Great Barrier Reef flight and Whitsunday Islands

One of the highlights of my trip to Australia was definitely Airlie Beach. We took an overnight bus from Bargara to Airlie Beach, which was a 10 hour journey, but I slept pretty well on the bus and was able to lay down. We arrived to our destination at around 9 AM, and our hostel was only about a 10 minute walk from the bus stop, so we lugged our belongings and rocked up to our hostel looking a bit exhausted. They let us check in early, so we unpacked a bit and got ready for the day. Our plan was to relax a little and walk around the town. This town was definitely more happening compared to Bargara, which was mostly an older crowd. Airlie is the hub to get to the Whitsunday Islands, and it had many hostels, bars, and restaurants. 

We were pretty hungry when we arrived so we found a cafe to have breakfast. I had an amazing avocado toast and peanut butter smoothie, which were both delicious. The food in Australia was pretty healthy and fresh, I was loving it and definitely can see myself living there someday. After breakfast we decided to go find a nice beach to lay at. But we were shocked by just how hot it was there, we were dripping sweat, as it was both hot and humid. When we got to the beach we read signs about how swimming isn’t recommended unless you are fully covered due to some deadly jellyfish that come in this area during the summer. We decided not to risk death, but were pleasantly surprised to find out that they have a huge pool and lagoon area built next to the beach for this exact purpose, and for free! We had a great morning tanning and cooling off in the pool.

There was a restaurant near the pool where we had a late lunch, and I was super happy to have another amazing veggie burger. Following lunch, we walked all around Airlie Beach, finding walking paths along the sea. The landscape here is beautiful, with mountains sloping into the sea. It sort of reminded me of Kaneohe back home in Oahu. It was extremely hot and humid, so we were both pretty dead after walking a few miles so we returned back to the pool to cool off and relax before walking to the mainstreet where we got some ice cream and went to Woolworths. Since living in Saudi Arabia, I have really enjoyed grocery shopping in other countries, as the grocery selection in Saudi is very limited so I love seeing all the yummy vegan options. We bought some vegan yogurt and granola for our breakfasts while staying in Airlie. There was also an alcohol store nearby and I was in awe of all the options and flavored seltzers. Obviously there is no alcohol in Saudi so I haven’t really drank much in the last five years. We got some canned strawberry gin and tonics that were so good. For dinner we ate at an Italian place near our hostel, it had raving reviews online. We were pretty exhausted at this point so we went to bed early for an exciting early morning.

The next morning we had a 6 AM pickup from our hostel. We boarded a shuttle bus that brought us to a little airport nearby. We had a quick briefing and then we were led out to a tiny 10 person plane for our scenic ride over the Great Barrier Reefs. We did a package deal with a company called Ocean Rafting for $365AUS ($280US) which included a full day’s adventure and I recommend it 100%. The flight was one hour long and it was so beautiful. First, we flew directly out to the great barrier reef which had some stunning blue waters and gorgeous reefs. A very famous viewpoint on this trip is the heart shaped reef, which lived up to the hype because it was so dang beautiful. I loved seeing the patterns of the reef, nature is so gorgeous. Afterwards we flew over the Whitsunday Islands, which are famous for the beautiful white beaches. The islands themselves were stunning and mountainous and very green.

Great Barrier Reef
Heart reef
Whitehaven beach

The Ocean Rafting company was so good and efficient, they have loads of people using their company every day so they have it down to a science. After the flight we were shuttled to the marina in Airlie Beach where we signed in and got on our raft. There were two options, one did more snorkeling and the other had more beach time. Of course we went with the snorkeling adventure. I loved the “raft” because it went super fast so we could spend more time out at sea. The captain and crew were great, and we jammed to some good music on our way to the snorkeling site. Apparently, it was more windy than usual so we had some larger waves but to be honest I didn’t think it was really that bad. We went to two snorkeling spots where we saw some beautiful soft corals, but because of the waves, the visibility wasn’t amazing. We also had to be fully covered due to the stingers, so the whole time I was paranoid my forehead or hands would be stung but fortunately we were both fine! 

After snorkeling at two sites we went to the Whitsunday Islands where we did a hike up to the most scenic lookout you could imagine. The sun was out and the water was a striking blue and the sand was beautiful and white. Apparently this is one of the most photographed beaches in the world, and I can definitely see why. I was so happy we came here, it definitely exceeded my expectations. There were several boardwalks with different views, each more stunning than the next.

Lookout to Whitehaven Beach

Our last stop was down below to the beach we were just admiring, where ee had a delicious lunch. Our day package included lunch, so we ate on the beach as fast as we could so we could get back into the sea. Next to where the boat anchored there were loads of stingrays that we wanted to see. I grabbed my snorkel mask and saw dozens of these amazing stingrays that were hanging out in the shallows. We also walked along to the next beach where we had a little photoshoot with the stunning beach in the background. This was probably one of my favorite days in Australia, we were so happy and thriving in the sunshine.

Living my best life

We had a bumpy but fun boat ride back to Airlie Beach, and decided to take a dip in the pool to get all of the salt and sand off of us. We then headed to the hostel for a shower before heading to a Mexican food truck for some veggie burritos. We had yet another pretty early night so we could check out the next morning and catch a bus to our next destination.

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