There are 74 islands in the Whitsunday archipelago which lies between the northeast coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the islands are uninhabited while the most popular among tourists is definitely Whitsunday Island. Airlie Beach is the major gateway, where you can book lots of tours and activities. For me, it wasn’t any different. I arrived in the early morning and made my way directly to the meeting point of my tour.
I spent a lot of time browsing different boat tours and looking for the best quality to price ratio. Overnight yachts tours sound to be an amazing experience, however, it’s Australia and such attractions aren’t cheap. That’s why I chose 1-day tour on an open-air speedboat operated by Big Fury. The standard price is 170 AUD but you can usually find a slightly better price on BookMe.
What to bring?
You definitely don’t need much. Pack your swimwear, towel, sunscreen, sunglasses and some warmer hoodie or jacket just in case. There isn’t too much walking involved so don’t worry about your shoes either.
The departure time of the tour was at 10 AM and a few minutes before we were greeted by the staff. They checked passengers list and gave us kind of swimsuits that we were supposed to wear while snorkelling. Fins and goggles were available on the deck as well.
We quickly gained speed and soon reached the first spot for snorkelling. Not the best though! Corals and fish were nice but nothing extraordinary. The worst was the temperature of the water was really cold and after a few minutes, I wasn’t interested in swimming but simply wanted to warm up on the deck. The swimsuits were rather designed to protect from the stingers (which wasn’t a problem anyway at this time of the year) rather than keep me warm.
The next stop was on the famous Whitehaven Beach which stretches for 7 kilometres. It is considered to be one of the best in the world, mainly due to its bright white sands, which consist of 98% pure silica. The sand on Whitehaven Beach does not retain heat making it comfortable to walk barefoot on a hot day.
After some chillout time here, it was time for lunch. It came in the form of a buffet in a shaded spot and was really delicious! The smell and noise attracted goannas that came out of the bush to look for an easy meal. Goannas are some species of lizards of the genus Varanus found in Australia and Southeast Asia.
There was still some time left until the departure so I went for a short walk towards South Whitehaven Beach Lookout. The view is really good and there were almost no other people!
The last stop was on the other side of Whitehaven Island to see the panorama from the famous Hill Inlet Lookout. It’s one of the best known, postcard style views from Australia with breathtaking swirling sands and unique colour of the water. The distance to walk is 1.3 km (return). Definitely worth seeing, even though the place is usually very crowded as every tour stops here.
On the way back to the port, the captain reduced the speed couple of times, looking around for humpback whales. There wasn’t any sign of one at first but then one of the passengers spotted one in the distance. Unfortunately, it was quite far away from the boat and I was able to take a picture with maximum zoom, but the quality is far from perfect. Still, better than nothing!
We were back in the marina about 5 PM and I was really full of positive emotions after a lovely day. Sure, I could easily imagine cruising around the islands for additional days, exploring them more in detail and sleeping on a campsite or on the deck. However, considering the costs, a 1-day trip with Big Fury is a great deal for backpackers and budget travellers.