Tag: (4 posts)
W h i t s u n d a y s
The Whitsunday Islands.... WOW!!!

A collection of 74 tropical islands off the coast of Queensland, Australia.  The heart of the Great Barrier reef, you can relax on the white sands of Whitehaven beach, swim with sea turtles or take an amazing scenic helicopter trip.

I had always seen pictures and watched documentaries about these beautiful islands and you think it could never look like that in person.... It really does!  I spent 4 nights at The Pinnacles Resort in Airlie beach as a base which was fantastic and I would highly recommend.  Luxury apartments with stunning sea views, gymnasium, sauna and its iconic 20m infinity pool - I really did not want to leave!!!

From Airlie beach you then have so many options of day trips out to the various islands.  Cruise Whitsundays offered some of the main excursions and deals.  One of my most memorable days of my trip was on the Great Barrier Reef Full Day Adventure.  From $279pp, departing from Airlie beach, it was a 2 hr scenic cruise out to Reefworld where we saw dolphins!  Arriving out onto the pontoons, you then have the options to take part in any of the below:

* semi-submarine guided tour - a chance to stay dry but witness the beautiful fish and turtles of the great barrier reef.
* access to the underwater observatory.
* snorkelling - all gear provided including stinger suits and wetsuits.
* own expense activities:  scuba diving, guided snorkelling safari's & heli-scenic flights.

Morning tea, full buffet lunch and afternoon tea was included.

I have always wanted to go on a helicopter trip and what better place to do this?!  I booked onto the Heli-scenic flight which was an iconic 15 minute trip over the reef and Heart reef in particular.  A short boat trip off Reefworld across to the helipad, I witnessed a beautiful turtle, coral, so many fish and the crystal clear waters.  €150pp, it was worth every dollar... an experience of a lifetime!  (MUST-DO!)

Keen to make the most of the day, I then booked onto another scuba-diving experience!  Perfect for beginner divers, all equipment is provided with staff on hand to help.  You then learn the basics in waist-deep water at the Dive Station in preparation for your fully supervised dive.  I was much more relaxed scuba-diving this time round, so it was great to really take in all of the bright tropical fish and different species of coral.

The second trip I booked up was the Thundercat Whitsundays 1 day tour, priced at $189pp.  A fast catamaran, this is a good option for people worried about sea sickness and again is a fully-inclusive trip.  First stop was Tongue Bay for a once in a lifetime experience on Whitehaven Beach and the walk up to Hill Inlet Lookout.  The view really is spectacular!  

The second part of the trip was 2 snorkelling opportunities at Peter's Bay (which can only be accessed with a permit) and Mantaray Bay home to 'George' a Maori Wrasse fish in particular!  Be sure to take your Go Pro on this trip - I absolutely loved snorkelling these bays and swimming around 'George'!

Magnetic Island
Before my trip I made sure to make a bit of a plan in terms of driving times and distances and “must-see” places. Townsville was a good stop-off down from Cairns (4 hr drive) and Magnetic Island was somewhere I wanted to visit.  The Sealink ferry is just 20 minutes across and $30 return if you purchase a ticket online.

Best way to explore the island?
Tropical Topless Car Rentals are a fun, unique way to travel around the island.  We rented a bright pink “Barbie” style car for $90 for the day including fuel and an island map.  #instaworthy

The island boasts quiet, secluded bays, wildlife and adventurous walks.  The Forts Walk is a popular route which we walked before it got too hot!  4km in length, we managed to see wild Koala's along the way and the 360 degree view from the top is definitely worth the hike!  (Do not forget good walking shoes and water!)

Time for some relaxing and replenishing after ...Horseshoe Bay provides a good swimming enclosure and a selection of restaurants/cafes.  Looking for a nice view and some homemade specials, we stopped off in Cafe Nourish Heart & Soul Food.  I cannot recommend this enough... the staff were so friendly, the food was fresh and OMG I could not resist the cake!!

Shirt:  Seafolly
Bikini:  Oysho
If driving from Port Douglas to Cairns a good stop-off is Palm Cove.  The upmarket, more intimate destination has a jetty great for fishing, boutiques, cafes and palm tree lined paths for cycling, jogging or walking.  We stopped off here at Coffee Haven for a cold drink and was enticed by some sweet potato chips with a “secret sauce” ... the best I have ever had!

One of Cairns most popular day trips is to the Kuranda rainforest.  Take a ride on Australia’s longest Skyrail cableway soaring over treetops to reach the Kuranda village.  A chance to really experience the aboriginal culture with the locals playing their didgeridoos, and venture into an arty, alternative hippie world.  Kuranda Koala Gardens, Birdworld and the Australian Butterfly Santuary are all located in the market.  I loved the souvenir shops and local produce available here!  

At 2pm and 3.30pm every day the Kuranda Scenic Railway then makes the descent out of the rainforest over bridges, through tunnels back to Cairns.  I would allow a full day for this whole adventure, as the cableway and railway both take 1½ hours each way. 

Back along the main esplanade in Cairns its great to cool down in the lagoon.  The 4800sqm salt water swimming facility is open all year round for you to enjoy without stingers or crocodiles!  Come evening there are a huge range of restaurants, many offering fresh seafood - The Prawn Star being one of the most popular!  A boat restaurant lit with beautiful fairy lights in the marina.  Waterbar & Grill Steakhouse overlooking the Marlin marina was one of my favourite dinners.  Succulent meat, a buzzing atmosphere and professional service - I would recommend making a booking!  

Port Douglas
Port Douglas... one of my favourite places!!   WHERE THE RAINFOREST MEETS THE REEF... 

If you have seen the film ‘Fools Gold’; Port Douglas was used as a main location.  Just 1 hour north of Cairns it was the most picturesque drive and certainly worth it!

Tropical North Queensland temperatures were 40’c +, bush stone-curlew birds lined the streets at night and crocodile warnings along ‘Four Mile’ beach.  Macrossan St is the main street in Port Douglas with cafes, restaurants and boutique shops.  The Little Larder was great for a lunch stop, as was The Tin Shed for dinner.  Drinks at sunset?  Any of the restaurants around the Yacht club provide a relaxing, view of the harbour.  

My main reason for visiting?!     T H E   G R E A T   B A R R I E R   R E E F!

A world heritage site and one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’.  It has always been top of my bucket list to visit. Snorkelling or scuba diving?  I did both in different locations but scuba diving here in Port Douglas!  Perfect for nervous or inexperienced divers, ABC Dive and Snorkel take just only 12 passengers out on the day boat tours.  Highest rated on TripAdvisor they provide a unique, individual, memorable experience.   We dived 3 different reefs throughout the day witnessing various fish species, turtles and coral.  *Little more expensive than other companies but definitely worth the extra cost!*

Great Barrier Reef Essentials!

Underwater Camera - Campark Action Camera purchased from Amazon - Just £29.99! (One of the best things I bought!)

* Natural Reef Safe Cream - Green People offer a great selection for the whole family!

* Ginger Sea Band Tablets - Drug-free, non-drowsy - for Natural relief when travelling! (These worked so well for me!)

There is a huge variety of accommodation in Port Douglas, ranging from self-catering apartments to luxury 5* resorts, depending on your budget.  I would highly recommend somewhere with air conditioning!  The main drive along Port Douglas Road, into Davidson Street is lined with places to stay, either side of the road so nowhere is too far from the town or beach!  We stayed in Bay Villas Resort; spacious 4* fully equipped apartments, free parking, free wifi and 2 swimming pools.  

Swimsuit:  Oysho