Have you ever wanted a beach getaway during the Australian winter? Was overseas travel the only option you could think of, but too expensive? Fiji, Bali, Thailand and Europe seem like popular escapes. I have never travelled during our winter and was pleasantly surprised that we could still have a beach getaway without leaving the country.
Ryan had pre-arranged his stay with his grandparents for two weeks this July school holidays. I had a week of annual leave and it was my birthday, the first one without Vinesh. I didn’t feel like cutting cake or blowing out candles and worse still, being sung Happy birthday to! That will come in time. I still wanted to acknowledge it though, but in my own way because I still believe that we need to celebrate life. Unfortunately, I had left it too late (literally a few days) to book an el-cheapo flight overseas. Regardless, there is no such thing as an el-cheapo flight overseas during school holidays.
Mum was coming with me . We settled on supporting our local tourism, especially after Cyclone Debbie in March this year. Mind you, we still paid quite a bit, but it still worked out cheaper than flying overseas. We googled travel sites endlessly and when all seemed to have gone and we were just about to throw in the towel, this deal came up as the last remaining flight and accommodation combo for our dates. Click, click and booked instantly! Solo travel is great, but if I can split the cost, it’s even better for my
Louis Vuitton wallet.
Why do I love beach getaways? Mum still calls me her ‘water baby’. I have always loved being around water. Definitely not some expert in water activities. My self taught bad technique swimming gets me by. Even if I don’t do anything, I still feel at peace being near water. There’s something about the water right? It’s healing when my feet touches the sand and when I hear the waves or the sound of the ocean.
Where and what is the Whitsundays
It’s a collection of 74 islands along the Queensland coast amidst The Great Barrier Reef. You can read more about the region here http://www.tourismwhitsundays.com.au
It’s a versatile holiday destination for honeymooners, babymooners, and families alike. Hayman Island, Hamilton Island, Daydream Islands are your better known spots. However, Keep a look out for the less touristy destinations for a different experience of the culture and history of this beautiful home of the Ngaro Aboriginal people.
Day 1 – It’s my birthday!
We flew in into Hamilton Island (Great Barrier Reef Airport) from Sydney and it took us 2 hours and 35 minutes.
It’s my birthday! There was no chance of Mondayitis today. We were layered up in our winter clothes with 7 degree temperatures.
We didn’t pay extra for seats but luckily got allocated window seats anyway. If you can, get it, as this flight path has the best views.
I couldn’t believe how beautiful the weather was. The 24 degree warmth just hugged us as we stepped off the plane and the layers were peeled off quickly. Mum and I were practically squealing with joy, as we weren’t sure whether we had made the right choice for a beach getaway. Not having travelled around Australia in winter, flying into to summer like weather felt surreal.
De-layering was in order.
The airport was the tiniest I’ve been to. But it had the right vibe about it. We were officially on island time.
Our luggage included a maxed out 7kg cabin bag (more like 10kg) and checked in luggage was a box of food and other groceries that we brought from Sydney. Will explain later.
Transfer to Long Island
We used the phone provided near the luggage pick up area to call an airport shuttle to take us to the marina. Its actually an easy 10 minutes walk but because we had the heavy box, that was not possible. It’s a standard price of $8 per person regardless of the stop. The Mariner was literally a one minutes drive away.
We took a Mars Charter, with Scottie to the island where we were going to spend the next 5 days – Long Island. The ferry service is no longer available. Unfortunately with these charters it’s based on the number of people. There were no other groups that day, so we literally had it to ourselves. At $150 per person, it was $$$ Otherwise they charge $50 per person.
Nonetheless, we enjoyed the easy thirty minute ride basking in the afternoon sun. I was on such a high having a great birthday. And you know those moments I have that I’ve written about in previous posts – yep felt Vinesh was right there with me enjoying the ride.
We wore our jackets for part of the ride as it is open and going at quite a speed. Told the skipper not to put the covers down. Nothing to do with temperature, just the wind factor, So keep a jacket and scarf/shawl handy.
We had welcome drinks waiting for us and an orientation detailing where we could go on the island, the facilities available and so forth.
This is an eco tourist resort protected and officially recognised as a National Park and we had the island all to ourselves. Rain water is used only so had to ensure we kept wastage to a minimum. All food scraps were composted. There are a couple of resorts on the other side that are closed now but maintained by a care taker. You don’t have access to go there but can walk around the bay. There are a few mini bush walks around the island which we explored amidst butterflies, wild turkeys and blue tongue lazing around.
We stayed in the Hibiscus suite East located on the hilltop. I loved it! It was Balinese inspired but still a Queenslander style with its panelled walls, rustic furniture, ceiling fan and the BBQ on the balcony with that view. There was ample space with an ensuite and lounge which opened onto balcony. We were metres from the water even though on the hill. Private and quiet.
This is a self catering resort. That means no onsite restaurants. You bring your own food. They do have a little grocery store which have basics and some frozen food if you forget anything. All the facilities are here to cook your own food either in the common area or in your suite. all cooking utensils provided. Staff to washing up after you! They do have a bar though – very important. If you are staying overnight in Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island you can do online grocery shopping to be delivered to you then bring it along when you transfer to the Island. They also have their own online grocery provider that you can use including prepaid meals and drinks. That is a more expensive option but if you were in any other resort and were going to spend that much on food anyway, it may not matter. We just shopped from our fridge and pantry and brought a 15kg box of groceries from Sydney. Because its a domestic flight, there aren’t as many restrictions as you would have if you were flying into the country. If we had more time and been more organised, could have prepared more delicious meals and brought it along or brought a lot more fresh food. However we weren’t fussed on food for this trip. I was pretty happy with what we had.
Let the unwinding begin
I also brought along my library books, colouring books, and some movies to watch on my laptop. There are no TV, radios or wifi. I used the wifi from my phone to stream music.
At this point you’re probably wondering is this still a holiday?! Yes, you will appreciate the downtime for whatever reason you are here.
Time to put the fan and AC on and get comfy into my favourite t-shirt! Yes, you read right – I’ve got the fan going and we’re in the middle of winter in Australia.
But first coffee…
Birthday dinner was pumpkin curry, jackfruit curry and puri that mum brought from Sydney as these food can be kept and safe for travel. So far removed from what we have eaten in this type of getaway (I can’t even cook this at home) but I tell you – spicy and warming dishes taste the best by the sea. Biased much. That’s the Fiji in me coming out.
We opened a bottle of wine and finished with movie night. Couldn’t believe how serene this place was.
Day 2 – Bushwalk and Sunset drinks
Relaxed morning enjoying our views of the Palm Bay Lagoon, sitting in the beach pavilion and lounge area.
Mum loved this seat. Just missing a cocktail in her hand.
Lots of colourful plants and butterflies. A blue tongue casually crossed our path and climbed a low vertical wall back into the bush area. Apparently there are snakes here as well which help to maintain the ecosystem.
We took a nice walk on one of the trails to the south side of the island. You have to put your name down at reception each time you go away from the resort for safety reasons.
There were nice water views along this walk.
On the other side of the island.
It was then back to the suite for lunch and a bit of catching up on our book reading.
We went down to the beach pavilion for our sunset tequila. It was so beautiful watching the lagoon and just relaxing and listening to music. Other guests sat around and mingled as well.
Day 3 – Day trip to Whitehaven Beach
Zig-Zag Whitsundays picked us up at 9.30am. They are the only tour group that come to Long Island. The crew were extremely down to earth and super friendly and most importantly knew what they were doing and kept an eye on everyone especially during snorkelling. We got a little discount for changing our dates to go on the tour today. It’s normally $175 per person. We immediately got given our wetsuits to put on (we were wearing our swimsuits underneath already). Because of the wind factor on a speedboat, pack a jacket and or cotton slacks to put on, especially after the swimming and snorkeling in the cold water later.
Needless to say this was the best day in our entire trip! Whitehaven Beach was postcard picture perfect. I didn’t use any filters on my iphone when taking photos for this trip. The silicone white sand and aqua blue crystal clear water made this trip magical.
The most time was spent in the water – the wetsuit kept us warm. Mum did paddle- boarding which I found hard to balance.
My hot mamma – she’s so adventurous and cool!
We went snorkelling to Chalkies Bay and another site which I can’t remember. The water was clear and clean. Had our sandwiches there and sun baked and tried to get warmed up. While the temperature was a beautiful 25 degrees, water was still cold. However, you could still swim in it – just needed to make sure you warmed up when you got out. This is when we both craved some nice masala chai tea or coffee, with tuna fish curry roti/tortilla parcel. Told you – the fiji in me comes out near the sea! If you are organised enough and have the facilities in your accommodation to do this, I would suggest bringing along a small thermos of hot food/drinks.
Day 4 – Poolside and Kayaking
It was a day to wind down and laze by the salt water pool. Chilly as you go in but soon body gets used to it. The cold dip was rewarded by salmon (from the resort shop), Mediterranean cuscus and stir fried vegetables. The salmon managed to attract some resident sand flies.
After coffee we lazed on the beach and went kayaking on the placid water. The still water kept made it easy to kayak. We stayed on the beach to watch sunset from our kayaks and later enjoyed a cocktail each and spoke to other tourists. Mum found another teacher from Melbourne among them and I left them to talk shop and exchange ideas.
The last night on a holiday always gives a slight turn in the stomach. As Mum and I packed our carry-on we recollected how much peace and serenity we found in this place. We sat to finish our red, with the remnants of cheese and smoked mussels.
Day 5 – Hamilton Island and Back home
Our ride picked us up dot on 9.30am and was a shared jet boat back to Hamilton Island marina. This time, it cost $75 per person. The carry-ons were put away at the Marina’s Office who kindly agreed to keep it while we explored the island.
Being secluded for so long, the place felt very busy and touristy. However, that feeling very quickly faded away as we made our way to Bob’s Bakery for some cappuccino to enjoy by the waterfront (with the seagulls)
There was ample time to explore the island via the Blue or Green free shuttles that ran between all resorts. Local Hotel guests were given beach buggies as part of their package.
Island Bar looked interesting and perfect place to chill out as we pulled up a beach chair to catch up with reading.
Lunch was at the Manta Ray, couldn’t help as we walked passed it. It was also located right on the waterfront. Massive pizza which we couldn’t finish. Could taste the freshness of the prawns. They packed it nicely for our plane ride back. Imagine having this on the flight while everyone else was snacking on plane food.
The airport was 10minutes walk away and we were happy to pretend working off our fabulous lunch.
Only have $500 to spend? No problem! Ours came to $443 per person. We would have saved another $250 between us had we been able to share the transfer costs.
|Transfer to Long Island||$150|
|Transfer from Long Island||$75|
|Zi-Zag tour (Whitehaven and snorkelling)||$120|
|Food/Drinks incl eating out and our own||$90|
|DAILY EXPENSES PER PERSON||$443AUD|
Airfare and Accomodation
We did well here even though this is still quite a bit. The $$ spent on accomodation can get you something five star in Asia. However, you can’t get our unique Australian environment and the one and only Great Barrier Reef. Remember that this is peak school holiday prices booked last minute. For the same period we got quoted airfare and accomodation between $1700-$2000 pp for a trip to Bali or Thailand.
|Airfare 7kg cabin and 15kg checked in luggage||$282.97|
|TOTAL PRICE FOR AIRFARE & ACCOM PER PERSON||$875.97AUD|
Had an amazing getaway and would highly recommend to try this part of Queensland – even in winter!