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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sailing the Whitsundays in Australia

I've been to Australia four times in my life (and now live here) and the Whitsundays have always evaded me.  So when my two friends came to visit me and suggested a sailing trip I jumped at the chance.  It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  Here are the highlights and tips for your trip!

First off, you must SAIL the Whitsundays.  Think of Airlie Beach as a one day stopover on your way to the ocean.

Here are the most main things to know in planning:

  • The majority of boats are 2D/2N.
  • The largest number of them are Thursday to Saturday so plan for that if you want the most options.  The party boats especially fall into this timeframe. 
  • The boats leave as early as noon so plan to come in the night before your boat departs just to be safe.  
  • The boats usually come back around noon as well so you could fly out that night but it's tradition for your crew so all go out and party together in Airlie Beach so you might want to consider staying the night.
  • Make sure to print out the confirmation email and bring with you to check-in for your boat.
  • I booked through Sailing Whitsundays.  They had impeccable service and a great web chat option for those trying to book from overseas.  They also arranged airport transport for me.
  • We went on Wings.  It was a VERY nice catamaran with plenty of room.  It was clean, the staff was awesome and the food was delicious.  They definitely keep you fed.  It is primarily a snorkeling boat though not a party boat.  If you are looking for a party boat you will sacrifice cleanliness and space. Totally up to you.  The Atlantic Clipper seemed to be the party boat everyone talked about.  

  •  You can only bring a tiny squishy bag so be prepared.  All the rest of your stuff I suggest checking at the place you booked the boat.
  • Can't bring glass on the boat and it is BYOB so make sure you have time to stop at the bottle shop to get liquor.  There is ice on the boat but it doesn't keep things very cold so be aware.
  • Nomads Airlie Beach - For a night or two this place was great value, clean, safe, etc.  It's on the main strip close enough to the action but far enough on the end to retreat from the party.  I was there during low season so wasn't really an issue.  If you have the option try and stay in a 6 or 8-man room near the pool.
  • They don't have lockers in the rooms so bring the least amount of valuables possible although it seemed really safe.  We had great people in our room so you just have to read the situation for yourself.  You can always keep valuables at the front desk worse case.

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Then once you arrive in Airlie Beach here are some suggestions/recommendations (you definitely don't need more than one full day in Airlie):

  • Beaches Backpackers bar has an awesome $15 special for a solid plate of delicious food (burgers, chicken curry, etc) and a beer.  Good atmosphere as well and gets pretty packed.

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  • Beaches was good for a beer as well but starts to empty eventually.
  • Mama Africa - I wasn't terribly impressed with the nightlife although again it was a Thursday night and the off season so maybe that had something to do with it.  The only place that was going off was this place with some great house and hip hop.  And they had jello shots.  Take me back to uni... I'm sold.

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  • Phoenix bar was also really fun.  The music could be a little better but the crowd was having a ball which totally gets you in the mood to dance.  I'd hit this up and then go to Mama Africa late night.

Photo Credit: Phoenix Facebook page

  • Beachworx - I highly recommend.  It had great quality clothes for reasonable prices and a steal of a sales rack.  Everywhere else in Airlie is super cheap quality stuff that looks tacky.

And lastly... be prepared for some of the best snorkeling, diving and scenery of your life.  

 Airlie Beach Lagoon

 Airlie Beach Lagoon

 Walk to Abell Point Marina from downtown Airlie Beach

 Sailing Whitsundays


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