Returning to Airlie Beach for more time exploring the beautiful Whitsundays
It had only been a week since I wave goodbye to Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays but I’d seen and done so much since, including visits to Townsville and Magnetic Island, Cairns and Tully Gorge National Park, it felt like a lifetime ago.
Yesterday, I had joined a flexi-tour traveling down Australia’s east coast from Cairns to Sydney with Loka Travel and had found myself one of just two passengers on the Tully leg of the trip.
Having survived a night of camping by Tully River, we were now on the train with our Loka guide heading south towards Proserpine, the stop for Airlie Beach. Along the way, we stopped at Townsville station where my Tully travel buddy hopped off to spend a few days on Magnetic Island. Having visited Townsville and Magnetic Island just days earlier, I was opting to continue on to spend 2 nights in Airlie Beach where despite my recent visit, there was more I wanted to see and do.
At Townsville, we were joined by more Loka travellers who, having spent a few days on Magnetic Island, were now also heading to Airlie but I was disappointed to find the majority of them were departing on a multi-day sailing trip through the Whitsundays the next morning and no one else was signed up to the Ocean Rafting excursion I’d opted to book from the Loka website for the next day.
Despite the ‘small group’ aspect of the tour really not working out for me so far, I was hopeful that there would at least be other solo travellers on the tour the next day that I could hang out with!
It was a long journey on the train to Proserpine and once there, our guide helped us find the bus service to Airlie then check in at Base hostel. I’d opted to book a private en-suite room, feeling the last thing I’d need after a night camping would be a noisy hostel dorm but I was surprised to find I’d been allocated a large family room with double bed, bunks and small, basic kitchenette all to myself!
It was already late evening so after grabbing food from McDonalds, I had an early night to catch up on my sleep before the early start the next day.
The next morning, I made my way to Coral Sea Marina to check in for my Ocean Rafting tour. Despite the Camira sail boat taking us to Whitehaven Beach on my last trip to Airlie and the Whitsundays, it hadn’t taken us to Hill Inlet, part of the beach I really wanted to see so today I’d booked a tour which I knew included this stop.
At check in, I soon got talking to the few other solo travellers on the tour and we spent the day hanging out together on the boat and at Whitehaven.
In complete contrast to the sedate, relaxing day spent on Camira a week earlier, the Ocean Rafting tour was a lot more energetic as the boat raced across the waves, bouncing us around and leaving us hanging on tightly as we headed out past the Whitsunday Islands.
Like on the Camira sailing trip, we made a few stops before reaching Whitehaven to snorkel on the reef.
After only seeing one so far on my trip, I was really excited on the first stop to find us swimming alongside lots of huge turtles!
Finally reaching Whitsunday Island just before lunch, we took a walk to Hill Inlet Lookout and it was definitely worth the wait. The view of the huge expanse of white silica sand and the turquoise ocean glistening in the sun before us was absolutely breath-taking.
From the overlook, we then followed the path down to the beach where a buffet lunch was waiting for us.
After lunch and some free time to enjoy the beach, we climbed back on board our Ocean Rafting boat to speed across the waves back to Airlie Beach.
Arriving back mid-afternoon, I spent a bit more time hanging out with the other solo travellers from the Ocean Rafting trip shopping, sat out by Airlie Lagoon and then grabbing a pizza for dinner.
That evening, I went out to the hostel bar. My Loka guide had messaged to say a north-bound Loka group was passing through Airlie so we all went for drinks and karaoke!
After a late night out, I was up early again the next morning for a turtle-spotting kayak tour. I had seen the activity advertised while I was in Airlie Beach a week earlier but it had been fully booked then so I’d booked well in advance to be able to do it this time around.
After checking out and storing my luggage, I was picked up from the hostel by the kayak company and dropped at Shute Harbour where I was paired up with another participant, decked out in safety gear and given a quick lesson in paddling.
Then we climbed into our kayaks to begin our adventure.
We hadn’t gone far before we saw our first turtle bobbing up to the surface and swimming past us.
As we continued to kayak out towards an island we were going to dock at, we passed a few more turtles. Eventually reaching the island, we pulled our kayaks ashore and hiked the short distance to a cabin where we had drinks and biscuits. After, we were given some free time on the beach with snorkel gear provided if we wanted to swim.
Back in our kayaks, we paddled back to Airlie Beach, excited to see yet more turtles swimming near the surface along the way.
It had been a fun but tiring morning. I still had a few hours before we were departing Airlie Beach that evening so after grabbing lunch from a cafe, I decided to take a walk along the Bicentennial Walkway. The pathway runs along the seafront past some of Airlie’s harbours, beaches and parks and I followed it as far as the Whitsunday Shopping Centre at Cannonvale.
After a quick look around, I returned to Airlie Beach and spent some time relaxing by the lagoon before retrieving my luggage from the hostel and going to meet my Loka guide ready to continue my journey southbound.
I had loved returning to Airlie Beach and getting to do some of the things I’d not had time to fit in on my last visit but now I was looking forward to visiting somewhere new – Emu Park.