(7-10 July 2010)
Given that it was the school winter break, my brother Toby with family (Ju, Oliver and Otto) and our mum fly up to Airlie Beach for a holiday. It was wonderful to see family again and hang out together.
The extended tribe has a ball at the Airlie lagoon – a pool complex complete with playground, sand and of course, lifeguards, that has the one simple guarantee: no stingers! Anyway, stingers are scarce this time of year and the pool is a welcome relief.
We do a three-island cruise (note to Gilligan’s Island fans: not a three-hour cruise) venturing to Hook, Whitsunday and Daydream Islands. This is the first boat trip for the tribe and they are so excited!
As we arrive at our first stop (Hook Island), poor Saffiya was sick – strangely, it was after we docked. She was so distraught but recovered well enough to take in a short cruise upon a glass bottom boat to view coral and those colourful tropical fish (ie Nemo’s friends). After about 45 minutes, we return to the island for a spot of snorkeling in front of the Hook Island Resort while the tribe cavort on the beach – the fish are plentiful and colourful, the resort looking like it’s seen better days.
Onto Whitsunday Island and the famed Whitehaven Beach – the beautiful pure white silica sand is an experience – and also this is where all tour boat operators bring their customers – so boat after boat unload their passengers onto what is now a Bondi in the tropics. The extended tribe get into playing in the sand and splashing in the water, as M, Toby, mum and I all take turns swimming with the kids.
Lastly, we visit Daydream Island where the tribe each feed a stingray in the open-air aquarium – plus see sharks, coral and even more of Nemo’s friends. We roam about part of the island and the tribe pose with the mermaid statues, with Zak taking a particular liking to the breasts of one mermaid!
We drive out to Dingo Beach where the tide was way out (man!) again. Another opportunity for the tribe to play on the beach and spot crabs, starfish and their ilk.
After four days in Airlie, we leave family and the Whitsundays to carry on or journey up the coast. We stop in Bowenland for a picnic lunch – yes for those who didn’t see Baz Luhrman’s “Australia” (includes us!), Bowen was 1930s Darwin in the film.
Our stop for the night is the rest area at Home Hill, next to the railway and parallel to the highway, along with countless other free campers. The facilities here are the best of any free camp we have experienced – hot showers and kitchen area with sinks and free BBQs; but of course, you have to contend with the trains throughout the night as well as the long distance buses who stop halfway along the camping strip.