50 Shades of Blue
September 5-9, 2017
Two years ago, a friend of mine posted a photo on Instagram of the most amazing swirly water and sand beach I’ve ever seen. I immediately messaged him asking where on Earth this place was, to which he replied, “it’s called Whitsundays in Australia off of Airlie Beach”. Hello new bucket list location! Side note: the beach was actually WhiteHaven Beach, at the inlet. It’s a 7km beach (4 miles or so) ending with a swirl of sand and water flowing from the middle of the island out to the ocean. STUNNING.
However, having never been to Australia before, and with no plans to go in the future, I shelved the picture to the back of my mind. At the beginning of this year, my friend and I decided to travel together, and finally decided on Australia. I suddenly remembered this picture just knew I had to make it out to the Whitsunday Islands.
I’ve been so fortunate enough to have traveled across the world with my parents, and I’ve been to many a beautiful beach. I’ve seen deep blue waters, and gorgeous turquoise Asian beaches. But honestly, there is nothing like the Australian beaches. They have the bluest waters, the whitest sand, and the most perfect weather. Ignoring the life-threatening jellyfish and 1,082,398 types of bugs that can also kill you, it’s spectacular.
We decided to spend our time on the coast in Airlie Beach. The Whitsunday Islands are right off the coast, and the Great Barrier Reef is only a 10 minute flight away, or a few hours by boat. We milled about the beach the first day and then went stand up paddle boarding and lounged around day 2, planning the next couple of days.
Day 3, we went on an all day excursion, which started off with a trip to Whitehaven Beach, which was the real reason I even wanted to go to Australia! We enjoyed part of the 7km stretch of pristine silica (not sand) and the brightest turquoise/teal water. Thanks to the jellyfish, stinger suits were a must which made for some hilarious pictures.
We then boated down to the inlet, where we hiked up a hill for about 10 minutes and ended up at the look out point, overlooking the entire beach. It was worth every second of that 15 hour flight just to be there for 10 minutes. We ended up snorkeling with sea turtles at a reef off of one of the islands.
On our last full day, my friend and I took a one-hour flight that was to go around the Whitsundays, to WhiteHaven Beach and then out to the Great Barrier Reef!
From the air, the islands are even more beautiful. You can see every detail of the hundreds of reefs. We saw whales, even. WhiteHaven from the air is stunning. No words can really describe it until you see it with your own eyes.
But the best was saved for last. We flew for about 15 minutes East of the islands, and suddenly out of nowhere, you’re flying directly over it. The Great Barrier Reef. It hides gently under the surface. You’d never see it from afar until you’re right there. It was just so beautiful, flying over it at an altitude of only 500 ft. Tears came to my eyes as we flew over the reef, each section more beautiful than the last. I could only think, how is this possible? How is this here? And why are we killing it? I was fortunate to be in a part of it that was very much alive. All to quickly, we had to turn around and fly back. Next time, I’m coming out to the Reef and will snorkel through it. I can’t wait.
On our last night in town, we walked about 45 minutes from the beach down to another beach, where we were able to cross the low tide sands and hike out to an island, which is only available at low tide. Once you get to Pigeon Island, the locals warn you not to walk above the high tide line. Apparently, the snakes that live on the island are extremely poisonous and if you get stuck on it when the tide starts to come in (extremely hard to tell!), well, good luck to ya. Jim and I walked out to the island and walked around below the high tide line as far as we dared. The island was filled with beautiful shells, and had the craziest trees. You could tell where the tide comes in because below the line, there is only roots, and above the line, there are leaves. We watched the sunset, and then realizing how dark it was about to get and that we were still on the island, we hustled off and hoofed through the sand back to the beach. Such a fun way to end our time at Airlie Beach!