Sailing the Whitsunday Islands


From the first time I caught a glimpse of Whitsunday’s magical, pristine beaches and its famous heart reef, I knew I would be prioritizing a visit. And as I sat with my travel agent to plan the East Coast Adventuring, I was most excited for this tour. I booked a two-day/two-night sailing and snorkeling trip with Explore Maxi and arrived for the tour with very high expectations. Is this ever a good idea? Yes, the trip was beautiful, adventurous, memorable, and eventful, but not quite in all the ways I had imagined.


On Sunday afternoon, Beth and I joined a group of 11 other travelers in and 5 crew members in Airlie Beach to board Boomerang, our floating home for the next two days. As it turned out, one of the passengers was actually a holidaying crew member who brought along 4 friends, 4 cases of beer, 2 bottles of liquor, and a desire to party on board. The rest of our group appeared significantly more docile, many only bringing cider or nothing to drink at all for the trip. The boys began drinking as soon as our boat left the dock and we knew we were in for an entertaining evening.

This was my first true sailing experience, having only really been aboard catamarans without much intention of actually sailing. The wind was strong that afternoon and, shortly after departing, our sails were up and we were sitting on the higher side of the boat. The crew said the boat could tolerate a 38-degree tilt but it felt much greater than this as one side of the boat was almost fully submerged. We were kept on our toes, switching sides to adjust sails and course.
As we sailed toward the islands, the water shined magnificently with several green rocky islands jetting up out of the sea around us. The natural beauty reminded me of cruising through the Marlborough Sounds on the Interislander ferry connecting New Zealand’s North Island to the South. Our sail boat cruised between the Whitsunday and Hook Island, attracting the attention of a Sea Eagle. As the bird circled closer and closer to the boat, one of the guys tossed up a piece of food which the eagle caught effortlessly mid-air.

We docked at Tongue Bay for the night and hung out on deck while waiting for dinner. The crew of guys are drunk by this point and begin making a mess of things during dinner. Most of us enjoy our green chicken curry dinner in a civilized manner but the guys decided to serve themselves heaps of food and either toss it overboard or smear it on their faces. Why? Why not?! A few other unfortunate events took place in all their drunkenness that I will not put in writing but I was most disappointed in the reaction of the crew, or lack thereof.
The next morning we hop aboard the dingy to the shores of Tongue Bay. Our group walked through the forest first to a look-out point and then down to White Haven Beach. It was as stunning as I’d imagined and even better! The water is composed of the most beautiful colors all flowing seamlessly in and out of each other, mixing with the powder white sand. We are graciously granted a few hours to relax on the beach before lunch and a sail to our next location. I didn’t want to leave.
Our next stop is Blue Pearl Bay where we dock for some snorkeling time. I’ve always been panicky about underwater breathing and decide to go snorkel-free, holding my breath while visiting the reef. It’s low tide so the reef sits just below the surface. There are many colorful fish swimming around the equally colorful corals. We find a clown fish hiding in a sea anemone between a crack of coral.
The second night is a bit more subdued with most of the guys still recovering from their hangovers and a lack of any remaining alcohol. Our group plays card and drinking games together and we’re all in bed by 10pm. We’ve got one more stop on the agenda the next morning for another round of snorkeling before journeying back to Airlie Beach.
In the morning we cruise over to Caves Cove for another snorkel. Beth brought an amazing hot pink retro hand-me-down dive skin with her and, as we climb up from below deck, we find one of our fellow male passengers trying it on. It was all the rage; he didn’t want to take it off! This patch of reef is a bit more lively and colorful than the last. It is a beautiful sight and perfect ending to our sailing adventure, leaving me all the more excited for our upcoming Great Barrier Reef trip.

Published by Ali Gaffey

An American girl full of life and adventure!

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