Exploring Queensland: Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays

Wednesday morning we did our final bits of packing, said farewells to Morphie, before we headed to The Galley to meet our Uber ride to Brisbane airport. The traffic was kind so we arrived in good time and, although we had already checked in online, we had to go to the counter for the boarding passes to be issued. Guess it was just to check ID and to make sure no-one was trying to get around the daily-changing border restrictions in place here in Queensland.

Job done we headed through security and to our gate. There wasn’t a lot of people around as we sat and had a drink while we waited for the flight to arrive. We had brought face masks with us just in case they were required but there was no sign of any at all in use throughout the airport where everything had now been laid out to enable social distancing with lots of hand sanitiser stations.

Eventually the flight was called and we claimed our seats (1A and 1B). This Fokker plane had a seat configuration of 2-3 across so we didn’t have any immediate neighbours. The three seats to our right had one lady only and both rows behind were empty, so was happy with that as the plane was about half full. The stewardesses only served a single glass of water throughout the flight and, although they had gloves on, they weren’t masked either. We landed and then had to wait in line to talk to the customs and immigration guys – they were a bit perplexed that we were British and not Queensland residents, but gave us the all clear to proceed once we told them we hadn’t left Queensland since our arrival in March. The people on the plane that flew in from Sydney were given a much harder time and those people who had been in ‘hot spots’ or didn’t have their ‘border passes’ correctly issued were physically turned around and sent straight back to New South Wales….. Tough regime here but keeps everyone safe and infection levels low.

We met our pre-booked coach transfers at Prosperpine airport and drove the 45 minutes or so through to Airlie Beach. Of course, we were the last drop off so arrived a bit later than we had hoped. Never mind, we checked in and unpacked. Our two-bed / two-bath apartment is pretty spacious but a bit tatty around the edges although it has everything we need like a washing machine / tumble drier / full kitchen / lounge / safe etc. We got it on a great deal so we were happy but wouldn’t have been had we paid full price for it! The best thing about it, though, is its position. Just high enough to get balcony views over the town anchorage and not too high that you have to be a mountain goat to reach it. Most apartments here are nestled into the hills for the views but so glad we don’t have to walk to them the slope up to our resort entrance was enough to challenge us each day! We headed over to the Woolworths (which is just across the main road at the bottom of the property’s drive) and did some shopping. Then we walked back up and stowed away our supplies, got changed, and headed into town for a walk. We found The Pub (yes that is really what it is called) and had dinner there. The food was surprisingly good…..

Thursday morning we walked the town and visited the beach, the port and the lagoon.

We had a coffee and popped into a few travel agents in the small high street. We booked three trips – a crocodile safari, a scenic plane ride and a day trip out to the islands for some snorkelling and a BBQ. We’ll probably hire a car for a couple of days too. Pretty happy with our plans we headed back to our apartment block and took up residence by the pool – no-one else seems to use this area so it is like our own private domain. The pools are pretty but freezing cold!!! Don’t think we’ll be using them somehow…..

After dinner in our apartment we headed to The Pub for a few drinks before bed (although only soft drinks for Richard as he remains alcohol free at this stage).

Friday morning it was an early start as we were heading out on our Crocodile Safari. This had received great write-ups in various places so we were looking forward to it. We arrived – had a safety briefing – and then took our seats / tables in the camp. These had all just been sanitised and would be ours for the remainder of the day so that worked well…..

It was now time to go on the first part of our adventure, the trip up the Prosperpine River, which has the largest density of Salties (Australian for salt-water crocodile) in the whole of Queensland so we hoped to spot a few. First job though was to put the boat into the water.

Then it was time for the safety briefing which was quite funny when they pointed out the lifejackets with the reminder that we wouldn’t want to use them in this environment as being in the water would result in certain death! Sobering reminders of keeping arms within the confines of the boat etc and we were off.

Without even turning the first corner we met our first male crocodile swimming down the river on the surface. He swam along without any concerns about us and it was amazing to see how effortless he moved virtually making no ripples at all. The ranger has named all of the regular crocs and this one was called Muddyguts. When he submerged, he was just like a submarine, and in the murky brown water you couldn’t tell he was there….. Scary stuff!!!! We were told this river was good for Barrimundi fishing and also had large bull sharks in it, so definitely not a swimming destination LOL.

We continued meandering up the river and saw numerous regulars (like Lenny the old guy and Knucklehead) plus a croc mum Sofie and some of her brood. We also saw a few new crocs who had moved into the territory recently and didn’t have names yet and were pushing Lenny further and further up the river away from his favourite females. The males fight very hard for their territory plus to keep their females to themselves so a number of them had battle scars and missing teeth from head butts and bites. As we motored around the guide kept up a really interesting commentary of crocs habits. We certainly didn’t know that they were so territorial, would eat each other’s babies, and didn’t eat much when it was cold. We were told that winter was the best time to visit the crocs here in Queensland as they spent a lot of their time on the mud banks of the rivers to increase their body heat whereas in the summer, when the water temperatures are higher, they spent more time just lazing around in the water. We saw loads of crocs ranging from babies to two-year olds to adult males and females…..some more concerned about our presence than others. Was amazing!!!

We then headed back to the camp and had a BBQ lunch which had been prepared whilst we were on the river. Was lovely with loads of choice and even seconds….

Then we headed out into the bush on the train safari…..

We admired the wetlands, lots of birds, and even cows. The cows are of Indian heritage as they are a hardier breed for the tropical conditions here in Queensland. We were introduced to lots of plants and were told about their many uses, including medicinal ones, and husbandry of the land using fire. Oh yes and a few critters including ants which are sometimes used as flavouring in food – yuck! – and a couple of shy wallabies.

Back to the camp and this time it was for afternoon billy can tea and damper (a sweetish bread with a consistency of a scone). Was absolutely delicious.

While we were eating that the ranger came across a python so pulled it out of the bush for us to have a look at before placing him carefully back on the rock where he had been sunning himself.

Finally it was time to leave so we said our thanks to the guys before we headed back on the bus to our apartment.

We went straight to Woolworths to do some shopping (for picnic lunches) and then headed back up the hill and enjoyed a quiet night in having watched the sun go down on our balcony. Had been an absolutely great day.

Saturday morning we headed out with our picnic to the lagoon. This is a salt water man-made lagoon. There aren’t too many tourists around so, although the area (which is free to use) had limited numbers allowed there wasn’t any issues with that. We made up camp on the grass overlooking both the beach and the anchorage, and settled down to enjoy the sun.

The wind picked up later on so we headed back to the pool area of our apartments to get some shelter. Later on, after dinner, we headed out for a few drinks and tried the Maka Bar which has great views but was way too young and too noisy for us. So we quickly moved back to The Pub which is our favourite. And there was live music too – really good fun! Before we came back to the apartment I tried my hand at the Pokies (casino slot machines) but I didn’t do very well so won’t be trying that again anytime soon.

Sunday we headed back to the lagoon in the morning. We enjoyed lazing around and having our picnic before we headed back to The Pub to listen to the live band in the afternoon. They actually weren’t that good so we only sat there for about an hour before heading back to our apartment for another quiet night in. I also did some laundry…..

Monday morning we headed to the GSL Aviation office where we waited for everyone to arrive. They even had a decorative wall dedicated to the famous Heart Reef of the Great Barrier Reef which we hoped to see.

We were then taken to the airport to meet our pilot. We were issued with life jackets (that we had to wear around our waist) and then we boarded our Cessna 208B Grand Caravan plane and were seated in row four with the layout meaning that everyone had a window seat.

We took off and admired the coastal scenery, the Whitsunday islands, the silica beaches, the fancy resorts and then the Great Barrier Reef and our glimpse of the world-famous Heart Reef. We even saw whales playing in the waters below and have to admit to a twinge of jealousy watching the boats out there sailing in this beautiful place. What a fantastic experience and so glad we did it. Wow, just wow! The photos really don’t do it justice.

We even got a shot of Airlie Beach from the air as we headed back to the Whitsunday Coast airport at Prosperpine.

Back to our apartment we chilled out on our balcony before having dinner. Then we headed to The Pub again for a few drinks before turning in for the night.

This morning, Tuesday, and it is a cloudy day here so we’ve set up camp by the pool (without anybody else around again) and I’m blogging while Richard is reading….. Don’t expect we’ll do much more than this today. Having a great time here in Airlie Beach. Stay safe everyone and take care.

Bye for now