Mission Beach, Townsville and The Whitsunday Islands!
How ya goin'? All is well with the world travellers...we have had a busy time since we arrived in Queensland...some of the best days of our trip so far, in fact! It just keeps getting better all the time...
From Townsville, we headed north, stopping along the way for some yummy homemade ice cream at the Frosty Mango...our drive took us past sugar cane and bananna plantations and we knew that we had finally reached the tropical north of Australia. We stopped our first night in Cardwell - a quiet town with a lovely beachfront and pier - but no swimming due to the presence of crocodiles! We had a quiet night here and headed further north the next day to Mission Beach. We hadn't even planned to stay here, but when we saw the nearly-deserted beach with a view of Dunk Island in the distance, we knew it would be a great place to relax for a few days. Boy, were we right! We got to stay in the town caravan park for $13/night and it was a 30 second walk to the beach! We spent most of the day lounging on the beach and venturing into the shallow, clear blue ocean. We needed some beach time after all of that driving! We had a lovely walk along the beach at sunset and decided that it was so nice we would stay another night. The next day we spent the morning at the beach and the afternoon exploring the local area. We went wine tasting at Murdering Point Winery (intruiging name, eh?) that produces only fruit wines - mango, passionfruit, lychee, lemon aspen, plum, and mulburry port. Passionfruit was our fav so we bought a bottle for that night's dinner...after that we headed out to an interesting tourist attraction...Paronella Park. It was built in the early part of last century by a Spanish man who wanted to recreate some castles that he remembered from his home country. He did a lot of the construction himself and it was quite a job. There were waterfalls, tennis courts and bamboo forests created - sort of a wonderland in the middle of a tropical rainforest. It fell into disrepair in the 1970's and 80's and was bought and partly restored in the late '90's. Now, you can do a self-guided or guided tour around the park and check out the ruins of the old castle as well as lots of interesting flora and fauna (mostly turtles and fish). We had a nice afternoon walking around and trying to avoid the other tourists...
We took a drive to a secluded beach at a place called Etty Bay after that. It was a lovely small place and we even spotted the endangered cassowary on the beach. They are a large bird, related to the ostrich and the emu. Quite interesting, I must say. We had seen several signs on the roads warning of their possible crossing, but we only saw one on the beach. We headed back to Mission Beach for a few drinks in a local bar and another stroll on the beach under the stars...what paradise!
The next day we headed down to Townsville and spent the afternoon shopping in the Flinders outdoor Mall and walking along the Strand - a lovely strip along the waterfront with a walking path that overlooks Magnetic Island (Maggie Island as the locals say). That evening, we met up with some friends of mine from James Cook University and had a great time hanging out with them. We got to drink lots of homebrew at my friend Andrew's house with himself and his lovely wife Jenn and then went our for some more drinks with my friend Jody (from MBARI). Jody introduced us to some of his friends, including one guy who was heading off to Greenland to lead tours the next morning. We had dinner at a local Italian restaurant and then it was back to Andrew's house for some more homebrew. A great night out with some locals - the best way to really get to know a place, I find.
The next day we had brekky with Andrew and Jenn and they sent us off with loads of mangos from the tree in their backyard. It was a great stay and we wished we had longer but the Whitsunday Islands were calling us...
We drove down to Airlie Beach that day and spent the afternoon arranging and booking a tour to the Whitsunday Islands. We settled on a 3 day/2night sailing cruise on a 47 foot long sailing vessel called Prima. We chose this because of the small number of other passengers (10 passengers and 2 crew total) and the fact that it was leaving the next day. We went off and did a bit of shopping for the cruise (sunsreen, beach towels, more books, snacks, anti-seasickness meds and alcohol were all on our list of things to buy) and then booked in to a local caravan park that agreed to store our van while we were away for free!
I don't have time to do justice to our cruise right now, but suffice it to say that we had an absolutely amazing time and the group and the crew were really wonderful. We did it all including fishing, snorkelling, a bush walk, SCUBA diving, sailing, relaxing on the beach and partying. We saw some spectacular sights and did some great sailing and the very best part was seeing Mike snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef - quite a feat for someone who doesn't swim. He took to it like a fish and was the first one in the water and the last one our of the water on every snorkel! I had to see it to believe it myself - but he did so well. I was extremely proud of him and he really loved it. The reef itself was quite amazing and I was lucky enough to join up with a dive boat and do a SCUBA dive from a place called Hayman Island on the last day of the cruise.
We are now in Hervey Bay and have booked in for a 2 day/1 night tour of Fraser Island starting tomorrow, so we will have to finish our update of the Whitsundays after we get back...there are so many more stories to tell!
Hope this finds you all well...please know that we are thinking of you all and we've got loads more postcards to send - so keep an eye out!
We have less than 2 weeks left in Australia now so we are going to try to live each day to the max...
Take care and enjoy!