Sail away with me…
To The Whitsunday islands!
The Whitsundays – 74 island wonders located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
Being the flashpacker I am, I didn’t want to be put on one of the 18-35 party boats that cram 20-30+ people on it and notoriously drink pretty heavily the whole time. After doing the research, I decided on a catamaran over a sailing boat – however for those that do want to do a party sailing trip style boat, the big 4 most popular are: Boomerang, British Defender, Broomstick and Samari.
(Full list of popular sailing party boats for 18-35’s can be found here)
TIP: If you want to get on a specific boat i.e. the Clipper party boat, don’t leave it until last minute in peak season because they are sold out for weeks in advance! I highly suggest as soon as you know you are going to Queensland backpacking this is one of the first things you do your research on and make sure you book at least 2-3 months ahead if you want to ensure you get on a boat around the time you want, as the waiting lists out of Airlie were a good 10-14 days if you had just turned up expecting to get on a boat within a few days’ time.
I decided to book a space on catamaran PowerPlay. It looked a little nicer on the flashpacker side of things in the advertised pictures, was still predominately aimed at 18-35 year old’s but only allowed 18 people on at a time, and was around the same price as the other backpacker type boats. In reality the catamaran I would rate as average.
The pros; the crew were lovely and it was afterall only for 2 nights. It was worth the money simply for the few hours spent on day 2 on Whitsunday Island. The beach is pure perfection unlike any stretch of sand and sea that I have ever seen before. No matter what boat you go on really – the few hours spent on the island alone makes it worthwhile!
The cons? The boat was ALOT smaller than advertised and the hot tub/spa that was used as a big attraction for the boat was dirty and I did not use it once. Due to the boat’s small size the 18 of us slept in very close quarters! 10 slept in the main room which they converted into ‘beds’ at night and 8 were put downstairs, which was not said in the advertisement. The advert also advertised onboard WiFi but this was never available. Do not expect to ever have wi-fi.
If you think catamarans are more luxurious I am afraid to tell you they are only slightly better than the party boats. So unless you are willing to pay above $800, sorry flashpackers, don’t expect too much from any of the boats aimed at travellers/backpackers. However, it was still better than a sailing party boat for me personally.
I spent hours researching what boat to book before heading off on this trip, and in hindsight I recommend just accepting this will not be a very luxurious trip unless you really want to pay a small fortune – however it is still a fab experience and definitely something you shouldn’t miss when travelling the East Coast!
A big negative which I feel is important to mention..
Rendezvous dive with Skybird – Tornado Dive boat
If you are a scuba diver like me, we were offered the chance to dive on another boat nearby. 3 girls and 1 guy including myself signed up to do the optional dive. We were taken across to the boat, and as we were all open water qualified we got the gear on and down we went with the Dive master. The boat did not ask to see out PADI cards or any proof of being open water qualified.
On the dive however, the two young girls that were in the group were an absolute nightmare – all over the place and swimming off. We did not go down further than 10 meters and were only down for 30 minutes – the majority of it was swimming after the AWOL girls. When we got back on the boat after (myself and the guy I was buddied up with very annoyed) the two 18-year old american girls thought it funny when they told us they were not qualified and didn’t care that they had lied on the form passed round. I was so angry the diving boat had not checked to ensure everyone was indeed open water qualified and we were never asked to show our PADI cards or records. They ruined the whole experience for the rest of us and the dive was not cheap. I would never suggest going diving with this company if you get offered the chance – waste of good money and dangerous practice!
The boat departed from the harbour in the morning, so we had a full day sailing around the Whitsundays, sunbathing and mingling with the other passengers and cabin crew on the boat. In the afternoon was the optional dive which, as said above – I would not recommend!
As it turned out, the next day it was confirmed the 2 American girls on the boat were actually pretty crazy. The boat captain had to take them to the Whitsunday Island (literally adult supervision) for the few hours we were stationed here, as it turned out they were planning to get off the boat on the island and not return! Unfortunately they made the trip more stressful than it should have been as they were so uncontrollable and poor Polly; our boat guide and hostess was at a loss with what to do with them. In the end they were reported by the boat captain, and another boat came to collect them and take them back to Airlie beach following the Whitsunday afternoon, as they were acting so irresponsibly and couldn’t be trusted on the boat. After they left the trip become much more relaxed and enjoyable. At least it wasn’t boring though hey!
Arrived back to shore in Airlie beach late morning.
To conclude, I love the Whitsunday’s. Whitsunday Island was unadulterated paradise, and I am so pleased I got to see this magical place with my own eyes. If I had of had more budget for this, I probably would not have stayed on Powerplay, due to the fact it was such a small boat and sleeping arrangements were that the ‘living /social area’ were turned into beds. It got very cramped at night and there were a few couples and groups on board, and although I got on with everyone there was only 1 other solo traveller and everyone was already pretty clicky with their friends/partners. The pictures on the website made the boat appear much nicer and bigger than it actually was. As said above – don’t be fooled by the ‘hot tub’ advertisement, it’s not a selling point. I didn’t again make any travel buddies I would keep in touch with since leaving the boat on this occasion, however everyone was friendly and I never felt lonely on the boat 🙂
This all being said, it was still a very good trip in hindsight. I think I just went onto this trip with too high expectations for the boat, as sailing the Whitsundays has been a dream of mine for years, and was perhaps the 2nd main activity (after diving the Great Barrier reef) I was most looking forward to in Australia and imagined I’d do it with abit more ‘flashpacker’ luxury. If you don’t make the same mistake as me and expect the boat to be nicer than most other boats, and just accept you will have 2 nights not in the most comfortable of styles; I’m sure you will have a better time! And this advice goes for any of the boats really.
TIP– My boyfriend who I was not with at the time, went on another boat for his trip and absolutely loved it. It was a fast sailing boat which I would not have liked due to getting sea sick, however he highly recommends it. Look up Eureka II if you get the chance 🙂
Next stop – Airlie Beach!