands adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. The largest islands are Whitsunday Island, Cumberland Island, home to world famous Whitehaven Beach, Hamilton Island, which has a small airport, and Hook Island, which has a world class resort (so high-end, that they created a tunnel network below the resort instead of above ground offices to maintain the natural look of the island. Apparently it’s a popular destination for celebrities).
I took a 3-day 2-night boat ride around the islands on a boat called the Atlantic Clipper Boat with True Blue Sailing. The trip was an absolute blast. There were about 20 people who were on the trip, from countries including Wales, England, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Spain. I was the only American. The boat was a 3 level boat: cabins on the lower level, eating and lounge area on the second level, and the deck was the top level.
We saw a ton of marine life while travelling on the boat! During the day we saw number of whales and dolphins. Then at night, the lights of our boat would attract fish to the surface. The fish would attract small sharks. The water was so clear, we we could watch the sharks hunting the fish! At one point we saw five sharks. They’d make sudden leaps towards a school of fish, sometimes jumping out of the water. It was fun to watch.
During the trip, we visited Whitehaven Beach, a gorgeous beach with spectacular ocean views. To get to the island, we landed on a little rocky beach on Cumberland Island, and walked through a little jungle path, which opened up to the beach. The jungle hike made it all the more rewarding to get to the beach. Wind and water have been purifying the sand on Whitehaven Beach for 40,000 years, creating the whitest and finest sand in the world. Made of 98% silica, the sand does not retain heat, and thus is cool and soft to walk on even in the hottest weather. The sand is so fine, that NASA purchased it from Australia to create the lens in the Hubble Space Telescope. You will also be charged a $1k+ fine at the airport if you are caught trying to smuggle it!
Later on that day, we went scuba diving by the Great Barrier Reef. It was my first time, so I was a bit nervous. I did a short tutorial with one of the staff who was a scuba instructor. It definitely does not feel natural to go under the water and start breathing. Once I began swimming and breathing underwater, however, my nerves were swept away by the beauty and awesomeness of the ocean, fishes, and Great Barrier Reef. Scuba diving is absolutely incredible and I’m excited to do it again. I also went snorkeling the next day, and snapped some great pictures of fish.
Following the boat trip, I stayed in Airlie Beach at a hostel called Nomads. The hostel is like a small resort with a nice swimming pool and grills. It is right on the main drag of Airlie, which is filled with tour agencies, restaurants, and hostels. It seems like everyone I saw walking around was a backpacker.
After Airlie, I took 5 hour bus ride north to Townsville, where I’m staying for the night and relaxing a bit. Tomorrow, I take another 5 hour ride to Cairns. The hostel I’m staying at in Townsville is also like a resort with a Miami feel to it – nicer than the one in Airlie. There is a rooftop pool that is surrounded by cabana beds, a fireplace, and outdoor seating by a restaurant bar. And the music is fantastic here! Solid house with a lot of remixes of soul, pop, and hip hop. The weather is idyllic – it’s currently 9:52pm, it’s 73 degrees, with a slight breeze.