Airlie Beach.

The day, the very last day in the place I called home, my far north Queensland, land of Rainforest Mountains, sunshine, coral reef with a barefoot mentality came to an end.

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Pulling out of our driveway onto Sheridan Street for the last time.

In no great hurry to leave the climate which coats the state in October we set our sights on the Whitsunday Islands and the town of Airlie Beach, 7 ½ hours south.

In my line of work in Cairns I frequently assisted travelers plan their journeys down the Australian coast, the Whitsundays always being a “must see! Airlie Beach is the launch point into the WhitSundays one of the best locations to visit the Great Barrier Reef with dozens of sites and islands making it a major hub for calm sailing action. Tourist flock to famous Whithaven Beach choosing from a variety of overnight scuba boats and day trip options.

However this was MY vacation, a desire to escape the typical guided tours and breath easy for a week or two desperately needed. We hired a car at a reasonable weekly rate, packed it with our portable lives, the final tear filled fair well to my surrogate family and dearest friends was said and we hit the road! Fortunate to have a passenger that keeps the smiles and laughs in front of me as my last glimpse of Cairns fell behind in the rear view mirror, my dearest man, love of my life is good for that.

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Bruce Highway/ National HWY A1 is a straight shot from Cairns to Airlie, a long drive and really only treading 1/4th of Queensland. We bypassed the idea of venturing into the outback on the way down and stick to a schedule allowing us time to take in the beach vibes and catch our flight to Sydney 10 days later.

Lush rainforest peaks and dense vibrant green bush spread across the horizon preceded mostly by sugar cane, banana and coffee crop fields. We drove through the occasional small townships with the typical Queenslander brightly painted stilted homes & small shops. All show the wear & tear of pealing paint, run down tired wood  that the wet season brings annually.  There is a certain warmth of character these towns show me that is hard to explain, I see the hard working men and women whom mostly work long hot days in agriculture, who enjoy a beer or two daily, friendly as with a life styled by the land they nestle into.

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Sugar Cane

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Leaving the sweet sugar cane air of Far North Queensland, we drove hours on end through mostly flat dryer terrain with little more than servo stations & green peaks scattered sparsely.

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On day two of travel we drove into Airlie under rainfall and strong winds! Weather can breath warmth and excitement into a day or the chilly damp darkness can suck the motivation from beneath you.  We nestled in our hostel room with bread and cheese deciding to spend the evening dry inside, the advantage being a good night sleep was much needed.

Having the hired car was an expense I don’t regret, spending our evenings in town we passed the days exploring the forest, we spent a couple days taking day trips around the coast and surrounding areas. The bush areas were dryer recovering from recent burns, beautifully coming back to life.

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The town of Airlie is indeed a small beach town, one short vibrant main street with a hillside of mansions as a back drop, a harbor full of yachts and streets filled with backpackers. The town may be just another stop of the Australian backpackers beaten track, however it’s appeal is quickly felt. Beautiful sights, smiling traveler’s faces, plenty of activities and of course oozes that relaxed Australian vibe. There are a handful of good restaurants and many little shops lining the streets all having an obvious theme “beach” and “tourist”, a good number of nightclubs too. We found one eclectic local bar with live music and excellent food we really liked.

We spent a couple days exploring land and came across an ad for campsites spread through the islands. A few phone calls and we booked a water taxi for the following day, the wonderfully helpful gentleman who runs this small business made sure we had everything we needed and hired out all the camping and snorkel gear. This was not a high-end large corporation by any means; just a sweet retired man with an older boat that knew what we were after.

Shute Harbour

Shute Harbour

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Gear all loaded up!

The boat ride from Shute Harbor to our campsite was about 1hour, weaving us around small sand cays past Hamilton Island and around Whitsunday Island where our campsite was to be found.  Our captain told us of the amazing sands found on Whitehaven that is primarily silica based and light catching white as snow.

Bumpy boat ride!

The water really is this gorgeous bright aqua colour

As the boat engine slowed and we turned into Chance Bay the sight was breathtaking! The excitement that this was OUR home for the next few days brought on the uncontrollable smile… not one person in sight! Clear calm aqua colour ocean, our own bit of reef to explore, perfect weather! I couldn’t wait to get off the boat and be stranded. We were left on the beach with two large containers of fresh water and all our camping gear… left completely alone in paradise it felt like.

There goes the only man that knows where we are!

There goes the only man that knows where we are!

There was a clearing up over the sand dune with a picnic table and shaded tent area.  We set up camp and prepared lunch, both of us eager to run down to the beach and explore!. So eager in fact that we left the routine dishwashing and tidying up chores for later, an act that brought us a little surprise upon our return.

The man’s job!

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The VIEW!

As it turns out we were NOT alone! Returning to scattered cans, packages of noodles torn open and our bins of cleaning supplies spread across the grounds. Over the next few days we adopted this new friend (s) as Kudu our friendly Goanna (Monitor Lizard) always lurking under our table, in the trees or next to us on the rocks sunbathing. I think only on a couple occasions did Kudu’s rapid movements cause a certain someone to jump onto the table waving his arms.

Other creatures shared their home with us and we were grateful, almost feeling like we could stay indefinitely and easily adapt to their life style.

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Morning alarm!

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Here are some photos of our peaceful Chance Bay and island explorations:

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Do you see the gorilla silhouette lying down?

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Whitehaven Beach

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Three nights, four days, hundreds of mossy bites, two painful sunburns, and one absolutely perfect experience that was hard to see fall away as the boat returned us to the mainland.

Not too sure I am ready to take on a full time “Survivor” lifestyle just yet, to be honest a lovely hot shower, clean clothes and a gin & tonic I must say felt really good!  We finished off our time in Airlie spoiling ourselves to a nice restaurant and evening wondering the warm pavement.

Airlie

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Airlie Harbour

The next morning we packed up our now sand filled lives into the car and off to the airport in Townsville we went.  Sand seems to always find a way to crawl into those little pockets and folds at the bottom of your bag, or remain in the lining of your purse long after you’ve finally gotten it all out of your hair.  I sometimes think I purposely live with a sandy purse for months after departing the beach life,  so that every time I reach in for loose change or a hair clip it is a reminder of a sunshiny memory.

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One Response to “Airlie Beach.”

  1. Congratulations, Jen! Your lovely shot has won our 29th Travel Photography Competition!
    http://hitchhikershandbook.com/2013/02/17/travel-photography-competition-week-29/

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