We arrived in Townsville a couple of days after it had been deluged with 12″ of rain. Humidity was high and it was easy to work up a sweat. Our main reason for a visit was to get the car serviced and the airbag replaced under warranty. This successfully done I couldn’t resist and hung around for the NAB Challenge match between the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns. Daniel Rich was impressive for BL – ex Corpus student Brandon Matera picked up plenty of touches for GCS. Townsville turned on great country hospitality and the match was a success although Brisbane killed the game as a contest in the first quarter.
The Strand in Townsville was impressive. 2km of beach frontage made for the people – brilliant. Playgrounds for children – BBQ areas and plenty of them for families – lots of chairs – eateries – bars coffee shops – a number of water features combined with the RSL tribute for war veterans, this has become a focal spot for the town to meet. One hopes those making the Victoria Quay in Perth are similarly successful. We also visited reefHQ which was an impressive aquarium replicating some of the coral life of the Great Barrier Reef.
When you are on the road and looking for a spot – possibly we found one – Tropical Paradise Caravan Park – backs straight on to the Pacific Ocean – simply throw the line in sit and wait – so far more waiting than fish but a shovel nose shark and a string ray have added interest and tempted us to head back. 80km from Bowen is Airlee Beach the entrance for tourists to the Whitsundays.
There’s a bit more to Bowen than fishing – its where the movie Australia was filmed – the Big Mango disappeared the day we arrived and there is plenty of stunning scenery.
Airlee Beach has a great boardwalk and our caravan park is well located to make use of it. Resident in the park is Patrick Moroney (Skye’s Dad) and Maree – 22 steps from where we parked our van. We had a hello drink and visited their stall at the Saturday Market – we now have plenty of spices on board. On Saturday March 1 we joined 21 other passengers on board Solway Lass for 3 nights sailing the Whitsundays. It turns out we are the only Aussie Tourists on the vessel, so with our foreign visitors we set off for some fun and adventure. Saturday we cruised out to Hook Island and anchored for the night. Sunday Solway made her way to Whithaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. Yep the postcards have this one right – picture perfect and full of ‘tourists’. Boatload after boatload arriving but plenty of room for all. We donned our stinger suits and swam in tropical warn azure blue water. Only one of our boatload decided not to adapt the safety first approach with stinger suit and you guessed it – ouch needed the vinegar all afternoon. Interesting very few of the Europeans were taking precautions – a must at this time of the year. After a swim we rejoined the mother boat – had a hearty lunch and like a bunch of pirates, hoisted the sails and sailed under wind power and a steady rate of knots North.
We anchored for the evening and most on board had a crack at the Tarzan rope – oh to be young again. Food on board is filling and the 23 passengers all see to be enjoying each other’s company. Lots of giant Trevally and a few dolphins around the boat at night.
In the morning we were met by inclement weather but we headed to Hayman Island for a snorkel and a few on board did some deep sea diving. Tide, rain, wind and visibility all against us but lots of small fish a big wrasse and a pleasant morning wallowing in the water. Time for lunch and relaxation. The afternoon we took over our own Island to continue snorkeling – lots of great coral and small tropical fish.
Day 4 finished with a hike up the hill at South Molle Island to get a spectacular view of the Whitsunday Islands and a view of Solway Lass – just as the aboriginals would have viewed the first arrival of Cpt Cook and his men. Great views all round. Unfortunately time had expired and it was a sail under conventional sail power back to Airlee Beach.
Mike Penhaligon was the man who told me this was a must do and as usual the old fox was 101% correct. Julie and I were the only Aussies in the team of 23 passengers apart from the crew on board – the mix of Germans, English, Italian, Canadian, American Norwegian and Brazilian people added enormously to the experience. Great beaches – fantastic swimming waters – great snorkeling – don’t think it can get better than the Great Barrier Reef – great food and company means money well spent.
Where to next?
Which way is the wind blowing?