In Queensland, about 8 hours by car south of Cairns is a small beach town called Airlie Beach. It is exactly how beach towns should be done. It is so small you can walk the town in about 15 minutes. They have really great beaches, the storefronts are nice and the town is clean. The people are friendly and helpful and laid-back. I was excited to arrive here after 11 hours in a bus. It’s a little odd that I have absolutely no problem travelling this way abroad but you probably would never see me taking an 11 hour bus domestically in the US. Maybe I should though…. Anyway, I stayed one night in the cutest little studio cottages at Airlie Beach Apartments.
I then went shopping for a bikini, beach towel, bug spray, sea sickness tablets, a hat, and for canned alcohol to bring on the boat trip I booked. I needed a lot of stuff that I didn’t bring for my Europe tour, but I signed up for 2 nights and two days on Wings 3, a catamaran that tours the Whitsunday Islands for diving and snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef. I had heard from various people I met in Sydney and Cairns that this particular tour and boat is the best spot for scenery, reef snorkeling, beaches, stargazing, and for having a laid-back and fun crew. All were true! It was soooo nice and fun. I won’t be able to recommend it enough!
There were about 29 guests on board, and 3 crew members that hosted us. The crew consisted of the captain, the chef, and the dive instructor and guide. We had the opportunity to snorkel in 4 different locations along the reef over the two days, plenty of time in the sun, and for sailing around, and there even was cricket and soccer on the beach for those who wanted to play. During the snorkeling trips, we had a dinghy to ferry us out to the snorkeling spots from where we had tied the boat up, or we could swim.
The other guests were all fun, nice, and laid-back which made the trip extra enjoyable. There was a good mix of guests aboard from all over the world Germans, Brits, Welch, Norwegians, Austrians, Americans, Canadians, Irish, Italians, and probably more that I’m missing. I know one thing is true: everyone loves being in the sun on a boat. Everyone. I met a fellow vegan and yoga/running enthusiast and a few other people that work in various areas of Clinical Research, like I do, so it was fun to connect with people with similar backgrounds and interests.
And there was vegemite. We took a lot of pictures using the vegemite jar, which I thought was super cute and funny. If you don’t know what vegemite is, it is a spread that people either love or hate. It’s really healthy for you and is made out of yeast extract and malt extract, both from barley (so it’s basically concentrated beer in a spread form). It’s really salty and most people use it sparingly because the flavor is really strong.
Another really awesome part of this tour is that they catered to everyone’s dietary needs. They had alternatives for vegetarians (vegans, too!), lactose-free, and even gluten-free diets, which was super nice. And it wasn’t just a green garden salad alternative either, they really made sure we were all fed well, even with dietary restrictions.
On the boat it was BYOB for alcoholic beverages, which was good to be able to pick how much you want to drink and bring it aboard instead of paying a lot for alcohol service. I noticed they sell these mixed drink cans here, which I haven’t seen before elsewhere. I chose the whisky and ginger ale variety but they had loads of other options like whisky or bourbon and coke, vodka or gin and tonic, and more… They were pretty light on alcohol content which was nice for me since I definitely did not want any type of hangover getting in the way of snorkeling and laying out in the sun!
The ocean was mostly clear so we got to see a lot of cool fish and plants around the reef. It was my first time staying on a sailboat, ocean swimming, snorkeling and it was also my first time in a wetsuit! All fun firsts 🙂 Oh and first time taking a one-minute shower! I honestly got better sleep on that boat both nights than I have at any hostel on my entire trip.
We were lucky enough to have a couple of clear nights to sit out at night and look at the stars, of which you could see a really clear outline of the Milky Way. I haven’t been able to see that in such a long time. And there were shooting stars everywhere. It was so pretty.
This type of sailing tour is popular from a few different locations the East Coast but I have heard that this trip from Whitsunday Sailing Adventures is one of the best. It was so good that many of us kept saying “This is the life!” all weekend, and I think we all wished we could just hang out on that boat forever.