Today we took a full day cruise to Whitsunday Island, the largest of the Whitsunday island chain, where the world-renowned Whitehaven Beach is located. Pirates of the Caribbean and Fools Gold are among the movies that have been shot there.
The sky was a clear vivid blue, which was good news for our tour. Unfortunately it was also extremely (unusually) windy, which presented a few challenges.
Due to the high winds, the skipper had to alter the usual course – he told us there were 3-4 meter waves on the normal route so he was taking a back route where the waves would only be about 1 meter! As it turned out, it wasn’t quite as rough as he’d predicted even though at least half of us passengers had followed advice to take anti-nausea medicine!
It took about an hour to get us to Whitehaven Beach which is 7 km of the whitest sand you’ll ever see, and only accessible by water or air (there were actually several sea-planes and helicopters arriving at various times!) We were dropped off at the northern end of the beach where we then got into a small motorboat-dinghy which took us down the full length of Whitehaven (seemed to go on forever!) and over to Chalkies Beach on Haselwood Island, a much more isolated and less-visited island.
This is normally a superb snorkeling spot but today the water was very murky due to the wind and waves and most of us on the tour opted to sit out the snorkeling. This was quite a disappointment so I was glad we had the earlier snorkeling tour which was so much more successful.
We hung out there for about an hour and then got into the dinghy and headed back to Whitsunday Island, to Hills Inlet. This is a 4 km estuary-like bay which develops extremely interesting patterns as the tide goes out and Peter has been dying to photograph it. We hiked up for the views which were absolutely stunning and had lunch there.
Then back into the dinghy and we headed over to Whitehaven Beach for the rest of the afternoon.
It’s hard to describe how beautiful the beach is. The sand is very very fine (apparently they used sand from this very place to build the Hubble telescope!, took out about 3 tons of it – although Peter isn’t buying that story!) There are competing theories about why the sand is so fine and so white… ancient particles of bedrock, ancient volcanic ash, tide patterns, etc. But there is no clear explanation for why it is only found in this specific Whitsunday Island and surrounds.
Peter had a bit of a rough time on the beach because he went off hiking and got lost, and thought his watch had stopped! So he literally ran about 3 km back to the beach to make sure he didn’t miss the boat home! Neither of us knows what they would have done if he didn’t return on time, but fortunately he was back with 10 minutes to spare so we’ll never know now! And even more fortunately, he didn’t give himself a heart attack running with a 20 lb camera backpack in the heat!
Apart from that minor trauma, it was a nice relaxing way to spend our last day in the Great Barrier Reef. And we had THE most spectacular sunset to cap it all off.