After finishing up my Fraser Island expedition I spent one more night in Noosa and hit the road early the next morning to catch my flight to Airlie Beach out of Brisbane.
The travel agent I booked my sailboat trip through let me know that I was only allowed one small duffle bag with no zippers aboard the sailboat, so it would be wise to just store my large backpack in the airport lockers for the three nights I would be in Airlie Beach and on the sailboat. At first I didn’t like the idea of leaving my valuable possessions in a foreign airport’s locker, but this ended up being a very good idea. I was able to get on and off the plane carrying just my small duffle and I saved money on checking luggage (because my backpack was so large all domestic flights required me to check it).
Long story short, my original sailboat tour on Condor was cancelled right before I took off out of Brisbane, but my travel agent was able to call around and book me on a boat equally as nice leaving the same day as originally planned. I also almost missed my flight because I was at the international airport (thanks Uber) but because I had stored my luggage I was able to make my flight at the domestic airport just in time.
Airlie Beach (1 night):
Accommodation: Nomads Airlie Beach Hostel (private room)
Looking back I really should have saved myself about $60 AUD and booked a shuttle, but once I landed I considered this option “too late” as I was in a rush to get to my hostel, eat and go to bed. I felt my body weakening and knew that I needed rest asap, so I jumped in the first cab that I saw. I was happy to find out that my driver was a fisherman who had lived in Airlie Beach for over 20 years. He told me that the best seafood in town was a little place called Fish D’vine & The Rum Bar and it was just a short walk from my hostel. I am a sucker for fresh seafood, (when it’s cooked right), so I went.
My entree at Fish D’vine was the Oven Baked Coral Trout and it was absolutely outstanding. The service was some of the best I had in Australia and there were so many great options on the menu it was hard to chose. I’m sure their Rum Bar was great too, but I was not drinking that night.
After dinner I went straight back to my hostel’s private room, which also had a private bathroom.
This hostel had a lot of character and had a bohemian vibe to it. I opted for a private room because I knew that the following two nights would consist of me being crammed into close quarters on a sailboat with 20 strangers. I reveled in the privacy and received a good night’s rest.
The next morning I woke up feeling a little better, but still not 100%. I was craving healthy foods, so I Googled “best acai bowl in Airlie Beach” and Cafe One 3 popped up. I cannot remember the name of my bow, but I ordered the only bowl with peanut butter on top and it was incredible. Just to give you an idea of how good it was: I have been in Bali for over a week now and they are famous for their smoothie bowls, yet I still have yet to encounter a bowl quite as delicious as the one I ordered at Cafe One 3. Everything I saw come out their kitchen looked fresh and full of color. If I lived in Airlie Beach I would probably be there every single day. Seriously.
Sailboat Excursion on The Boomerang (2 nights)
Finally, it was time to go on the sailboat trip of a lifetime. Like I said, my first trip was cancelled, but luckily a very similar sailboat had a spot left. I came to find out that this sailboat was quite legendary and was named The Boomerang. The crew just called it “Boomerang”. At one point in time, Boomerang the fastest sailboat in the world. It was a famous racing boat that came in first place in The World Maxi Series Race and has since been converted into a passenger boat.
Our captain’s name was “Turtle” and he reminded me of a younger Australian version of actor Bill Nighy when he plays Billy Mack in the film Love Actually. This is very specific, but I promise it is accurate. I even cleared it with the other passengers and they all agreed it was spot on. If you haven’t seen the movie, here is a clip of the character that I am referring to. Now, imagine this man being the Captain of the boat you are riding on through foreign seas for 3 days. Epic.
As soon as we were assigned our bunks by Corey, our ~19-year old “host”, Captain Turtle gave us a funny safety briefing. He said to keep your sunnies on at all times so that if we crashed you could be by the flames and still look cool for the footage that would be on the news. He said things like, “give it up for Corey, your host, who will be cooking all your delicious meals. But really, give it up for me because if I didn’t show up today you all wouldn’t leave the marina.” It was definitely funnier in person with his thick Australian accent and heady hand gestures. Later that evening he shared some ridiculous X-rated stories from other trips. He had us all laughing so hard we were in tears.
I don’t have too many pictures from this trip for two reasons: (1.) My phone was stolen in Bali and most of my pictures were on there (luckily I had uploaded my favorites to my laptop already) and (2.) Our boat looked like the below picture most of the time, so I kept my phone in the cabin in hopes of not losing it overboard…. a Bali robbery made for a much better story anyways. More about that in my Indonesia blog in a few weeks.
The above picture is one that I borrowed from a travel agency, but it is the same boat and exactly how we would be seated while in motion. All of us passengers would sit on the high point of the boat with our legs over the edge just enough so that our calves would help us grip the side of the boat in order to prevent us from sliding off the other side. See the people seated on the right side of the boat in the picture below for an example.
I was shocked at how delicious all of our meals were. Our young host, Corey, really knocked it out of the park. There wasn’t a single meal that I didn’t enjoy and we even had things like appetizers, coffee, tea and dessert every single day. Most meals I even went back for seconds and thirds.
“Things that bite come out at night.”This was something that the crew reiterated to us over and over again so that drunk people didn’t jump in the ocean. No amount of liquid courage would give me the guts to do that.
The first night on the boat I woke up at around 1:00am because I was hot and someone had rolled over on the cell phone that was connected to the boat’s bluetooth so the music turned back on. It was not music one can sleep through, so I gave up on sleep and walked up to the deck. I’m so glad this happened because what I saw and experienced in the pitch dark of night in the middle of the sea was absolutely breathtaking. The stars were insanely bright and (besides the techno music playing) it was very peaceful. Unfortunately it started to rain, so I went back down to my bunk. Luckily, this commotion woke up the person responsible for the music turning back on and he turned it off. I didn’t wake up again until sunrise.
Day two was the day we had all been waiting for: Whitehaven Beach. This beach should really be called WhiteHeaven Beach. Whitehaven beach is home to the purest white silica sand in the entire world. The sand consists of 98% silica so it literally feels like you are walking on flour. It is also very good for your skin, hair and teeth, (it is just slightly purer than the sand I scrubbed with at Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island). If you get caught taking any of this sand from the beach you will be smacked with a hefty on the spot fine of $10,000 AUD.
The water on Whitehaven Beach was crystal clear. It was also the perfect temperature. I have never experienced a more perfect beach in my life!
This is a view of Whitehaven Beach from one of the many viewpoints on the island. I took this with my iPhone 7 (RIP). The mystical sand swirls in the center of this bay are constantly changing due to the strong currents, therefore, this view looks different ever single day. This bay is very protected and boats are not even allowed to cruise through here. This means that in order to access this beach you have to anchor at a bay on the opposite side of the island and take a skiff to shore then walk through a trail to the heavenly beach. Despite many beach restorations and regulations it is expected that this gorgeous beach will not survive another 20 years, so go see it while it’s still there.
After we departed Whitehaven Beach we went to Hayman Island to do some snorkeling. There were a few other groups there, so it was a little crowded, but otherwise pretty enjoyable. I tried to teach two young English lads, Harry and Jack, how to equalize underwater so that they could free dive to deeper depths, but I’m afraid I was unsuccessful. They had a GoPro on them, so they asked me to use it to get some good footage at the depths that they weren’t able to reach. Most of the fish worth seeing were way down there because all of the snorkelers on top were scaring them down deeper. I was about 6-7 years older than most of the people on this boat, so I found myself giving advice and sharing life experiences to the youngens more than once. The most meaningful conversation I had was probably when I was having a drink with two intelligent and soon-to-be college graduate girls. I let them know how old I was and how I had already done the whole grown up thing of buying a house, having a career, living with a boyfriend, kicking that boyfriend out of my house and then selling said house. Their exact words: “Wow, you’ve like already lived a whole life”. I let them now that while it may seem to them like life is about to get less fun and more scary that that is not true. I told them that life only got better for me after college and that having a full-time job can be rewarding in terms of finance, freedom and purpose. “You will finally have money to do whatever you want. You can become independent of your parents and do whatever you want, whenever you want – well as long as you can get off work. Etc, etc.” They both breathed a huge sigh of relief and it made me feel old, but accomplished.
That night we anchored in Stone Haven Bay by the very exclusive Intercontinental Hayman Island Resort. Turtle told us that this resort costs $1300 AUD per person, per night. I’m not sure if this is true, but that’s what he said. That night I was finally feeling 100% health-wise, so I joined the young and energetic group in some drinking games. I really showed my age in “Never Have I Ever”…. The funniest moment in this particular game was when one girl said, “Never have I ever slept with a ginger.” She then turned to look at the British lad, Harry (who was a ginger) and said “Sorry.” He quipped back “well maybe we can change that tonight.” Simultaneously the entire boat bellowed with laughter.
Being the old broads on the boat, Chess and I called it a night early and woke up feeling good. Chess and I enjoyed breakfast with the group and then did some yoga together on the bow of the boat before we departed Stone Haven Bay. I had never done yoga on a boat before, but I would imagine that the slight rocking of the boat would challenge even the most advanced yogis. It was still a great little workout and one of the best yoga setting I’ve ever experienced.
In just two nights and three days we sailed over 205 kms / 127 miles. Once we got to shore everyone exchanged info and said their goodbyes. We packed up our bags and began our walk back into the adorable beach town of Airlie Beach.
Chess and I quickly realized that we had at least 5+ hours to kill before we left town and we desperately needed a real shower. All I had had for the last three days were 2 minute showers with a faucet hose and I wanted to feel fully cleansed before boarding my flight back to Brisbane. Not to mention, I knew that as soon as I landed in Brisbane I would be heading straight to my friend Sarah’s for a night out on the town. (Sarah is a Scottish girl who I met in New Zealand who was living in Brisbane and offered me a room in her apartment that night). Luckily, the two Canadian girls, Taylor and Maggee, were checking into their hostel at Magnums Backpackers and offered Chess and I their shower. I never thought I would be so damn excited to take a shower in a hostel, but it was incredible. Thank you again Taylor and Maggee!
Side note: before heading to Magnums I ran into two of my German friends from Fraser Island: Nina and Benno. What a small world it is.
After my shower, I grabbed a fresh squeezed juice from Boost, jumped on the shuttle to the airport that I had arranged on day one and took off for Brisbane. Yes, I somehow had the energy to go bar-hopping with my Scottish friend Sarah and her wide-variety of international friends in Brisbane that night. I know, I’m amazing… just kidding. But seriously, I was pretty impressed with myself.
Stay tuned for more on Australia and Indonesia in the coming weeks.