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Awake to the Whitsundays

Photos by Shaun Holman

Close your eyes. Imagine crystal clear turquoise waters, a crisp blue sky, stunning white beaches and an abundance of tropical islands indented with safe anchorages. Heaven. Well as close as you can get. You have arrived in the Whitsunday Islands, which sit on the East coast of Australia half way between Brisbane and Cairns, forming part of the Great Barrier Reef, which extends some 2500 kilometres down the Queensland coast. This fragile eco system, which makes up this incredible beautiful area, is home to 74 islands with enchanting names such as Daydream Island, Moon Island and Hook Island. Scattered throughout are numerous bays, which conjure up balmy evenings spent in the tranquillity of ever-changing shades of a crystal clear sky. Turtle Bay, Chance Bay, Bali Hi to name but a few. Immerse yourself in one of the Great Wonders of the world boasting one of the richest marine habitats on earth. Over 400 species of coral, 200 species of fish and countless other life forms make a trip to the Great Barrier Reef an unforgettable experience.

Picture yourself bobbing along on a gentle swell with the breeze on your back surrounded by a picture perfect panorama, tropical vegetation and pristine beaches glistening in the soft hue of a golden sunset. This is a sailing paradise and one of the best ways to see the islands is to hop aboard a sailing boat and let the experienced crew make your dreams come true. I was lured by the sight of a ship called ‘The Derwent Hunter’ as she cut through the waves, sails billowing in the breeze. Built by fine craftsmen to resemble a grand schooner, this craft had represented Australia in the Historic Tall Ships Race, a true classic in the tradition of a bygone era in Australia maritime history. Her dark wooden hull and fittings made a grand contrast to the pristine white of her sails and it was easy to see why the sea has lured generations of adventurous sailors to her call.

Sailing these islands, it is easy to see why the Whitsundays are often referred to as the Gateway to Heaven. A revered World Heritage Site because of its biological and geological complexity, the area boasts adventure for everyone. The best way to see the best bits of paradise is when you slip into the warm balmy waters for a spot of snorkelling or scuba diving. The protected lagoons in this tropical waterway have such clear visibility that the underwater spectacle that you will see will probably include sea turtles, dolphins and the rare dugone, more commonly known to us as the sea cow.

Finish off the evening sipping a cool glass of wine, gazing into crystal clear waters, the crisp blue sky changing into a kaleidoscope of colours as evening descends. A shooting star passes overhead. Heaven. Well as close as you can get.

GETTING THERE The Whitsunday Islands are down the East Coast of Australia, halfway between Brisbane and Cairns. The closest major airports are at Prosperine and Hamilton Island (which is a short boat trip away from Airlie Beach on the mainland. Roxane sailed to the Whitsunday Islands courtesy of [1]Aussie Adventure Sailing, Tel: 1800 359 554

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