The Whitsundays, a large collection of islands off the east coast of Australia are a famous destination for tourists and sailors alike. There are hundreds of idyllic beaches and coves dotted around the islands, and a good number of resorts as well. Though you can rent your own sailing ship to tour the islands, we decided we'd have more fun letting more qualified sailors do the work!
We booked a three day / three night trip on the Solway Lass and were as taken by her as with the islands. Originally built in Holland, the Lass has had an exciting life that includes serving in both world wars as well as trading throughout the South Pacific. She moved to the Whitsundays about 10 years ago and was renovated for the tourism industry. That means her quarters were reasonably comfortable (with a decent AC system) but not up to the quality of our cabins on our Great Barrier Reef diving trip.
We had a great time. The first day was rainy which unfortunately didn't make for the best snorkeling conditions but we still saw plenty of marine life. Just as fun was the rope swing and diving off the bow, our boys couldn't get enough. The crew were always friendly and took good care of us. The second and third days were beautifully sunny and included island exploration, esp. the famous Whitehaven Beach, voted one of the top ten beaches in the world.
Perhaps the nicest aspect of the trip was the great company we had on board: a Danish bartender, British-Kiwi affiliate marketeers, a US investment banker, a German Nightwish groupie, a Brazilian environmental engineer... We loved getting to know everyone.
- Book well in advance, at least a month or two to make sure you get the cabin you want
- The snorkeling gear onboard is OK but they don't have flippers, bring your own if that really matters to you
- There's very little space on board so pack lightly. The good news is that you don't need much
- Bring a few dry snacks (cookies, chocs, chips) in case you get peckish between meals (esp. if you have children)
- Don't forget your sunscreen!
- Have dinner before you board, your first on the ship is at 10PM that night
- You can leave your car parked in the marina lot, it was pretty safe
- Consider booking a room in or around Airlie Beach for the night of your return