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As our time traveling up the coast of Australia is coming to a close, we’re limited in how much time we can spend along the way. But for 6 nights, we enjoyed two completely different bays on Whitsunday Island.
The Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands in the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Australia near Airlie Beach. Airlie Beach (pronounced like early) is a 12-hour-and-30-minute drive north of Brisbane or 7 hours from Cairns. The Whitsundays are the charter capital of Australia, with a huge variety of charter companies based in Airlie Beach.
Whitsunday Island is the largest island in the Whitsundays and was our first stop after coming in from Middle Percy. The island is completely uninhabited.
Our first anchorage was Whitehaven Beach. Whitehaven Beach runs 7 km long and has a wide stretch of fine white sand. Because of this, the beach and anchorage are super popular. Every day, we shared our view with seaplanes, helicopters, mega yachts, power cats, sailboats, and the twice-a-day Cruise Whitsundays ferry that came in and unloaded their guests. Cruise Whitsundays sets up a beach volleyball court, a massage tent, and has guided activities all day long. Not only did helicopters and seaplanes fly over, but they landed on the beach or in the water (respectively) for their guests.
At night, Whitehaven is relatively deserted – the planes, helicopters, and ferries have all taken off, and what remains is about a dozen boats, mostly charter boats with a few cruisers thrown in.
Whitehaven Beach has a reputation for being rolly, but there appeared to be just enough South in the wind for us to prevent that from happening. We also had a few days that were flat calm. I had a great time paddleboarding every day.
There are two trails that can be taken from Whitehaven Beach. The first is the Solway track, which usually is a loop (the loop was closed during our visit). Our return hike took us up to a lookout with Whitehaven on one side and a view south, over the Lindeman group, on the other side. The Solway trail is 1.2km and took about 35 minutes.
The second trail leads to Chance Bay. This trail is 3 km from where it meets the Solway Circuit, which is another 600 m to Whitehaven Beach. I took it at a good clip and was able to get back within an hour.
After four nights at Whitehaven Beach, the wind turned into a rare northerly. It was still light, but we took advantage of the opportunity to sail to Chance Bay, on the south coast of Whitsunday Island. Chance Bay had the occasional charter boat, but for the most part, we shared the bay with other cruisers – sail and power.
Most of the coral in Chance Bay is pretty dead, but we did locate one bommie that was still quite lively. We took a short snorkel with the fish and soft coral.
There are no hotels or resorts on Whitsunday. Whitehaven Beach and Chance Bay both have campsites. The Whitehaven Beach campsite was popular during our stay. Chance Bay’s campsite was empty.
We did not have cell phone service in either bay. We caught a few minutes of signal when we were traveling within sight of nearby Hamilton Island.