Sailing the Whitsundays, Aussie-style Nirvana

Named by Captain James Cook in 1770, the Whitsunday Islands are some of the most beautiful and well known islands on Australia’s Queensland coast. They offer fine white sandy beaches, abundant scuba diving, national parks, hiking, camping and world-class luxury resorts. The best way to visit this awe-inspiring part of the world is by hopping on one of many multi-day sailing adventures.

Keen to hit the water, I arrived in the small resort town of Airlie Beach, which offers the best access to these scenic Islands. Ironically the town itself doesn’t have a beach and the closest thing is the free public pool located next to the ocean. Airlie is a town almost completely driven by tourism and many use it as their base for both sailing adventures and diving excursions. While waiting for the sailing charter to depart, evenings were spent taking in some of Airlie’s lively and occasionally rowdy nightlife.

Airlie is home to several sailing companies with a wide variety of vessels to choose from. With an abundance of competition there is something for travelers on any budget or schedule. Most trips are inclusive of accommodation on land or on the boat, meals, activities and an intro to scuba diving with the option of extra dives.

Once loaded up with food, scuba gear and everyone’s packs, our group of five crew and 20 travelers from various backgrounds set out in search of the perfect beach, with the journey being half the adventure. Our simple yet essential rules of the trip would be to keep our heads up, listen to any instructions from the captain and crew, and have a good time. One extra rule, however, was a punishable offence. Any items dropped overboard required a penalty of consuming one heaping spoon of Vegemite; a salty yeast based concoction Aussies spread sparingly over their morning toast.

With free roam of the yacht and open seas ahead it was time to get up on the bow and enjoy the final rays of yet another cloudless and worry-free day. After a few hours of sunshine and water lapping at the hull, we neared the island we would call base camp. As the sun slowly retired the day ended with a flourish: a vibrant sky featuring silhouettes of sailboats and some of the islands we would explore in the following days.

Over a simple, tasteful dinner the ice was finally broken and everyone began exchanging conversation. The rest of the evening would be spent by the beach meeting and socializing with fellow travelers. Some of us would spend the evening on shore while the other half would catch their beauty sleep out on the boat.

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