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Sailing the Whitsundays

Before coming to Australia, I had heard of a group of tropical islands with beaches covered in sand as white and as pure as snow, with clear blue sea full of vibrant coral and lazy sea turtles.

The Whitehaven Inlet - Whitsundays

The Whitehaven Inlet – Whitsundays

These islands are the Whitsundays, which lie off the East Coast and we were going there as part of a three day boat trip.

The day before we were set to sail from Airlie Beach, we arrived into the small seaside town with torrential rain accompanied by lightning and some of the loudest thunder I have ever heard – it was so loud you could almost feel it reverberating through the air around you.

We worried that our dream of drifting amongst beautiful sandy beaches would be ruined by this cyclonic weather, but by the morning the storm had passed, the sun was shining and the sea was calm.

Airlie Beach - the beach isn't bad, but it's not exactly Whitehaven!

Airlie Beach – the beach isn’t bad, but it’s not exactly Whitehaven!

Even the cockatoos came out to play

Even the cockatoos came out to play

We set off that afternoon, sailing along to the point where we would drop anchor for the night near Tongue Bay.

The Mandrake - our home for the next few days

The Mandrake – our home for the next few days

Hoisting the main sail

Hoisting the main sail

Dale being lookout

Dale being lookout

There they are!

There they are!

I was quite surprised looking around at the islands as they loomed into view. They didn’t appear to be the tropical sandy island paradises that I’d read about. They looked more like huge rocky islets covered with trees, with the occasional sandy bay. They were still beautiful though – and the water was stunningly clear!

I took this picture of a batfish from the deck of the boat - the water is THAT clear!

I took this picture of a batfish from the deck of the boat – the water is THAT clear!

As we neared our spot for the night, the captain chose several people (including Dale) to go on a special ‘coconut hunt’ on one of the islands.

This involved throwing rocks at the coconuts high up in the tree to try and knock one down. It took a while, but they did manage to get one!

This involved throwing rocks at the coconuts high up in the tree to try and knock one down. It took a while, but they did manage to get one!

Watching the sun set behind our home from a nearby beach

Watching the sun set behind our home from a nearby beach

The next morning, we set sail early to reach the famous Whitehaven beach before the other boats. Whitehaven is a seven kilometre beach known worldwide for its brilliant white sand.

The sand here is 98% pure silica and doesn’t behave like normal sand – it doesn’t retain heat so it’s comfortable to walk on even in the heat of midday and it is known to be so fine that it can damage electronic items and even polish jewellery!

The sand here is 98% pure silica and doesn’t behave like normal sand – it doesn’t retain heat so it’s comfortable to walk on even in the heat of midday and it is known to be so fine that it can damage electronic items and even polish jewellery!

Although the sun was hidden for most of the morning, we were stunned by how bright the sand really was and how it made the water appear a vivid aquamarine colour. When the sun did hit it, the light reflected was so blinding it would make your eyes water. The sand was also so soft that it felt like icing sugar and made a satisfying squeaky noise – just like fresh snow – when walking on it.

Beautiful Whitehaven

Beautiful Whitehaven

There were even stingrays gliding around in the clear shallow waters

There were even stingrays gliding around in the clear shallow waters

The best view we found was from the very top of a lookout, from which you could see views right across the inlet, which glittered in varying shades of aquamarine below us.

Whitehaven inlet from the lookout

Whitehaven inlet from the lookout

We finished the day with some quick dips in Manta Ray Bay and Blue Pearl Bay where we snorkled for a while (seeing as the Whitsundays are the very start of the Great Barrier Reef).

Fish!

Fish!

Spot the turtle hiding in the coral!

Spot the turtle hiding in the coral!

Dale swimming with the fishies

Dale swimming with the fishies

The next day, we sailed to South Molle Island where we hiked through the trails to reach some nice lookout points and got a great view of many of the 74 Whitsunday Islands.

A panoramic view from the lookout

A panoramic view from the lookout

Another great view from the lookout

Another great view from the lookout

After another quick snorkel, we reluctantly headed back to the mainland – leaving behind the beautiful beaches of the Whitsundays.

Gliding through the still waters on the way home

Gliding through the still waters on the way home

Giving sailing a go

Giving sailing a go

Although they weren’t exactly what we had expected we had a great time and saw one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

If you go for a sailing trip, it’s important to pick your boat wisely as there are different ones for different experiences – whether it’s party boats, luxury yachts and the budget ones that pack people on board like sardines in a tin. You don’t want to get this decision wrong as it can make or break your trip, so shop around until you find the right tour for you.

I loved the experience of sailing around the Whitsundays. We spent time on the iconic beach, snorkled at the start of the barrier reef and even had a go at sailing!

I loved the experience of sailing around the Whitsundays. We spent time on the iconic beach, snorkelled at the start of the barrier reef and even had a go at sailing!

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