Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef

Airlie Beach

We were in Airlie Beach for a week, and started this visit with a BANG!

It was all thanks to our beautiful friend Ange that a bunch of us gals ended up spending three nights in a luxury penthouse perched on a hill in the stunning location of Airlie Beach for her birthday!

We spent our time in the spa drinking bubbles, eating seafood, cheese platters and catching up on lost time. 

view looking back to five girls in infinity pool at accommodation
birds eye view of five girls in infinity pool
half over half under shot of four girls in pool
five girls in infinity pool overlooking airlie beach marina
five cockatoos sitting on table
five girls on balcony overlooking airlie beach
Airlie beach aerial view at nighttime

It was school holidays during this time and there happened to be a half price special on the Jet Skis. We went with Ocean Dynamics at the Port of Airlie, Amy and I halved a Jet Ski so it was only $45 each.

After we were fitted with rash shirts and lifejackets, we were given a quick briefing at the office before heading down to the Jet Skis. We had a fantastic time out on the water, the weather was a little gloomy but that didn’t matter one bit.

We headed out of the Port and straight over to a beautiful Mediterranean Mansion on the edge of the bay to practise some basic manoeuvres. We then played follow the leader, weaving in and out of boats all the way to the other side of the bay where we done some turtle spotting and had a bit of fun zig-zagging with the guide. We had an hour out on the Jet Skis before heading back for a pub feed with the girls.

two girls on a jetski
hand signal on jetski
girls on jetski getting drenched by another jetski
two girls on jetski

Our three days with the girls ended but Amy and I decided to stick around for a few more days to explore the Whitsundays and The Great Barrier Reef.

The Whitsundays

It was quite overwhelming trying to pick a tour as there are way too many options to choose from, so we just walked into a couple of different places such as the local hostel and information centre, just to see what they recommended.

We narrowed it down to wanting to see Hill Inlet & Whitehaven Beach, and a must-do was a scenic flight over the islands and reef.

We were originally looking at the tour company Rafting Adventures as they had won quite a few of awards, but there was a deal running with another company Red Cat Adventures which paired with a scenic flight with GSL Aviation, saved us a bit of money, and as we are bargain hunters – we couldn’t go past it!

We also chose to go with Red Cat Adventures because even though they don’t visit the Southern end of Whitehaven Beach (only the Northern End), they spend more time at Hill Inlet which was more important to us. 

The day trip with Red Cat Adventures included two snorkelling spots as well as a visit to Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet which were our main point of interests. 

It cost us $381 pp (we saved $27 and received a buffet lunch included in the deal), for a full day tour with Red Cat Adventures and a 60 minute Reef and Island Scenic Flight with GSL Aviation, and we chose to do them on separate days so we could enjoy both without having such a big day squeezing in a flight on our tour day.

So first up was our day trip with Red Cat Adventures, we met at Abell Point Marina for an 8.30am check-in and wetsuit fitting. They do have a pick-up service but we were able to drive ourselves. Included in the price is all snorkelling equipment, meals and snacks.

Our awesome guides were Mick and JJ, who were very informative and entertaining.

We departed at 9am and were given a quick briefing on the boat and handed a 30L waterproof bag each for our belongings, as everything on the boat gets wet. The boat is a custom-built catamaran for stability and comfort in the Whitsunday conditions, and there is also a toilet on board. They play music on the trip over which helps pass the time even though it was a quick trip out to our first location on Hook Island, the second largest island in the Whitsundays after Whitsunday island.

Depending on the tides they will either do the snorkelling spots first or Whitehaven and Hill Inlet. On our way to our first location we were given morning tea – some delicious home-made gluten free brownies, what a great start to the tour!

Our first location was a coral snorkelling spot. We already had our wetsuits on so upon arrival we put our flippers/mask and snorkel on and jumped straight in. Sadly, we noticed there was quite a bit of coral bleaching in this area and not much colour unfortunately, but still fun to explore.

half over half under shot of girl snorkelling reef
half over half underwater shot snorkelling reef

We had about 30 minutes in the water before we boarded and went to the next spot which was about 10 minutes away at Manta Ray Bay. We also had a quick stop in at Wrasse Bay to check out the cool rock cliffs. This snorkel spot was incredible for the fish – our expectations were blown out of the water. As soon as we arrived we noticed huge Black Trevally swarming the surface and it was quite overwhelming but exciting at the same time. We were quick to suit up and jump in to get the most out of our time in the water.

This spot was INCREDIBLE! There were fish absolutely everywhere, you couldn’t look anywhere without seeing a school of fish. We would be snorkelling one minute and the next minute feel fish food pellets hitting our head and watching all of them swarm towards us and our camera. 

There were heaps of Giant Trevally and Humphead Maori Wrasse including local Wrasse George who was humungous and super friendly.

We were in the water for roughly 30 minutes and we didn’t want to get out – it was such an exhilarating experience.

lots of blue and yellow fish with a blue humphead maori wrasse

After boarding the boat, we wrapped our towels around us and prepared for ‘The Washing Machine’ – a particularly rough section in between the islands on the Eastern side of the Whitsundays to get us from Hook Island down to Tongue Bay.

It took about 15 minutes to get down to Tongue Bay, it was a fast and thrilling experience with a few splashes in between and the skipper even let us have a quick go at steering the boat!

We arrived at the beautiful and calm Tongue Bay where we anchored for a tasty buffet lunch of salads, buns, cold meats and quiche onboared. You can BYO alcohol but no red wine or glass, there are also cans of soft drink and bottles of water for purchase at $2 each.

We then pulled up to the beach for a group photo before following JJ for a guided bushwalk to the Hill Inlet Lookout.

We are given free time (roughly an hour) to explore both Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet Lookout, we spent most of our time at the lookout taking in the beauty of the magnificent swirling sands and then made our way down to Whitehaven at the latest possible time before heading back to the boat.

The iconic swirling sands of Hill Inlet is based on the northern end of Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. The colour of the water changes from turquoise to blue green when the tide changes.

Whitehaven Beach is unlike many other beaches, 7km long of pure 98% white silica sand, so powdery soft and perfect, no wonder it is the most photographed beach in the world. 

After a full day of snorkelling and sightseeing one of the most beautiful locations we have ever seen, we were back on the boat heading home and were given delicious fruit kebabs for afternoon tea.

Arriving back at 5pm we said goodbye to our tour group and leaders and walked back to the van. We were very happy with this tour as we could spend a decent amount of time at the locations we wanted, the fantastic snorkelling experience with the fish at Manta Ray Bay is something we will never forget, and our guides JJ & Mick made the day with their good sense of humour and making sure everyone had the best experience possible. 

girl overlooking hill inlet whitsundays
girl sitting down taking a photo of hill inlet whitsundays
girl right aligned overlooking swirling sands of hill inlet whitsundays
view from behind girl overlooking hill inlet whitsundays

The Great Barrier Reef

Scenic Flight

The next day we were super excited for our Reef and Island scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef with GSL Aviation. We made our way to the Whitsunday Airport at 8.30am, half hour early for check-in, then we watched a short safety video in the waiting room.

The pilot came in and introduced himself before collecting our group and walking to the tarmac and plane located just outside of the office. The plane is a fixed, high wing 7-seater with guaranteed windows for everyone. 

Lockers were available to put our valuables in and then we jumped on the tarmac ready to board. I sat in the front seat and Amy in the back, we buckled up and before we knew it we were off!

A smooth take-off started our 60-minute journey, firstly taking us out over the Whitsundays, covering most of the 74 islands including Hamilton Island and Hook Island where we had visited the day before. Our pilot provided us with an in-fight commentary, informing us of the name of each island and general information on the Whitsundays.

We then flew over the picturesque Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet – this was an unbelievable sight to see, the swirling sands of Hill Inlet were more of a green-y colour as the tide was lower, and to see how the swirl starts small and winds its way out to the ocean.

Such a fantastic experience being able to see it from above and know that the day before we were right down in it, the perspective is incredible!

We flew over Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet twice, on either side of the plane so everyone had the opportunity to see the beauty from above and capture it on camera.

We then made our way out to the Great Barrier Reef which was a 15-minute journey, and a great opportunity for whale spotting as the season was upon us.

Right as we approached the reef Amy did spot two whales just beside the reef which was amazing.

Seeing this natural phenomenon in real life with our own eyes – something that is seen from space – we just can’t find the words to describe the feeling.

The reef is so vast, mind-blowing and unique. All the coral patterns and depth of water shows off every single shade of blue, green, turquoise, we have never seen anything like it and flying over the famous Heart Reef amongst Hardy Reef was spectacular too. 

We both agreed this flight was something we will have to do again in our life, this cannot just be a once in a lifetime opportunity – we will happily pay to do it all over again!

One thing we would do differently (especially being photographers), is do a helicopter flight instead, as the windows on the plane were rounded and a little scratched so our cameras would pick up on this, although you can still see out fine out.

aerial photo of hamilton island runway through the clouds
aerial view of hill inlet swirling sands from plane
aerial view of hill inlet whitsundays
view over whitsunday islands
view of hill inlet from plane
aerial view of hidden bay in whitsundays
heart reef in great barrier reef aerial view
great barrier reef aerial view
aerial view of great barrier reef meeting ocean with sail boat
two seaplanes on great barrier reef sheltered from open ocean
aerial view of great barrier reef from plane

Our week in Airlie Beach has been such a highlight on our trip, with the relaxing penthouse getaway with the girls, the jet-skis, day trip out to the islands and lastly seeing the place from above – we couldn’t have done it better!

Until next time,

The MOOSKi Twins

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