Our month spent down under was so worth our current pain, though. As proof, I plan on doing some posts sharing pics from our various adventures--starting with the biggest & best, our multi-day sailing adventure in the Whitsunday Islands.
I've been to northeastern Australia before: my husband and I spent our honeymoon on Bedarra Island, near the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef. Yet I'd never been to the Whitsundays, which are a collection of 74 islands and islets off the Queensland coast near the backpacker's town of Airlie Beach. The southern Great Barrier Reef is many miles further offshore (105km from the mainland), but the various Whitsunday islands have plenty of fringing coral and marine life, making for some very nice snorkeling.
I'd heard the area was best seen by sailing, and given how much our son had enjoyed an afternoon cruise on a tallship in Sydney Harbor on a previous Australia trip, we decided to sign on for a multi-day live-aboard trip on another "pirate ship." We chose to sign on with the 2-masted square-rigger Solway Lass, which has a really interesting history, having been captured as a prize of war and sunk twice since she was built in 1902. (Don't worry, the sailing company totally refurbished the boat since the last sinking.)
The trip was absolutely wonderful, despite some less-than-wonderful weather. June is winter in Australia, and is supposed to be the dry season in the tropical regions. We found the dry season to be, well...not so dry. We had an entire week of high winds and rain squalls; but in between the squalls, thankfully we did get some lovely intervals of sun! Check out these pics:
|An omen of things to come: a rainbow over Airlie Beach on the day we began our sailing adventure
|The passengers: Solway Lass can carry 30+ guests, but we had 21, plus 6 crew. The passengers comprised a whole mix of nationalities: Spanish, German, Canadian, Indonesian, Chinese, American, Australian, and more.
|When the sun is out, the water is an incredible shade of blue
|We got to do a little hiking as well as snorkeling--here we've been dropped off at a beach to do a walk up to an overlook of famously beautiful Whitehaven Beach.
|The colors of the water were amazing
|Father and son bonding time on Whitehaven Beach
|Sand, sky, and waves: a perfect morning
|In the shallows left at low tide, you might find rays and little lemon sharks
|Our son loved helping with the sails
|The pirate flag flying proud
|The ship had a Tarzan-style rope swing that provided much entertainment for all, especially our son.
|The drop to the water is enough to fit in a back flip or two...though none of us but the crew managed that without bellyflopping
|My turn on the swing
|Hanging out in the bow net. You aren't allowed to climb in the nets while the ship is moving, but while anchored, they are fair game
|Robert enjoying the view from the sun deck
|The rope swing wasn't the only excitement at anchor. More fun was had by jumping off the bowsprit (which is a loooooong way above the water!). Even the captain came out to watch our kiddo take the leap.
|Map of the Whitsundays in the ship saloon with our route and anchorages marked. Blue Pearl Bay and the Maureen Cove area had some of the best snorkeling.
|We took the sting out of saying goodbye to our sailing adventure by splurging for a night afterward at the Coral Sea Resort in Airlie Beach. Our room had a terrific view and a very comfy hammock on the balcony.
|Playing mega-chess at the marina
|Our final Airlie Beach sunset