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Not The Whitsundays, Australia, Part 1

You've probably heard of the Whitsundays - beautiful Australian tropical islands with white sandy beaches and coral reefs. Maybe you've been to a resort on one of the islands, or taken a flight or a cruise from Shute Harbour. All the year round, many visitors come from all over the world, as well as from all Australian states and territories to enjoy the beaches, the reefs, the fishing and many other pastimes. Whether it be to relax on the beach or to enjoy the adrenali...

Australia,Queensland,Whitsundays,RV

You've probably heard of the Whitsundays - beautiful Australian tropical islands with white sandy beaches and coral reefs. Maybe you've been to a resort on one of the islands, or taken a flight or a cruise from Shute Harbour. All the year round, many visitors come from all over the world, as well as from all Australian states and territories to enjoy the beaches, the reefs, the fishing and many other pastimes. Whether it be to relax on the beach or to enjoy the adrenalin rush of sky-diving, the Whitsundays provide all this and more.

What happens, though, if you enjoy looking at that beautiful blue-green water, with islands, nearby and distant, across the Whitsunday Passage, but can't bear the thought of stepping on board a boat, much less getting into one of those tiny planes, or even worse - a helicopter! And the Great Barrier Reef is a 40km "voyage"....

Or maybe you've "Been there, done that", taken a couple of day cruises, and your budget is blowing out. What else is there to do?

All you really want to do is lie in the sun on a nice sandy beach and relax. Maybe you'll drop in to a hotel for a counter lunch, or in the evening, and visit a couple of nice spots for dinner. You may take a look around the shops, or try a few different beaches.

This was our situation when we arrived at Airlie Beach with our 5th wheel trailer, for a couple of weeks at a tourist park. There is a good selection of caravan parks with various levels of facilities. The major associations are well represented. Free stays are harder to come by in the area. We also had our Westie, Snowy, so we needed a place that allowed pets. We found a good place, as we usually do. We don’t like leaving Snowy behind for day trips, another reason not to visit the Islands this time around. It turned out we found all we wanted, although it wasn’t as we expected!

Our site was backing onto the small Whitsunday airport, with planes and helicopter flights to and from the islands, and for sky-diving, from early morning till dusk. Fortunately not at night! Having spent three years in the RAF back in the days of National Service, it was a familiar sound, and didn’t disturb me at all, I heard no complaints from other visitors either.

The Town of Whitsunday includes Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour, and couple of other places, all in close proximity, so any park is handy for the island cruises and reef
excursions. There are lots of palm and other tropical trees including, in the location called Flametree, of course, flame trees, all around.

 

Not The Whitsundays, Australia, Part 2

The lush setting was quite a contrast to some of the red dirt sites where we stayed in the Australian Outback. In the background are big, tree covered hills, part of the Conway National Park, which surrounds the area. You come upon views of the Coral Sea and islands around almost every corner. Wildlife is plentiful, especially birds, from lorikeets and cockatoos, to curlews and kookaburras, even the odd bush turkey. There are plenty of bushwalking trails in the National...

Australia,Queensland,Whitsundays,RV

The lush setting was quite a contrast to some of the red dirt sites where we stayed in the Australian Outback. In the background are big, tree covered hills, part of the Conway National Park, which surrounds the area. You come upon views of the Coral Sea and islands around almost every corner. Wildlife is plentiful, especially birds, from lorikeets and cockatoos, to curlews and kookaburras, even the odd bush turkey. There are plenty of bushwalking trails in the National Park ranging in length and difficulty.

Shute Harbour is just that, a harbour for the island cruises, including a vehicle ferry. There is a secure multi-story car park to leave your car while you're away, or you can catch a bus from your park. There is, however, an excellent lookout, just above the harbour, and easily accessible by road. This is provided by the Lions, and has parking for big rigs, while you take your photos of the Whitsunday Passage.

Airlie Beach does not have much of a beach, as such. Visitors always ask, "where are the White Sandy Beaches?". Unfortunately, the answer is only on the Islands. The mainland beaches are all coarse yellow sand, or mud. Shingley Beach, doesn't have shingle either - more mud, or, to be kind, coarse grey sand. This is probably due to the well set out extensive marina in the bay there, no doubt a worthwhile alternative.

Another marina is being developed around the headland, and certainly it will look great when completed, but we felt sorry for the people in the resort hotels and apartments who had paid for their ocean view.

What Airlie does have, is a beautiful long lagoon. This extends along the ocean front, and has its own beach, shallows, and water up to two metres deep. It has stinger free water, (a hazard in the tropics) with permanent lifeguards, places to sunbathe, showers, shady areas and barbecues. And it is free. A boardwalk extends around the shoreline for most of Airlie, and provides places to stop and admire the views.

A typical resort village, Airlie caters for everyone from backpackers to the spare-no-expense holidaymaker. There are many restaurants with almost every kind of cuisine. Nine eating places in one short street and double that in the surrounding area. Shopping centres in the area have the usual big supermarkets and discount chain stores you will be familiar with, plus many of the specialty shops. There is a booming night life, hotels, bars and clubs provide everything you could wish for.

If you don't have your own get-around vehicle, you can rent anything from a car to a push-bike, including four wheel drives, scooters and mokes. We have our own transport, and found it essential for what we wanted to do.

 

Not The Whitsundays, Australia, Part 4

A trip North up the Bruce Highway to Bowen takes about an hour. The approach to the town from the South has the usual Information centre, with a feature of the Big Mango. The pleasant staff at this centre, are very helpful to visitors. On first sight the big mango looks like an Easter egg, but becomes more realistic from a different angle. The next thing we noticed going into Bowen was the BOWENWOOD sign on the water tower above the town, in the style of the HOLLYWOOD sig...

Australia,Queensland,Whitsundays,RV,Nicole Kidman,

A trip North up the Bruce Highway to Bowen takes about an hour. The approach to the town from the South has the usual Information centre, with a feature of the Big Mango. The pleasant staff at this centre, are very helpful to visitors. On first sight the big mango looks like an Easter egg, but becomes more realistic from a different angle. The next thing we noticed going into Bowen was the BOWENWOOD sign on the water tower above the town, in the style of the HOLLYWOOD sign in that location.

The reason for the sign, we discovered when we were in Bowen, was that part of the town was roped off as a set for the Baz Luhrmann movie "Australia" with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. There were sandbagged buildings, red dirt streets and an army tent camp. The idea is to represent Darwin during the war. It all looked very effective. The crew were due to move on to Kunnanurra in Western Australia - over 4000km, 2500miles, for the next shoot - maybe we would see them over there.

Bowen brings more golden beaches within reach. There are several in town, and further up the coast, with island views and tideless clear water, snorkelling and coral, close to shore. Stinger nets are provided in a couple of places - do they work? We will stick to the lagoon and the park pool.

A feature of the main town beach, is the golf course laid out along it, making a beautiful location for the golfer. What a great excuse for an afernoon stroll in the fresh air.

Other noteworthy features of the town are a series of beautiful murals, one by Pro Hart, depicting trains, planes, ships, wagons etc. There are a total of twenty-two murals in all. A historical record of the area can be visualised with this series. There are a couple of high points with lookouts to the islands, and a museum. As Queensland's oldest town, founded in 1861 Bowen was once under consideration as State capital.

Inland you can visit Colinsville, a coalmining town and see the "Coalface Experience", an audio-visual presentation to show the workings of the mine. (Having had a couple of "school visits" to working coalmines in England - "Doon the Pit", I did not partake).

On the way back to Airlie, you can take a side trip to Dingo Beach, said to be white sand, a beachcomber's delight, and Cape Gloucester. The latter is one of the few places on the East coast to see a sunset over the sea, although Airlie can be almost as good.

So there you have it – plenty to do on the Whitsunday Mainland!

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